Yuendumu, it's both and. Simple and complex, and often in the same sentence. Situated 350kms north east of Alice Springs in the middle of the Tanami desert, it's adorned with red dust, burnt out cars, stray dogs and white mans good intentions.
It was the site for this year's Launch GAP Year trip. A team of 7 arrived in this small community, longing to listen, learn, and see where God is at work in this place. (You can read more from the team at The Discipleship Institute's site.)
We so often see things as either simple or complex, but Yuendumu shows that one place can be both. As a community there is an air of simplicity here. A peaceful quiet to the place, a main street and a couple of basic grocery shops. People walk the streets slowly, or sit at the corners. There are a fair few empty buildings, reminiscent of good intentioned attempts to bring change, now laying waste.
But it is a town of complexities. Managing the clash of cultures between the indigenous (yapa) and western (kardia) culture. The signs at the grocery stores speak to the importance of drinking water, in a town where 1/3 of people are diagnosed with diabetes. A simplistic explanation would suggest that they don't look after themselves, but the more you learn, the more you understand how the indigenous physiology is different, even down to the capacity of the kidneys. The indigenous capacity is just over half of the average Caucasian person.
The streets are littered with rubbish. Simplistic responses may suggest more rubbish bins and signs on the streets. Even in our own reflections we recognised the complexities here for a transient people for whom English is a second language, who hold differing values, and who have experienced schooling that was disconnected at best.
This doesn't even touch on the relationships between yapa and kardia. On arrival in Yuendumu we were greeted with suspicion, but given the colourful history, that's understandable. Kardia have sometimes missed the complexities and sought simple solutions, which were unhelpful at best, and harmful at worst. Yet, given time, there is a simple love and openness towards kardia, once you prove you are there to serve, not to push an agenda. The indigenous people understand hospitality, openness and simplicity of relationships. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, that is all that they needed to know.
Simplicity and complexity abound in this place, like any other place, wrapped around each other, weaving through the relationships, institutions and
spaces. You just need to sit in the red dirt long enough to listen, see and appreciate it.