Amy and her brothers and sisters grew up in the area now known as the Rudall River National Park, Western Australia, north-east and inland from Jigalong. They lived a nomadic existence. For transport, her family had an old cart with large steel wheels and drawn by four camels. Their only possessions were basic hunting and food-preparation tools.
They camped near waterholes and rock pools, and collected edible plants, seeds and caught creatures such as bungarra (goannas) and kangaroos. When these became scarce, they moved camp to another source of water.
Amy thinks she was a teenager when they first camped in the Jigalong area. There was no township or settlement at the time. She remembers missionaries running meetings from Friday to Saturday nights, with something for the children on Sunday mornings.
She thinks they were "Seven Days" because she has always had a consciousness that the ground at Jigalong was "Seven Day ground." This was the church she was told, by Mama (God in heaven), that was His.
Amy married "Old Man." She called him this because a close relative with the same name had died and it was a sign of respect for the dead to cease using their names for up to two generations.
Old Man was a drover, having learned to work cattle from early white settlers in the region. Whenever he moved cattle from one area to another, his family would move with him.
Some 20 years ago they were moving cattle from Bilanuka Station. Having travelled through the area from childhood, Amy knew all the creeks and possible watering places on the way.
On this trip, though, the weather was "burning hot" and the heat shimmered off the landscape. As they progressed they found the water sources were dry, and they worried as the water they carried began to run out. The cattle showed signs of dehydration, and Amy and her family began to fear for their own lives.
Some cows had given birth early on the trip and, filling a bowl with their last water, Amy called the calves and watched them drink the last of their water.
With worry showing on his face, Old Man said to Amy, "We need to talk to Mama." Amy felt bad, for she remembered her early Christian training and still sang most of the songs she'd been taught, but in their distress she had not thought of God being in control of all things and able to help them now.
The family came together and each took a turn to talk to Mama and asked Him to care for them.
They took their stone-filled billy-cans--used to make a rattling noise to help move the cattle along--and set off once more. Almost immediately they were conscious of a shadow over them, sheltering them from the heat of the day.
Looking up they saw a small, black cloud high in the sky, blocking out the sun. Then the cloud descended and grew larger, and it began to rain. But this wasn't a quick shower. It was as if water was being poured on them. And it was cold, refreshingly cold.
They were grateful that Mama had seen their need and heard their cries for help. The water began to fill depressions and run along the gullies, providing them with plenty to drink and a cooling bath.
To Amy it sounded as if even their cattle were also saying thank you to Mama.
The strained faces of her family had now turned to happy, laughing and joyful ones. It was wonderful to be reminded that they had a God who cared about them and loved them.
When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched by thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never forsake them. . . . In the deserts they will find pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the dry, parched ground. Isaiah 41:17, 18.
Gordon Smith, a former associate director for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministries, lives in Grafton, New South Wales.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God