July started with a lot of action, with the first week beginning with a RICE Short Term Missions plug at the RICE Twelve Trials study day and a weekend of spending time with my Community Group (reflection on the getaway can be found in my previous post, here). As some of you may be aware, I am the Short Term Missions Coordinator (a title I’ve created and claimed for myself) for RICE’s upcoming trip to East Asia in January 2015. As a movement, RICE recently partnered with a well-known NGO to start up a new child sponsorship program in an Area Development Project (ADP). The aim of the 3-year sponsorship program is to financially help year 9 students complete their high school education because the government terminates their education then if they are unable to afford it. The beauty of this program, especially since it is advocated by RICE (which is a largely a youth movement), is that it puts the challenge of global poverty before high school students. I am particularly excited about it because I believe everyone, including young people, have the power to be part of God’s plan for the restoration of the world. Therefore, if everything goes well, we will have a group of high school students in Sydney financially supporting high school students in a different part of the world. Some of them may even progressively go through high school with their sponsor child! As a subset of this great program, RICE will also be running a short trip to the ADP in January 2015. The primary objective of the trip is to 1) Teach in a local school, 2) Visit and understand the ins and outs of the ADP, 3) Connect with local missionaries. We are currently in the process of providing more information and processing some applications. And based on the amount of interest and enthusiasm that has been shown, I trust that this upcoming trip is going to be fantastic.
Bankstown Congregation Plant
Another great thing that happened in July is the first Information Evening for our church’s new congregation plant in Bankstown! If you know a bit about the life of South West Chinese Christian Church, you’ll know that the idea to plant a new congregation was launched at our church’s getaway near the end of last year. And at the start of this year, a small group of about 15-20 people have been meeting weekly to study the bible in preparation for this new plant.
The information evening was a great way for the wider church body to be acquainted with the progress of the plant and to meet (or establish further relationships) some of the members in the core team.
A key highlight for the month was my participation at the church’s elders meeting. As part of my internship, I need to submit a report and have an informal ‘catch-up’ with the elder board. Not knowing what to expect, I was a little anxious at first. Questions that were racing through my mind were: Did I do enough? Do you think they were happy with my written report? What do you think they’ll say? And things along those lines. However, after the meeting, I was struck by their genuine love and concern for me and the other staff in our church. Instead of evaluating my performance, the elders asked about how I coped with stress, about the most significant struggles over the past year, and about what God was teaching me through all of this. Perhaps my previous experiences with church leaders have overly influenced my perceptions of elders, but these group of men are nothing like I’ve ever seen before. They weren’t big bad bullies out to make sure everyone on the staff team was pulling their weight nor were they coercive administrators out to ‘get you’. Instead, they were there to serve along the pastoral staff and wow, was that a gulp of ice cool water on a hot summers day.
Pastor Jonathan Chong
One of the things that I had been looking forward to since the beginning of the year was the opportunity to work with Pastor Jono Chong, who joined our staff team in July. This began in July through the weekly ‘vision meetings’ with him and Pastor Pete. Throughout the month, we met every week to talk through the basic DNA of our church. We worked together (and by work, I mean they worked and I observed) to define what it meant for our church to be one that is about Worship, Word, Community, and Mission. Apart from discussing the nuances of those concepts, I really enjoyed observing the way Pastor Pete and Jono related to one another. These two gifted men brought their different experiences and training to the table (literally, we sat around a table) and just bounced off one another. I could really see them strengthening one another and bringing the best out of each other. At the risk of sounding cheesy or accused of advocating Eastern ideology, Jono was the Yin and Pete was the Yang (the order doesn’t particularly matter, though Pete’s complexion is a few shades lighter than Jono). The synergy in the room was fantastic. And I know by God’s grace, the English ministry of the church will be led into a greater stage through the partnership of these two great pastors.
Praise and Prayers
- I’m grateful for the invitation to preach at the English Congregation at Sydney Mandarin Christian Church (SMCC) on the 13th of July. They are a really great bunch with such amazing leaders – Pastor Brad Twining is doing a great job there. Do pray for them as their church seeks to reach people beyond the four walls of their church and as they prepare to build a new building.
- I’m grateful for all the men I’ve been meeting up with so far. Recently, one of them said they want to get baptised to publicly express his committed to Christ after a few years of struggling in the faith.
- I’m grateful for some responses to last month’s financial appeal.
- Please pray for the preparation with the mission trip. Pray that God will gather the right people for the trip so that we can demonstrate Christ’s love to those who don’t have the same access to Christianity as we do. This is a particularly huge assignment and will take up a big portion of my ministry time for the rest of the year.
- Please pray as I speak and share with a group of students at Concord High School on the 20th of August.
- Please pray for the SPUR team as we plan for the next event. The previous one was a great success, with Murray Smith from Christ College speaking on Social Justice. The next will be our very own Pastor Jonathan Chong, graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, speaking on Apologetics. More information will be available soon.
- Please pray for the persecution of Christians around the world (in particular, this). When one member of the body hurts, the whole body is affected.