He was 12 years old when he started drinking. Kicked out of school, they say he was on the way to being an alcoholic by the time he was 15.
At the age of 29, plagued by the bottle and unable to break free, he found himself at a church in La Perouse, listening to a man preach about Jesus. It changed his life. He says it was a miracle.
His name is Ossie Cruse and he is one of Australia’s respected Aboriginal leaders. That night in 1962 was the turning point for Ossie. Confronted by the love of God, he put his trust in him and was transformed.
He tells journalist Anne Lim for Eternity that “When I became a Christian in 1962, everything changed, radically changed. I never wanted to drink again, I never had withdrawals, I never even had to go to any sort of counselling, but my life just so radically changed.”
He became a founding member of the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship some years later and began to share the gospel in culturally appropriate ways to his community.
But there was more work for him to do.
Ossie began advocating for a treaty between Aboriginal people and the Australian government. He took his petition to the UN and became a member of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. They say his work to have the rights of his people recognised culminated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Aboriginal Member of Parliament, Linda Burney once said she came to understand “quiet leadership” from Uncle Ossie.
Through his example she learned that persuasion wasn’t about thumping the table and yelling at people. “Persuasion is often long and arduous, quiet and persistent,” she said.
For Ossie, the article in Eternity states that:
…if God had not intervened in the lives of Aboriginal leaders such as himself in the 1960s, there would have been bloodshed and havoc in this country as high-profile Aboriginal activitists “would’ve very easily taken the road of vengeance”.
“But instead we chose the Scriptures. Say ‘love your enemies and do good unto those that would despitefully use you’,” he says.
If you have time, feel free to read about Ossie Cruse’s life here. He is a remarkable man, who was shaped by an even more remarkable God.