Community

Christian Day Camp was Monday through Wednesday and we had an amazing turn out! We divided up into two groups, older kids and younger kids, and I worked with the younger ones. We had a total of 37 kids under the age of 10 in my group and 21 teens made up the total of the older group. Compared to previous years this is a little above average so it is really awesome to see the progress.

On Monday, we talked about how Jesus’ family tree is so large. We put a tree on the wall and attached leaves to signify each of Jesus’ family members. The kids were so amazed at how many different names there were and how funny the names were. Some of them were even finding their own names on the leaves. Then throughout the camp we shared the story of Abraham, King David, Ruth, and Joseph and Mary. The kids really seemed to enjoy our reenactments of the Bible characters, and they listened really well to us while we taught them the stories. I was unofficially in charge of conducting the daily crafts and we tye-dyed shirts, made crowns like King David, drew pictures of our family, and played games with surprises because Jesus came as a surprise to Mary.

On the last day we had a sausage sizzle for the families to come and fellowship, and the kids wore their tye-dyed shirts like a matching family. They looked so awesome running around proudly in the shirts that they had made. The parents seemed to like them as well. I love spending time around all these wonderful families, and I really enjoyed seeing new faces this year. Its great to see God’s community grow and I love meeting new people.

I think Christian Day Camp remains my favorite ministry that we take part in throughout this trip. I really enjoy watching the children learn and grow together. In the Brisbane community they are surrounded by so many negative influences, and it is so wonderful to see the network of families and friends come together and form a strong shield around them. We are a community of God and we were designed to help lift each other up and serve one another. That is what this trip is all about. Our team of students has formed such a strong relationship with the Brisbane community that they look forward to our energy and passion for sharing Christ that we bring each year. We are a reminder to them that even though they are surrounded by people who do not share the same beliefs as they do, halfway across the world they have friends praying for them and supporting them. I am so thankful that I have been able to see the fruit of my labor over the past two summers.

Following Christian Day Camp we took a day off and made a day trip to Stradbroke Island. This is a sight seeing opportunity for the Lipscomb Students, but we also invite along any member of the church or kids that we encounter through the camps that want to come. This is an opportunity to spend time with fellow Christians and build on the relationships that we are forming while we are here. Several of the youth from Holland Park usually come. This year had a lot of participation. Several people came and we spent the day together laughing, sharing stories, and having one-on-one conversations. 

The next morning we headed off to Burleigh Heads for Camp Connect. Burleigh Heads is about an hour and a half south of Brisbane at the Gold Coast. It is where Camp Connect is held every year. Camp Connect is a weekend conference designed for the youth of Australia. The age of attendants range anywhere from 13 to 30. It is a weekend retreat for Christians to come together and listen to guest speakers, participate in small group discussions, meet new people, and worship God. They jam pack a lot of activities into just a few days, but its a great time for us to help strengthen the Christian community here and support a great establishment. There are about 100 participants which is huge for Australia. Rarely do this many people gather for the purpose of worshiping the Lord. People come from all over. This year there were people representing Melbourne, Innisfail, Sydney, Brisbane, Harding University, Lipscomb University, Tauranga, and many more! It was so great to see so many communities come together and form a bond. The weekend was very successful. The overall theme was happiness and finding happiness within Christ and the blessings he provides. Happiness for me this weekend was spending time with people, hearing laughter, and watching people grow and form communities with one another.

I pray that the communities that have formed through the years and most recently will continue to prosper. I pray that God will guide these communities as they learn to walk in Australia as His children.

Camp

Camp Orion was established 10 years ago by some of the Aussie natives and Mark Jent, who is my team leader. It is advertised as an outdoor camp with high ropes courses and team building challenges during the Winter Holiday. It is designed to break people out of their comfort zone and to open up to their teammates during vulnerable situations. The campers are not aware that we are Christians, but throughout the week we represent positive role models for them to look up to. This was my second year to attend this camp, and each time I have walked away from it feeling as if seeds were properly planted.

On the first night of camp I was in charge of putting together fun activities for the group. With the help of three other students we arranged two hours worth of fun, and sometimes messy, activities. We had two new campers on the scene that we were trying to break the ice with. Alex and Josh were 13 and came with Brad. Brad attended Camp Orion for the first time last year and apparently loved it so much that he came back with friends. Brad was comfortable being around us again, but Josh and Alex were very quiet and shy.

As the week went on Josh was placed in my group and I got to watch him grow into a whole new person. He nearly conquered his fear of heights and warmed up to the group enough to participate in activities and carry on conversations. My favorite part of the week was when we were all talking about our accomplishments from the week and how everyone contributed. A pile of foam body parts was laid out on the ground and we were asked to assign people a part that most fits them. I received the heart for working so hard to accomplish a challenge that I thought was too tough for me. Josh was sitting across from me in the circle and he raised his hand. He had decided that our group as a whole deserved the mouth for being so encouraging to him. Little things like that make me feel like my time has been put to good use.

People

Yesterday, the team took a trip into the city to shop and mingle around. I forgot how fun it is to people watch. We bought some Boost juice and sat on a bench watching all the people pass by. Aussie fashion is very different from America. One of the remarks a girl made was that if she weren’t here she couldn’t be able to tell what season it was. It was chilly out, about 60 degrees, but there were girls dressed in items from shorts and sandals to men in sweats and hoodies. After spending the day in the city we walked to Kangaroo Point and watched the sun set.

We got back rather late last night because of a train mishap. Our doors wouldn’t open at the station that we were at and so we had to get off at the next one. This definitely put a damper on the situation because it was after nine o’clock. We had to walk a few miles to a local friend’s house and have her drive two of our people to the correct train station to pick up our cars so that we could be taken home. It was an adventure to say the least.

This morning we got up early and spent the morning at Redlands College. Redlands is a private Christian school grades K-12 in Wellington Point where we live. The students participate in Chapel and Bible lessons just like the private Christian schools in the states. Redlands’ students don’t necessarily grow up in a Christian home though. Only about a third of the students identify themselves as practicing Christians. The other remaining students come from various backgrounds. A lot of the students at Redlands are sent there because it provides a quality structured environment and great education. Today was their last day before Winter Holiday. They get out for a two week break. They had a field day outside so the American students came to socialize with them.

I always find it humorous to talk with Aussie students. They are so fascinated with American lifestyles. I found a group of girls to sit with that were in year ten. They asked me what America was like and if our high school is like Glee Cast’s. I laughed and told them it was similar with the lockers on the walls and the lunch trays in the cafeteria, but not all high schools have a Glee Club and certainly not one as talented and dramatic as the one you see on TV. They also think that we see famous people everyday. I had to explain to them that I live just the way they do. They also wanted to make sure that Americans know that they do not have kangaroos as pets, and they do not run around chasing crocodiles.

One of the things that I am learning right now is how important it is to pray for others. Throughout my relationship with Christ I have always followed a simple prayer of thanking God for the beautiful day and everything he has provided me with. I have always thanked God, but I am now taking the time to ask him to provide for the needs of others. Next week we start Camp Orion and I pray that God brings us the children that will benefit from our time here and that need our companionship. I pray that He will open their hearts to our witness. I pray that the Lipscomb team trusts in God’s ability to speak through us when we are at a loss for what to say. I pray that the children are receptive and open minded. I also pray that no one is discouraged from whatever unexpected there is to come, because God works in mysterious ways and seeds will be planted.

Finally, I pray that God will continue to guide us as we learn to walk in Australia.

Reunited

The idea of returning to Brisbane seemed so impossible to me a year ago, but here I am and it is a wonderful feeling. I never realized how comforting a country could be to me. The familiar faces and sounds of Australia have become something that I cherish and long for. Last year, our director asked us why we decided to come to Australia. Most responses were along the lines of “having the opportunity to serve” and “God was calling me.” I didn’t really have an answer that I believed until now.
One week after I returned from Australia in 2010 my dear friend and intended roommate was killed in a car accident. Of course this was sudden and heartbreaking to us all, I never realized that Australia would be a way of healing for me. During my stay in Australia I lived with a family and Jason the father was from Memphis, TN. Liz, my friend who had died, was also from Memphis.  They had both attended the same high school. Of course this was an incredibly ironic bit of information. Shortly after Liz’s passing I had learned that Liz spent a bit of her time in Australia when she was very young, and this is where she learned to walk. As I am here for the second time I find it extremely comforting to be here on her birthday. Something about Australia reminds me of Liz and I will hold onto it forever.

We have been here for about five days now and I already feel at home. This year I am staying with the Johnson family. Andrew and Danielle are the parents to three lovely children Laura 11, Harry nine and William six. The Johnson’s just moved into their home in December. Their reason for moving I have learned is that they wanted home that was ideal for housing Lipscomb students every year. This is very powerful to me. This family has purchased a home with the main goal in mind that their home is located conveniently for our campaign and large enough in size to house two college students for a month. Needless to say, I am very impressed! (And honored to be one of their first students!)

So far during our stay we have had two church wide  picnics in the park, a team retreat at Humpybong, and prepared for Camp Orion that takes place next week. The church wide picnics are always my favorite! It is so warming to know that about 50 people come together on a Sunday after church to fellowship with one another and to welcome us into theirchurch family. Holland Park Church of Christ is one of my favorite churches in the world.

Our team retreat went very well. The team retreat is important because it gives us a time to reflect on our arrival and how we feel about being in a completely new environment. Every year it takes place at Humpybong. Humpybong is this random cabin deep into Beaudesert. It is an hour and a half from our host families’ and it is surrounded by nature. It is out in “the bush” as the Aussies would say. I love the secluded atmosphere that it provides us. I went on an hour long “bush walk” with Steffani and we climbed to the top of a bluff and looked out over the valley. Of course it was breath taking.

Now we are back to civilization and preparing for the days to come. I am very excited for what God has in store for us and I pray that He will open up the hearts of everyone we encounter to hear His word and to see His love shine through us. I pray for the members of Holland Park and the community that they are surrounded by. God has a plan and I pray that we trust in Him, and as a team and followers of Christ we learn to walk in Australia.