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	KEEP WATCH OVER YOURSELVES AND ALL THE FLOCK OF WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS MADE YOU OVERSEERS.</p>
The Coastwatcher & the Aborigines

KEEP WATCH OVER YOURSELVES AND ALL THE FLOCK OF WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS MADE YOU OVERSEERS.

ACTS 20:28


Chaplain Andrew Gillison was praised in one soldier's war diary as 'the bravest man he ever knew.' Dearly loved by the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life, Gillison's memorial still sits at Embarkation Pier, just north of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

When war began in Europe in September 1939, Len was Chaplain at the Anglican Church Missionary Society mission on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria. On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese simultaneously attacked British Malaya and the US Naval Base in Pearl Harbour, the European War became a World War.

Singapore fell to Japan on February 15, 1942, and Australia’s Northern Coast became vulnerable. Four days later, 350km to the north of Darwin, four Japanese aircraft carriers launched 188 warplanes.

The Japanese planes set about bombing and strafing, destroying Darwin, US and Australian warships and fighter planes, and killing 243 people. On March 3, 88 people died in a Japanese attack on Broome and on March 22, Japanese bombs fell as far south as Katherine. During 1942 and 1943, North Australia was attacked and bombed ninety seven times.


The Japanese planes set about bombing and 
strafing, destroying Darwin, US and Australian warships
and fighter planes, and killing 243 people.

The military authorities advised the Church Missionary Society that they could no longer guarantee the safety of the Aboriginal island missions around the north coast. Most missionaries were evacuated by Air Force Sunderland flying boats, but Len elected to stay on Groote Eylandt with the Aboriginal people.

The mission had an old pedal radio with which Len managed to keep in contact with the mainland. Len wrote in his diary, “I am not afraid of being in a war zone. God is greater than the Japanese and I am quite at peace with him in this matter.” Len agreed to become an official Coastwatcher and was sworn in as a sub-lieutenant.

The Groote Eylandt Aboriginal people took the war very seriously. They posted lookouts daily on the top of Central Hill, a tall rocky vantage point, with young boys ready as runners to report anything to Len back at the mission. They selected a cave where they could hide Len and his radio in the event of an invasion.


"I am not afraid of being in a war zone.
God is greater than the Japanese and I am quite 
at peace with him on this matter."
 
REV. LEN HARRIS

T he war now gave Len the chance to do something he had longed to do – to translate some of the Bible into one of the Aboriginal languages of the multilingual Gulf community. He chose the Wubuy language because it was so widely spoken, particularly at both the Groote Eylandt and Roper River missions.

Len was able to travel between the missions and work on the translation with people in both communities. He wanted to translate something quickly, something people could immediately learn and use and through it be introduced to the idea of Bible translation.

So, with the help of two Aboriginal women, Grace and Bidigainj, he translated the Lord’s Prayer. Everyone loved it, the Wubuy words bearing so much more meaning than the English. Then, with the war in mind, he translated the Prayer for Peace from the Book of Common Prayer. At last, with anticipation he turned to the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels.


The war now gave Len the chance to do something he 
had longed to do – to translate some of the Bible into one of the 
Aboriginal languages of the multilingual Gulf community.

Len said, “Never will I forget writing those first wonderful words: Anawuluwulur anambalaman analawu – The beginning of the Good Story”. One night a great leader, Madi Murungun was there, listening attentively. Then he got up and went away. 

No one knew where, but he had gone away to his own country hundreds of miles to the north. He walked all the way to get his Nunggubuyu people. They made extra canoes and sixty people came down the coast and up the Roper River. Madi had returned, and stood in the firelight.

I held up the scraps of paper. “Anambalaman analawu,” I said, “The Good Story.” “Yuwai!” Madi replied, “Idjubulu!” Yes! It is true! He came forward and asked to hold the papers – leaves he called them. I knew he could not read. He struggled to speak and my Wubuy was not good enough to understand him. He held up the papers and spoke again. Grace softly translated his words into English for me: “Now I know that Jesus speaks Wubuy.”


“Never will I forget writing those first wonderful
words: Anawuluwulur anambalaman analawu –
The beginning of the Good Story.”
 
REV. LEN HARRIS

W e did not know that the war would soon end in a terrible nuclear holocaust. It was still the dominant reality of life and for all I knew it would go on for another ten years. 

But by the firelight that night, for one glorious moment, imprinted forever in my memory, the war seemed a very distant thing. Jesus had spoken into our minds, into our hearts, and he had spoken in a language that all could understand.


But by the firelight that night, for one 
glorious moment, imprinted forever in my memory,
the war seemed a very distant thing.

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