Leslie Nixon (1932 – 2019) Founder of Outback Patrol
Outback Patrol has more than 100 skilled dedicated volunteers in Australia, laypeople and pastor, all around the nation. These people dedicate a week or two of their annual holidays to go to remote, forgotten and disadvantaged townships too small for a Church—to big to overlook and reach the people for Jesus Christ.
Les Nixon tells …
The very first sporting event I can recall was at the East Hills Recreational Grounds, SW Sydney—our annual Sunday School Picnic—1938. For six year olds—the 100 yard dash. My Dad was there, and his advice to me, (because he knew that I was fast) was: “Don’t Look Back.”
My Dad back in 1931 was a pioneer of survival in the Great Depression, in the city of Sydney, then less than million population—where he and my mother lost their first house to a bad bank deal (but learned that perseverance and determination eventually pays off)—and he tells me that back in the 30’s, men were made of steel. He tells me that he was building by himself, a whole bedroom of furniture, alone, with crude tools and left-off timber—in one week, polished, and completed—in more than one way!
We children went to the country during WWII to avoid the Japanese bombing our city—and each weekend, my Dad would ride the steam train twelve hours into the mountains to the end of the line, then ride his bicycle another 25 miles just to see Mother and us, 3 children, then ride his bicycle back to the train and sit up all night, then start work in the factory at 7am Monday. My Uncle Fred, in the same situation in the country, with a blood axe, cleared seven acres of 40ft. timber a week to earn his keep—and that one day, a deadly brown snake came up and struck the axe head three times, and next morning the axe head was off the handle—dead!
But everything happened to the victims in the Great Depression. There were fires that burnt down the house, unbelievable rabbit plague that consumed the crops, drought one year and floods the next—and in 1939 a cyclone struck, a horse rolled on Uncle Fred, and broke his leg in three places, and that man crawled for two miles back to the homestead. And that was when the Doctor said it was time for us children and Mum to move back to Sydney.
And there I was, lined up at this race, and the gun went off. And folks, I was way out in front. And guess what I did. I looked behind. And I finished third. And that taught me an important lesson about looking ahead.
1) Forget those things behind—sins of past, successes of past.
2) Look to those things before—separated life; steadfastness in
service; second coming of JC.
3) Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God
in JC, Time, talents, our service to the people—our responsibilities
in giving God’s Tithes.
The second event I can think of, was that I was selected by the Ilford township people to represent the school at the annual carnival—in the 4 x 100 yard team relay.
The village of Ilford—most exciting thing was the Saturday night town dance—lads would walk the horses a mile from the gate, around the fence, poke sulky shafts through the slabs and re-harness the horses on the other side.
And in those days, we ran the 4 x 100 yard relay from end to end, not around the oval. And I was first runner and the gun went off and I was way out in front and we changed the little baton. And the second runner went and the third runner went, but the third runner and the forth runners dropped the baton. And we finished fifth or sixth or something. And even then, in my heart and in my mind I knew that life’s a team effort and it takes one person to muck (mess) it up and it’s mucked up for everyone.
Well, in those days we seemed to be protected from the ravages of today. In those days, there was no drug misuse, no hypodermics, no communes. The parks and beaches were clean. They were days when gay meant happy and stone was a hard rock. Things were primitive, but we didn’t know it. In fact, I was back in Indiana and the hill country of Kentucky last year—and I seemed as though I was back in 1945 at Ilford. Even the horses were the same and the rail fences were still standing and the cars were the same vintage. That’s like it is in some parts of Australia, too.
For all those born before 1945. We were survivors:
We were born before television, before penicillin, before polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, plastic, contact lenses, frisbees and the Pill.
We were before radar, credit cards, split atoms, laser beams and ballpoint pens; before panty hose, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, air conditioners, drip-dry clothes, and before Jim Irwin walked on the moon.
We got married first and then lived together. How quaint can you be?
In our time, closets were for clothes, not for “coming out of”. Bunnies were small rabbits and rabbits were not Volkswagens. Designer Jeans were scheming girls named Jeannie, and having a meaningful relationship meant getting along well with your cousins, and ‘keep of the grass’ meant you’re in trouble if you cut across the lawn.
We thought fast food was what you ate during Lent, and outer-space was the block at the back of the Paramount Cinema down on George Street and Broadway.
We were before house-husbands, gay rights, computer dating, dual careers and computer marriages, We were before day-care centers, group therapy and nursing homes. We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, C.D’s, electric typewriters, artificial hearts, word processors, yogurt and men wearing earrings. For us, time sharing meant togetherness, not computers or apartments; a ‘chip’ meant a piece of wood; hardware meant hardware; and software wasn’t even a word.
In 1940 “made in Japan” meant junk and the term “making out’ referred to how you did on your exams. Pizza, McDonalds and instant coffee were unheard of.
We arrived on this planet when there were corner shops, you bought things for 6d and Peters Ice cream was the treat of the month. For thrupence you could catch a tram, buy a lemonade, or enough stamps to mail a letter and a postcard. For tuppence you could make a phone call, buy a newspaper and afford a huge bag of lollies. For a penny, every boy dreamed. In a month, you could save enough to go to the cinema pictures and see John Wayne and Ida Lupino.
But a new car was yours for 600 pounds, but who could afford one; a pity, as petrol was only 6d a gallon.
In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mowed, coke was a cold drink and pot was something you cooked in. Rock music was Grandma’s lullaby and aids were helpers in the principals office at school.
We were certainly not before the difference between the sexes was discovered, but we were surely before the sex change; we made do with what we had. And we were the last generation that was so dumb as to think you needed a husband and wife to have a baby.
No wonder we are so confused, and there is such a generation gap today!
When we were in Mudgee in 1942, the 1927 Pontiac had just come arrived in Australia. And if you wanted to be a Jones, you had to have a Pontiac—the first of the straight sixes. And my Dad, being an innovative type, who wouldn’t spend any money if he could possibly avoid it, saw this thing, a Pontiac sedan, but he wanted a ute’ for his work, and said, I can build one of those. And he did. He cut the body down. He made it out of timber, and was painted dark blue, with a canvas canopy—and you could wind the sides up and down, and it went fast in top gear, but wouldn’t stop quickly on the rear wheel brakes. And Mum said when I was learning, don’t run that thing above 15 mph. And what boy pays attention to their mother, and in any case, and sure enough, I hit the gutter on a fast corner—and jumped it into a brick wall. It was before centred steering, you know. There was blood on the dash, blood on the ground, blood on the furniture—there was blood everywhere, and some people still in that house think they haven’t recovered.
And I remember when there was a deadly brown snake slithered across the grass, up on on to my bare foot … and I ran into the wood pile to escape and stabbed my bare foot with a rusty nail. The poison ran up my leg to the groin and I yelled through hot poultices and painful farm treatment and a fever till it went. The brown snake died…!
I was in the back of a small row boat with my little legs dangling over the edge in the water, and underneath, was a deadly white pointer shark. I was told not to worry about the sharks, because the crocodiles ate them.
We covered the windows with black tar paper in the War and wardens checked on us. We’d sleep under the tables for practice. The enemy did come—high in their bombers—and in their mini submarines, right into Sydney Harbour, but we were asleep under the table, and missed them.
You can see …. that …… yes, I was the one on the bicycle and said “Mum, look Mum—no hands.” And that was where the bone came through.
If you look here (point to leg), you’ll see where the white hot iron sliver BBQ’d (cauterized) the flesh when the blacksmith’s blow sent it flying off the anvil—through the air—into my pants. That’s in my apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker.
There were violent storms and floods so bad that my Mum used to get us kids dressed up in our rain coats, just to go to bed. So I wonder, after those experiences, whether young people have it so bad today.
In 1939 the family decided to have a big holiday. So we went to Bethshan at Wyee. We slept in tents and there was no running water or electricity. Sure enough, the candle caught the tent and we got out in time. Dad’s friend Herb was there, and he was best friend was in politics, in socialist welfare—Labour—who as you know, Jack Lang became the State Premier, who opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We’re the same age; that is, me and the Bridge.
Uncle Fred was an adventurous type, like Uncle Keith. He had throughout his house, all these relics of planes and travels—I still have the piston of a Constellation Radial Engine he worked on—as a door stop, and among the relics, photos which young boys ought not have seen.
My brother and sister and I used to go and bring the people in to the singing – and serve drinks to all the hobnobs up in the country. And my Mum fell in love with the people there, so we moved up in the world and became part of society. In 1931, my Mum and Dad were so poor they didn’t have pictures at their wedding—or a honeymoon. Now they rubbed shoulders with businesspeople with big American cars and went to some of the parties.
As long as I could remember, we attended the Newtown Baptist Church, the 2nd oldest Church in the State, and it looked just like it. High ceilings, solid stone walls, high pulpit like a Tabernacle.
In those days, NBC had an orchestra for the annual S. S. Anniversary, and boys sang soprano, and my best song was “Where ‘ere you walk, warm gales shall fan the glade. Where ‘ere you sit, cool breeze shall make the shade!” I had to make up my own words as my Aunt Hazel the pianist was determined to make me a singer.
Our friend, Herb Stocks, the blacksmith, sang in the choir, too—had a 1938 Hudson limousine—they became armoured tanks in WWII … first of the full panel sides, with no running board to stand upon, leather trim—and in those days, you didn’t have to wear seat belts. And he’d pick up us twelve boys and girls, and the only place for the musical instruments was on the floor—and the props and mic stands and bass fiddle stuck out the window. And pretty help any bicycle rider who didn’t watch out as we passed.
But we had Pie nights and Our Gang movies. NBC had pie nights. This was the annual presentation of the awards. And this was when the best and fairest player in each team, and the best singer and performer received a cup, and us boys could eat as many pies as we could fit in.
And in 1943, I won the under twelve best boy soprano singers cup, and a set of “The Air Adventures of Biggles” books.
And when I turned twelve, my Dad said: “This boy needs to learn character.” And he went and found me a weekend job.
So I had to work selling newspapers after school, and all day Saturdays hauling coal and coke and bags of produce off the cart for the merchant on Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill. And at twelve years of age that ended all my junior sporting and singing career. And fourteen I left school and started work in Dad’s furniture factory.
Those of you who know me, know that I have a skin blemish. It’s called an allergy—like asthma. Dermatitis. BCC—Bacel Cell Carcinomas. Sometimes, even today, I’m so bad, I cannot control it and it stops me in my tracks.
But as a teenager, it was hopeless. Dermatitis … and blushing ….
Can you imagine any young man—any young man worth his salt, wanting to ask the girl of his choice to the school social or cricket—and not being able to do so. Because he was so embarrassed, he couldn’t get out the words. I had low self-esteem.
Added to that, I had a brother, topped the state in textile sales. Can you believe it. Won the salesmanship prize for three years. And was a whizz with the girls. Top of the school, with his hands tied behind his back. His son Peter got his brains—honors and PHD in Calculus!
But added to that, he had all of Dad’s gifts. He could fix cars better than me. He could help Dad build things. He could even fix the latch on the garden gate. All I could do was stammer—and and play the accordion, sing, and make photos—which in my family was not highly regarded.
I always wanted to be a pilot since I read Biggles and saw the B&W movie of Smithy flying the Pacific in the Old Bus in 1928. Mascot Aerodrome in the 40’s was better than the fantasy of Disneyland. If I couldn’t fly a plane, I wanted to be a news photographer and get my work into print. In fact, I sold thousands of my aerial photos I made when I bought my first plane in 1961 and paid for it that way. I was one of the last endorsed pilots in the famous British DeHavilland DH84A original Dragon cabin bi-plane twin, outback and Sydney. It’s now in a British Museum.
In 1947 I joined Sydney’s OAC to play my accordion for the children on the beaches, and 1949 I heard Gavin Hamilton, Corrie Ten Boom, Edwin Orr, Oswald Smith, Martin Neihmoller, and in 1951, Bob Jones and Neil Macaulay. It was there and then that I decided to get back into music and try to go to college to prepare for the Gospel ministry.
In 1949 I reached the final of the NSW Baptist State Annual Bible Exams. In 1950 I was ranked next to top accordionist for the OAC annual rallies and played for Dr. Paul White, the Jungle Doctor in the Sydney Town hall, and appeared on 2CH childrens program and Dick Fair’s National Amateur Hour radio show and came sixth. But with all this, I knew in my heart opportunity had passed me by. I just missed out on so much.
But I could use a camera and knew my way around the photographic dark room. I’d built my own enlarger from a dried milk can and Grandad’s folding camera body. I loved my B & W photography.
There were evangelists. This one, Wally Guilford played an accordion, sketched Bible Stories in chalk, and I was a gonner. He was interested in me. He’d written some books and knew how to explain the Gospel.
And he showed an interest in me and took me aside and showed me from the Bible, that it was my own frailties, weakness, sin, — not my brothers, not my friends, not my family, but mine – that separated me from God and that J. C. died on the Cross to reestablish a relationship for me and God Almighty.
And I knew at that moment that for me I found the answer and I got alone with God, and these were the words I said as a teenager: “Lord Jesus, I need you; I’ve gone my own way, made you 2nd place—I’ve sinned. I thank you for dying on the Cross for my sin and making me No. I in your life and now I ask you to come into my life forgive my sin and begin to make me into the kind of person you want me to be.”
You see folks, what I’d done is that I’d made a choice. I’d made a decision to follow Jesus and my life was turned around. It no longer mattered that I couldn’t simply talk to people. It no longer mattered that I wasn’t as smart as my brother—for in God’s eyes I was His special person. And my authority for saying that was the Bible, for in John 1:4 it says, “Some did receive Him and he gave them the right to become God’s children.”
There’s a story about Michelangelo the famous Italian sculptor, painter and poet, who once stood before a great block of marble that had been cast aside. As he stood there with eyes staring straight at the lifeless marble, someone said: “What are you looking at?” “An Angel”, came the reply. He saw what mallet, chisel and patient skill could do with that rejected stone. He set to work and produced one of his masterpieces.
God sees possibilities in us. Wally Guilford saw it in me.
And in 1950 I began to photograph evangelists for publications in Sydney. 1951 I covered my first International Crusade. In 1954 when I went to Bob Jones University in the USA, I shot TV shows, ball games and the US airforce at Donaldson Airforce Base in S.C. In 1959 I filmed a Billy Graham Crusade in New Zealand from inside. My work was published in glossy documents here and overseas.
But folks, I had two friends. Jim Duffecy—the street preacher coach and evangelist I told you about, and Ken Hodkin—the accordionist. And those two men loved me for who I was, and not for what I could, or I could not do.
Ken Hodkin send me home to practice “Build on the Rock.” He said, there’s nothing like good music. I played it next week and he said, “That was nothing like good music.”
And they took me aside and showed me from the Bible, that God had a Master Plan for my life—and it was my job to discover it from reading the Bible and prayer, and through the circumstances of life. Jim, who became Australia’s noted evangelist from the 1940’s to the ’80’s lived his beliefs. Christ first. That’s all. And even though I didn’t know much about theology, I knew about Jim. So, I did the same.
You see folks, what I’d done is that I’d made another choice. I’d made a decision to obey Jesus and my life was turned around. It seemed OK at the time, but looking back, people must have thought I was crazy. Most irrational thing to do. Faith just isn’t rational, isn’t it?
In the 4th Century, Emperor Vallens was having a dispute with the Bible Teacher, Eusebieus, a man of orthodox Christian views. Eusebieus wrote these words to the Emperor. “Your words attract children. We’re nourished by the words of God. I’d rather die than have the words of God altered”. The Emperor wrote back: “I’ll take your goods, your life, I’ll torture you, I’ll banish you”. And Eusebieus replied: “He needs not fear confiscation who has nothing to lose, nor banishment to heaven which is his only country, nor torment when his body can be destroyed at one blow, nor death which will set him at liberty”.
Almost 1600 years after that event, last century, Voltaire, at his desk in his house in France, raised his pen, and said: “With this pen I will destroy Christianity and the Bible within 50 years.” And when died, his house was sold to … and purchased by … and used ever since by the Bible Society.
I saw her first 1951. She was an angel—and a singer, too. From America. I had that feeling around the heart I couldn’t scratch. I made her picture, nailed it to the factory wall with the furniture tag that said; This article complies with the requirement of Australian Standards A1. I still have exactly that same picture and label, 55 years later….
They needed my accordion for a meeting at a Military Base, so I borrowed the ’27 Pontiac. Smoke bellowed from the dash panel and caught fire. I pulled the wires out with my bare hands and kept the molten rubber and wire in the flesh for months. That’s what I remember the first time I saw her. She lit my fire.
1954 I was invited to go to Bob Jones University and I became 2nd cameraman in the photo lab, and crew in Unusual Films, and waited tables while I studied.
The winter (Christmas) of 1954/5 I rode the bus all night to Indianapolis to meet the lady of my dreams. Together we rode the night bus back to Bedford, Indiana.
Packed with passengers, I stood in the aisle. I had the ring in my pocket. The biggest solitaire you could get for $99 and everyone else in the bus knew I wanted to propose. (I’d proposed on Cronulla Beach in 1951, we were 19—that was kid stuff). After a couple of hours the men egged me on. I kneeled, took her hand in mine, and said: “Martha Chastain, I really do love you. Will you marry me?”. She was astonished I came on so strong—so, demurely, she said yes. The bus burst into applause. We were twenty-three.
In 2005 we returned to Salem Indiana for the 50th Anniversary of our wedding. David made a video of our romance and 50 years; and brought us to tears.
1959 we went across Australia and to New Zealand with Billy Graham, and later I made a movie of it. At 27 I was Cliff Barrows associate song leader—led 3000 voice Crusade Choirs. David has a photo of himself at 3 held by Billy Graham. Later, we conducted major crusades in many Australian cities in our tent, and later, with Brian Willersdorf.
In 1960 a pilot missionary from Mexico said: “God used you to get me onto the Missionfield in 1955, so go out and get your licence and I’ll pay for it.” I did. That’s when Outback Patrol began.
But I’m not here to tell you about my experiences, but rather, to tell you how I found meaning and purpose beyond music and photography and aviation and evangelism.
I’ve been greatly influenced by Neil Macaulay, father of missionary aviation evangelism in the US and abroad. He surveyed PNG after WWII for MAF. His 16mm adventure films of primitive missionary work won applauds from National Geographic. And he said these two things about himself. One, he wanted to see people won to Jesus Christ, more than he wanted to see food on the table. Two, God was more concerned about the relationship between Almighty God and himself that he was about his work in Churches or Missions—and the results for the Kingdom of God that that work might bring.
Such was the importance between the relationship between Almighty God and you and me. Jesus himself said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Now, what are some of these things in our ministries in Outback Patrol. Here’s just a couple.
Today we have more than 100 skilled dedicated volunteers in Australia, laypeople and pastor, all around the nation. These people dedicate a week or two of their annual holidays to go to remote, forgotten and disadvantaged townships too small for a Church—to big to overlook and reach the people for Jesus Christ. We have a hangar of twenty pilots and owners who fly their planes to take the teams to places too difficult to reach by road. Together, match pilot and team and reach the lost.
You may wonder, Why haven’t you heard about this? You don’t need to hear about it. They are there for the small group. They’re not there for the crowds. Sometimes, publicity is the worst thing we want.
Sometimes, the worst thing we can do is be like a Church. Australians resist the Church. It reminds them of convict days when the Clergyman was also the Magistrate and they saw only a god of justice and judgment. One town inland had a meeting and passed a resolution as charter for Outback Patrol teams when they came. It is this:
1. The Chaplain shall bring the presence of Christ to the town.
2. The Chaplain shall counsel families and people.
3. The Chaplain shall visit sick and needy at home and at hospitals.
If I could write something as a charter, I could not do better than this one asked for by the towns’ people themselves.
Did I tell of Glad Bowman in Tibooburra yet, or the injured stockman, or Hans Volk, or ³You’re the best friend I ever had, or Snake Creek Bore, or The Old Rusted Cross? They are gems …
I’ve been working with men and women in their chosen lifestyle in remote places and in the cities, and I’ve noticed that they need an inner strength to succeed.
Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not: Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination, harnessed to God’s Almighty power will do it. Alone they are tried and failed. Joined up to Eternal power, any man will succeed.
I’ve also noticed that the insecure and weak ones are those who try to get others to reject the Gospel. The people I respect are the ones who can say no. That’s the person who has courage inside.
And the bottom line is this; if you want to succeed you’ve got to develop a tough character inside—and folks, my Dad was right.
You start by saying no to the junk and the trash that will mess up your body and mind, but Will Power is not enough.
There needs to be a spiritual strength inside you that works outside you …
Now folks, we are Westerners and Sophisticated and Educated people. We know two thing about life. God doesn’t answer prayer, and no one believes this Book. But the children and bush families don’t know that. They actually believe this stuff.
My promise to God and to myself. With Jesus Christ my Saviour and God my strength—I am a new person, so I can do any new thing.
My Dad’s died at 84—and my Dad was right all the time.
Isaiah 43:19 talks about Israel, and for me, it applies to the Australian deserts: A Way in the Wilderness—Rivers in the Desert—God wants to do it. Do I stand on His Word? We have a nation of educated Secular Humanists to reach in our lifetime? Can we do it.
The real test of anything is once you have experienced it, you can’t go back. When it creates a new normal base line, go on from there …
So folks, I encourage you to stand on God’s Word.
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