Michael Wallace almost didn't make it onto the SBS show Alone. The overseas smash-hit show, which came to Australia this year, features 10 contestants dropped in the Tasmanian wilderness to see who lasts longest without being medically evacuated or tapping out.
Michael, described on the show as a 43-year-old veterinarian and bush regenerator, is also a member of Narellan Anglican Church.
He was called up as a reserve after another contestant dropped out when the series was made last winter. It finished airing on SBS on May 24, when it was revealed Michael tapped out on day 30.
The show features his efforts to get food by trapping possums and fishing, to no avail.
I'm not ashamed of being focused on as a Christian ...
"Someone at church was telling me on Sunday… ‘We're praying, Michael, that you stay dry’,” he told sydneyanglicans.net. “‘We're praying, Michael, for this and that. Oh, we forgot to pray that you had food, but God answers our prayers’. I prayed for food out there too, and I didn't get any, but it's really our needs that are important.”
Resilience and contentment
In an interview in a bush setting far more hospitable than the one he faced in Tasmania, Michael commented that he was “out there for a good length of time [but] my wife needed me at home and I needed to see my wife and be put back in society with my family.”
“People said, did you have more than one hot rock bath?,” he says. “Hot rock bath day was every Sunday and sermon day was every Sunday."
His sermons included one themed on a Colin Buchanan song and another on “Amazing Grace”.
“So you got to see me sing ‘Amazing Grace’, but we didn't hear what grace was all about, really,” he says. “I used the acronym ‘God's Riches At Christ's Expense’, which is a nice easy way to say what grace is. It didn’t make the cut but the crew got to hear it.”
Viewers saw Michael struggling with energy levels from lack of food, as he had plants but no protein. He laughs now at some of the social media coverage from having a Christian on the show.
What viewers saw
“One of the comments on social media was, they had a bingo box of, you know, tick what's gonna happen,” he says. “‘This person finds that, this person does that and Michael prays’. Well, the people who know me know that prayer is important, but they can have a conversation with me without praying."
Asked whether he learned anything about his relationship with God from being in the wilderness, Michael says that time alone in the bush is not new to him, as he spends up to six hours a day on his own in bush regeneration.
But he is praying for God to use his witness on the show to touch viewers.
"I’d like them to see that there's resilience, that I relied on God, that God's important to me, and that I'm not ashamed of being focused on as a Christian, being spotlighted as that,” he says.
“I just hope it's an encouragement to others to say, ‘Yes, I'm a Christian’ and not be ashamed.”
You can view Michael’s journey on Alone Australia at SBS On Demand.