Although I have no doubt that God could have used something else, if it wasn’t for a little trip to the bathroom, Ryan and I might have been going somewhere else. Here’s the back story:
I was an anxious wreck during most of our two week trip to Perth last year. Australia was already in my heart and the thought of having to say goodbye to Australia and start loving another place was difficult to even think about. But I knew that unless God was calling Ryan to WA (Western Australia) that this wasn’t going to work. Ryan needed to be sure of his own calling to the Perth area and if he wasn’t then God was directing us elsewhere. Of course, I would need time to grieve but I would be ok with seeking where God wanted us both, together. However, that realization didn’t change the fact that I was praying and hoping and truly desired that God would call us to Australia together (God was definitely preparing both of us for Oz even before we met but more on our back story later).
So a week into the trip when Ryan had been having experiences that ranged from enjoying himself (not a bad thing but we were seeking a place for ministry not vacation) to being overwhelmed and dizzy (not physically dizzy but internally like his equilibrium was off), I was very worried about what God was trying to tell us. The small city where I would have lived as a single was throwing Ryan off completely and downtown Perth was lovely but there was no sense of urgency and call while we were there on the streets. However, our trip schedule opened up a bit and unsure of what lay ahead we decided to spend a few days (instead of just one) out in the country, in Brookton and the surrounding area.
The first couple of days started out slowly, our contacts weren’t even in town when we arrived so we prayer walked, explored and drove deeper into the country. Brookton is the middle of a series of small town about an hour and a half outside of Perth along the 120 highway in WA. These town range in size from a few hundred to a few thousand people. At this point I was finally seeing some brightness in Ryan. And frankly it scared me, I didn’t want to even consider living in a small, sleepy town in the country. But Ryan was excited, he grew up in a small town, went to college in a small town and generally loves the countryside and small communities.
Then one evening we had tea with a friend. She told us more about the community and was honest about the good things, the bad things and the ugly things. She explained that these sleepy towns were breeding grounds for substance abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence. She told us about the high rate of suicide complete with examples, including a man who killed himself on the golf course. And we started getting a deeper picture of what life was like for people living in these communities. We left that evening having enjoyed the company but with heavy hearts.
The next day we had some time so we drove just south to a town called Pingelly. We walked around, found the giant cross and went to a park to pray. While at the park Ryan used the public toilet and on the inside of the door was this sign:
At that moment (yes, in the bathroom) Ryan realized that this wasn’t an Aboriginal problem, this wasn’t just a few people with isolated experiences but this was truly something that was impacting the entire community. A hotline for suicidal farmers broke Ryan’s heart.
Why Australia? Because we have hope and want to see these communities flourish with that same hope.