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Learning in the bush

Each year (COVID permitting), ALC partners with Finke River Mission (FRM) to provide 2 separate weeks of training for Aboriginal pastors and evangelists. The training sessions are held in bush sites located in Central Australia, with participants coming from far and wide to attend. Dr Adam Hensley led the most recent bush camp from 19-23 September and shares his experience below.

One of the highlights of serving at ALC is the opportunity to teach at the regular “bush courses” for Aboriginal pastors and evangelists coordinated by Finke River Mission. These events play an important role in the ongoing learning and formation of pastors, evangelists, and other interested folk who join the campsite to reflect on God’s Word. Though hosted in one location each time, people of different language groups gather from far and wide, many of whom serve very remote communities.

Last month’s meeting was held at Tara NT, about three hours’ drive north of Alice Springs, one of the more northerly locations for bush courses. It was my second such adventure and this time I was asked me to teach on prophecy in the Bible with special focus on the Prophet Jeremiah. This topic excited a lot of interest and discussion as we progressed through the materials I prepared with Pastor Paul Traeger translating into Luritja.

It’s a truism of teaching that teachers often learn as much as their students, and that’s certainly the case in a bush course! For example, I was struck with a renewed sense of the importance of the biblical teaching on prophecy in texts like Deuteronomy 13 and 18 for the church, especially as it sifts true prophecy from false, and how ever-urgent that task is. What’s more, addressing people from cultures where blessings and curses are a real part of life brought home to me again what a treasure we have in our baptism! As illustrated so powerfully the story of Israel and Balaam in Numbers 22–24 God covers his people with his protective blessing to guard us from any who would seek our spiritual harm.

As is normal at bush courses we camped in swags and we ate our meals communally, well-served by our cooks Lyndon Hampel and Alex Voigt. Folks from the Tara community would join us at evening mealtime, and some hours were spent each night in community singing at the Tara church. I was asked to share some of the day’s teaching with the community during those nights as well, which I was glad to do. Our “lecture theatre” was a clearing in the scrub, which is part of the charm and adventure! I’m already looking forward to the next time I get to go.