Well, we are back. Back to cheap(er) coffee, blankets at night, walls with no louvres, milk within walking distance, and hitting the books. Now seems like a good time to reflect on the cross-cultural experience of Darwin mission as a whole. Some of the differences are more trivial than others, but they all combined to create the overall feel of the place.
Animals. Needless to say, there are a lot more than in Newtown, and they tend to be of the tropical variety. There are lots of bugs. It is very noisy at night–not with traffic and tipsy uni students, but with geckoes and bats and birds and possums and bits of trees falling to the ground. And of course the fan, on “helicopter mode”.
Houses. In my experience, these tended to be on stilts, with a laundry and maybe spare room downstairs, and the main living areas upstairs. All the windows, and often the walls, had louvers in them, and there was at least one ceiling fan in every room. Swimming pools are a high priority in Darwin–changing for your swim less so.
Laid-back-ness. It’s hot. So… just, chill, yeah? But seriously, there’s not much spare energy, and keeping cool is a top priority. People tend to take it easier. Not that people don’t work, but the vibe just seemed less stressed-out.
Churchmanship. The diocese of NT is varied. Most churches tend to do a formal Prayer Book service, and if the clergy is in town that week (many parishes share a priest) you definitely do Eucharist (Lord’s Supper). But other churches are more informal. What was refreshing and challenging was to see, for example, the bishop equally sincere in both the formal high church garb used in the cathedral, as he was in his shirt and shorts at St Pete’s at 5. What was equally, if not more, challenging and refreshing was to see the clergy of the diocese–with all their differences in doctrine and practice–meeting together and sharing a Eucharist service, where they administered the bread and wine to each other.
Turnover. On paper, Darwin is just another capital city in Australia. But in practice, most people are passing through, whether it’s Indigenous people visiting family or hospital, or people there for work, new immigrants, or whatever the reason, people tend to be pretty transient. One woman observed that it’s more like an expat community within Australia. Or like in university, except the turnover is more irregular–not a predictable 3-4 year cycle. So your key youth leaders/musicians/Bible study leaders etc might not be here next year–what then? Or even more basically, how do you follow up the new person who “prayed the prayer” last night, if they’re not in church next week, cos they’ve left town? Reflecting on this, some locals pointed out the great opportunity it is to offer people a community (“come with me to church”), because when most people arrive in Darwin, they don’t really have one. But it was also pointed out that since you are often only one tiny link in the chain, and you don’t get to see the results of your efforts with people, it can be tempting not to make those efforts. Plus, effort… did I mention it was hot?