“… 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).

Playing catch up…

Excerpt from Spring 2013 student Fiona Tranquillo’s blog “My Aussieland Adventure”. Reproduced with permission http://myaussielandadventure.blogspot.com.au/

Wow… I feel so behind! There are so many things that I’ve been wanting to blog about, both for my own records and to share with you, but I simply haven’t had the time! So, now that I have a few minutes, let me catch you up on what has been happening…

-CRONULLA: Last weekend, a big group of us went to Cronulla Beach. The train ride was about 45 minutes, but it was so worth it. We actually didn’t spend time at the beach… we went to the sand dunes that Ty, the ASC intern, had recommended! It was a blast. Living in Minnesota, much of my childhood sledding time was spent thinking about how incredible it would be to sled without being cold. Well, that weekend, my dreams came true… rolling down the sand hills, sliding down the sand hills, sand angels… the whole shebang.

SONY DSC

-LEBANESE FOOD: Also last weekend, a group from St. James invited Tarah and I out with them after church on Sunday night. They took us to this fancy Lebanese restaurant and treated us to a feast of new, interesting, DELICIOUS cuisine. The food was great, but the fellowship was better. I can’t even tell you how fun it is to hang out with Australians. It’s those moments when I’m just chillin’ with Aussies like it’s no big deal that I realize what an incredible opportunity and experience I have been blessed with.

-DIGERIDOOS, SPEARS, AND BOOMERANGS: Last week in my Indigenous Cultures class, we had a special guest. Ross Smith, a famous Aboriginal artist, spent the whole morning with us in the park. First, he taught us how to play the digeridoo. It is an Aboriginal instrument and it is SO unique. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up; it’s worth a listen. Basically, we all stunk and couldn’t make any correct sounds, but we sure had fun trying. Next on the schedule was spear-throwing. After learning the techniques, we had a contest to see who could throw it the farthest. I failed miserably, but I must say, I felt quite empowered. 😉 Lastly, he taught us how to throw and catch Aboriginal boomerangs. You probably guessed it… I was real bad at it. BUT, it was a blast. On top of all that, he set up a display of his artwork, and he offered us extremely generous deals on all of it. It was such a unique, cultural, fun, rewarding experience.

-COFFEE SHOPS: I started a new “tradition.” During the first few months, I didn’t let myself spend any money on coffee, but my resolve has now crumbled. On Tuesdays, I get done with class at noon and don’t have anything the rest of the day. I’ve decided to leave Wesley right after my class, hop on a bus or a train, get off in a town I haven’t been to, and explore. After looking around awhile, I ask a local to point me towards the best coffee shop, then I settle in for the rest of the afternoon with a delicious drink and whatever work I have to do. It has been one of the most refreshing things I’ve done here. It is very unlike me to be okay with going off and doing something by myself, but it is something that I have learned to really enjoy since being in Australia. Taking the time to go out on a little adventure by myself, reflect, and drink hot, yummy drinks has brought me fresh energy, perspective, joy, and peace. So far I’ve explored an adorable town called Summerhill and a very multicultural town called Campsie

-CABRAMATTA: For the past two weeks, all of the schools have been on holiday. Since both my host parents work in schools, they have been on holiday, too. So, last Thursday, since I didn’t have class until the afternoon, Bee-Hoon planned to take Tarah and I out for the day. What a special memory! She loves introducing us to new cultures and to the foods of that culture, so she took us to a town called Cabramatta that has a heavy Vietnamese influence. On the train ride there, she taught me how to crochet these California poppy pins that she makes, and once we got there we looked around the shops and she treated us to Vietnamese treats and lunch. I had to leave early to go to class, but having Bee-Hoon want to spend that time with us is something I will hold close to my heart, and something that makes me smile every time I think of it.