Aussie missionaries Les and
Sally Freeman have given their lives to reach the neglected Aborigines.
Most Americans fondly remember Steve
Irwin, the Australian wildlife lover and gregarious host of Crocodile Hunter who wrestled
reptiles on camera and then died in 2006 after an attack by a sting ray. He was
the epitome of Aussie spunk. Yet I’ve learned there are Aussie Christians with
the spiritual equivalent of Irwin’s daredevil courage.
A prime example: Les Freeman, a
31-year-old Pentecostal preacher who has been planting churches in Aboriginal
areas of northern Australia for nine years. He doesn’t wrestle crocs, but this
tough guy and his brave wife, Sally, have battled snakes, demonic curses and
environmental hardships to take Christ’s love to a neglected mission field.
things were done to these people. In the early days, Australians taught that
the Aborigines could not come to Christ because they were animals. Men would
actually come out from church and go out shooting black fellows.” –Les Freeman
Not long after Les and Sally pulled into
the Aboriginal town of Borroloola in 2001, their
two-year-old son was bitten by a deadly king brown snake, one of the world’s
most poisonous creatures. The boy went into a coma, his blood pressure began
rising and a doctor told Les to prepare for the worst.
The Freemans refused to believe the
doctor’s prognosis and clung to Luke 10:19, which promises authority over
“serpents and scorpions.” Miraculously their son was spared, and the Freemans
had five more children over the next nine years—and raised them in the
dangerous Outback while they learned Aboriginal culture.
“The devil was trying to get us out of
this town,” Les told me during an interview in Sydney last weekend. He planted
another Aborigine church in the town of Robinson River in 2005. His goal is to
bring the gospel to these unique indigenous people who were marginalized and
mistreated when whites settled in Australia many years ago.
Wes, a native of Victoria, in
southeastern Australia, first visited Aborigines when he was 18 during a church
mission trip to the Outback. At that time he heard an “almost audible” call
from God to serve as a fulltime missionary to the Aborigines, he says.
“But I kept rejecting the idea,” Wes
admits. “I couldn’t understand the people. I didn’t have the cultural
knowledge. I couldn’t even tell whether the people were drunk or not. But
finally I decided to give my future to God.” Eventually, after their wedding,
Wes and Sally partnered with an organization called Australian Aboriginal
Outreach Ministries and moved to Borroloola.
Their son’s brush with death was the
first in a series of intense spiritual attacks. Once, someone put a curse on
Les and his leg began to swell. He has confronted visible demonic powers. He’s
had disturbing nightmares. And he’s buried 15 people he led to Christ because
the life expectancy of Aboriginal men is so low.
Yet God has worked miracles to give the
Freemans access to Aborigines, who are entrenched in witchcraft and
superstition. A 100-year-old tribal elder saw a vision of an angelic being who
told him that Les would tell him how to get to heaven. That man’s conversion
gave Les and Sally credibility in the town. Another Aboriginal man who was
known for his violence received Christ and became a model convert.
“Many other people have been healed, and
many have been delivered from mental illness,” Les says. “But it’s not always
dramatic power encounters. Sometimes it is easy. The people make a stand for
Christ and get delivered quietly.”
The need in the Aboriginal community is
huge. Sociologists say the gap that exists between white Aussies and the
dark-skinned Aborigines is the largest cultural divide in the world. A nomadic
people, Aborigines have changed little over the past few hundred years. The
cruel treatment they received in previous generations has led to rampant
alcoholism and a high suicide rate.
“Barbaric things were done to these
people,” Les says, noting that professing Christians participated in the
atrocities. “In the early days, Australians taught that the Aborigines could
not come to Christ because they were animals. Men would actually come out from
church and go out shooting black fellows.” (The Australian government issued a
formal apology for crimes against Aborigines in 2008.)
Thankfully there are extraordinary heroes
like Les and Sally Freeman who are willing to risk everything to heal the pain
of these misunderstood people. And if you are willing to brave king brown
snakes, demonic curses and maybe a few killer crocodiles, Les has a job for
“This is my lifelong calling, and I plan
to train missionaries to present Christ in a meaningful way to Aborigine culture,”
he says. “If we had 100 couples we wouldn’t have enough.”
J. Lee Grady is an author, award-winning journalist and ordained minister. He served as a news writer and magazine editor for many years before launching into full-time ministry.
Lee is the author of six books, including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, 10 Lies Men Believe and Fearless Daughters of the Bible. His years at Charisma magazine also gave him a unique perspective of the Spirit-filled church and led him to write The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and Set My Heart on Fire, which is a Bible study on the work of the Holy Spirit.