One day short of two weeks ago our first outreach team arrived on our doorstep. A team of energetic teens and some wonderful leaders, not to mention a superb cook and a quirky bus driver. We didn’t know quite what to expect. What will we do with all these teenagers at our place for a week and how our boys will handle the onslaught of so many people invading their territory, but it was more than a pleasant surprise: it was wonderful.
Some of the team had been many times before, but for about 8 of them it was their first time. One girl was only 11 (i think, maybe 12) and so she looked a little wide-eyed at times.
So what does an outreach team do? Well our church in Alice Springs is a part of many other larger churches around Australia (not to mention other parts of the world). And these churches send teams to churches in Central Australia and beyond, to run kids clubs or street ministry and give our regular ministry team a break on the Sunday so they get a chance to be ministered to. Depending on the team coming and their strengths usually shapes some of the things they do, but they all get stretched whether they are old hat or not.
Back to our team from Seaton Christian Family Centre (and two fellas from Hobart CfC). They came in single file carrying their swags and all but one with a big grin ready for action.
They went around to different parts of Alice to invite kids to the Kids Club they would be running over the next few days and then set up ready to begin. I had the pleasure of being a part of one of the bus runs out to the town camps past the gap. It was a time when I could get to know a part of the team and also form relationship with the kids that came on the bus.
By the end of the week we had over 50 kids coming along, and then we ran a BBQ by the Todd River on the Saturday night. The team were great. Some of the ones who had been shy and reserved at the start of the week were talking with people and inviting them to come and have a free feed and a chat. It was great to see people asking for prayer and wanting to talk about Jesus.
Sunday morning, we got to see some faces from the BBQ the night before as they turned up for our regular service. It was great to see the outreach team full of young teens so keen to serve people regardless of their background. Some of the team shared testimonies, some sung, others helped out at Sunday School or handed around communion, but they were all involved. It was lovely.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We had a nice time in Todd Mall shopping, and watched the sunset at Anzac Hill and cut hair and tattooed their skin (ok not permanent, don’t get alarmed)- some talented artists in our midst I must say.
Pastor Tim did a great job of keeping everyone together and dealt with minor hiccups so effectively you hardly noticed they were happening.
If I had to share my feelings about having the team here, I would say I was a tad ambivalent. I was encouraged to see young people want to serve. I was impressed by their behaviour (can’t say I would have been able to say the same at their ageJ). I was touched by how God was working in their lives and in the lives of the people they met. I laughed more than I have in a while, and made some new friends which is always a bonus.
When they left however, I was saddened. Although encouraged that the team would come all this way to support us and the church family here in Alice, I suddenly felt just how far we are away from everyone. And I felt the most isolated I have since we arrived. They came and had fun and ministered, and left. We came, have fun, minister… and stay. Not that I want to go. I just maybe got a glimpse of what people were meaning when they looked at us in a strange way when we said we were coming out here. The silence was a little disconcerting for me the day the team left. I was exhausted but had really enjoyed the fellowship.
Now before any of you get any ideas that I am in crisis and start your worrying, I am fine. Actually it was good for me. Good to remember the call. Good to take stock. Good to be thankful for my church family here, and not take friendships for granted.
And so you know, our boys enjoyed the team and were treated so well. Josiah although a tad nervous even warmed to them.
My prayer for the people that came on the outreach team is that they would not just have a “camp experience” that is so exciting when they first get that touch, or rush of excitement and then fade into a nostalgic memory. But one that becomes embedded in them. That it will be the start of a deeper walk with their Creator. That as they walk on from here into their ‘normal” lives that the voice of God won’t be drowned out, but they will listen and respond quicker and more obediently every time. That they will throw off and get rid of the things in their lives that hinder them and that they will run with all their might with the ultimate prize in their eyesight. Not earthly treasures but the ones that are worth more than gold… eternal treasures. I pray that they have the boldness and strength to do it, even if it is not the popular thing to do.
If you came on the outreach team and are reading this, then thank you for a wonderful experience. We hopefully will see you again up here, but if not here then down in Adelaide some time.