*Jamey Webb has been part of the Brisbane team for 5 consecutive years now dating back to our 2012 team. After going on the trip for 3 years as a student in 2012, 2013, 2014, Jamey helped co-lead the 2015 team and obtained a working holiday visa to remain in Australia after last year’s team departed. For 2016, her role was leader, friend and host. She will return home to Nashville in November.
As I sit here in Brisbane and reflect on our trip, I think about what all a single month…just 31 days… can hold. First there’s the schedule: the lectures, Camp Talmid, Christian Day Camp, dinners with various families, a camping weekend, four different church congregations, a couple days at a community center, a footy game and day trip each week visiting the city, the zoo, a beach, a rainforest, an island, and lots of driving time. That’s a lot to do in 31 days. You’ve read, and maybe even have now heard, about many of these things. But what is more amazing is what these things really facilitate in a month’s time. In a short 31 days, the level of friendship that many on our team reached with each other and with their (now) friends on the other side of the world is deeper and stronger than many relationships they have been pouring into and developing for years. I know because I have experienced this time and time again. My friends and family at home in America – they have the advantage of experiencing part of my past. There’s history. There’s trust and camaraderie that has developed from experiencing some of the best and worst times in life together. But I can promise you in my experience it didn’t happen in a month. It took awhile to build that trust. It took a good bit of life to happen before they started seeing the vulnerable me. I think what is so special about this place is that those who live here in anticipation of the arrival of our uni students, as well as those uni students who are stepping off the plane- they all meet at the airport with the walls already broken down, or at least they’ve started the bulldozer and let God jump in the front seat. Their hearts are already open to the strangers they are there to meet; they are hungry for the friendship, love, and encouragement they don’t yet realize they are even missing. At the end of the 31 days, I rarely hear anyone say they held back and wish they had given more. Usually, it’s the opposite – they poured everything they had into that month, knowing it was such a short time and they may not have the opportunity to love on these people again. That’s what makes the difference; It’s why your children, friends, or siblings come home talking about their family from Australia – their “best friends” on the other side of the world. It’s because all parties come to the table with the mutual understanding that there’s no time to “warm up” to each other or make small talk.
Seventeen days ago, I was standing in the airport saying bye to the students who spent their summer holidays pouring everything they had into this community. Two weeks goes by quickly. One month goes by quickly, for that matter! The Australians – they’ve returned to work or school; the Americans – I’m sure they are enjoying the last couple of weeks of summer break and are preparing to see their friends and beginning another semester. Life goes on and we all return to our normal lives. We can’t stop it, nor can we ignore it. But that doesn’t mean we all walk away unscathed by the 31 days a bunch of university students partook in life with a bunch of Australians. Countless times, I’ve seen hearts change, lives transform, and lifelong friendships begin. I’ve also experienced the joy AND the heartache that comes with the territory. It’s unnatural how quickly it all happens, but it’s a testament to what God can do when we open ourselves to letting him use us and put Him as the foundation of our friendships and relationships.
Before I end, I challenge you to reflect on the question: What have you accomplished in the last 31 days? Have you poured everything you have into the people and things you love? If you had to say bye to those people right now, would you be able to leave them with the confidence of knowing you gave everything you had to the time you had together? I now challenge you to do that for 31 days. Love openly and fully, serve humbly and selflessly, allowing God to bind your relationships, conquering fear of judgment and rejection. Maybe at the end of that time, you’ll have a better understanding of this ministry and why on earth we call each other family and “best friends.”
Jamey Webb, Samford (’14)