I received an email from Gail Cresswell who is a teacher, prison chaplain and lay leader for the Mowanjum congregation in the Kimberley. She asked me if I remembered a hilarious morning when I stayed at her house in Derby. I was woken by a funny noise outside my window. Gail was up at 6 am so I asked her what it might be. We investigated and found a sleeping Aboriginal woman lying on the concrete at the front door sound asleep, snoring loudly and covered in a sheet from the op shop gear at the front door – she eventually woke up, had a cup of tea and then Gail took her back to Mowanjum.
A similar moment occurred with Gail’s friends. The friend asked her if she heard the noise early this morning? She did not but apparently, someone was banging on the door and asking very politely for Miss Gail to take him home to Mowanjum. In Gail’s words: “At one stage I caught a glimpse of a male walking back down the entrance path and thought it would be one of the Kelly gang, and they had decided to walk to the back streets. Apparently not so, because my friend decided to check out our bus and lo and behold there was the sleeping man! Eventually, he arose and I gave him toast while he waited for me to finish off the church papers and then return to Mowanjum. He had been at a 50th birthday party in the back streets and arguments started so he decided to head for my house!”
Later that day Gail picked up Janet Oobagoom, a Mowanjum Elder, from the care home, Numbala Nunga. She told Gail the amazing story of how her grandfather took an old man from Bungarun to Kunmunya. Apparently, he did this unwillingly because the old man was in the leprosarium but desperately wanted to go home to his community at Wotjalum miles away on the Kimberley coast. Janet’s grandfather “unwillingly” helped him escape from Bungarun (the Leprosarium). They procured a dugout canoe and some provisions, including tobacco, and set off. They made it all the way to Kunmunya further up the coast, then the old man went on his own to Wotjalum and made it!
As I read the New Testament, giving care and hospitality seems to be one of the major themes of the Gospel. We can take a leaf out of Gail’s book to see the importance of offering care when it counts to those who need it. As Jesus implored his disciples, go the extra mile, or give hospitality those who are seen as the least in society. This continues to be an important focus of our life at St Kilda Uniting Church, and hopefully will be a key focus on any new minister’s life and ministry.