By: Maxine Carlill, Team Member of ICEJ Australia
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” – Psalm 22:27
Going back to where it started! That was the strong feeling of the Indigenous members of ‘Avad Oz’, ICEJ Australia’s worship group. These strong Believers whose home is Australia’s desert, knew the gospel which had brought many of their community out of the darkness of addictions, had come to them from Jerusalem.
Now they were returning there with a thanksgiving offering of praise.
The Christian celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles has, since 1980, brought the nations together to worship the King in His city. ICEJ Australia was honoured to bring a sacrifice of praise and worship on behalf of our nation this year. This had not been an easy feat, and not achieved in the normal way that a diverse group of singers and musicians from different parts of the country would be formed. When Simone Worsnop stepped out in faith to do just that, she felt God spoke to her about including Indigenous Australians.
But from where? Her contact with Aboriginal Australia was limited to a short Mission trip to an outback desert community in the Finke area. She remembered the pastor’s story of her father’s visit to Israel. This remarkable community elder, whose heart was very much in Israel, sought advice about growing grapes in the desert from the people who have made the desert bloom. Ten years later his daughter, Pastor Jill, also visited Israel and placed her hand on the Western Wall and prayed, ‘Please bring my people to you Lord’, and then inserted a note in the Wall naming her community. Simone contacted her and was invited to visit them again. Yes, four Indigenous singers would be part of the worship group. They had never travelled far from the community, and never to a city. Generous donors ensured passports, transport and other expenses would be met.
Other members of the group came from various parts of Australia and so only a limited number could even practice together before singers, musicians and a professional dancer assembled on the Jerusalem arena stage before the Feast participants as well as a live global audience to lead them into the Presence of God with beautiful worship. Few would know that the song ‘Out of the Darkness’ sung in the desert language of Pitjantjatjara and written by Johnathan, one of the Aboriginal singers, was born out of the depth of what God had done in his life. Many though, as they later told ICEJ National Director Sarah Way, were moved to tears as it truly touched their spirits. Despite the challenges, God had amazingly brought something special together. “…I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; they shall come and see my glory.” – Isaiah 66:18
The Feast’s global prayer vigil was an important part of the celebrations, and there in Jerusalem each nation was lifted to the LORD. It was our worship group’s privilege to lead the worship for the prayer session for the Pacific nations.
Indigenous Australians in the Top End of the Northern Territory live in a very different environment than dwellers in the desert, but many Believers there also share the same love for Israel. Back in 1994, a group from Galawinku, an island off the mainland, also presented unique Aboriginal worship at the Feast. And as they later toured the Land, they were a blessing to many people as they shared their culture and love for Israel.
For both those that lived in the desert or on an island, visiting the River Jordan was especially significant. Being baptised in it was one of the highlights of their Holy Land experiences.
God’s Jewish people and an ‘ends of the earth’ people share a deep connection to the countries they were each allotted. A connection that is often not understood by other gentiles. And both nations carry in their memories the hurt of rejection and discrimination.
But these were not the only times Australia’s First Nation served the Jewish people by their presence. As
ICEJ Australia’s worship and tour group joined the other nations to march along the streets of Jerusalem with a message of love and solidarity to two hundred thousand Israelis looking on, another historical event came to mind. White and Black Australians had marched together in unity before in this Land.
Over 1500 Aboriginal men enlisted for service in World War I and if not for the racist policies that existed at the recruiting stations, doubtless many more would have enlisted. The Aboriginal people served with great distinction and were treated as equals in the battles. Not only were they part of the famous last Cavalry Charge of Beersheba but in other battles too, including the famous battle of Samekh on the Lake of Galilee where a statue honours their contribution. In World War II, out of the 3000 Aboriginal and 850 Torres Strait Islander soldiers, many again served in the Middle East.
Revelation 15:4 – “Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
ICEJ Australia was honoured to have facilitated this offering of praise and worship from our country to be part of the prophecies that foresaw the nations coming before the LORD in His city, at the Feast of Tabernacles.