As I packed my bags for my five weeks across the world, it honestly felt like I was packing for a vacation. My bags were not filled with jars of peanut butter or medical supplies to hand out. I didn’t have to pack an extra toothbrush in case mine accidentally touched contaminated water. I didn’t need to purchase Imodium for inevitable diarrhea or receive immunizations to protect me from diseases I’ve never encountered. And somehow, this felt less spiritual. Could a mission trip really be a mission trip if its purpose was more focused on simply being there than building or doing or giving? The only “spiritual” thing I packed was my Bible and I wondered if the Word of God and a heart that desires to serve Him could really be enough.
Aside from the accents and driving on the other side of the road, Australia really doesn’t feel that different from the states; I often forgot I was 10,000 miles away from home. They shop at Target, eat McDonalds, text on iPhones, and have/do many of the things we do. In some ways, this is awesome because we share so many commonalities, but there is also a struggle of not knowing how to give or serve when the need is more spiritual than physical. During our training we are told Brisbane is a relational trip. We don’t build houses or feed people – they open their homes for us to live in and feed us (a lot). We aren’t helping people who are sick – I had a bad bout of the flu for 4 days and they took care of me. We receive much more than what we give and there were times during the trip that I battled with the questions, “What am I doing here? What’s the purpose? Are we making a difference?” It is hard when you’re not always seeing physical results, and it’s easy to question if God is really using you to advance His Kingdom.
As I was struggling with these feelings, the Lord led me to a story in Mark 6 where Jesus leads the disciples to a moment of extraordinary faith when a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children gathered to encounter Jesus. He says to the disciples, “you give them something to eat.” Immediately, their struggles with fear, doubt, and inadequacy begin to surface. In their minds, they did not have the resources or ability to provide what Jesus asked for; they had only five loaves of bread and two measly fish. Could God really expect them to feed an entire crowd? I read this story and I could totally relate with the disciples. Just like they got off the shore, we got off the plane and were met by a large group of people hungry for the teachings of Jesus. It’s both wonderful and overwhelming. I can relate to the disciples’ battle with fear, disbelief, and inadequacy when Jesus tells them to feed the people. God gave us the mission of coming to Brisbane and we had to discover how He wanted to use us to feed them spiritually. What Jesus intended as an invitation into experiencing His glory was misunderstood as a burdensome task that would only lead to failure. It was in this moment of disbelief that Jesus demonstrated the difference between human ability and the power of God. Jesus was able to take what little they had and produce abundantly more than they could have ever imagined.
The crowd was hungry. But even more than their physical hunger, they were spiritually hungry. Why else would they travel far from their homes without any food to come see a man and his followers step off the shore? Yes, Jesus fed them physically, but the reality is that they would be hungry again. But He fed them spiritually. Can you imagine how that affected the Kingdom of God as thousands of people encountered the Bread of Life and went to share Him with others? The physical bread they ate were like crumbs under the table compared to the feast He was welcoming them into. I’ve been home for two weeks now and whenever I pray or think about the people we served in Brisbane, the word that comes to mind is ‘hunger.’ The people there are hungry for God; they are eager to learn more about Him. It was this hunger in them, one that God was cultivating, that gave us the opportunity to serve and be served. And just like in Mark 6 when Jesus provided abundantly more than anyone expected, so was the case in Brisbane.
Families gave up their nights and weekends to come and learn more about the teachings of Jesus. More teenagers than ever before came to a weeklong camp to grow in their relationship with God while they were mentored by Lipscomb team members. Two of those campers chose to take a step in faith and obedience by being baptized. We thought maybe ten women would go to a two-night class on discipling other women and we were blown away when nearly sixty women signed up. Many teens and kids came during their school break to Christian Day Camp where we got to teach more about Jesus for three days. I had two teenage girls ask to come over to my home one day so that we could worship, pray, and ask for more of the Holy Spirit for one another. I got to share the Gospel with a girl who had never even stepped foot in a church before. For her birthday, one woman only wanted to download podcasts of sermons to learn more about the Lord. After learning about discipleship for two weeks, people were praying about who God would lead them to minister to. These are only a few of the many things God did among us. Collectively, we came to know God deeper, stronger, and more intimately than we ever had before.
This hunger is something that can only be from the Holy Spirit and He is the only one who can fill it.
This hunger is holy and it is contagious.
This hunger has the power to change a church, a city, a country, a world when it is followed by prayer and obedience.
This hunger is present in the city of Brisbane, Australia
This is why God sent us there: to feed hungry people. If I were to only focus on the physical things I packed in my bag or my human ability, I would’ve missed out on the extraordinary plans God had for our trip. Instead, He revealed a people living together in community yearning for more of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve ever read Acts 2, then you know the power this hunger has. It started with 120 people praying in a room and has led to a mission almost 2,000 years later that took some people from Nashville, TN to literally the other side of the world to share the love of Jesus Christ. The mission will continue and God will continue to bless it. He will continue to grow the hunger for more of Him and fill it. He promises to in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Nana Muir, alumni (’15)