Meet the remarkable Millywanga Sandy Wurrben, a Rembarrnga Mirratja Elder, cultural consultant and artist from Wugularr (Beswick) Northern Territory, who loves the freedom of worshipping God outdoors.
My name is Millywanga Sandy. I am a Rembarrnga woman. My family and ancestors come from the central island. I’ve seen many miracles happen, especially with my daughter Mimi. She was only a toddler and she was very, very sick. And I said, “Lord we are a fair way from Katherine Hospital. I have no access of taking her to hospital, and especially at this time at night.”
After I finished praying, I saw myself actually wrestling with this demon, a bad spirit. And the hands of this bad spirit was gigantic. When I finally said “I may be alone, you know, but I do have a friend.” And when I mentioned the name of Jesus, instantly the bad spirit went and then I looked around and all around me it was total darkness.
There was a glow of light that began to come up. And then right before me, I saw Jesus standing, I was totally mesmerised by looking at him. He just stood there with this smile, looking at me as if to say “It’s all right – everything’s finished now. I’m here. Do not be afraid.” You know, you could see that compassion and that love, the total peace of who God is, but she was totally instantly healed that night after I saw that vision.
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I want to share about this man called Jesus. I’ve experienced walking with him day by day and know what he has done for me – and not only for me, but for the world; he is a God of love and great compassion. And for us to understand him as an Indigenous person, we can relate to him spiritually. We have been connected to him, you know, even our ancestors who did not know the Bible when it first arrived, they knew him then.
We do not even have a word for slavery in my language. God wants us all to be free.
And our people have always been spiritual people. There is total freedom in the kingdom of God, in which we are totally free to express our love for him and know him for who he is. And the fire is coming. I mean, I’m talking about the Holy Ghost fire here. It is coming, then we shall no longer be controlled by someone else. I don’t like that, God does not like slavery. We do not even have a word for slavery in my language. God wants us all to be free.
There was a missionary and his wife who lived not far away from Barunga [80km southeast of Katherine]. I remember the old guy would come Sunday afternoons and preach to the community. There was no alcohol, no drugs, no fighting – none of all those things that we see today. And it was wonderful to see our parents sitting, silently listening to this old guy, talking about God and who would be listening to his word.
Being illiterate we didn’t understand anything, but what she [the missionary’s wife] had were picture books, so we could understand [through] that picture the story that comes from the Bible. She began teaching us the Scripture verses in English. For me, that was really good because I hadn’t gone to school. Our education was outdoors. So we had our traditional education as well.
Being around our mums, aunties, grandmothers, just being up in the bush. The Bible for me, it touched me because being out in the bush, we could see his creation and we lived among him, you know, he lived among us. We just had our fellowship out in the open. And there was no structure. Of course, we eventually got baptised, me and my mum, and the love of God was beyond anything you could ever imagine because then I began to see the changes in the community.
Other missionaries came and they built a church and then they structured all the strategies and protocols within the church. And that was very complicated for us, especially for my mum, not being able to speak even Kriol at that time. God is not a God of just specific groups or individual groups; God is for everyone. So when the denominations came, people were put into those groupings under their denomination.
We just danced and we could sing all night long in a way that we felt comfortable with.
It actually affected us countrymen, because a group of one denomination would see us as different. And yet in God’s context, it’s not like that. God tells us of this unity through Christ Jesus being the head of his church – the original church I’m talking about, God’s church. We didn’t have much freedom in sharing God’s word at times, and only specific people were chosen. We never danced, we never wanted to shout out aloud to the Lord. It wasn’t a place where one could enjoy God and his presence like we would during my childhood times.
Finally, something happened over at Barunga and we found the Holy Spirit come. And he opened this door, a door that was always closed, but he opened it so that we knew the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts was never read or told to us. When God opened that book, I started reading that. Wow, it was like that great wind blowing when those men were up in the upper room that day. We finally knew of the Holy Spirit. Yeah. We just danced and we could sing all night long in a way that we felt comfortable with way back then, so God had planned it and to this day, we don’t even have a church building.
We still worship God outside, outdoors, always beside the fire, even in the coldest time, we have all the big fires burning, people sitting around. We’re still praising God, singing all through the night.
No one would ever imagine a warrior like Jesus. He fights all these things all the time and he is a fighter.
Even before becoming a pastor, I have always been a translator. God used me [even] when I was a child translating his word, not only to my mother but to my people and to my elders as well. And then God just opened the door for all of us to translate the entire Bible [into Kriol]. This is the Bible that God chose, that all people would be able to read the Bible, the entire Bible book in Kriol, the language spoken all along the northern part of Australia, right across Australia.
No one would ever imagine a warrior like Jesus. He fights all these things all the time and he is a fighter. And so we, the people, we are fighters of this world, for the good of our people to see our needs met, he does it for us.
So remember this man called Jesus – he is your great warrior too. I believe that what he’s saying is it’s about time that we stop all these struggles and controlling one another, just become one – housing, health, education, jobs – it’s time that we all see things and treat each other equally. There was only one solution and it is through Jesus.
And for them to come in and understand him and know him for who he is, that he is the one that brings healing on the land, healing of people’s hearts, healing organisations, healing against fighting one another, competing [against] one another. I believe this is what he wants is for us people to work together. This time to work together, be equal in everything they do. And for sure, he will come and clean up the mess, he will. And I believe in that.