'This is the thing that we want for our people ...'

A First Nations elder reflects

When Angela Ninnal was six, her family took her to the local church convent, where nuns raised her. She was well cared for and loved to read stories. Years later, attending Alcoholics Anonymous, she changed her life. She works at a Safe House, and loves to help mothers to grow strong families, teaching their children wisdom and faith. Angela’s wise and humble story reveals where she satisfied her thirst. In this story, she tells how  Jesus helps her to be a strong person who tries to help her people.

My name is Angela from Wadeye [a remote Aboriginal community in the Top End]. My tribe is Yek Nangu Tribe, I was brought up here in Wadeye [with] Dad and Mum. But then when I was six years old, they took me to the convent and that’s where the girls’ dormitory was. The nuns were good to us, looking after us, caring for us. But before, we’ve been missing our mum and dad and grandparents.

We loved school. I was interested in reading, stories, writing and maths, and learning about the catechism [basic principles of the faith]. When the church bells ring, we start to get ready to go to church.

I was thirsty. I was desperate for Jesus.

In my 20s, I started to turn back from God. I used to play cards [gambling] and never went to church much. When my brother and his wife used to go to this AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) program, it took me two years saying “no, no” to my brother and my sister-in-law. But later on, I said, “I’ll go and try”. And that’s why I started to learn to look at myself.

I was thirsty. I was desperate for Jesus.

When I changed my life, going back, there was a lot of support for me to help myself so that I can help my young people.

So I’m working at the Safe House One Tree. [Wadeye One Tree Safe House provides emergency accommodation and support for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence.] When the partner beats their wives, usually the clinic calls us and the priest takes them to the Safe House. We take care of them – the mum and kids. I love to help them – mothers, to encourage them. Take care of their families. Not just families but extended families and the tribe.

This is the thing that we want … young people to have that wisdom and knowledge, have a strong faith to teach their children.

So this is the thing that we want [for] our people, young people to have that wisdom and knowledge, have a strong faith to teach their children when they grow up and get married, and then they can look after the kids of their own and teach them to be strong.

Love God, love our neighbours because God forgave us. He sent his son to save us. Jesus died for us so God will forgive us. And we should forgive this person. Some people don’t really forgive one another, so they’re still fighting, arguments and sometimes they don’t talk to each other. Jesus was telling us to forgive people.

I read this story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman; her spirit was thirsty. And her family and friends came along and Jesus himself was the living water that he gave them. It’s like they were drinking that water. God’s Spirit, all that good Spirit, comes into their life. [That’s what we want for] our people: to have their faith, good things in their life, and now they’re growing to be strong for themselves, caring, sharing and following [Jesus’] footsteps, what the Lord wants us to do.

You can watch Angela’s story here. It’s part of 40 Stories, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.