White Fella

Thirty years ago I stepped into a public phone box in Chatswood as an idealistic and somewhat naive eighteen year old. “Hello, my name is Roderick Allen, and I’d like to be a missionary”. The woman who answered my phone call to the Uniting Church Board of Mission was both prophet and angel; surely a gift from heaven! Her unhesitating response determined my path in the weeks and months that followed; and in a sense the course if my whole life through to this day. “I think”, she said, “that you need to speak to Malcolm Hewitt”. Which I did just days later; and within the month found myself very alone in Alice Springs, waiting till sunrise to fly to Warburton Ranges, this amazingly remote community about which I knew nothing. I also knew nothing about flying, especially a 1000km flight in a single engine Cessna through seemingly endless hours of salt-pan turbulence. What a shock that was!

And here I go again. Once more into the desert. Once again the track leads towards sand and rock; spinifex and mulga; salt, dust and wonder!

I have an unsettling thought though: Why? Why do I go? Recently my daughter launched at me a barrage of direct and provocative questions: Why are you going Dad? Is it just ’cause you want to? Is Mum happy about this? Do you think you’ll get healed? Is it dangerous? Are you wasting the family’s money? Does God want you to go? These are all good questions.

I am also troubled by how I go.
Wherever I go I am white, and my whiteness will set me apart. When I buy groceries at the store from another white man (it’s always a white man behind the shop counter), he will look me in the eye; he will speak to me in a subtly different tone; without words he will say, “Hello white man.” It has all the feeling of a conspiracy. I may be offered a better seat at church. I will probably be offered a better room in the roadhouse. But if there’s one thing worse than being given preferential treatment, it is knowing I may well accept it. Of course these are generalizations; and of course there are obvious, mitigating circumstances behind the evolution of these realities. But this is true, none the less.

In so many ways the white fella is dominant; still lord and master in the outback. I feel him lurking in me, and I wish he would be gone. I long to say ‘brother’ without trace of condescension, and to share faith that is pure and universal, not just the white man’s religion.

Yesterday I was pondering these matters while struggling to pack for a month in a bag small enough to hang on a wheelchair. And, of course, I had to do the packing from a wheelchair. It was no small task. Taking a break late in the afternoon I parked under a favourite gum tree over the road, with a cup of tea, and read a “random verse”. Looking for guidance by sticking a pin in the Bible isn’t something I recommend: but very occasionally I indulge! I opened the iPhone Bible App, closed my eyes, wiggled my thumb around and tapped three times. This is exactly what I read:

“With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:6-8).

It’s compelling, don’t you think?

So why go? Well, because I want to. The wander-lust and thirst for adventure are real enough things for me. And because there are things we must do: wrongs to right, people to love, walls to pull down. And because I feel a keen and undeniable sense of the Spirit’s leading. And because I have a great anticipation of being with friends, of receiving their gifts, and learning what God will say to my heart. I am compelled.


4 thoughts on “White Fella

  1. Andy Brennan

    I sence your feelings as you write Rod and my thoughts immediately say its a heart thing that we need to be guided by in a situation such as you are faceing. My thoughts and prayers go with you brother. Why bother with the spelling I failed it at school and sadly continue to do so. I am sure we get the message across. Love in Jesus Andy.

  2. Kevin

    Dear Brother Rod
    I have no doubt whatsoever that no matter where you go or what you do, you do it in His name and that God has you firmly in his grip. He shall not let you stumble or test you beyond your abilities, which goes to show how able you must be.

    He strengthens you in spritit day by day, filling your heart and mind with peace and joy.

    Go to Warburton with the assurance that despite your inherent lack of melanin that you most likely are a true brother.

  3. Brett

    Hey Roderick, I think you should write a book, you’ve got story after story and thought provoking thoughts, It would be an amazing book. I’m currently reading ‘Run Baby Run’ by Nicky Cruz, but that can wait and I’ll keep reading your blogs, love ’em.

  4. I reckon this is my book Brett! Ive always wanted to write one, but I dont know where I’d start. It takes me about a week to figure out one blog, a book would be a shocker!

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