Reflecting on my mission to Australia, and on Camp Talmid in particular, already stirs up a lot of thoughts and emotions in my heart, even just a few days after coming home. Before I left I heard a lot of people who have gone on this trip talk about the place and the people with so much passion and excitement, and I thought that I understood that in some capacity. But in a lot of ways it’s hard to understand what it is that makes this trip so special until I actually went and experienced it for myself. The week of Camp Talmid was a period of personal spiritual growth I have only experienced a few times in my life. And that’s not even to mention the kids and my relationship with them. I learned so much about discipleship and mentorship, and about the way that God points us toward people He knows we can love profoundly.
Leading up to camp, I had been the most prayerful and anxious about my relationship with my camp “buddy.” We’d been told we would be assigned a camper or two to spend several hours of quality time with throughout the week, in order to invest in them and offer encouragement and counsel. I was excited about the opportunity, but I knew that God might very well pair me with someone that I had nothing in common with, or who was difficult for me to get along with. I knew that would require patience and persistence, and I was ready for that challenge. But I still had a prayer that God would give me buddies that I could really connect with and that I could create a Christ-centered, lasting friendship with them.
The first day of camp came, and I was paired up with two buddies: Tom and Liam. And I knew, that first night, that God had answered my prayer more abundantly and powerfully than I ever could have imagined. As we talked, I saw myself in each of them in very unique ways: in their leadership abilities, their spiritual and emotional maturity, and the examples they were to siblings, parents, and friends, just to name a few. It was a very clear message from the Lord that He had a purpose for me in Australia, that my coming on this mission trip was no coincidence. I was there to invest in these two, and to learn from them as much as they did from me, which I did, perhaps even more so. I still marvel at the way the Spirit was present in our conversations that week, and how quickly I came to see each of them as a friend and an equal, even though they were much younger than me. And after camp, I had the ultimate privilege and joy: to see first Liam, and then Tom give their lives to Christ in baptism! I know that I was a very small piece in that decision, and that the Lord was working on their hearts long before I was a part of the picture, but it was still an honor to be a witness to their dedication, and to count them both as brothers going forward.
Australia is a beautiful place, and the adventures and stories from this trip will be remembered and re-told for years to come. But it’s the people that make the trip, no question. Tom and Liam are my most powerful examples of that, but I could go on and on about so many individuals that showed me Christ and forever changed the way that I follow Jesus. The Spirit is doing powerful things through the people of Brisbane, and it was privilege to be able to be a part of that story for a few short weeks.
John Blake Parker, senior