In 2004 Jo and I moved to Karratha as young graduates starting our careers. We joined the local Anglican Church and were blessed by the BCA supported ministry of Les & Jenny Gaulton. Two years later we moved on, but we’re back, and took up where Les & Jenny left off, preaching the gospel in the West Pilbara.
Three things stand out to us in the West Pilbara; hidden beauty, restless hearts and gospel hope. The West Pilbara is a place of hidden beauty. No one lists mining towns in their top 10 most beautiful places. But once you come, you realise God has been at work forever creating beauty in unexpected places. Is it hot? Yes. Are there lots of rocks? Yes. Are there many trees around? No. Do you have to put up with regular cyclones? Yes. But every night as God puts the sun to bed, the red rocks cast their colours into the sky and you can’t help but sing God’s praises. Scratch the surface and the Pilbara rivals the beauty of anywhere. The town itself is very liveable too. Coffee? Check. Parks for the kids? Check. Great fishing spots? Check. Tropical island adventures? Check. Art and culture? Check – I’m pretty sure we have one of the largest, densest and diverse collections of rock art all around us. The West Pilbara is an amazing place and we enjoy living here.
The West Pilbara is beautiful but hearts are restless. While the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi people call this place home, and others have come for decades, many of the people who live in our town are only here for such a short time. People come, enjoy the big wages of the mining, oil and gas companies and then leave as soon as possible. While they’re here life is rushed. As much sport, fishing and camping as possible is crammed into such a small window, and then people leave. Sometimes it feels as though this is not a place to settle, but a place to bear for as long as possible before heading off again to the (literally and figuratively), greener pastures of the south.
In the middle of the beauty, surrounded by restless hearts, we stand holding out the hope of the gospel. The wages of the West Pilbara, or the adventure that it brings, is not what people need. As Jesus Himself says He is the one who truly satisfies, He is the one who will provide. Like many places it’s tempting to think the hearts of the West Pilbara are as hard as the rocks that make up the landscape, but the reality is God’s gospel is powerful and His Spirit is at work. We have congregations meeting in Karratha and Wickham. Our churches are small by city standards, but our people are gospel minded. Each week our Bible Study group shares the opportunities they’ve had to talk about Jesus. All sorts of situations are raised, the gospel is going out! One of our members seems to know half the town. Every week he comes back asking us to pray for a new friend. Many of us have missed opportunities through the week. We talk and pray about those too in the hope that next time we might be able to speak. We loved hearing of one friend who found himself working in a situation hostile to Christianity. We prayed, and he came back the next week sharing that he had spoken up, and people had listened, praise the Lord! We work alongside the the Warth family, who faithfully chip away for the gospel in Wickham, 40 kilometres from Karratha. One highlight of their ministry is in the local prison. There is a desire for God’s word in the prison like you wouldn’t believe. Each week Matt & Naomi fight to see Bible Study take place, and when it does 20–30 people often come to read God’s word together. It is a great joy.
It can be hard to minister in the West Pilbara. However, when we see things through God’s eyes we are encouraged. We get to live in a place of amazing beauty. For such a small church we work with a great team of people to preach the gospel to the many who come and go from this patch. Please pray that we would trust that the gospel is powerful to bring salvation. Pray that we might see fruit as the gospel is proclaimed.