Blood, sweat and bruises. That's one way to describe my week at Kulaba. Another way is to say it was fun, a huge learning curve and an eye opener.
Kulaba is a 2000 acre sheep and cattle station owned by Craig Pickette. Craig runs OutBackPackers, a farm stay designed to show people how cattle and sheep stations run.
At the beginning of the week Craig told us that it was hard work and he was going to show us all the hard work. This wasn't going to be easy.
And he was right. From day one we got hot, tired and dusty. But we also learned.
We learned the difference between lambs and ewes, between bulls, cows, calves and bullocks. We figured out how to think outside the box. Craig told us that farmers were simple people. Maybe they are but some of us found it hard to keep things simple. We over thought or under thought. We almost stole the neighbours cattle, we fell off bikes and horses, we banged our heads and in the end we survived a week on a real Australian farm.
But it wasn't all about the work. Every night we gathered around the table and talked. People told outrageous stories and others made us laugh. Beer flowed thick and the stories got more ridiculous. I may not have agreed with everything that was said. In fact a lot of it a I disagreed with it but I was in the midst of authentic Australian life. It was how they live, how they talked.
My eyes were opened to how most people in this world think. I met people who only have one night stands because they have seen so many relationships fall apart. I've seen others flirt when we all know they have a special someone back home. And they do it all with an ease that shocked me.
While I learned about the actual work I also became aware of how priviledged I am to have grown up in a Christian family.
There was a reason for me to behave, to live as I had been taught. Maybe they didn't understand it and maybe they did but that was no reason for me not to go on living just as I did at home. I spent time with my fellow trainees and had some good conversations with a few about my beliefs. They listened, they probed and I learned to dig deep down and remember all those things I had been taught since I was a young child.
Did I judge them? Maybe at times I did and that was wrong of me. But I also saw that a lack of proper upbringing brings most people to ruin early on. One of the girls I worked with admitted that she had done somethings she was ashamed of.
Maybe I could have brought her some comfort but was it the right time? The same person also told me that she was glad I wasn't forcing the Gospel on her. What could I do? She was talking to me and listening to what I had to say. We barely knew each other.
My one hope is that the things I said and did this week will stick with them and the next time they meet a Christian they will be ready for something more.
The work was hard but rewarding. I know so many things I didn't know when I stepped out of that van last Sunday evening.
I can tie knots that will keep loads from moving, I can draft sheep, I can ride a quad, change a tire and find tools when they are needed. I can handle myself in situations that are strange and at times embarressing. I found out that I have a strength from God that never fails.
People knew right away that I was differnt yet they accepted me and always urged me to come out and talk and not to hide away. That was good too. I learned to open up about myself, to tell them the things I believed.
In the end I ended up with a job that was quite different from what I had thought I'd do. But Craig and Jo, his office helper, try their best to match us with a job that they think will suit us. So I trust their judgement and will do my best to prove them right.
These next months are going to be just as challenging but I know I have a Father who loves me and will always be there to help me. That is what I cling to as I step into the unknown.
My week was amazing, something I will never forget. It was a huge stepping stone for me and I managed to step on and off without loosing anything that belonged to me. The memories and friends I made may one day fade but I will always remember this time as a time of strengthening, of challenge and most of all of fun.
It was the beginning of the adventure of my life.