“… wherever two or three come together in honor of my name, I am right there with them”

This blog is written by Susan Leonard a local CHC student. Susan and other Australian students participated in the Australian Indigenous Worldviews (CS254) class, along with ASC students in semester two, 2018. Editor’s note: This post has been edited.

Traditional Welcome to Country ceremony

In August this year, my Australian Indigenous Worldviews class took a trip away to  Minjerribah (Aboriginal name for North Stradbroke Island). The knowledge and the experience profoundly changed my perspective and my attitude towards Australian Indigenous people and their way of life.

CHC students (left to right): Sophie, Georgia , Susan (me), Billie & Alison after getting our faces painted

Georgia having her face painted by an Aboriginal elder

I have asked myself, at which point did the empathy come. Upon reflection, there was a profound moment when we worshiped together on the shores of Brown Lake.  In Matthew 18:20 (The Passion Translation) tells us that “… wherever two or three come together in honor of my name, I am right there with them”.  I could not stop the tears from coming when I heard Lea (our Indigenous lecturer) share how her ancestors had sat in that same place.  There, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, it all became real for me.

Local elder Matty with ASC Indigenous lecturer Lea

However, it was not just that moment that changed my understanding.  It was a culmination of lessons and readings, throwing boomerangs and spears, learning about bush tucker (food), having my face decorated, participating in ceremonial dances, creating sand art on the beach, being ‘in country’, hearing the hearts of the amazing brothers and sisters we met, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

CHC student Ben learning to throw a spear

Having fun with sand art on the beach

Having fun with ASC students (left to right): Julia from Dordt College and Katie from John Brown University, Susan (me) making sand art

Despite the horrors Aboriginal people and their ancestors have endured and with racism still prevalent in Australian society, the elders were still open in sharing from their heart about their culture. The Aboriginal elders clearly demonstrated reconciliation and the healing we ALL so desperately need. This experience gave me, not only understanding, but a sense of belonging.

Being part of community

My joy in all of this comes from the knowledge that out of great pain and suffering God, our Jehovah-Rapha, will bring great healing –

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.  Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

Sand art design with the kangaroo totem

My prayer is that our Heavenly Father will show us how to honour our Aboriginal brothers and sisters so that together we can rejoice in the healing and the coming together of the Body of Christ.
Interested in finding out more
about the Australian Indigenous Class, click here

Alternatively, watch the video below of Sarah (Gordon College) and Alex (Wheaton College), ASC students from Spring 2018 share about their experience about the Australian Indigenous Worldview class (CS254).

Coinciding Without Correlation

By Elise Ciegelski

Towering earth toned burial carvings covered with intricate patterns loomed behind the annoyed security guard attempting to stop the photo-happy tourists. Yet as I glanced behind me, people were contentedly snapping pictures of the peaceful looking landscapes on the wall in the preceding gallery. Here, in the Australian section of the NSW Art Gallery I observed a simple juxtaposition of the deep rift that has been troubling this country since the start of colonization: the non-correlating worlds of Aboriginals and White Australians.  

One gallery hearkened green European countryside, and the other one spoke of brown land and native creatures. There seemed to be little common ground between the artwork that came from the same time period and described the same country. Or was there? Literally speaking, yes! They shared the same land, but I would like to believe that despite the differences in ideologies and lifestyles, more intertwining bridges can be made. The histories and culture of Aboriginals and White Australians have been coinciding side by side like these two galleries for quite some time now. But what good is acknowledgment and respect if a mental segregation still exists? The two halls were literally side by side, almost one room – but not.

I’m not suggesting that intermixing early white and black Australian art in one room would make everything better, but I would be curious to see if that would even be allowed before a more significant societal breakdown of the “us-them” phenomenon occurred. Obviously the Australian government has been attempting to deal with some of this complex issue, but it needs to start at the level of the individual, not the institution. A genuine openness to learn and love not simply coexist needs to permeate the white mindset. Of course there is difference and distinction on both sides, but that does not justify parallel universes, no matter how knowledgeable of the other.

As I left the museum, I noticed on one side of the building flew the Australian flag, and on the other the Aboriginal – indeed a noble statement of recognition. But I couldn’t help wonder if those two flags could ever possibly be one?