This past weekend was Elcho Island’s thanksgiving weekend. Every year on the 14th of March, Christians from all over Arnhem Land come to Galiwinku on Elcho Island to seek God and thank Him for what he has done.
Just the week before, another MAF family had given the book “Fire in the Outback” to read, which documented the events that occurred here back in 1979. John Blacket the author of the book explains what happened back in 1979. He writes,
“As a result of the events at Galiwinku in 1979, people suddenly became more aware of God’s presence: they wanted to be with God and with each other like never before. Long standing fights between families were healed. There was a concern for other families and a deep desire to be with them and with God. There were miracles and there were healings but, probably much more significantly, there were healings of relationships.
At the end on 1978, there had been less than fifty Aborigines who went to church at Galiwinku. After the events of 14 March 1979, there were over two hundred meeting together and worshipping god for three or four hours, or more every night of the week – and there were only around eleven hundred people living in the town, half of whom were children!”
So this past weekend was the anniversary of this event! Late last week, despite the threat of possible cyclones heading our way, MAF planes were kept busy bringing people to Elcho Island. Indigenous and non indigenous people from all over Australia were gathering together for a weekend of worship, prayer, teaching and commitment to God.
People gathered together on many days during the week, then on the weekend services were held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening and on Sunday morning. Each evening there would be praise dances with flags, worship and teaching that went into late into the evening, and early morning. In the evenings, the crowd was vast, with some sitting boldly close to the bandstand where the leaders stood, while others sat in the darkness of the opposite side of the main road, blending into the shadows but listening intently to all that was said.
On Sunday morning, “church” was held out side too. The gathered people on this occasion numbered over one hundred and fifty adults, with a lot more youth and children that were too active to be counted. People sat in clusters of family or friends in a wide circle around the area waiting for the service to begin. Amongst the balanda (non indigenous) people you could see some that work in the clinic, the school, MAF staff, the ALPA store, the Bible translation centre and others who we haven’t met yet.
The choir led the group in worship, including the ‘meet and greet’ song where people move around greeting others with a blessing. This took some time in a group of this size, but it was a great act of fellowship. Jovilisi Ragata preached powerfully as he had all weekend, with much agreement heard from the crowd as he made his points. Later a time of foot washing, communion and prayer was held, as a way of responding to Christ’s call upon our lives and as a symbol of the unity we have in Christ.
We were excited to be a part of this event, as attendees. As MAF staff, it is exciting to be able help transport people to events such as these, through the use of the MAF planes, and by arranging subsidised flights for many people. It was also a great relief that the cyclone decided to journey further north and spare this area from dangerous wind and rain.