Over the past 14 years Lipscomb University has sent a mission team each summer to serve in Brisbane, Australia. Below are three varying accounts that recap the month-long experience from the viewpoints of a young adult in Brisbane, a host family and a Lipscomb student.
Shuen Lim, 21
Lipscomb has been sending mission teams to Brisbane, Australia since 1999 to work with the Churches of Christ in the area. Close to a decade later in 2008, my family started hosting two Lipscomb girls during their month long mission trip. And thus began my journey with the team from Lipscomb University.
I was 15 at the time and had no idea how much of an impact this trip would have on my life. During the years that followed, I’ve always counted down the days till my soon-to-be American friends step off the plane. For one month every year, I have had the privilege of spending my school holidays with a dozen or so college-aged students from the other side of the world. We’ve gotten to hang out, eat together, live together and even jump out of trees together. I’ve gone to the programs they’ve organised such as VBS and Camp Orion/Talmid, as well as day trips to Stradbroke Island and Bryon Bay.
Having the Lipscomb students around while I was beginning my personal walk with God gave me the opportunity to watch how ‘cool’, strong, older Christians went about living their lives centred on Jesus. They showed me how loving God and therefore loving others looked like. They poured encouragement, wisdom and love into me. That helped me to become more content with who God made me and realise that I didn’t have to change myself for anyone. Being around and learning from them gave me the confidence and courage to go back to school and try to be a light to everyone around me. They became my role models growing up and today, many of them still are.
It’s been interesting the past two years as I’ve realised that these ‘old’ people I’ve always looked up to are getting younger and younger… well, I guess I’m the one getting older and older. I know I still have a lot to learn and my story is just beginning, so I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made and will continue to make through this mission trip. Because of it I now have so many brothers and sisters to journey through life’s seasons with, even if we are thousands of miles apart.
I am thankful that God has used the people around me to show me His faithfulness and goodness. God’s gradually woven His way into my heart and into my life, and a big part of that has happened during and because of the month I’ve spent with the team from Lipscomb University. Over the years I’ve gained around a dozen sisters, and many more friends. Each year I wonder how I can love the next team as much as I loved the last. Each year my heart grows bigger and bigger as I form friendships that will last us into eternity.
Andrew & Danielle Johnson, Host Family
It was the final night that provided clarity. As our three children, Laura (13), Harry (11), and Will (8) sat in the bedroom with the two students from Lipscomb University on their final night; talking, sharing, laughing and crying, we began to have greater clarity about the importance of this mission trip and its focus on relationship. This is the third year we have hosted students from Lipscomb University and each year our children have asked the same question as they departed – can we have students again next year? This year was no different, except for our understanding of the motivation underlying the question.
Over the five weeks that the students spent in our home they formed relationships that were powerful, personal and impacting. On this final night with the respective students (first Jamey and five nights later Toria, as they departed at different times) we could not get our children to go to bed! They wanted to continue the conversations and the understanding of different cultures, families, church communities and aspirations that arose from these conversations.
If leadership really is influence, as proposed by Maxwell and other popular authors, then relationships are the essence of influence. In a short window of opportunity, relationships are developed between the Lipscomb team and host families and church communities that act as a conduit for each of us to be influenced. This influence is a mutual and reciprocal encouragement in our walk with Christ and a desire and enthusiasm to share this with others. We lead each other to know Christ better and the foundation for this is relationship.
As a member of the leadership team at Holland Park Church of Christ in Brisbane it was valuable to participate in the final feedback session with the Lipscomb team as they shared the highs and lows of their experiences in Australia. A constant theme which undergirded their reflections was the joy they gained from developing relationships and getting to know people – getting to know people as they worked at the Yeronga Community Centre or Cherbourg Aboriginal Community, getting to know young people as they shared challenges at Camp Talmid, played games at Christian Day Camp or shared devotionals during Sunday school and getting to know people, young and old, over a meal at the church family picnics.
Our church family has reflected on why we are so excited to host a Lipscomb Missions team each year. Part of the answer is found in the joy that is generated in our church family when the team arrives each year. We invite the team into our church family, we pray over them for spiritual guidance and recognition of opportunities to share Christ with others, we encourage them to be involved in all activities and we have fun with them.
The remainder of the answer is found in the memories that warm our hearts of members of Lipscomb teams over the years that we have come to know, love and be eternally thankful to Christ for that we can call them our brothers and sisters. It is this answer which will make it impossible for us to get our kids to bed on time again next July.
Melissa Nelson, Junior
It’s difficult to put into words what this month-long summer mission trip to Brisbane, Australia, means to me. My new Aussie family and the breathtaking creation they are surrounded by have completely captured my heart. I have seen Christ’s love and faithfulness displayed in more ways than I can even begin to describe. We came to love and serve the people of Australia, but I came home feeling more loved and encouraged myself. The Aussies that we came to serve shared a sacrificial love with us, just as Jesus Himself has taught us to love one another. The hospitality and generosity shown by our new friends continually amazed me. Their intentionality in their pursuit of us and their infinite love for us has not only reminded me how Christ loves each of His children, but it also reminds me how I am called to love others. In today’s culture, we are taught to look out for ourselves as number one, always looking first to our own selfish needs and desires. Christ set the bar for a greater love, however, and calls us to love in His way, a love that is self-sacrificing, never expecting in return, always looking for the best in everything, never losing faith, and a love that is constantly challenging us to step out of our comfort zone. This kind of love changes lives.
I’ve seen this kind of love transforming the people of the Cherbourg aboriginal community thanks to the faithful obedience of a missionary family from Papa New Guinea. The Moses family followed God’s call to leave everything - their home, their family, their mission work - in Papa New Guinea to start a new mission in Cherbourg. Located three hours northeast of Brisbane, the aboriginal people of Cherbourg are a broken, often forgotten group of people. They spend their time and money on meaningless things, often with no hope of ever leaving their broken community. Through their church and their ministry, the Moses family has begun to break down barriers between themselves and the Aboriginals. They have especially poured their time and energy into the children of the community. These children are starving for love and affection, two things most children in the community are severely lacking at home. From the Moses’ dedication to loving and teaching the Aboriginal children, God has been working in these children’s hearts, molding them into His likeness, causing their parents to question where the difference in behavior and attitude is coming from. Through these questions and curiosity, God has been using the Moses family to speak new hope and trust into these parents’ lives. We had the privilege of partnering with this incredible family for a short amount of time in their mission to love this special community, and I will never forget the kind of love that I witnessed from them. They gave up everything for this mission and continuously trusted God to provide, always giving the glory and honor to Him. They have a love for the Lord that consistently draws people to them, people longing for the joy and the peace that they have because of His great love.
This is the transforming love of Christ, love that I saw throughout my entire month in Australia, and this is the greater love that I am choosing to dedicate my life to.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19