by Wayne and Caryl Freeman
We waited outside the Church of the Lady of Sacred Heart a little before 11.00 am on Sunday 2 July at Alice Springs. The crowd gathered. Outside the entrance a small stand was set up to sell Eastern Arrernte New Testaments; this, along with two displays of various Aboriginal artworks of Bible stories, made the day a little different than most days of worship. On the steps of the church building two Aboriginal women lit a round, kettle furnace filled with leaves creating smoke. We proceeded through the smoke into the church, which symbolised our being cleansed, ready to worship God.
Over 200 of us enjoyed a Roman Catholic Mass rich with some singing, prayers and readings in Eastern Arrernte and English. The priest spoke about how special the day was for the Eastern Arrernte people to have God’s Word in their own language. The dedication of the New Testament also took place and the four priests who were present – one invited from Vanuatu – led communion. Neil Broad spoke about how grateful he was to God for His faithfulness over all the years, and to the faithfulness of his Aboriginal co-translators. Lorraine and Carmel, two of Neil’s co-translators, also spoke briefly about their journey in the story. The Bible Society and a church in Adelaide had each given support for the printing and paid for each translator to have their own Eastern Arrernte New Testament. These were presented at a lunch hosted by the church which included a huge dedication cake. The celebrations, including the service, were enjoyed by all and went on for over four hours.
This was a very enriching experience for us all and now what is required is ongoing prayer for the Eastern Arrernte to read their new Scriptures, whether in hard copy or on the newly released smartphone app which Ester Perez, a New Zealand member based in Darwin, has been working on. May they know more fully the Christ who sets us all free by His love!