"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works."
-- Psalm 73:28
We were in Perth, Australia, in 1996 working in an Aboriginal Islander church. We found the people to be some of the most delightful we've met.
We lived with a couple of Aboriginal descent. Wally and Leisha were the perfect host couple. They took care of us as if we were their own brother and sister or children.
Nothing is close in Australia, so we always traveled by car. The automobile of prominence was the Holden, renamed the General Motors Holden in 2005. It is similar to a mid-size American made car. Their Holden was our transportation around Western Australia.
Leisha always drove. I hadn't driven much in countries that drive on the left side of the road, and she probably would not have permitted it anyway, especially after the first trip.
Everywhere seemed like a long trip and as a matter of curiosity, I asked her, several times, when we left their house, "How far is it?"
Her answer was always the same, "Not fah." It may have been one mile or a hundred miles, but always was, "Not fah." Leisha's words have become a matter of mine and Margie's language ever since. Any time either of us asks the other, "How far is it?" The answer is always the same, "Not fah."
We think of Wally and Leisha quite often. The memories we have of them and our experiences there are priceless. Our son is probably one of few Americans that has been taught to throw a boomerang by an Aborigine. Margie still has a tablecloth map of Australia, Leisha bought for her.
Perth is as far from here as one can possibly be on earth. The direction to there is straight down. It is neither East nor West, or North or South, it is almost exactly on the opposite side of the planet. We experienced kangaroos, the outback, and the monster surf of the Indian Ocean at Fremantle.
But, of all the great experiences we had that two weeks, the greatest was spending time with Leisha and Wally. I have great memories of people I've met in Kenya, Brazil, and numerous other countries, but none can compare to Leisha and Wally.
As idyllic as this may sound, there was a down side. The prejudice that existed between the Aboriginals and those of British descent was appalling. There is no racism, no hatred, no prejudice in America to begin to compare with what we saw in Australia. It broke my heart for both races, and to see such a chasm between them. They, as in America, had so much to offer each other and it was all being absorbed in a cultural bias that had been proliferated for decades.
I realized on my first trip to Kenya in 1986, the difference in races is not skin color or eye shape, but in cultures. People originating from Europe, Africa, the Far East or the Middle East, exist with varying habits and lifestyles. This is NOT TO SAY one is right and the others are wrong, just different.
There are still, I'm told, many Aboriginals living in the outback that pull down a bush and tie it to the ground to sleep under. Their native dances and other customs are still practiced. Their culture in some areas is alive and well.
A word we often heard in Australia was "reconciliation." I really did not comprehend the concept of "reconcile" because there had never been a civil relationship between the British and the Aboriginals to reconcile. The British came to Australia like Europeans did in many other places and any indigenous peoples that were in the way, were killed.
Reconciliation was a word used mostly by the Aborigines. It appeared from my perspective, the British descendants did not want reconciliation, but rather projected and perpetuated the disdain that existed between the two peoples.
It was unimaginable how the Aborigines were tortured and killed by the British in the early days. Leisha told us many stories of the atrocities perpetrated against her family and others. She was literally taken from her mother's arms in the thought that they (British) could care for her more appropriately in an orphanage. Many children were taken to be placed in servitude.
I was standing in a market talking to a woman merchant of British descent. When my Aboriginal friend walked up, her demeanor totally changed. She had not another kind word for either of us.
We were sitting in a conference room with our mission team and local Australians. We had saved two seats for Wally and Leisha. When they came in, the white Australians got up and moved to another table.
That bigoted, hateful action, spoke louder than words. Wally said, "We're not wanted here, we will leave." Margie quickly said to him, "You will not! We want you here, you stay."
In so many cases around the world, one people group wants reconciliation and the other does not. For humanity to co-exist, there must be an effort on the part of all concerned. Acts 10: 34, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."
The last statement made to us by Leisha as we were leaving Australia was one I'll always remember and cherish. She hugged Margie and me and said, "I never thought I'd ever be able to say to a white person, I love you!" But she said it to us and I'll always treasure those words and that moment.
In writing this, I've both laughed and cried. Can we no longer treat each other with dignity, kindness and respect? How far have we come from humanity? "Not fah," but too far.