Oodles of enthusiasm at Oodnadatta

Posted in Culture

The Pilgrimage of Healing is run annually during Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) by the Covenanting team in Mission Resourcing. Each year, this campaign focusses on a different project within the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (Congress) in South Australia.

Since 2011, people across the Uniting Church have generously supported Pilgrimage of Healing projects involving youth leadership, transportation for remote communities and building developments.

The 2017 Reconciliation Week theme is “Let’s take the next steps” – and that flows through to the focus of the 2017 Pilgrimage of Healing. This year the fundraising effort will go towards supporting young people in the Congress faith community in Oodnadatta.

“Our young people are really involved in the community and want to know more about how to be disciples and leaders,” says Oodnadatta Pastor Julia Lennon. “They want to learn more about the Bible, learn to be role models, and learn how to do ministry.”

Young people in Oodnadatta have been attending Bible studies led by Julia and have been active in national events like Yuoróra 2017, the Uniting Church’s National Christian Youth Convention. Many are also interested in joining Julia in her pastoral care and outreach visits to the APY (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara) Lands. They’re enthusiastic about church and the opportunities it provides to build them up as community leaders.

“A lot of young people in the community have been attending church and other events we run. Those involved in the church have acted as a role model to others, encouraging them to come,” says Julia.

“We see young people in the community growing in faith, taking on leadership positions, reading the Bible and running sporting teams. I’ve seen the changes in the young generation and have watched them grow.”

But this growth does not come easily. While Julia and others offer ways for young people to learn and develop in the Oodnadatta community, further opportunities are difficult to access.

“The young people at Oodnadatta want to learn more about ministry, leadership and the church, but it’s hard work for them at the moment,” explains Ian Dempster, the Resource Officer for Congress SA. “Computers are not available for them to access training, online courses or other information. The isolation of the community means it’s also expensive to go and learn more in person.”

The plan is for funds raised through the Pilgrimage of Healing to go towards computers and a larger vehicle for the Oodnadatta faith community. This will help young people to access training, engage with outreach activities, and more easily connect with other faith communities and congregations.

Just a little bit of money and care can make all the difference to teenagers and young adults in Oodnadatta.

Last year, SA Congress supported the growth of Oodnadatta’s firsty footy team in years by providing them with the guernseys they needed to be able to play. This encouraged some of the players to take on leadership roles, engage in a healthy community activity and meet with people from other towns.

“Even though they lost their first game, they felt like winners in their hearts,” says Julia. “Because Congress provided them with the guernseys they felt like people truly supported them and cared about them.”

The Pilgrimage of Healing provides an opportunity for all in the Uniting Church SA to help support young people in the Oodnadatta faith community. It also acts as a reminder that they are part of the wider Uniting Church.

“We want to help the next generation as best we can and give them what they need to learn, be disciples and lead,” says Julia.

Donations for the Pilgrimage of Healing can be made to: Oodnadatta Youth & Children’s Ministry Fund. BSB: 704095. Account number: 193668. For more information about the Pilgrimage of Healing, please contact Ian Dempster on 0417 217 320 or email idempster@sa.uaicc.org.au

The 2017 Pilgrimage of Healing poster is available to download here.

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