Around 170 people live in and around the settlement called Haasts Bluff (Aboriginal name Ikuntji), 227 kilometres west of Alice Springs. The community lies on a rough dirt road leading to nowhere in particular.
The local church is a corrugated iron building built in the 1940s. The pastor’s name is Trevor Raggett. He was ordained at the end of 2004 and is the son of Pastor Obed Raggett.
Inside this church something good seems to be happening. I’m not sure why – though I have my theories.
Three or four years ago Sunday morning attendance figures were not particularly high, averaging about 25. Virtually all were older folk. Nowadays they average 45, and there are many more young people coming along and evening gospel singing is now a regular occurrence. Within the community the church is respected and the pastor is loved – by both Aboriginals and whitefellas.
Why is this happening?
Haasts Bluff has always been a reasonably pleasant place. Its small size helps; perhaps also its out-of-the-way location. More important is the legacy of pioneer missionaries, both Indigenous and whitefella. For instance, Trevor’s father Obed was widely known as an example of gospel service. He was especially good at providing a pastoral bridge between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds.
But what is the difference between now and three or four years ago? One can only guess. Perhaps it was the FRM Pastors Course at Haasts Bluff in early 2007. Perhaps it was Simon Dixon’s ordination in 2007 – Simon, who calls Haasts Bluff home, often helps and encourages Trevor. Perhaps the changes are associated with the annual Easter singfest at the nearby missionary memorial. These have been big occasions over the last few years.
Maybe it is also partly to do with government administrative changes. In late 2007 Haasts Bluff gained a permanent police presence, and the following year some dedicated people took charge in the council office.
Much of it must be due to the attitude and work of Trevor himself. He continues to mature as a pastor, growing ever more confident in that role. He enjoys relating to people, is competent as a liturgist and works hard on his sermons.
No doubt another contributor is that people have been praying for this community.
Whatever the reason, it is wonderful to see God’s hand of quiet blessing upon this place. Please continue to pray and give thanks for God’s people in Haasts Bluff.
Paul Traeger is FRM Support Worker – Western Desert.