Early in my relationship with Cameron, I remember my dear mother sending me an email with panic in her tone. She had just explored Cameron’s photography website, read about his successes and world-travelling and she feared for me. She reckoned Cameron would be too busy to give me the love that her little princess deserved.
Cameron laughed at this because despite his successes, he felt and at times still feels like just an emerging photographer. He is now in his 10th year of calling photography his profession. I’m his number one fan. Maybe tied with my mother-in-law.
Among Cameron’s best work and best experiences is being invited to photograph the Garma Festival for Yothu Yindi Foundation. He has been granted this privilege for four years from 2007 and this relationship continues. Garma is a well-attended indigenous festival in Arnhem Land. There, he developed a love and admiration for the Yolngu, the mighty first inhabitants of this part of the land we call Australia.
The dream weaver that He is, God decided that it was to be in Arnhem Land that He would more closely interlace the passions and gifts He had given Cameron and I.
I was in primary school when the Lord quite strongly put in my heart a desire to one day run a school for those who would otherwise not have access to good education. I had a friend, Janice, who couldn’t go to my school even if she wanted to because it was beyond what her family could afford. (Mind you, we struggled too and the school showed a lot of grace to my parents when we couldn’t pay the fees in time or at all – a story for another time.) This made me very sad but it sparked a fire within me.
When I commenced my course Master of Teaching, I was overwhelmed and humbled. I very quickly found out that running a classroom was hard enough so what was I thinking wanting to run a school? But see, God’s plans do not have to make sense to us but when called, obey is what we must do.
For my first job interview after completing my degree, the Principal asked, ‘What’s the dream, Rachel?’
‘To one day run a school for those who are disadvantaged… ’
I quickly added I still had a lot to learn and seems like this school would be a great place to start. God gave me the job and that Principal is one of my favourite people in the whole world, a wonderful mentor.
Cameron would tell you that he was nothing but supportive of this dream of mine but he’d also admit to you that he was thinking this would be later on in our lives, perhaps in our 40s or even 50s. To anyone, that would make perfect sense. But again, see God’s plans don’t necessarily sit with what makes sense to us. One of our Gäwa students, Byron, expressed it so beautifully talking about how our Lord appoints people, ‘God always chooses the right person, it just might not be who we expect.’ The same is true for His timing.
Who would’ve thought that before my 29th birthday, I’d be appointed Principal of Gäwa Christian School? I reveal my age with hesitance because at times I still fear that my youth will be taken against me. By God’s grace, most days I rest on the fact that the Lord equips those He calls. My main role is to trust and obey Him.
So here we are. We have followed where God has led and it has been a sheer privilege. Cameron and I are about to finish our first term in Gäwa and look forward to many, many more terms here, as God wills.
Where He leads, there is joy. There have been innumerable breath-taking moments: working with my favourite person (Cameron), having my Yolŋu sister pray for me immediately after I asked, seeing students praise God through dance, catching my first fish and teaching others to fish, praying with brothers and sisters in Christ, hearing students speak Warramirri words, walking from home to school in less than a minute and learning that out of all the options in the library, a student wanted to borrow a Bible. I could obviously go on.
Where He leads, there is growth. As we know all too well, all growth involves pain, something must move or break or be cut off. No matter where God places us and who we are, His main purpose in our lives is the same: to make is more like Jesus. Impossible? On our own, yes. By His grace, amen. In just our two months here, there have already been challenges big and small. That has included seeking God to show me the balance between justice and mercy when student and community issues come up.
Where He leads, there is Himself. This is the biggest comfort. He is with us in our joys, in our growth, in our strife. Our circumstances do not give us peace or assurance because they change and many times, there can be little under our control. He gives us peace. He is our peace. With His presence, we have more than enough, more than we will ever need.
We are in the best place we could ever be because we have followed where He leads.
How did Cameron and I know this is where God was leading us to? That’s our story for next time…