When I Met Estelle
Sometimes I find it hard to reconcile my faith in the Love and Grace of God with all that is so very wrong in our world.
Which is why I like to keep a photo of Estelle on hand.
I met Estelle last May on a story-gathering trip in Katherine, NT. My trip coincided with the Katherine Christian Convention which brings several hundred Indigenous Christians into Katherine to meet together for fellowship.
This was the most confronting trip I’ve ever taken. It’s all fine and dandy to visit oppressed minority groups in other parts of the world. But visiting the marginalised Indigenous people of your country is a completely different story.
When I first arrived at the farm I was looking for a place to make camp and came across some families sitting in the shade of the trees. My helpful brain quickly recalled every negative media image, and the attached negative emotions, that I’d experienced about Indigenous Australians throughout my life. And in spite of myself I was fighting off a feeling of … prejuice. Yet on top of that a crushing guilt – that my forefathers, my culture, had caused these people so much pain and suffering. And on top of that: sadness. I was sad as I considered the complex social and political issues Indigenous Australians face today and I asked God why He allowed so much suffering. I struggled.
The next day I met Estelle. She was so gentle, so humble, a church leader, a Bible translator and a woman of faith. She lovingly guided her aged, blind husband to our meeting place, and she spoke to me of God’s grace and love in her life. She told me her story, and said that God answered her prayers and brought all of her family to faith. He even brought them back home to Roper Valley. Sisters, father, mother, children – they’ve all been baptised now and are living together as a family again. “It was amazing!” Estelle exclaimed, “Even my mum and dad were separated, and the LORD brought them together and brought them to the light. I want to give thanks to the LORD for what He’s done for us and for our families.”
Over the next few days I met and interviewed so many beautiful Aboriginal Christians. I listened to stories of men who’d given up alcohol, women committed to witnessing Christ in their community, and teenagers who read their Kriol Bible every day. I rejoiced to see God at work in these individuals and their communities. I was able to change my media-fed misconceptions about Indigenous Australians. What I witnessed on that trip brings tears to my eyes. Even now.
I keep Estelle’s portrait on my desk to remind me: God is at work. Even here.