It continues to be a vital part of the ministry of MAF in Arnhem Land, as it provides opportunity for MAF staff to connect with the Yolŋu people in their own tribal lands. It provides a space where each culture can learn from the other and for fellowship to happen, which in the end builds relationships. Most importantly, this ministry allows openings for the Good News of the Gospel to become a source of light and hope. Not just to those who want to know God more, but also for those who don’t know they are looking for something to cling to, something to be assured of: God.
Through ongoing relationships and invitations from the Yolŋu people themselves, the ministry of Homeland Outreach continues to have an important place in the wider vision of MAF in Arnhem Land. Through out the last 40 years+ MAF Staff have been privileged to connect with the Yolŋu people in this way. Often it has meant getting together a small team of people, a plane, a pilot and some resources, then heading out for either a day or overnight trip to one of the homelands.
In 2017 so far, MAF has been able to connect with the homelands of: Bremmer Island, Baniyala, Wandawuy, Matamata and Biranybirany and there are many more in the planning to come.
On the 2nd of June 2017, MAF Pilot Phil Techand accompanied by new MAF Pilot Simon Kepert plus Roger Latham (God’s Dreaming ministry) loaded the MAF plane with resources and food and travelled to Wandawuy Homeland, which is a 30-minute flight from Gove Airport. Due to unforseen circumstances, time on the ground was not as long as was hoped, but during these few hours the team was able to connect with the people in a real way. Roger shared the gospel message through his pictorial banner, which was laid out along the ground. The team prayed, sung and shared with the Wandawuy residents. There was even time to start a little fire and cook some sausages for those present. Not to forget to mention the Solar Power MP3 players that were distributed to some who showed a real genuine interest to know more about God. Pre-loaded on these players was God’s Word in local language, which speaks clearly about the truth and hope found in Jesus. The community people have asked for regular visits and more media resources to help them grow.
On another occasion, MAF Ministry Coordinator and Pilot Brett Nel gathered together a small team of people and headed for Baniyala homeland. This time it was to be overnight! On board was MAF Pilot Prabhu Pothula, local Yolngu employee James Marawili and members of his family. As this was an overnight trip a lot more planning was needed. An overnight adventure means a lot to consider such as sleeping arrangements, food and ministry resources. i.e. lights, power, and musical instruments.
After an afternoon of preparation the small team gathered under the wing of the MAF plane and prayed. They prayed for a special time of connection, fellowship and safety. Shortly after taking off, Brett set course for Baniyala, which is a 40-minute flight from Gove. Baniyala homeland is one of the bigger homelands and residents have access to a small school and tiny shop with bare minimum supplies. The homeland is situated on the coast and provides great opportunity for the local people to fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. The majority of the locals love living there, which in the end has a positive impact on the community and family life.
After a safe arrival, however with limited daylight left, the team got sorted for the night by setting up under the church shelter area. Prior to this happening Brett and James had spent some time walking around the homeland to visit the homeland elders. It was important, as with all visits, to make sure the visitors were still welcomed. Even at times like these, a team can be turned away due to a change of circumstances or a lack of communication between local elders in the community. This can be rather disconcerting for visiting teams! Despite some initial confusion, this team was much welcomed! Praise God.
With the lights now turned on and the familiar sound of Gospel music being blasted over the PA system, a small number of people came out from their houses and gathered at the fellowship area. They knew what was going on and were keen to participate. Fellowship consisted of prayer, song, dance, sharing and testimony and went on for some time. Following the fellowship vital Bible study then began which was so important as this is one of the main reasons why MAF takes the time and resource to visit the homelands.
Late into the night Bible Study finished, but it was a restless night for the team as word came via phone that there was some trouble with a particular family group in another community. The following morning the plan was to depart early, but as those who have lived in Arnhem Land long enough know, plans can change in an instant. The key is to be flexible and willing to respond to whatever comes ones way.
Brett felt he needed to spend more vital time connecting with the community elders and discussing future visits. This extra time was well worth spent, because the message was clear: “Just let us know you are coming, make sure we are here and then just come!”
A tired and exhausted team returned from Baniyala with stories to tell and grateful hearts for what God had done and what he will continue to do in Baniyala. Already in the planning is a return to the homeland.
Homeland Outreach is not simply a tick the box, ministry job done, well done! Rather completely the opposite, homeland outreach is about life; it’s about investing in the hearts of people and getting to know them deeper. It’s about sharing the love of Jesus in a practical and tangible way and long may it continue in Arnhem Land.