They are two special men, each with different stories and are the only Yolngu who currently work for MAF. Jamie (Buralatjpi) Wanambi and James (Ngulpurr) Marawilli are local men who come from the Aboriginal homelands of Yilpara and Barratjpi. Although recently they have moved into the larger community of Yirrkala, so that they can be closer to their respective families and have opportunities to work. Jamie and James bring a freshness and extra smile to the MAF workplace and their stories are worth telling:
Jamie: An artist, a hunter and a bushman at heart. From the city to the remote homeland; Jamie has spent time in living in Melbourne, Batchelor, the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala and the small homeland of Barratjpi. This means Jamie has a good understanding of different ways and types of living. For him the most special times have been in the homelands where he finds he is able to live a healthy lifestyle by hunting, fishing, working the land and spending quality time with family. The community life in the larger communities such as Yirrkala presents many struggles and challenges.
Prior to coming to MAF to work, Jamie was involved with Laynha working with a team of people whose job it was to care for the homelands. He also spent time with another local utilities company, installing power meter boxes and explaining to community residents in local language how power works.
Jamie came to know the Lord in the early days of his life and is quick to say that he owes his life to the Lord because numerous times He has saved him from deep troubles. Jamie is committed to growing his relationship with the Lord and is often heard round the community singing the gospel songs.
Jamie came to MAF in 2016 and has been part of the Building and Maintenance team. Jamie has been very busy with his hands, helping to make sure that the MAF buildings/houses are safe and liveable. In talking to Jamie it is evident that he is very happy to be part of the MAF team because he is able to find love and acceptance that he hasn’t found elsewhere. Jamie sees the door that opened up with MAF as a God thing, which he is forever grateful for. Derek Veale (Building and Maintenance Manager) sees the chance to work with Jamie a privilege and has much enjoyed the times spent with Jamie, working and sharing life together.
James: You might find him down at the beach using a spear to catch a fish. You might find him in the homelands sitting under a tree having fellowship with residents and MAF staff. You might find him in Yirrkala sharing over the loud speaker about the Good news of the Gospel. You might find him walking down the road with his grandchildren with a smile on his face. Or you might find him in the MAF office at Gove Airport proudly wearing his MAF shirt.
His name is James (Ngulpurr) Marawilli and he was born in the homeland of Garrthalala but spent many years of his life in the coastal homeland of Yilpara. James goes back a long way and remembers clearly the days when many more Pacific Island missionaries were in Yirrkala and the church was regularly attended by the Yirrkala community. He has clear memories of going to Sunday school and learning about the story of Jesus. Later in his life often he went with MAF pilots to conduct Sunday Service runs in the Homelands, which meant visiting two homelands on a Sunday to share the Word and encourage the residents.
James came to know the Lord at an early age yet, admits that in the later years of his life he struggled to remain strong in the Lord. However, the testimony of his journey is strong as he shares that it was some MAF staff that came alongside him that encouraged him to once again pursue his relationship with the Lord. He once again became more involved in Homeland Outreach ministry and through this grew in boldness to share his faith with others.
In late 2015 an event took place in the homeland of Gurrumurru. Brett Nel had gone there on outreach and while he was there a small number of men sat down with him and began to talk casually. The conversation turned to spiritual matters and the fellowship grew between them. At that point God clearly spoke to Brett and said, ‘This is the future church’. Since this time these men have remained in contact with each other and MAF. They have actively looked to increase their understanding of the ways of God. James was present at that small gathering and ever since this event it has been on his mind to gather together those who have a serious passion and desire to follow God.
James arrived to MAF in February 2016 with a vision and heart to work with MAF to see people transformed in Christ’s name. He believed in the work, saw the opportunity to be involved and responded. James currently works inside the bookings office and is responsible to arrange flights and talk to Yolngu people in local language. Over the past year James has also been instrumental in attending outreach trips with MAF staff and has grown in confidence in many areas.
MAF Operations Manager, Roland VanDerVelde shares this about James: “James is a real benefit to MAF as he brings knowledge of language, culture and geography to the operations office that many of us don’t have. MAF staff have grown in their understanding of how to work with and serve the Yolngu people through James and he has a rich faith in God. He shares at devotions and has a sound knowledge of the peace, hope and joy found in Jesus. It’s good to have him here.
Their stories are somewhat similar yet their individual testimonies are powerful evidence that when God works, people and things change. It is a privilege for MAF staff to work alongside these men and they are a blessing to MAF. Long may it continue.