Oftentimes I hear people refer to me as a “world traveler.” The truth is I always kind of cringe when I hear those words because I feel that people assume my life is driven on experiences and adventures. While those two things are very much a part of who I am, I want my traveling and life experiences to be seen for what they really are: Jesus opening doors that challenge me, teach me, grow me, and refine me, so that I might be the daughter and disciple He has created me to be. When I came to Australia last year I had recently finished studying abroad in Chile and truthfully did not originally plan to go to Australia that summer. I applied hoping that I would at least get my name out there so Mark would for sure take me this summer (2015). Praise God that I was able to go last summer and this summer as well because the value of relationships and generosity of the Australian people encouraged me all year long. Last summer I was amazed by the depth of friendships that had formed over our time in Brisbane, so as you can imagine I am expectant that God will take things even deeper than before and that God would make our time here fruitful.
In the last five years I have visited a lot of amazing places: Kenya, Easter Island, Machu Picchu, and the Western USA… I mention those to say there is no place like Australia. There are a lot of stunningly beautiful places in the world, God made every square centimeter so there should be no surprise that His glory radiates from every country and continent. But the people of Australia are what impressed my heart and drew me in. As a whole, people here are friendly, funny, and easy to be around. They place a high emphasis on community and recreation and a low emphasis on job status. Relationships easily move from surface to intimate in a matter of hours, so imagine the bonds you can make over five weeks. For these reasons, I tell most everyone I talk to that they should go to Australia. In particular, Christians should come to Australia because although there is not a huge need physically or financially, there is a spiritual drought, which should draw our concern even more. This is the first mission I have ever gone on twice and I remember last summer talking to Jamey (a fourth year veteran) about what it is like when you come back. She didn’t have enough words to express the sweetness of continuing to invest in relationships here. I began to pray about returning while I was still here and hoped that clarity would come quickly. Shortly after getting home, I felt it was right to come back and told myself, “I will do anything to come back next summer,” and reminded myself continually not to forget those words as fall semester set in.
In college there are an overwhelming amount of options. Where you buy your groceries, where you work, what club you pledge, what major you pick, where you spend your summers, etc… I felt overwhelmed because I was starting nursing school and it was tough and different from studying abroad and serving in Brisbane, so my times with God were hastened by an endless checklist, and I felt that I was swimming upstream. I was conflicted because I knew many people would do the responsible thing and get a nurse tech job or go on a medical mission trip which would in turn help them get hired after we graduate nursing school. As I prayed and asked others to pray and talked to the people I love and trust most in life, it became very clear that I should go back to Brisbane. No job experience or money made or other travels would replace the eternal value of another five weeks in Brisbane. I thank God for the generosity of parents that provided the means for me to be here again and the prayers of friends and family which brought resounding peace. I am thankful for the loving words from Australians and the “I miss you’s” throughout the year.
I am back and it feels like I didn’t leave although much has changed. I am 9,000 miles away from “home” yet sitting on the patio at the Johnson’s feels like “home” just the same. Coming back is exciting. There is no awkwardness or nervousness the second time around. I didn’t cry leaving Nashville but shed a couple tears of joy when the plane touched down in Brisbane knowing that God’s faithfulness has brought me back to people I love an insane amount. I have been in Brisbane for two days and three hours and have already seen so many people I have missed over the past year. My excitement for the team to come and for the relationships to continue is unlike any other trip or team I have been a part of. I can hardly wait for camp, days at Yeronga, Kidzday, eating with strangers, Cherbourg, and all the moments with Aussies in between. Knowing that this summer is likely the last time I will be in Brisbane until I return on my own paycheck encourages me to make the most of every conversation and every moment. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to talk about God or take anything for granted while I am here. I ask that you pray for our team and pray, “whenever we open our mouth, words may be given to us so that we will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). May this time be one of God continuing good works, opening hearts, and encouraging His children in ways only He can. The dangerous thing about relational ministry is that you invest heavily emotionally and spiritually so coming home stings a bit more, and the foreign place 9,000 miles away becomes a place you want to get back to as quick as you can. No matter where we go, where we stay, or what happens, Christ is all. He saves, He satisfies, and He never walks out and while my heart is already heavy thinking of leaving this place again I rest knowing that God is working everywhere and I am beyond thankful to be a part of His story in Brisbane.