Life was never meant to be easy, so we’re told. But surely there could be easier ways to live it, I wondered, as the reality of my Call confronted me with scores of people just living on the edge of society. Some were very warm and lovely people who loved us and who were just crying for some direction, recognition and friendship.
It is degrading to be looked through as though you don’t exist. Others were hostile and bitter at being treated like nothing.
I talked over our new direction with my Boss who knew me well by this time and knew that the blockwork would not suffer. He accepted that Gwen and I now had a different call on our life.
So the Leane family and the Graetz family approached the local Church of Christ to inform them tactfully that we were going to lead a new flock. Nothing was done in the dark and most folks were happy for us. Except for the pastor, he took me aside,
‘Bruce, you are wrong to take your family and work amongst these people.’
‘But this is where I have been called,’I tried to explain.
‘But you aren’t trained, and there is no mission society or denomination behind you. How are you going to survive? Why don’t you get them to come here to this church?’ He thought I was rushing into some dream without counting the cost.
‘They will never come here because they can’t dress well enough nor afford to. The other thing is they are too shy and scared. They just wouldn’t fit.’ I tried to make him understand.
He was upset. Two dedicated families would be leaving his flock and he couldn’t be blamed for trying to dissuade us from doing something that to him was folly. Later, we were allowed to use the church to marry several couples.
By this time Aboriginal children were accepted into the Winkie School where our children attended, so it was not a sudden move and they just took it all in their stride. They were loved by the Aboriginal people…
Our church base for many years was the shanty George and Dora called home. Fred, George’s brother, and his wife Janet lived nearby and it quickly became the gathering place for the river people from surrounding settlements such as Lyrup, Monash, Winkie, Renmark Barmera and down-river to Swan Reach.
Sundays the shacks were cleaned up to the nines and we saw a great lift in the general spirit of the people. We quickly became the bridge between the two cultures.
After morning service there would be the smell of fish cooking on the top of a wood-burning stove, ‘The fish is cooked!’ George would yell. He’d got up early and caught some fish, cleaned and filleted them before the service. People would emerge from whatever corner they slunk into.
‘How do you cook this fish, it melts in your mouth,’ Gwen and Sylvia both wanted to know.
‘Just cook it on top of the stove, not in a pan,’George explained.
‘But doesn’t it burn?’
‘No, not if the fire is right. All the fat from the fish is fried out of it not into it as happens when fried in a pan with fat,’George grinned. Truly, it was the best river cod and bream I ever tasted.
‘The Maverick’s Roundup’ can be bought at Amazon/Kindle. Publisher: Kylie Leane