Christ Kick to Darwin

After the experience of meeting Bridget, I was now standing on the side of the road inland from the eastern Australian coast with Darwin on my mind. Darwin is in the central northern part of Australia, a mere 3,000 kilometers from where I stood.

The first ride came to chip into this distance, a miner named Jim. After that, another miner named Jim who took me as far as a town called Emerald. I began walking from where he dropped me off, the sunset couldn't be too far off. I walked over a big bridge overpass, beneath were campers and a couple tents, I kept walking.

As I walked close to the train tracks a car made a turn, the girl driving made a gesture at me asking if I needed a lift, then pulled over. "Where are you heading?", she asked, I told her Darwin, "oh, I'm just going to church. You can come if you'd like".

"How far up is it?", I asked, you never can tell, I assumed it was at least further up the road from where I stood, "I'll probably just keep catching lifts while it's still light, but every bit counts", I chucked my bag in the back seat and hopped in.

She asked again if I wanted to go with her to church. I explained to her, "The only thing is it'll be dark here real soon, are there places to camp around here?", a funny question for me to ask being that I'm prone to camp just about anywhere off the side of the road.

"You can camp under the bridge", I assumed she meant the bridge where I'd seen the caravans parked up, "and really, you'll probably be able to find someone to stay with at church, I mean, it's church!", we made the turn up the road and she pulled off to the side. "What do you say?"

"Yea ok, let's do it!", I told her.

"Yay!", she smiled full of energy and seeming truly happy, "Another adventure for you!", we pulled back into the road and kept going. 'another adventure', I thought, I hadn't mentioned any adventures, I guess it was just assumed, like she knew I was on a bender of adventures.

"There's a special guest preacher coming tonight, a healer. I went to the hospital today telling everyone and telling them to come.", she told me, "It'll be great, and there's coffee and all afterwards. Plan A you can sleep under the bridge, plan B you find a place to stay, I'm sure it'll be plan B", she assured me.

We walked into the church, friendly faces greeted her, she introduced me to people straight away and immediately started putting the word out that I needed a bed for the night.

We were in a big bright hall with fold out chairs all across in about twenty rows in three sections. A sound booth in the back of the room and a wide stage slightly risen up in front with guitars lined on the wall and a nice looking drum kit enclosed in a clear sound barrier.

"Have you been to church before?", she asked me.

"Not really, just a few times on holidays and things like that", I told her. Church had never been a regular thing at any point in my life, just the odd funeral or with friends by chance or for music related events.

"The prayer meeting is in the back... do you wanna go in with us?", she asked me excitedly, "it's a little like the movies, talking in tounges and things", she added.

"Sure", I smiled.

"Yea?", she seemed somewhat surprised that I was easy going about it all, and still more excited than anything else.

We headed behind the stage into a small bright room with a couple dozen people in a circle standing in front of chairs lined around the wall. Everyone was already at it, each in their own prayer, all in their own zone wildly. One guy was loudly thanking the lord for everything, stomping in place. A girl next to me rocked and swayed gently whispering rhythmically in an unknown dialect. Another paced around mumbling quietly and purposely, a larger woman on her knees whipping her hands from the floor to the ceiling letting out, "oh lord" over and over, another girl singing, a big young looking guy moved his hands all around mumbling and chanting his prayer.

I swayed back and forth pretty gentle with my hands clasped taking it all in. Sam was next to me, passionately swaying in a similar manner, quiet in prayer and letting out a "yes", and "that's right" overhearing others prayers. Suddenly she stepped forward and spoke loudly like she was making an announcement and I thought everyone else would stop, but instead she started belting out her prayer of thanks and the rest of the room kept rattling on as they had been, barely taking notice. Several others would break from their whispers for a fit of louder more annunciated speech temporarily before fading back to their pacing or rocking in place. A slender girl's eyes met mine briefly across the room as I was scanning the scene, she seemed a bit more subdued and relaxed than the rest. A kid girl sat in a chair quietly not participating in all of this, but not looking bored either, just content.

This went on for 10 minutes or more and they all stopped at once and took a seat, I followed suit. A few of them had quick words about the music that was on later and then called a meeting amongst several people and most left the room. Sam introduced me to a guy named Craig and said I could hang with him while she was in the meeting herself.

I went with him in front of the stage while others took to their instruments and began warming up. Craig was a big tall guy with a young face, glowing from my story of being a hitchhiker from New York. Others came to meet me, the new face, equally amused and thrilled I'd made it for the service and in the manner I'd arrived.

The slender girl came up too, all smiles and big eyes with straight brown hair past her shoulders. She looked a lot like a friend from my old high school and I felt connected with her immediately. She seemed like a spirit I could grasp onto while otherwise feeling a pinch out of place. Like the others she was fascinated in my presence and the particular circumstance, but perhaps more so in my traveling. She told me her plans to fly to Los Angeles in a few months time and her excitement burned just as much in me as it did with her. I wanted to talk to her all night and just her, hop in a car and cruise with her in any direction at blaring speeds blasting music with the windows down and the wind rushing through us, barefoot and seeking adventure.

More people introduced themselves and distracted me from these thoughts and soon she was pulled away by someone to stand by the door, perhaps to greet people "definitely stay afterwords for coffee", she told me and bounced away.

I told my story a dozen more times, "hitchhiking to Darwin from Yeppon, Sam picked me up, come from connecticut and New York", etc and so on, one person after another, all excited and the whole room was full of energy and anticipation of the guest speaker.

Eventually the music began and I made my way to a seat off to the left by Sam, standing again right away while much of the room rocked in place dancing and throwing hands in the air, some up front kneeling on the ground intensely swaying during one of the last songs, they played three or four.

A younger guy who'd been pacing and praying in the back room and introduced himself to me as Craig, a different Craig, came up on stage at the tail end of the last song and hyped up the audience with a bit of prayer saying things like, "We're not here tonight expecting to witness miracles, we're here to encounter them.", he then introduced the main usual preacher, an older man with a big smile who took over the microphone, I'd met him earlier as well.

"Thank the lord for everyone here tonight, people from far and familiar faces. Travelers, oh lord, thank you for bringing them here with us. Kenneth is here all the way from Connecticut and doesn't yet realize he may never leave", this got a good laugh from the people around me I'd met. He went on a bit and finally introduced the guest speaker, healer preacher guy.

He took the stage, a bit older with short light blonde hair and a colorful button down shirt. He shuffled around some papers and started off with a joke that sounded like it came from an email chain letter, then launched into his preaching. "Each of us has twelve barrels of faith", he kept repeating this as his interpretation of some part of some bible and going on. Sam sat next to me chiming in, "Yes!" and "Preach it", "That's right", and  "That's good!", some others did this as well. The guy reminded me of Lewis Black the way he carried on emphasizing and moving around.

After a good while of this he told us to all bow our heads and close our eyes. While we were down and blind he said something along the lines of "Raise your right hand if you want jesus in your life and want me to pray for you", but I'm sure I misunderstood or misheard to some degree. I didn't raise my hand straight away figuring he'd quickly move on and that it was just an exercise he was doing with little matter. Time stretched on a bit though and he kept saying, "Is there anybody else?". My head was still down and my eyes closed, I began to think everyone's hand was up except mine and he was waiting on me, the bearded sinner from America. At last I raised it up to end his questioning. "You in the white, good. Let's get these people started".

I opened my eyes. "Three people want to be saved, let's get then up here by the stage and say a prayer, then they can be taken back with the guides and sorted". I quickly realized that I wasn't raising my hand as a general vote that Jesus was cool, but I was one of the three out of the seventy or so people in the room raising it to volunteer to become a christian, to "be saved". Sam smiled wildly and even more excited than she had been. I stood at the front of the stage with a couple other people as the preacher lead a repeat-after-me session about accepting Jesus and all at once we were ushered to the back room while the preacher moved on to the next thing.

I was too far gone to do anything other than go with it. They gave me a bag with a bible and various pamphlets. Sam and two others sat with me for several minutes in excitement flipping to pages in the book and explaining how Jesus was the bridge to heaven and so forth. I stayed as serious as I could, somewhere between a smile and an idea of guilt, steering my urged laughs into excitement to keep it all together. I pondered how I went from wandering through town with my thumb out to now finding myself being issued a bible as the newest recruit for Christianity by this wildly excited and friendly people.

Sam asked a girl across the room if I could stay at her house the night.

"Sure, ravioli tonight!", the girl smiled, I smiled too.

The lot of us headed back into the auditorium, the preacher had his finger on someone's forehead taking fast, "God is with us! Whoosh!", giving a slight bump with finger the standing man fell backwards into a spotters arms and slowly dropped to the floor where he remained for a while as I walked around back to my seat. I noticed another man on the ground shaking ams rocking as well.

The preacher pointed to a girl in the front row and she stood before him. He began analyzing her, "You're a born leader. People follow you, sometimes even when you don't want them to. When you say something needs to happen, it does. What you say shouldn't happen, won't", she began swaying and tearing up, eyes locked on every word coming out. He went off that, "You often cry, tears of joy, God in every drop", he put his finger to her forehead, "Whoosh!", she fell backwards into a spotters arms and she too was lowered to the ground and left to wiggle in her tears and passion.

Several more people were called out and whoosed to the ground. A couple of them didn't fall right away, I reckon they did after a few whooshes as to keep with the preachers expectations and break the awkwardness of not complying.

The house preacher got back on stage and reminded us that the guest preacher would be there all week, "Friday there's going to be fire in this room, the week is just warming up", those being the guest preachers last words.
The audience was released and Sam lead me to the cafe adjacent to the auditorium, ordering me a cappuccino and small pastry. I sat a table talking to her roommate, a girl with beautiful sharp eyes from Perth.

We talked for a while, Brandy made her way over as well while Sam made her way around the room talking with various people. Soon people were filing out and the girl who'd offered me a place to stay was ready to go too. I said my goodbyes, in this process finding out that Brandy was going back to the same house I was, a few people were living there at the time.

Ravioli was cooked and giant dogs roamed about, some packing was going on as a guy was leaving for a while or maybe for good, hitting the road early in the morning. Soon everyone filed to sleep leaving myself, Brandy and another girl. We talked for a while until Brandy pulled out her guitar, of course she played the guitar. She began singing songs and strumming away, telling stories and all laughing during and in between.

They improvised a song about me, lyrics about my beard and dimples mostly, and being from Alabama because it worked into the song better. After a lot of this we all soon found sleep ourselves, there was an air mattress set up for me in the office, I happily slept well into the night.

In the morning there was a shower, some toast and a ride to the gas station at the edge of town. I walked a ways, munching on some apple pie that Bridget had given me when she dropped me off in Gracemere, some of the best I've had.

I got a ride a tour guide named Vanessa, we fired down the road a while talking about her business and her husband's lacking of the travel bug. She dropped me off in a small town called Longreach. I walked a good while into the desolateness until I came upon a rest area, a more defined patch of dirt than the rest of the world around me, there I set my pack down waiting for cars to come.

I guy named Ken stopped for me, I didn't get a clear answer as to where he was going, but clearly it was in the right direction. He was a quiet guy, a little gruff too.

"Where you from?", I asked him.

"It doesn't matter", was the response. There wasn't a whole great deal of conversation to speak of this ride. Just before sunset he dropped me off in a little town, again I got walking past it into the desolateness of the outback. The sunset began forming and it was a hell of a great one, textured across the great open sky. Few cars were on the road, those few passed by me and I couldn't care less, directly under this painting in the sky is where I wanted to be.

After more than an hour I'd covered some good ground on foot at the beautiful sunset had given way to blackness peppered with bright stars. I was looking for something resembling a bush to camp behind off the side of the road, not that it mattered terribly much at this point. I was still thumbing headlights from cars filled with people who probably couldn't see me until the final seconds and wouldn't pick a stranger up in the dark anyhow. Except, finally a car came that wasn't a total stranger, it was Ken again and he stopped.

We were riding again, he talked a little more this time around, but not much more. From what I could gather he was heading for Mount Isa, a fair distance up the road. We stopped in a rest area and slept where we sat for several hours in a decently cold night until his alarm went off and we were rolling again before sun up.

Once we got to Mount Isa he stopped for groceries and things, then we kept cruising, I assumed he would drop me at the edge of town. We kept on driving, deeper into the outback, both of us quiet. I had no reason to ask where he was going, we were still heading my way.

We stopped in a town called Camooweal where he got a couple beers and talked to the bartender about nothing in particular, then back on the road again. As we rode some more he finally broke the silence, "So I guess you've noticed we've gone past Mount Isa?", almost like we were in a stalemate of who would bring it up.

He then proceeded to tell me that he was going all the way to Darwin on a job delivering rent a cars back and forth, like apparently the one we were in, and that earlier he wasn't sure if we'd get along or if he'd feel like having a passenger so hadn't told me. Darwin was also his home, the reason he'd earlier said, "It doesn't matter". I was of course excited to hear this, especially given the fact that he was getting back as soon as possible, hence the short sleep in the rest area and the non-stop driving besides the odd beer stop.

We kept speeding along with some more conversation now, about Darwin and other things, flowing a little easier now that he'd explained the actual situation. We stopped that night at a town about as big as the bar we went into, he got me a burger that I absolutely demolished, I hadn't ate much of anything since the apple pie, then we were on the road into the night a while longer until we had another sleep at a rest area.

In the morning we stopped at a little town again for him to grab a beer while I waited and read some of a book I had. Then we cruised cruised cruised and were soon rolling into Darwin. I knew the address I was heading for, a girl I'd found on couchsurfing, while looking at her pictures I found myself in the background of one, we'd apparently both been at Tent Surf a year or so back, so now we'd have a time to meet and for me to check out the top of Australia, Darwin.