Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the tenth day of Advent, 2021, Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman Jill Doolan asks the question: What was this new thing God would be doing?
My homeland, God's peoples
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honour me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:19-21 NRSV
What was this new thing God would be doing?
I like to begin by asking this question to myself and in particular, where can I see the things God is doing in my life, in my community, and in my peoples.
I come from Aputula Finke Community in the Northern Territory. My community is 421 km south from Alice Springs, Mparntwe, along Finke Rd and Stuart Highway. Aputula Finke Community is actually the place closest to the very centre of Australia!
My community is on Lower Southern Arrente Country and Anangu Country. The name of my community comes from a place called “Putula”. “Putula” was a site of water soakage, a place in the desert where water naturally comes and seeps into the sand. This is where Arrente people used to get their water. This was the time before the Europeans came to settle. The Europeans came in the railway times, around 1925. Then, in 1970 to 1973, the flood started damaging the railway track and bridge, so the Europeans moved away.
What happened to all Anangu and Arrente peoples? Well, they stayed behind. In this far southern isolated remote community called Aputula, God was doing this new thing. Margaret Bain, a Uniting Church missionary lady from Ernabella came to Aputula to help. She started talking and sharing about this Tjurkupa, about the Creator who created everything on this world including the sandhills, the desert, and the rivers. The Anangu and Arrente peoples moved off the sandhills into houses they started to build themselves, and it was during this time that the town came to be known as Aputula. Through this one woman, who had faith in God, and faith in all the Anangu peoples, God was doing a new thing.
This was just like in the Book of Isaiah. God was doing a new thing with the promise of Isaiah delivering a message of new life and new hope for Israel.
Isaiah 43:19 reminds me of my community. Aputula is literally in the desert, the Simpson Desert, and is right next to the Finke River, the oldest river in Australia - God made a way, and will make a way, in the wilderness. I am sure this new thing God is doing and seeing everyday in my community means that this land is not far away from God. God is still doing a new thing in Aputula with the young generations continuing the story, continuing this new thing.
God promised us one day, this person, Jesus, will come back and give us a new hope and new life. I always give my time to families to remember where they first came from and they will always go back home and see what God is doing in our land and our peoples.
We are in this pandemic and some people are losing themselves and cannot see God, but God is doing something new in our lives, peoples, lands, country, and homeland. God is still doing something new in all Aanangu remote communities. God is making this way into your wilderness. It is a journey of faith that one day will become something new in God.
Jill is a Yankunytjatjara Anangu woman from Aputula Community in the Centre of these lands now called Australia. She studies Theology in Ministry at Nungalinya College in the Northern Territory. Jill passes a word of encouragement to her own peoples around these lands we now call Australia, that God was there with our Peoples, and is still here with us today. Jill says, “We can be grateful and thankful for what God provides to us. We can still see God's Spirit moving along the Land of our Peoples.” Jill pastors the Anangu fellowship, and as a community they worship Creator God under the stars and moon.
Thank you for making a way in the wilderness.
Thank you for the rivers in the desert.
Thank you for the Anangu and Arrente peoples.
Thank you for the Aputula Community.
Thank you for all Aboriginal peoples.
Thank you for doing a new thing across generations and across cultures.
Photograph: Brooke Prentis, Sunrise, Awabakel Country, Wangi Wangi NSW
Visual Description: The sun is setting, orange light reflecting onto the surface of the water.