If you walk through the cemetery at the Raukkan, in Ngarrindjeri country you would see the graves of many teenagers and young adults. Too many have died from suicide. In 2011 Indigenous youth suicide was 80% of the total Australian youth suicides. By March of this year nearly 90% of Australian child suicides had been First Nations children. Behind the tombstones and heartbreaking statistics, who cares for the affected families, friends, communities? Who pastors these people?
Don Hayward is one of these Pastors. He knows his flock are not just those who attend on a Sunday. The Aboriginal Berean Community Church (ABCC) works hard for the broader Indigenous community at every level. Over one-year Don lead 36 funerals. This sad work comes with associated demands of hospital and intensive care visitation, prayer, mediation.
It is not just funerals. Don says the biggest issue is the volume and breadth of need. Advocating, supporting, praying, counselling, resourcing. The battle is not just against flesh and blood. Don can be called out into the night to prayerfully deal with evil spirits in homes. Aboriginal Christian leaders also hold the weight of dealing with the wound in our land, of God healing our land through justice and reconciliation with its traditional custodians. Because of his knowledge, experience and the work the church does in the community, Don is often asked to provide leadership on Boards, with government services, with organisations. How he finds time to be a father of 4 children and husband to Kali surprises even Don!
ABCC serves some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in our state. The demand is unbelievable, and their resources are limited. If we want to grow in walking together with Indigenous Australians, I think our church can share in this burden. We can encourage, we can pray, we can resource. Wonderfully, ABCC now have their own church building and face the challenge of meeting the subsequent costs. ABCC does not have the financial resources to support Ps Don. Currently he serves more than full time, essentially as a volunteer. Next week Ps Don will be preaching. As we listen, may God prompt us all on how we might walk together.