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The Climate Report - Tearfund's landmark research on climate, young Christians and the Church.

Serving God by serving community

In an interview with Tearfund's Ben Clarke, Reverend Mitchell Garlett talks about how his work in his community is his service to God.

My name is Reverend Mitchell Garlett. I'm a proud Whadjuk Ballardong man of the Nyungar Nation here in Perth, Western Australia. I’m a father of five children and have been married to my wife Janice for over 12 years. I want to make sure I mentioned my grandson's name. We have one grandson and he is an important fellow!

When he was a baby, only a couple of weeks old, my dad, his great grandfather, gave him a special language name, "Borrndidja". Out of all the family members this little fellow got this special name of one of my great great grandfathers. That's a very significant and special name that was given to him and no one else. Borrndidja was one of the great Elders and leaders through the southwest (of WA) back in the day and well respected in the Nyungar community. Knowing who our ancestors are is a powerful bit of information to pass on. For Indigenous people it strengthens you for knowing who you are and your identity.

I feel good about carrying my family name of Garlett, because it makes me feel more connected and important and I think your understanding about loss becomes clearer as you know what your name represents in certain areas of your community.

Mitchell Garlett
Mitchell Garlett (back right), with his family (left to right) Lorenzo, Mitchell Jnr, his wife Janice, Clarence, Sealin holding his son Kiahn and Freda. Image used with permission.

Tell me about some of the ways that you've stood up for your community and for the kingdom of God.

I have the responsibility of looking after the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) congregation in Coolbellup, just out of Fremantle. A lot of the work that I've been encouraged to get involved in has been eye opening. I share in doing funerals, weddings, baptisms, and it's on these special occasions where I’ve been able to share God's love with the community. During important times of the year like Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week and other community events I do a lot of Welcome to Country ceremonies and smoking ceremonies in my language.

When I give the explanation after the Welcome to Country I share about our creator. It feels good to be able to share with all different races of people that God has always been with my people. It is very important for me to be involved in the community and be able to share about God.

As Christians we never stop looking for an opportunity to share with others about God's Kingdom. A lot of people do not want to hear words about Jesus but they want to see it in how we conduct ourselves everyday living and making connections in community and building that respect.

At times your journey might seem lonely but knowing that there is a cloud of witnesses that are always around, that have always been with me, makes this world a bit less lonely when things do get a bit hard.

Please tell us about the “cloud of witnesses” in your life.

I lost my dad in 2019 and other family members have gone on to be with the Lord. That has given me more strength and understanding in knowing that I need to continue to do what I do for God. It's been hard at times. We will go through these struggles but knowing that our eternity lies beyond the boundaries of this world and knowing that there is only one way I can see my loved ones again put me on this journey with no turning back.

Growing up in a Christian home we were always surrounded by people of God. The cloud of witnesses has always been in my life. The feeling has always been there. In every place that we've lived and journeyed we've been surrounded by these clouds of witnesses.

For me even as a young man I know what the people that have passed on would have expected from me. Now, as an emerging leader, it's hard not doing your best to live right for God and not wanting to let Him down in any way. It's the same feeling I get for my Elders. They paved the way for my journey and for the journey that my children are on now.

It's a good feeling to know that the witnesses, the ones gone before us and the ones that come in behind, are always looking after you no matter what. At times your journey might seem lonely but knowing that there is a cloud of witnesses that are always around, that have always been with me, makes this world a bit less lonely when things do get a bit hard.

In Indigenous communities many of us have been impacted by the Stolen Generation, and intergenerational trauma is still an issue to this day. For example I am the son of a Stolen Generation survivor, my dad was taken away. I still grapple with some of the stuff they went through. I have many questions.

Reverend Mitchell Garlett

What are some of the issues that your community is facing at the moment?

When I think about Getting Up and Standing Up, my first thought is about those people in the community who don't have a voice. People in the community who consider themselves as not being important. People in the community who’ve had a hard life and are finding it difficult to walk with their heads held high.

These are the people that are worth Getting Up and Standing Up for. As leaders in communities we can lead the way in helping people do that. We can help make those connections and find out why people are the way they are and help them on their journey.

In Indigenous communities many of us have been impacted by the Stolen Generation, and intergenerational trauma is still an issue to this day. For example I am the son of a Stolen Generation survivor, my dad was taken away. I still grapple with some of the stuff they went through. I have many questions. Why? What was the point of it? All those questions are still alive today in our community. Some people are dealing with it a lot better than others. Some people have found answers. Some people have made their peace with God, and are trusting in Him and moving forward. There are others in communities as well, that don't know about God, don't choose to know about God. They have lost their identity. They're lost in this world. I am especially concerned for young people who are lost on the streets and homeless or in our jails.

Getting Up and Standing Up reminds me that it’s time to call out for community leaders to wake up and do their job. There's still a lot to do. We've been distracted for too long with other things. It's time to take responsibility for what's going on in our own backyard. We need to take that ownership. We need to help people that are finding it hard in life.

As God's children, as Indigenous and non-indigenous people, we have still got a lot of work to do on our journey together. We have a long way to go in understanding different ways of life, understanding different cultures and knowing the importance of respecting them all because it was what God gave us.

We have to continue to listen to one another as we journey together. Not only with our ears but with our hearts. If we're wanting to make a difference in the church, in our communities and in this nation it is important that we listen to one another and have respect and try to understand each other more. This will make a huge difference for the generations that follow after us.

Prayer by Reverend Mitchell Garlett

Our loving God, We give thanks Lord for allowing us to have your breath of life.

Heavenly Father, we want to ask for your continuing guidance, knowledge and understanding in how we can make a difference in the lives of others. We want your guidance to know how we can stand up to share the glory of your love to others.

We ask dear Lord, to brighten your light that shines through us – for it to shine into the darkest of all places. Into other people's hearts. Into other people's homes and to share about your glory.

We want to share about the power of your blood that was shed on Calvary.

We pray dear Lord for our communities to become united. For all peoples to become united and this can only be done through you dear Lord in through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen


Reverend Mitchell Garlett is a proud Whadjuk Ballardong man of the Nyungar Nation serving in Perth, Western Australia