“… 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).

Stradbroke Memories

This blog is written by Sarah Reed. It comes from her personal blog “Sarah Reed Down Under“. Sarah is a Fall 2018 student from Messiah College. Editor’s note: This post was first published on the 13th of August, 2018 and has been lightly edited.

A few weekends ago my classmates and I traveled across Moreton Bay to Stradbroke Island for a weekend with our Indigenous worldviews class. The ferry ride was short yet relaxing and upon arrival we were welcomed with a smoking ceremony to cleanse ourselves.

Stradbroke Ferry

Having fun on the ferry on the way to Stradbroke

The morning continued with our ears being filled with stories about local customs of the Indigenous people of the area.  This was followed by dancing, boomerang and spear throwing! Which was really fun!

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Boomerang throwing

See videos of my boomerang throwing and spear throwing activities.

The day finished with a brisk Gorge walk. The scenic trail snaked around cliffs and we were fortunate enough to see whales jumping out of the ocean, sea turtles and other wildlife.

A view from the Gorge walk

The next day, we worked with artist Craig to create sand art on the beach. Each design unique in their expression!

People on beach creating sand art

Working on sand art designs

This was followed by a time of worship at Brown Lake (a historical site where local Indigenous women would bring with their children).

Musicians playing guitars and ukulele at Brown Lake

Worship time at Brown Lake

Now I know this sounds like a nice weekend getaway, but it was much more than that.  Before coming to Australia, I thought Indigenous people were just an ancient group of people that used to live in Australia, little did I know that I was very wrong.  The weekend showed me, this ancient culture is still every much alive! The elders of the community, shared with us the importance of country and showed us ways to utilize plants and the things on the island. We were invited onto sacred grounds which were had been frequented by their ancestors. They also shared with us stories of hardships faced by Aboriginal people today.

Over the weekend, not only did I experience Aboriginal culture and history. I also learnt how an Aboriginal person can be both Christian and still hold on to their cultural values. I have never experienced anything like this and I will forever hold onto the memories I made this weekend.

Using found materials to create sand art