With an official population of just 104 people, at first glance Yealering seems like any other small Wheatbelt town. A grand old pub, some silos, a small general store, and a row of houses lining the few streets that make up the town; you could be forgiven for thinking that’s everything this quiet and peaceful town has to offer. But those of us that take the time to linger and look beyond the main street will discover much more.
The town was gazetted in 1912 on the shores of the spectacular Lake Yealering. Originally a fresh water lake, it was an important source of water for traditional custodians of the area, the Ballardong Noongar people.
The settlers used the lake to water the extensive market gardens that were established on its shores. For many years, the lake was also a focal point for recreation in the region, and became renowned for community picnics, swimming, and boating. Unfortunately, over the last few decades the salinity of the lake has increased to the point where it is no longer safe for swimming. Even so, Lake Yealering is still spectacular, and provides a timely reminder of the breathtaking beauty of God’s creation.
Every year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in September over 120 people head to the shores of Lake Yealering to take part in CampFIRE. Run by PNEUMA, the Pastoral Network of Evangelicals Uniting in Mission Action, CampFIRE provides a weekend of Christian fellowship, worship, reflection, and relaxation.
Now in its 12th year, the theme for CampFIRE this year was ‘Out of the Box’ and was led by Rev Alison Gilchrist, newly appointed Presbytery Mission Minister for the Uniting Church WA. Steve McKinnon, coordinator of TEAR WA, challenged the youth on finding their mission, and the children enjoyed learning about perseverance, mercy, and forgiveness in an Egyptian adventure themed program led by Karen Box. An important part of CampFIRE is about connecting with each other – young and old, country and city folks, new friends and old acquaintances. Each evening, everyone gathers around campfires throughout the caravan park to relax and share a friendly chat about everything from the trivial to the deeply meaningful. Also, marshmallows – lots of toasted marshmallows.
On Sunday morning, Rev Mark Illingworth, Deputy General Secretary of the Uniting Church WA, led an all-age worship service exploring Ezekiel 47. In this chapter, we hear the prophecy of a great river flowing east into the Dead Sea, transforming the salty water into fresh. This revitalisation causes “swarms of living creatures” and “fruit trees of all kinds to grow on both banks of the river.”
The Ezekiel prophecy was particularly stirring, as last year the WA Government announced Royalties for Regions funding for the Living Lakes Project, which aims to improve water quality for two important regional lakes – Lake Yealering and Lake Ewlyamartup, in Katanning. We gathered on theshore of Lake Yealering, sharing holy communion and praying for the revitalisation of the lake and the renewal of God’s people. Next year, CampFIRE will be held once more on the beautiful shore of Lake Yealering during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (27 to 30 September 2019).