“Only a wife” is the title of a missionary biography i read before coming to Arnhem Land. It tells the story of Elizabeth Guy, a missionary to this area during the 1940s and 50s. Last week as we headed to Elcho Island i was excited to see many of the places she mentioned in her book. I love reading the stories of other people’s adventures while following Jesus. They inspire me with their successes and encourage me with their struggles.
I’ve found it interesting to see how the wives of MAF staff fill their days since we’ve been here. Many work as teachers in local schools or the Nhulunbuy Christian school. Others look after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 children. There are MAF prayer days, ladies meetings and hospitality dinners to prepare for. Meals to be cooked. Shirts to be ironed. Houses to be cleaned. But what else do they do?
I was honoured to get some insight into what a MAF wife’s week can look like as we spent time with a family on Elcho Island. They have been in Arnhem Land for about five years and in one place for the majority of that time. She has teenage boys that she homeschools, but is also very involved in the community. On the Tuesday afternoon, a group of Yolgnu ladies gathered under her house for a Bible study meeting. Two small children and a dog also came along we gathered to read God’s Word and apply it to our lives. I loved hearing the Yolgnu ladies reading aloud in their mother tongue, as i listened hard to see how many words i recognised.
On another night of the week, a Bible study for other balanda (or non aboriginal) folk is held at their house. This is well attended by aid workers, nurses and teachers who work on the island who are also Christians. A MAF Bible study happens on a different night, to encourage the staff and help them stayed unified as a family or team in this remote place. On Fridays the family runs a stall in the community market selling Christian cds and dvds. This is a thriving business. And even during the three days i was visiting a number of local people called into the house to ask about their orders or a desire to buy a particular cd or dvd.
Today i went to a MOPS meeting (Mothers of Preschoolers) in Nhulunbuy. This is a program run by the uniting Church here in town to encourage mums, but also show them God’s love. A program is run for the kids and they seemed to have great fun. Three of the ladies running this group are MAF wives. There were probably 20 ladies in the room who shared in morning tea, some activities, watched a video about how much God loves us and discussed being mums together. What a great way to encourage the mums in our town.
I feel like i am doing lots of watching and learning at the moment… all the time wondering and praying what is my spot? How can God best use Sam and i in this community? But as i look at the wives around me following Christ in all that they do i am inspired to dream and excited by how creatively God finds a perfect spot for each of us. They are not “only a wife”.