Drew* has lived in the same house his whole life. He is heavily tattooed up to his neck with long, curly hair, and some would be intimidated by his seemingly tough demeanor. When I met him, he told me stories of how his street used to be a battlefield, how, as a five year old child he constantly witnessed the neighbor woman a few doors down running to his house, covered in bruises and blood, crying that her husband had beat her yet again.
He is full of stories of violence that has been a part of this town’s history, and has his own painful stories to tell as well.
As one of the girls talks to him, he softly confides to her that no foreigner has ever bothered to talk to him or given him the time of day until we showed up and decided to spend an afternoon with him.
Mel* is only in her forties, but just by looking at her, you’d think she was in her sixties. The community knows her as a raging alcoholic, bringing disruption and her booming, slurred voice with her everywhere she goes. One woman tells us that she wakes up early each morning and begins drinking, continuing throughout the day without ceasing and repeats this routine every day. No one has seen her sober.
It is in stories like these and many more that we are reminded that this is a community struggling with violence, drug addictions, and alcoholism, and it’s often a harsh reality to face.
And yet, amidst all the darkness hiding in corners of this small Australian community named Windale, there is hope.
There are people reaching out to the hurting in this community, simply by having a conversation with them over a cup of tea. Other times it involves opening up their homes to be a safe place, or being willing to sit with them in their mess and be a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes it even looks like handing out free sausages to those walking by on the main street. More often than not, it comes through endless amounts of prayer being proclaimed over the community.
These people, these rays of hope, are scattered throughout a town that has been written off as a lost cause, a hopeless place, and, for just two weeks, we get to be a part of it. We get to see another side of a country known for its beautiful beaches and exotic animals and it isn’t always pretty. But isn’t that just what Jesus did? He didn’t always reach out to the prettiest people in the prettiest places; He reached out to everyone He met and loved them for who they were at the exact moment he met them.
To us, Windale is a place of hope, despite the drugs, alcohol, abuse, and brokenness that haunts the town,
and it is amazing to see how Jesus is moving in this place, restoring it and bringing the Kingdom to every corner of it.