Tree of Shame Replaced by a Church

– by Harris


Brett and Justine Wiltshire are the national directors of Australian Aboriginal Outreach Ministries (AAOM). In 2000, they moved with their children to Halls Creek in the Western Australian Kimberly region to pastor a local church. After planting an additional six churches, an indigenous couple took over as local pastors, releasing Brett and Justine to be the AAOM coordinators for 14 churches, some of them in the most remote and isolated communities in Australia.

Then, in September 2014 they became the national directors for AAOM. They are still based in Halls Creek but have moved out of their home and now live in a bus which serves as the mobile home, office and teaching base. As national directors they travel all across Australia setting vision, encouraging pastors, ministering at the churches, speaking into the pastor’s lives and supporting them in any way they can.

There are nearly 400 aboriginal communities in Australia, some of which are on the outskirts of the hottest and most inhospitable deserts and hundreds of kilometers from shops, schools and services. AAOM is a national church planting movement that reaches out to Aboriginal communities in the outback as well as urban areas. AAOM’s motto is ‘working in unity, transforming communities’.

On a visit to CityLife Church, Brett shared some remarkable stories of how the redemptive power of God is working through their ministry into the lives of Aboriginal people. This is one of them…

From under a Gum Tree

Many years ago at Halls Creek there was a young man who came from a community called Turkey Creek. He grew up a tribal man, he went through tribal law, but then got addicted to alcohol.

Then he met a young Catholic girl from a desert community and they got married and had some kids, but unfortunately alcohol had a deathly grip on his life and for many years he was drinking heavily.

He was so addicted to alcohol that he started going from house to house, stealing alcohol from his friends. Then, instead of drinking beer, he started to purchase spirits and cask wine. Eventually, he started drinking methylated spirits.

tree-of-shame-replaced-by-a-church-161202-croppedWhen the government brought in restrictions against methylated spirits, this man moved on to drinking a mix of brake fluid and orange juice. He used to drink this under a gum tree in the middle of Halls Creek, and it was destroying his life. His marriage also started to fall apart.

One day, he had an accident and one of his fingers was paralysed. He happened to come to a church meeting and as he walked in through the door he heard how God can heal people. So he made a vow. He said, “God, if you heal my finger I’ll accept you for the rest of my life.” He got prayer at that meeting and the next day as he was getting ready to chop some wood, he grabbed his axe and realised that his finger was no longer paralysed. That was the beginning of his journey with Jesus.

The amazing thing is that the tree where he used to sit drinking that brake fluid and orange juice is now the tree where the church is planted and that man is now the senior pastor of the church in Halls Creek. It is amazing what God can do in people’s lives, and the transformation that he can make.