Missionary Life in Sydney

I’ve been in Sydney for over a month now and I know many of you are wondering what I’m up to here. I’ll try my best to explain what I do day to day, although I think what Jesus has been teaching me this whole time is much more important than what I do!

There about thirty of us living in a large brick building where we work and do life together. Monday through Friday those of us staffing the base have a fairly set routine. We officially start our day at 8:30 AM with assigned work duties (I clean one of the girls’ bathrooms), followed by worship, intercession, a meeting, or Bible study. Starting at 10:30, we each have different jobs we attend to throughout the day like registrar, grounds and maintenance, or cooking. I’ve been assigned to hospitality, so I wash all of the base’s laundry (but personal belongings), clean the guest rooms, and coordinate everyone wanting accommodation at the base.

The base is also involved in several different ministries that reach out to the community throughout the week. I’m involved with a rugby ministry that reaches out to mainly young boys (although there are usually a couple of young girls, too) every Wednesday. We team up with a few other Christian guys and play rugby with the kids and fellowship with them over pizza afterwards. It’s my favorite ministry, partly because the Christian guys we team up with are such an inspiration to me, but also because of how effective the ministry seems to be in reaching the youth with the hope of Christ.

Breakfast Club is a ministry we do every Thursday and Friday at a couple public schools. Unless the child asks us about Jesus, we aren’t allowed to broach the subject of religion with the children. But I know that just being there serving the children a free hot breakfast shows the heart of Jesus without having to use words. But I do pray that one day a child does ask me about Jesus! 

We also serve at a feeding program every Wednesday night that serves free hot food to the Imagecommunity. We team up with “Christ Mission Possible” who cooks the food with the goal of having meaningful conversations with those who come out for the food and are most likely in need of Jesus. 

We also have a scheduled time for evangelism every Thursday. Evangelism is also one of my favorite ministries since it’s obviously very intentional about sharing Christ with others. The past couple of times we have
done evangelism at a shopping center called Mt. Druitt, where it’s pretty spiritually dark. Most of the kids there are already smoking and people drink publicly in the square. I will definitely share some stories from evangelism in some future posts.

That’s a small snippet of what goes on during the week which is usually very tiresome. There’s always something to clean, somewhere to serve others, and relational challenges to overcome that leave us exhausted by the weekend! But it’s all so worth it because of what Jesus is bringing forth in each one of us through our personal journeys. Living in community and learning from one another just cannot be beat, even though at times I dream of being able to hide away in my comfortable bed back home. But I know that’s not what I really want deep down, and that Jesus’ way of discipling me in YWAM is the best way for me to become everything that I hope to become in Christ. 

In my next post, I will attempt to share some more personal stories and some things Jesus has been teaching me that I pray are encouraging and inspiring to you all!

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Faith Challenged

Well, about seven months later and I find myself back here in Sydney! For the next couple of months, I will be staffing the YWAM base here, with a tentative plan on leaving for Kona, Hawaii at the end of September to complete YWAM’s Foundation for Counseling Ministry school for six months. Afterwards, I will join the team pioneering the YWAM base in Tahiti for God knows how long!

I’m definitely very excited about the months to come, especially since the last several months have been particularly difficult. The spiritual battle following my return from YWAM last December made it a trying time for me. The leaders of my DTS warned us of the following symptoms upon returning home:

  • disoriented
  • lonely
  • out of place
  • irritated
  • isolated
  • depressed
  • misunderstood

I tried my best for this warning to not become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but unfortunately I couldn’t avoid experiencing many of these symptoms. Anyone returning from even just a week-long mission trip also experiences a bit of this!

In addition to this, my faith was severely tried and challenged in my decision to leave for Sydney. God taught me to listen to His voice alone, but it was such a battle to get to that point.

I felt God has spoken to me about returning to YWAM after six months in America, where I would complete the Biblical Core Course and join the Tahiti pioneering team and staff a DTS there. So immediately after returning home I began to look for work that was high paying but temporary. That was the most impossible task, and I began to think that perhaps God wanted me to stick around for a while, sacrifice my dreams of being an international missionary and stay home. Not that northern Virginia is such a bad place to be in, but I’ve felt the international call on my life since I was young.

So I decided in my heart that I would stay around, lay down my dreams for now, trusting that God would fulfill them in His timing. This was incredibly painful, because at the time my trust in God was a lot weaker, and I thought He was just ripping the things closest to me out of my heart without care about what I wanted. Of course this is not true, but what we really believe is revealed in our circumstances and how we react. But over time, He showed me that it will always be His way and in His timing, that His ways are not my ways, and that I can trust Him that He does have the very best for me!

Shortly following this resolution to stay home, a full-time marketing job landed in my lap. It was close by, fit my job experience perfectly, and was high-paying. Apparently, they had already hired someone for my position, but for unknown reasons, backed out at the last second, making the opportunity available for me. It seemed pretty clear that God had brought me this job. But initially I fought God about it, knowing that it would be just like the other jobs I had after college. But as I read more  and more about the company, its services and values, I began to think a bit differently. I went in for a three-hour interview and absolutely loved the people and the job description. The people seemed smart and I felt confident the company was going places. In the end, I enthusiastically accepted their job offer.

About two months into the job, I sensed God calling me back to the mission field as I had heard Him originally during YWAM last year. But I was so confused, not knowing why He would bring me a permanent position only to uproot me so soon. It just seemed to make sense that my decision to stay home was confirmed by this full time job I landed. But despite all of the sensible reasons to stay home, God kept stirring it in my heart. I got the sense that He was promising great things from this, although I didn’t know exactly what, and that this would be the first step of many to bigger plans and dreams than I ever could imagine.

Once I had decided that God truly was speaking to me about returning back to Sydney, the painful trial began. I received so much outside opposition in my decision to go which was painful, but my own double-mindedness was the real reason for much of my distress. It is truly a painful thing to entertain all the voices in your head, because you will never achieve the peace you quite want if you are constantly doubting in your decision. But the human reasoning and fears spoke the loudest, and I could not hold to that still soft voice from God. And so back and forth I went, standing firm in my decision to go back for one minute, and the next allowing my fears take over. I had allowed the enemy a foothold who stole my peace, and without that peace there was so much turmoil from within.

In addition to this difficult decision, there were so much doubt in my heart regarding God’s heart toward me and if He really did still care and could see me. I felt like I was aimless and out of control (because of my lack of peace), and wondered if I was going to feel lost forever. I often wondered if God would come through, and if His word was really true that His love never fails. I don’t know if there is anything scarier than to question or doubt your only source of hope – mine being Jesus. Of course we can take His word for truth, but when you actually have to come to know it through real-life experiences, it takes it to a new level that hits your heart.

I prayed and prayed and prayed, and yet there were still questions in my heart about God that I wanted answers to but just wasn’t getting. The feeling like you’re praying to a brick wall is miserable! There were times where I strayed, and stopped seeking God for days at a time, but Jesus would always draw me back. Because my greatest desire is for God, I really had no choice but to just keep praying, worshiping, and believing in the promises of God.

But in the end, God did come through. He provided me with everything I needed to go to Sydney – the money, vision and calling. On one particular hard day back home, I felt the overwhelming joy of His power as I sung praises to His name despite the negative circumstances that just kept hitting me. There is immense power when you can worship God and find joy in Him in the midst of darkness. But it was His Spirit alone that allowed me to do that – and I doubt anything really beats finding joy and peace no matter what you’re going through!

So having gone through this trial, I would not change it for the world. I learned the importance of hanging on to God’s word no matter what fear and circumstance stands against it and holding on to the peace Jesus offers us. I learned that He does care, that He is always there, and that He gives us exactly what we need to get through. The enemy will always be there, roaring like a lion and waiting to devour anything in his path (1 Peter 5:8), but God is greater (1 John 4:4) and always sees us through to the end. While it’s our job to declare truth against the devil’s accusations, God will give us everything else we need to get through.

I would rather suffer many trials like that one in order to refine my faith and grow closer to him than opt for an easier life with a lukewarm spirit! He came through for me in so many more ways that are hard to explain because they were so deeply spiritual and personal – but mainly showing me that He can be trusted, that He IS always faithful, and He ALWAYS cares!

Now I’m back in Sydney and know that I’m on the exactly right path. Living in community as a missionary is the best way for me personally to grow as Christ’s disciple. I’m excited to see what God does over the next several weeks that I’m here in Sydney!

Culture Shock: Back to Washington D.C.

Well, I realized I haven’t written since September, and that’s simply because I wanted to soak in my experience on the outreach portion of my DTS as much as possible rather than take time to record it.  

Simply put, the YWAM DTS experience was the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had.  I realize DTS is not part of God’s plan for everyone, but I highly recommend anyone who is thirty or younger that thirsts after God to pray about doing a DTS. If one goes into with a focused heart, it is impossible to leave unchanged.

When I started to pray about it, I didn’t get this booming voice in my head that said, “Go!” but rather I stepped out in faith, knowing that what I was doing was toward my goal which was to become more Christ-like. As soon as I took that step of faith, the donation money came flying in, which helped me believe even more that this was God’s desire for my life.

That was six months ago and I can without a doubt say that this experience was every bit in God’s plan for me! I met so many great people, challenged myself spiritually and physically, and tried things I never thought I was capable of  (praying for strangers on the street, cliff diving, exercise for eighteen hours at once, to name a few).

And now after this whirl wind of an experience, I find myself asking, what do I do now? I just went from the most exciting time of my life to the dullest. I’m enjoying the rest, and definitely still growing in my relationship with God, but it’s a process of learning contentment wherever you’re at until God brings the next thing. Transition periods are the hardest because you have to trust that God has you in His hands and that He will lead you. My original plan was to take the Biblical Core Course in Sydney, staff, and then help pioneer the new YWAM base in Tahiti, and I’m definitely still praying about it. Time will tell what’s in store for me, and I’m just waiting now for the job and guidance I’m sure God will provide.

I’ve been making the adjustment back home rather smoothly, but having been removed from the cold-climate, Washington D.C. culture, I feel its coldness more than ever upon returning. Australians in general are extremely relational, as are most people in what people refer to as ‘hot-climate’ cultures (most of Asia, Africa, Central/South America, and the islands). It is less direct, more relational, and in general, more loving. I’m not in any way bashing America (I love America!) but I have been enlightened to new ways of communicating and getting things done. The American way is not, surprise surprise, the only way and always the best way of doing things. I do believe the community that is developed in warm-climate cultures is much more like how God intended it to be. On the other hand, cold-climate cultures have a stronger focus on work and personal success which in turn does produce less material poverty. Huge generalization, I know, but just something I observed from being immersed in the island culture.  I think all cultures have something to learn from one another (this is something I would have probably never really believed before DTS) and I strongly disagree with the notion that says one culture is necessarily better than the other. All that is at the root of that notion is fear, fear that one’s own culture is not valued and appreciated by God as much as others, but I know that God has the same heart for every nation! God certainly does not value the sins of one particular culture (perhaps the general sinful spirit over America is consumerism), but He does love all that is good in culture, including America’s.

Another culture shock has to do with the difference between intense Christian community and not-so intense Christian community. At YWAM, living with hardcore, on-fire people seeking after the kingdom of God helps you stay focused on that mission. You are constantly challenged by other people to grow spiritually and always held accountable. It’s a safe

and fast-growing environment to be in, and rather unique in that we are all forced to live with each other day in and day out. If it wasn’t for that living situation, I’d still be slightly turned off by community living, but now that I’ve been exposed to it, I know that its benefits outweigh my penchant for individualism. You learn more about yourself, have more fulfilling relationships, learn a lot more about the world, and as a result, have a more enriching life.

If I had to sum with the three biggest lessons I learned, it would be the following:

1. The Holy Spirit alone gives us the conviction and the power to change. This was a huge turning point in my walk, because up until DTS, I had tried to take control of my life and “fix” myself because I was so (unnecessarily) aware of everything ungodly inside of me. But God quickly came in and took control, and now, my life is so much more peaceful than having to strive at perfection.

2. Making doctrine and volunteer the center of our Christian walk is backwards. To reflect God’s glory more fully and therefore be effective in ministry, we must come to know God personally, not just through what we learn about Him. I definitely had a personal relationship with God my whole life, but once I gave Him real control and laid down my pride, that was when I saw God work in my life in supernatural ways. Letting go of control and pride is key! I’m not saying learning doctrine is not important; it is HIGHLY important. But our tendency, especially in the western church, is to build up our knowledge but not practice a daily discipline of His presence.

3. Humility. This is absolutely key in helping relationships flourish. Learning to ask for forgiveness, even if you think you weren’t in the wrong, is powerful. Realizing that my way is not necessarily the best way helps me understand people and culture. Viewing myself the way God views me (neither superior nor inferior) puts an end to fear. Through humility, we become wise!

These lessons will impact me for the rest of my walk with Christ. I could have learned them without DTS, but I thank God that he blessed me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! It was an incredible adventure, and I certainly have a hunger for evangelism and international missions. I’m excited to see where God takes me next!

Land of the Aussies!

Australia truly is a unique place. Yes, it is westernized, but the culture is still pretty different from America. Their lingo, their people, their stores…everything is odd.

Here’s a brief list of lingo I’ve learned:

breakfast = brekkie 

sweatshirt (they don’t use that word here at all) = jumper

afternoon = arvo

parking lot = car park

wallet = purse

McDonalds = Maccas (they NEVER use the word McDonalds!)

Their Burger King is called Hungry Jacks

coins = coinage 

hotdogs = sausages

That’s all I got for now. I’m sure I’m missing some. I’ve also found it real tough understanding the people with thick Australian accents. They speak so fast! It’s almost impossible understanding little kids. When we ask their names, the Americans can never understand them the first time. Here are some of the interesting names I’ve learned:

– Bogart

– Fletcher

– Lockley

I usually just give up after asking them after the third time.