National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

Christmas with Tattoo Man

August 2014

by Rebecka Colldunberg 

Mark and Laura went to a prestigious school. They were raised in firmly established, upper-middle-class homes and wanted for nothing.

They married young and decided to immediately jump into the property market. With few savings, they bought a house in a suburb considered one of Australia’s worst.

‘Our families were horrified’, Laura recalls. ‘They tried everything to talk us out of it. They said it was unsafe, dirty and crime-infested.’

It was during their first night in the house that their parents’ words came rushing back to haunt them.

‘It was a Saturday night,’ Laura says, drifting into an anecdote she’s clearly told umpteen times before. ‘I hadn’t until that point realised that we even had a footpath in front of our house, but all of a sudden it become a thoroughfare for drunks. I don’t know where they had come from or where they were going, but it was certainly interesting.’

‘Then the sirens started’, Mark chimes in. ‘We must have been woken at least once an hour by police cars screaming around the area.’

‘Then … then …’, interrupts Laura, ‘the neighbours! At about midnight we were woken by a woman screaming! “F— this” and “f— that” and “you’re a c—”! I had barely been exposed to that word before in my life. I had no idea that there were so many adjectives one could use to describe a “c—”: dumb, lazy, worthless, good-for-nothing … ‘

The next morning we saw them sitting on their veranda. He was covered in tattoos. Covered. I really hoped they wouldn’t try to talk to us, but he did. He yelled out “Morning! Where ya off to?”

‘I was tired and cranky. “Church”, I yelled back, and promptly got in the car, feeling as though I had delivered a bitter blow to that pair of obvious heathens.’

Laura’s smug pride was soon replaced by intense guilt. When they returned from church, her tattooed neighbour made a beeline for them.

‘I was certain it wasn’t going to be a pleasant scene’, Laura says, ‘but he barely got out his name, Anthony, before he launched into a mile-a-minute diatribe about how happy he was that “people of God” would be living next door.

‘He told us all about how he had been in prison several times for armed holdups, and how the last time he got out he just felt called to go sit by a river, and how somehow a man appeared and shared the gospel with him and baptised him that same day in that same river. It was enthralling. He peppered his