Three times the size of the UK, the Kimberley in Western Australia is a massive, pristine wilderness, full of awe-inspiring sights, and almost entirely empty of people. Bruce and Terri Connell are the directors of Kimberley Cruise Centre, a business which helps guide tourists through the beauty of God’s creation.
Their hometown of Kununurra is 500 kilometres from the nearest shopping centre. Bruce says that for many, that extreme isolation is too much to bear. “A lot of people come for a short time, and have a look, and enjoy it, and then say, ‘nice place to visit, I couldn’t live here.'”
Despite its beauty, for those who live there, the Kimberley can feel like the loneliest place on Earth. When they moved to Broome in 1996, the Connells thought God had called them there to plant churches, to bring people together and show them His love.
They were ready to put all their time into that mission. Bruce had been happy as a gardener, and Terri had no plans to work, but God had other ideas. “Bruce had seen in a vision a picture of a shop in Broome,” Terri explained to Vision’s Shelley Scowen. “And he described it to me. And when we got there, we found that shop.”
The shop front was closed at the time, so they wondered what all the fuss was about. “I had a travel agency licence from years earlier,” Terri said. “There was one day when God said don’t give up your licence.” Two years later, the shop was theirs.
Kimberley Cruise Centre now runs boats, crossing the 2,500 kilometres of coastline between Broome and Darwin. “People are worried,” Bruce joked, “because there’s a dozen boats out there now, that you might actually see another boat on the same day!”
They’ve considered selling the business on several occasions, but each time, God has told them no, and rewarded them with new blessings. They also Pastor at King’s Church in Kununurra, and they often see how their business and Church roles complement one another. They’re both part of God’s larger plan to use likeminded people to make amazing things happen.
“Ministry people come out here with a vision, with a dream,” Bruce said, “and then they’re under resourced. And I just know from our early city days that there’d be lots of people who, if they knew what the dreams and the visions of these people were, then they’d be wanting to come along and help them. And that’s already happened.”
The people of the Kimberley are facing many challenges, and King’s Church is working hard to support them. Kununurra’s population is 50 per cent indigenous, and Terri says that cross-cultural work and outreach are big parts of their Ministry.
“It’s like living on another island, with two totally different people groups, and how to bring those together, and be able to work effectively and successfully, and keep pointing us all to God, in the one mission.”
Shelley asked Bruce and Terri how they juggle their work and Ministry commitments. They said the key is delegation. More recently, they’ve been inviting people in their Church to take on leadership roles. “And that’s what we see with the New Testament Church,” Terri said, “that people are involved, and they’re motivated, and they’re excited to get about God’s business in different ways.”
They admit though that it hasn’t been easy. A few years ago, when it all felt like too much, they asked people around them for help, and they mostly didn’t answer. Now, it’s a different story. “God’s heard that prayer,” Terri said, “and started to soften the hearts of other people that were ready to step into some roles.”
Of course, whether they’re in business or in church, leaders have a duty to prepare and uplift those who will replace them. But for the Connells, it’s not just a practical concern. Terri says it’s another way they can glorify God. “It also motivates people and excites people, when they’re able to use their giftings, and see things happen, see people come to salvation, and growing in their faith because they’re having a go.”
Busy as they are, the Connells are surrounded by the glory of God’s creation, and running Kimberley Cruise Centre has taught them to appreciate it more. “We’re on a property called Eden,” Bruce said, “and it’s a real good reminder to us of how it all began. It doesn’t matter where you go up here, because there’s so many stunning, isolated, beautiful areas.”
Psalm 19 (NIV) says:
God gave the Connells a mission to spread that message. It’s easy to believe sometimes that you have to choose between serving God and serving your career, and living comfortably. The Connells prove that isn’t true. When they said yes to God, he blessed them with a profitable business so they could show thousands of tourists the beauty of the Kimberley. What will you gain from saying yes to God?
About Kimberley Cruises
For more information visit: kimberleycruises.com
Photos via Shutterstock.com and kimberleycruises.com