Monday, 1 October 2007

Very special Tiwi welcome

On Friday our team received a phone call informing us that the Bathurst Island Ferry had broken down. We were told that the Cross and Icon were still to visit Bathurst Island today, travelling by plane, but a much smaller team would be accompanying them. I felt both blessed and privileged to be one of the few who made the trip.

After a long wait at the airport for a small plane that would fit the Cross and Icon (!) we were on our way. As we flew we prayed to St Teresa (Patron of missionaries and aviators) whose feast day it is.

As we descended onto the airport at Bathurst Island we could see many people waiting. They'd been patiently waiting for a couple of hours because of our hold up at the airport and they were very, very pleased that the Cross and Icon had finally arrived. Little kids ran onto the landing strip to help us unload and older ladies with teary eyes exclaimed how grateful and relieved they were that we had all arrived safely.

Once the Cross and Icon were assembled, some welcoming songs were joyfully sung in Tiwi language just outside of the airport. The crowd then processed the Cross and Icon down the road to the 'new church'. It was very hot as walked but no one seemed to notice the heat or care about it. The Cross and Icon had arrived and that was all that mattered. People had come from Melville Island and other parts of Bathurst to welcome the Cross and Icon and welcome it they did!

At the Church many more members of the community who had not be able to walk from the airport were waiting. The atmosphere was joyful and reverent. The message stick message was read out with great pride by a young man. I'm not sure what was said next because it was in Tiwi but people began to venerate the Cross and Icon in family groups in quite a spontaneous fashion. Slowly the whole Church came up with their families and prayed together, huddled at the Cross. It was beautiful and quite moving.

The time passed amazingly quickly and soon enough we were processing back up to the airport. As the plane took off we could see many people waving up towards us. Some women were waving scarves and undoubtedly praying for our safe journey.
Thank you so, so much to all the Tiwi people who joined in todays events. Thank you for your patient waiting and for the absolute joy in Christ that you shared with us.
God Bless, Jess

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