“That’s good. I’m a ‘free citizen’. Now I can go to any pub and drink,” Jerry thought to himself when the government changed its policy towards Indigenous Australians in 1965. Reflecting on his journey, Jerry sits in the glow of the outback sunset wearing his best apricot shirt and a well-worn Akubra.
“I was in real trouble,” Jerry confesses. After six years of alcoholism Jerry became very ill. He couldn’t walk and was constantly forced to ask his close family members to help him. He would beg his mother, “Rub some fat all over my body, and make me better.” But nothing helped.
“One night I was lying down, worried and frightened and I started to dream….” Jesus appeared to him in a dream like a bright shining star and took him to a big gold gate. At the end of the dream, Jerry was healed. “You mightn’t believe me,” he exclaims, “But that was my dream, and that was my call from Jesus.”
Jerry usually avoided the Christian family living in his community but the next morning he got up quickly and went straight to their house. “What does this mean for me?” Jerry asked the man who lived there. “He believed me and prayed for me.”
“So then I decided to give up the drink… I was a new man.”
Jerry quickly became involved in the church and eventually became a church leader. He assisted with the translation of Genesis and the New Testament into his language, Warlpiri. Jerry is praying for someone with training to come and assist his community to translate the rest of the Old Testament into Warlpiri. Having the Bible in Warlpiri is, “…really important for teaching in church. I’d like to teach my people more and more. The word from God – that light – is important for all people.”
The Walpiri Christian community is growing. During Easter in 2011, 14 new Christians were baptised into the small church at Lajamanu. “Yeah, we got a big mob here now. Praise God. We are really happy.”
Words & Photography by Elyse Patten