Ramblings of a Roving Padre
by Pr George Porter
It was late-January 2013. I was in the garden in Hornsby Heights. My i-phone burst into life in my pocket. On the other end in Perth was the senior administrator of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the entire state of Western Australia. "We need you in Kalgoorlie to pastor the church until the end of March. Then you are invited to Church camp in Perth. After that we are requesting you to pastor the church in Broome. Will you go?" With thoughts racing through my brain I replied a little hesitantly, "Better check with my wife, Maye, first - will get back to you."
It was 8:15 on the 17th February when we departed for Kalgoorlie with the caravan loaded with all we needed for our "ministering itinerary" into the arid west. It was 5:30 pm on Wednesday the 20th when we called it a day. We camped 160 kms east of Norseman where our work would initially begin. The next day we arrived in Norseman at 8:45 am and spent the morning visiting the three parishioners who reside in this lonely mining town. What a blessed time we all had together catching up and reviewing all the blessings of the Lord. These isolated saints were part of the Esperance Church district where we ministered for the last four months of 2012. After lunch we set off for Kalgoorlie arriving at 3:00pm.
We had a delightful time ministering to the saints of the Kalgoorlie church. There are several European families together with many more black families from Africa. The Africans have responsible positions in the hospital and one Kenyan is the Associate Engineer for all highway works from Leonora to Kalgoorlie, Kalgoorlie to Southern Cross, Kalgoorlie to Esperance to Ravensthorpe and, wait for it, Norseman to the South Australian Border. The church has a large group of young people which gives the gatherings a sense of vibrant life and a future with hope for the church. Various families gave us a table and chairs and a queen sized bed to use while we occupied the otherwise empty manse. Twenty four hour air con is essential to survive the extreme temperatures in these regions.
Kalgoorlie is a large sprawling town. It is flanked on the east by the world's largest and deepest open-cut gold mine. The region is dotted with gold mines and other mineral mines. It is a land of red soil and extensive woodlands. It does rain at times. We experienced several beneficial rain storms and even had one whole day of rain. The arid area responded dramatically and blossomed like a rose. The manse garden boasts one lone rosebush which was almost dead when we arrived. Maye had me prune it just to encourage the poor specimen. Four days after the rain it had shot up new shoots about 150 millimetres long. Within a fortnight it was covered in new growth and a mass of rose buds. You guessed it. The day we left Kalgoorlie, Maye picked the first rose bloom.
It dawned Monday the 25th March. It was Maye's birthday so off we went to breakfast at "The Dome". These franchised eating places are spread throughout the state. After a healthy breakfast we set off at 11:15 am for Perth via Coolgardie, Southern Cross and Northam. In many areas of this drought stricken area we viewed several abandoned wheat farms. Quite an eerie and sad sight. We arrived in Forrestfield, Perth, approx. 600 kms later at 7 pm and spent a couple of days with all our relatives on Maye's side of the family. Camp started on Thursday where we resided in our caravan for five days of spiritual intake and fellowship with friends, relatives and parishioners we have worked with over the years.
Next in our sights was Broome 2,220 kms north of Perth in the Kimberly arid area of the state. We departed Perth Wednesday April 3, at 9:15 am with an extra passenger and his extensive load of tools and cargo. Peter was on a mission to do maintenance for the church complex at Broome. We arrived in Geraldton at 3pm. This is a large sea port town where grains and minerals are exported to world ports. We spent a wonderful night 30 kms north of town on a high ridge overlooking the Indian Ocean. We first met the folk we stayed with, in the Cook Island where we worked together forty years ago. What a blessed ministry for all of us.
At 4:30 pm the next day we arrived in Carnarvon where there are extensive market gardens and numerous banana plantations. We camped in the church yard. Peter had a key so we were able to use the facilities. Friday afternoon found us arriving at Red Hill station which is about 250 kms south east of the coastal port of Karratha. Red Hill is a huge cattle station in the west Pilbara which is owned and operated by May's nephew Digby Corker and his wife Leanne. It is situated 40 kms east of the main highway north. It is about 120 kms southeast of Onslow. We spent a glorious and blessed Sabbath with these isolated members. We were all spiritually nourished with God's presence as we read and discussed His word.
On Sunday April 7 we departed at 9:15 am and headed for Karratha and Port Headland two huge port facilities for iron ore and other minerals mined in the Pilbara. Like most days before, we were passing through large tracts of arid country in temperatures at 35 degrees by 10:00 am each morning, rising to 40 by 2:00 pm. The country has a unique beauty of its own and one never tires of the endless scene. 650 kms later at 5:00 pm we camped by the De Grey River far north of Port Headland. It was about an hour before sunset when we arrived at our riverside camp. What a glorious spot down by the river's edge off the highway bridge. The river was full to the brim and flowing noticeably. Peter bathed in it watched by the station owner's cattle which had all meandered down for their evening drink at the end of their munching day in the fields. In the morning as we were about to leave this oasis in the arid lands we met church friends from Perth. After a bright sharing time we had prayer together and set off on our way on the last leg of our safari to Broome. We crossed the Roebuck plains and south into Broome 525 kms later arriving at 1:30 pm.
Broome is situated on a small peninsula with the Indian Ocean to the west and Roebuck Bay to the east. The town itself is 19 metres above high tide level. High tides rise and fall by up to 11 metres in the region. Broome was established in the 1880's as a haven for the pearling luggers. There are 919 Japanese pearlers buried in the Japanese cemetery in Broome. Today Broome is noted for its cultured pearl industry and vibrant tourist influx in season - May to October. The town boasts a population hovering around 15,000 souls with up to 45,000 per month during tourist season. The international airport is extremely busy catering for many flights a day within the state, plus Perth and Darwin NT, to the North. Planes fly direct from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Fly in fly out miners use these connections extensively. The town is the western gateway to the Kimberley region which is larger than the combined areas of Victoria and Tasmania!! Most of the western fringe is our parish! It has been said that Broome is "an oasis of colour, culture and characters." The colour God displays as he paints sunrises and sunsets has to be seen to be believed. Even the unbelievers admire with awe as they watch each morning and evening as their creator splashes the sky with colours so awesome. Walk the streets to observe the "characters."
Seven kms from the town centre and soaked by the Indian Ocean is Cable Beach. So named because in1889 the submarine telegraph cable arrived on the beach after covering the approximately 1700 kms from Java, making connections to Singapore and on to London. The British Empire then had a communications link to Broome and thence overland to Perth.
God has called us here to support, minister to and fellowship with the members of the Seventh-day Adventist church in the region. Our Church complex here is located about 4 kms out of the town centre toward the Port. We live on the compound in the manse which faces Palmer Road. There is a large hall and Church on the property which is known for its lead light windows depicting the Bible story with highlights from creation to Christ's soon coming. There is also a huge workshop shed with a small residence on the northern end for the property Caretaker and Church Leader. The Church operates an "in season" caravan park for up to 30 vans plus back packers. This provides a lucrative income for the local church. Many of the non- Adventist visitors attend church services when here. There are many mature mango trees on the property which provide shade for vans and fruit in season for the enjoyment of all. The fruit is prepared in "fillet" style pieces and frozen for sale at $10.00 per kilo.
We have a wonderful church family made up of saints from many nations. There are several European families. We also have three Solomon Island families here on 457 visas. The men work as aircraft engineers with regional airlines. We also have a family here from the Philippines. The husband is an accomplished metal worker. The wives are employed at the hospital and some with local business. The church is so proud of its large group of children and youth. They have a vibrant Pathfinder group who marched in uniform for the Anzac day dawn service. It gives me great satisfaction to be conducting baptism classes with children in the several family homes with parents assisting. Parents and pastor experience great joy when our youth request formal training for membership within the body of Christ.
Our parish extends beyond Broome. So tomorrow we take the caravan and head north 250 kms to spend a few days with the Derby members. The church is lead there by a Fijian man married to a wonderful Christian wife of mixed Fijian and Aboriginal blood. They are assisted by his mother and father who all work in Derby to support their ministry with the Indigenous folk. On Sabbath the 18th we will celebrate Holy Communion with the saints in Derby and we know it will be a "glorious high day" for us all in this isolated corner of God's garden. Maye and I get such deep joy and satisfaction from our ministry with our isolated church families. All are wrapped with His fellowship. It is a real shot in everyone's spiritual arm. The saints and souls come alive again.
There are more kilometres and more isolation and more loneliness. Lone-ness is a more appropriate word. At Hall's Creek, 550 kms north east of Derby is a lone Adventist couple who crave fellowship with other believers. Dr. Carlos and Maria Robalino are originally from South America. He is one of the town's medical men. These saints are desperate for Christian fellowship and hanker for a visit from the pastor and his wife. We hope to satisfy their longing when we go on from Derby for a couple of days. As Pastor Paul said to the Galatians (6:2), to "bear one another's burdens." The "exotic," "romantic," arid- isolated areas of the Kimberly parish do have saints who are often burdened with their lone-ness. May and I enjoy bringing fellowship to these saints in faraway places. That is my story for today. Guess what? Today is clouding heavily and it is predicted to rain 40 mm tomorrow. God's arid will grow and glow. God bless and catch you next time.
This article is Copyright © 2013 by George C Porter. Used by permission.
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