Last Man Standing: Australia's Only Desert Retreat

They tell me it's the only desert retreat centre in Australia, and the only desert with trees in the world. That's because root systems have had millennia longer to establish themselves here than in places like the Sahara. I have learned something. I thought desert meant hot. Now I know it means dry. Koora Wilderness Retreat is 160km west of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. It is run by Anna and Peter. Peter makes things, including the corrugated iron compound with its 'monastic cell type accommodation', the daily fire in the centre of the compound and the cooked breakfast. He collects people from the nearest rail station and collects stuff to re-recycle. The adjoining compound looks like a scrap metal yard. Otherwise his amazing wife Anna runs this alone by some miracle and by giving each retreatant a job. We bring blankets to fend off the approaching winter's cold. We are given head nets. These fend off flies but not ants or moths that burn when we turn on a light.

I give two hour teaching sessions each morning and afternoon on Celtic and Desert Spirituality, Healing the Land, Aidan, Hilda, soul friends and Rhythms of Life. Judy Kennedy leads a session on Making Celtic Prayers. A convoy of four heavy vehicles bumps over barely discernible tracks to a dry salt lake. There we talk about Dadirri and Deep Listening, walk alone into the deep silence of the lake, and tell stories. We keep the Hours of Prayer, heralded by a loud gong.

This land is a crossing point for the Noongar and Wangkathi indigenous peoples. The wife of Geoffrey Stokes, a Wangkathi pastor, told him he needed to head for the bush. Its a privilege and an education for me to befriend Geoffrey. He says his people have had three revivals but each time white missionaries have squashed them by laying down regulations. We prayed for a fourth revival with an Aidan-like approach from white people. We also explored the disciplines of desert fathers that can sustain communities going into or out of revival.

A retreatant needed hospital treatment. Two women drove two hours to the nearest hospital and two hours back in the dark. I'm glad I remembered my medications. On the last day I spoke about praying with the archetypes. A spiritual mother told me 'Now your deep calling is to your own gentling, mothering relationship with God'.

At last I am ready to head for home, sweet home. Farewell beloved Australia. May seeds of the Tree (Way) of Life fall into your soil and sprout mightily, beyond anything we can imagine.

Posted at 22:45pm on 18th May 2015
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