It’s a major regional city with a population of about 100K and growing. It sits 2 hours just northwest of Melbourne. The original land owners are the Jaara people and in the 1880’s it was the hub for the gold rush. Bendigo has loads of cycling and walking trails, parklands and nature reserves. It is also the home of a La Trobe University and so the city has a youthful, artsy, festive vibe with plenty of little boutiques, cafes, and art exhibits.
Our host family, The Vincents, have lived in Bendigo for about 5 years and are actively involved in creating connection through the arts and faith. They live common purse in a sort of Monastic community called Cornerstone. The community began 40 years ago and functions as a wonderful training ground for those interested in learning and participating in “Intentional Community.” You can learn more about Cornerstone here.
We met the Vincent’s at Surrender Conference a few weeks prior. We were performing in the Salvos tent and out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful dark-haired woman waltz over. She stood on the edge of the tent for a bit, smiling at us and swaying to the music. Our eyes met and I knew we’d be friends. Later, I approached her and introduced myself and my family. We each shared a quick version of our story with the intention of connecting again. On the last night of the festival we caught up and she invited our family to her home in Bendigo.
We arrived to the Vincent’s darling Victorian home on the last leg of our trip. We were pretty weary by this point but excited to hear about this families commitment to community, faith and the arts. They welcomed us with one of the best hand made meals we’d had in three months.
During dinner a conversation about heritage ensued and we learned that Rose was half Mexican. We were so surprised to hear this as Australia is quite void of the Mexican culture. And, to tell you the truth, besides family, friends and our bus, it was the thing we missed most while overseas. Hearing her mother (Mexican) and fathers (Australian) love story was inspiring and although, they have lived in Australia for the last 40 years or so, we could still sense the cultural impact of her Mexican heritage.
Our day was filled with thrifting or going to Op Shops (opportunity shops) as they are called in Australia and in the evening we performed our final farewell show at The Old Church on the Hill. The former Uniting church was purchased and donated to Cornerstone Community and they use the building as a sort of community center. They host a Yarn club, and let me tell you, those folks know how to knit! In fact, they are currently in the process of creating a “Yarn Bomb” for a tram that runs through out the city. That’s a big endeavor! They also host Hip Hop dance classes, karate classes, and have a thrift store on site. They are in the process of putting together a community garden and are host to many events, including concerts.
After traveling over 3,000 km through out Victoria and New South Wales, performing in 35 venues over a three month period, this was the perfect last show for our family. What a joy to sing in this old historic building, that had been shown so much love by the community, to a handful of listening and attentive ears.
We invited the young Wilis, a fellow folkie muso, to delight us with a few of his beautiful pieces. And, during our set he and his band mate, Marshall, joined us on the last song, Wayfaring Stranger.
A fitting chorus for our final song in Australia.
I’m going home to see my Saviour
I’m going home no more to roam
I’m just going over Jordan
I’m just going over home.
Until next time friends. We’ll be seeing you.