Anna Cannone: Sweetly Broken, Wholly Surrendered

AUS the three letter abbreviation rearranged from my homeland USA. AUS: the new stomping grounds I never thought I’d get the chance to see. AUS was deeply adored by so many friends before me, but it was only on a firsthand basis this special place started to feel like a part of me I could never let go of. AUS-USA, both abbreviations became interchangeable letters for my homes away home.

I would have told you this summer was just going to be another adventure for me and God to create fun memories, but nothing too expectant out of my time in Brisbane. I thought I would just be another face that came and went in a city 10,000 miles away from familiarity. Little did I realize my un-expectant summer in Brisbane would be filled with memories that far surpass any plans I could have created.

If there’s one piece of advice I have for the unknown is – expect for the unexpected and never be surprised when things do or don’t go your way. I love to picture my life on a path of a treasure map that is never ending on earth because my end goal is heaven and eternity with my Heavenly Father, but I can only get there one clue at a time. This summer was life-giving and challenging all in the same day sometimes, but I know it was worth every ounce of energy I poured out because there is no sweeter gift than the relationships I took home with me. The faces that did not just come and go, the handshakes you remember, the smiles that are ingrained in your memory, the laughter that could fill a room. God took me to a place “far enough” from home to remind me of my purpose on Earth – to love Him and to love others. I love traveling because little pieces of my heart get left at every spot, but Australia you got a big piece of my heart and I’ll never fully be able to process the extent of how much and how well the very people we came to serve, served us back.

When I reflect upon the Lord’s hand working in my life this summer, I come face to face with the reality that every little detail was touched by the fingerprints of God. From the blessing of living with my roommate Madison who quickly became a sister to me. (It was not by accident that if I missed home she was from the same city and could empathize and encourage one another in those moments.) Or in the house I was placed in with the Dobson family- I gained four little blonde sisters who couldn’t be anymore pleasant to be around. My host mom, Caroline, was a hero and is a nurse who also takes care of her kids with quality time and love pouring out of her, she was kind and gentle and graciously stayed up late chatting with me some nights. She truly is a jack of all trades with many talents I’m still discovering. Nathan, my host dad is the most humble, caring, hardworking man I know and he was always present, always patient and ready to listen to and encourage conversations after long days of work and busyness.

Thankfully, Australians spoke the same language as us so my communication was not hindered by my very little Spanish that I’ve attempted to learn on other trips. The beautiful language of English sounds much better with an accent, but the understanding of one another went beyond words, because their actions emitted love in ways they selflessly served us through the month. Thank you for your overwhelming love, hospitality, and homes we were welcomed into with open arms.

Each week we were there, God definitely brought about different healing moments in my life. The first week was a physical healing over my head because I left my most important piece of luggage behind: my glasses. I suffered from a migraine that got progressively worse as the first week went from the sleep transition to the blurred vision; I was internally miserable. I didn’t let it show, but one night at team retreat, the Holy Spirit prompted a team member to pray over me and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the center of everyone praying for a renewed, peaceful, pain free mind. It was within that moment and seconds later that I couldn’t even remember what a migraine felt like. I share that experience to say God is possible of tackling all things even my minuscule headache. It impacted the team, but if you know me, you know I shy away from the limelight. But God uses us in our vulnerability to reveal His greatest glory. I know that situation made me feel raw from the inside out, but it was only preparing me to be able to go deeper with every Aussie I encountered after that and even the American members on my team. God’s power and love isn’t supposed to be kept quiet- he wants to lavish it on ALL his children.

The word testify was given to me on a card at the beginning of my month and it reigned true the rest of the month; multiple times I had the opportunity to share the name of Jesus and the Good News He brings. At camp Talmid the second week I was partnered with buddies that I will be forever impacted by – Paige and Sally. Talmid means disciple in Greek and I wanted to walk in community with these two beautiful girls from the first conversation I had with them. If there are two young teenagers that I ever wanted to be like it would be them. They desired so much more of who Jesus was and their identity rooted in Him. They wanted to grow and mature in ways I couldn’t have even predicted for my week at camp. I thought camp was just going to be a time where kids came to you for advice or help, but yet another example of God stirring in my heart ways I would grow in as well. A lot of that week and time prior to Australia I felt unworthy of being a leader because of the lies I was believing about myself or my past and those were soon to be broken by the hand of a healing, restoring Father who was waiting to piece my heart back together again. I was reconciled with Him at camp through my buddies and realized it is always a good time to be open with the Lord about where we’re at because He’s always working the good out in every situation when we seek Him first.

Australia is the last place I would’ve told you I would spend my last college summer at and the first place I would tell you I would go if I got to do it all over again. The distance from the comfort of home gave me space and time to allow God to move in me for ways I didn’t know I needed to grow in, let go of things, move on from, cultivate old and new passions, motivate me for the exciting journey ahead. Many things in my life are unsettled right now. My future seems light years away, but weighs on me like a ton of bricks. I have no idea what I want to be anymore and I have no idea how I want to get there, but I am quietly, patiently waiting for God to continue to shut some doors and open others.

I would sum up my time in AUS in three ways God used to change me: the people, the place, and the thing. The people are my new Aussie families and relationships, but also my team members from Lipscomb- talk about incredible chemistry and I wouldn’t even know where to start. Love each and every one of you!!! Second, the place- God is just as present in Brisbane, Australia as he is in Nashville, Tennessee or anywhere else in America and that was confirmed when it wasn’t the place that defined the conversation centered around “the thing” called Jesus with the people from all over the world. Jesus is the universal love and language that is daily transmitted all over the world.

I’ll never forget a quote from our team retreat in Tennessee, it was said by someone I greatly admire and look up to especially after their wonderful family came along and we got to see as they showed us how to raise a real-time, real-life, Jesus centered family without even realizing their amazing impact on everyone. He said, “if you’re not living on mission for Jesus in Nashville, Tennessee, you’re only going to be tourists in Brisbane, Australia”. I can only hope I lived and loved as a follower of Jesus during my time there, but that it carries back so that more of me becomes like Him and I’m living to expect the greatness in the unexpected.

Australia I’ll miss your beauty, I’ll miss your beloved children, but I long to see Jesus continue to transform it into His masterpiece as His workmanship spreading His name.

Much love,

Anna Cannone, aka Carbonara, Junior
Columbus, Ohio 

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Our trip started and ended out trip at Wellington Point. This was the first day we arrived where all the families had a picnic together.

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Team Retreat in Darlington with JBivs, Taylor, and John-Blake.

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My buddies Paige and Sally at Camp Talmid!!! This is the first day of high ropes.

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I was so proud of them this was the last day of camp and they did awesome on the high-ropes challenging themselves.

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Paige and I on a day trip at Stradbroke Island the day after camp. I miss ya everyday Paige!

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Third week Christian Day Camp, which is what we normally call VBS. This is Jake and he was one of the best behaved little boys who always had a cheerful spirit and smile on his face.

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Week 4 on our Byron Bay day trip with some of my closest friends from the team, Madison (Maddycat) and Travis.

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My entire host family, the Dobson’s with Madison and I on a day off when they took us to the beautiful Gold-Coast. One of the best days on the trip.

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Last night with the Dobson’s when Madison and I gave them Ohio State apparel. Go Bucks!

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Tilly’s face say’s it all she is the youngest Dobson girl, this was our last full day together at Wellington Point.

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Tilly, 4 years old and a bundle of joy and energy I wish I had.

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The Parr’s are one of my favorite families! Our last night consisted of a Wellington Point sunset sendoff.

 

 

 

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Nana Muir: For They Will Be Filled

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)
Nashville, TN

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Byron Bay, the easternmost point of Australia… Nothing but ocean for a loooong way from here. Loved seeing humpback whales breech and pods of dolphin swim in this beautiful water. What a day! #byronbay 🐋🐬

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I love this family like crazy. I’m so honored/blessed/humbled to be on this wonderful adventure advancing the Kingdom all around the world with them! 💗💗💗#kiddosclayton

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Represent’ in the AUS hoodies with Natalie Jackson

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With Emma at Wellington Point Park

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“No Ordinary Faith” I had the opportunity to share my story alongside John Blake Parker on Monday night of Camp Talmid

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Stradbroke Island day trip. I have loved getting to know each of these precious women. This trip is unreal. As awesome as so many of the views are, it’s the people here that have really captured my heart!

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Stradbroke Island day trip; an epic group shot at Point Lookout

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This is my sweet host mama, Elaine Leggatt ❤️, along with John Blake and Tucker. She welcomed us into her home for the month and I love her so much already! She’s also American, so she likes to celebrate the 4th of July too

 

 

Jamey Webb: A 31 Day Journey

*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)
Nashville, TN
Brisbane, QLD

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Some of the best friendships and conversations happen in the countless van rides!

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During my first visit in 2012, I had no idea the lifelong friendship I was forming with my host family.

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A contingent from the 2014 team with Shaun Cavanagh. Aussies often come visit us in the US and we always make sure we can spend as much time with them as we can.

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Austin, Taylor and I working on the trip folder leading up to the 2015 trip. We plan and prep for the trip long before we actually leave for Australia.

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Leah, Toria and I with our host dad, Andrew, during his visit to the States in February 2015.

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With my host family, the Johnsons, 4 years after my first visit.

Taylor Smith: Undeservingly Blessed

It’s been about two weeks since I arrived home from my third trip to Brisbane. It’s crazy to me how fast time goes. When I got back, it felt like I had barely been gone for two weeks, let alone six. Having been before, I better knew what to expect in leaving. However, leaving Brisbane is never “easy.”

When I reflect on those six weeks, I think first about the people: our team, the host families, everyone at camp, our church family. I then think about lessons I learned and God using those people to guide me through those lessons. It’s pretty awesome when you see God come full circle. This trip I got to see a lot of that.

The biggest blessing I have in going back to Brisbane is seeing the growth. The majority of the teens we work with I’ve been friends with since my first year. This means I had the blessing to witness them grow and mature over the past three years. I’ve seen their walks with Jesus develop into a beautiful relationship with Him. I’ve watched some of them go from being followers to leaders. I’ve watched others enter into the adult phase of life and marveled at how they transition with such ease. And I’ve had the privilege to see some commit their life to Christ. It’s really incredible when you see someone you love, grow into a person you admire.

This summer I walked alongside these wonderful people. Having just graduated, I couldn’t help but be distracted by all the emotions that come with that change. Rather than allow those distractions to separate us, they met me in the middle of my distractions. I learned that even when you may not have it all together, God places people in your life to walk through all sorts of experiences with: both the trials and celebrations. Just as God uses our team to go serve the people of Brisbane, He uses the people of Brisbane to serve us. Each year I am humbled by the amount of love we are shown as a team and individually. But this year I saw that same love poured into me through ways I had never imagined. The power of prayer is strong and I loved getting to share that with the people I love. These are the people that pray with me and cry with me, rejoice with me and laugh with me; the people who are genuinely interested in my life and who I am becoming. I cannot reiterate enough how humbling to be cared for so deeply. I may say this every year, but I am in awe of the fact that we are here to serve them, yet it is always they who serve us.

“Even when you feel like you have nothing to offer, God will still use you.” One of my host sisters told me this and I don’t think I could find a better quote to sum up this trip. There were many times where I wondered how in the world God could use me. Many times, I couldn’t even sort out my own thoughts, let alone do the work of God. But it was in these moments of feeling utterly unprepared that God spoke through me. This is the biggest lesson I took away from this summer. Let God use you because when you do, you will reap some of the greatest rewards.

The Brisbane family is one of my most prized relations. Not everyone gets to experience a love like this, and I’ve gotten to experience it three times. I feel undeservingly blessed. So thank you Brisbane for loving me so well. I cannot wait to be back and see what all God has in store for the years ahead.

Taylor Smith, graduated May 2016
Nashville, TN

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Taylor and Natalie Jackson with the Faulks, their host family

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Taylor with her buddies from Camp Talmid, Laura Johnson & Emma Thean, along with Jamey Webb

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The Lim’s, Taylor’s host family in 2014 and 2015

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Brisbane 2016 team @ the Glasshouse Mountains

 

John Blake Parker: My Purpose

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
Nashville, TN

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Kangaroo Point on Brisbane city day trip; end of Week 1

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Camp Talmid, Week 2

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One of my camp buddies, Liam Olorenshaw

 

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One of my camp buddies, Tom Tate

Leah Owens: When 16 Days Flies By

With Leah’s permission, this is a re-print from her Jan 12 Facebook post that encapsulated so well her enthusiasm and excitement from her recent trip to Brisbane with our first ever winter mission team, or depending on what side of the world you’re reading this – first ever summer mission team!  

I can’t thank the Lord enough for leading me back much sooner than I expected to so many people I love so much. Sixteen days in Australia flew by but it was such a blessing to teach the kids and witness what Camp Gidawarra is all about while doing my best to point the Aussies to Jesus the way they point to Him. It was also so special to share the engagement in person with people over there and so cool that they know who Morgan is since he went in 2014!

A couple highlights that I would like to share:

  • telling my Aussie sister Laura Johnson in the airport that we are going to have the same last name and her crying
  • reunions with people I can’t imagine my life without
  • family camping with the Johnsons and their extended family
  • Andrew’s jet skiing get up that shows zero skin for ultimate sun protection
  • swimming in waterfalls in January
  • the incredibly sincere thank yous
  • worship at Holland Park Church
  • times with the younger kids when they were very engaged and told us things they learned from our teaching
  • Andrew buying 13 of us ice cream cones before we saw Natural Bridge
  • Melinda’s coffee
  • meeting new people and entire families that live outside of Brisbane who came to Camp Gidawarra
  • Patrick Krelle’s kisses
  • dressing up like ten Indians at the last minute
  • talking about Morgan and the engagement
  • late night games at Camp Gidawarra
  • runs with Molly
  • going to the movies our last night with the youth
  • our huge Camp Talmid reunion
  • and seeing glow worms and glow mushrooms

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me and supported me!

Leah Owens, senior
Johnson City, TN
Nursing

1918908_10153768375674070_4128734971945326455_nthe Johnson Family

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The wonderful Gemma Faulks

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Andrew Johnson is an ice cream machine.

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Molly, the Johnson’s dog – my running mate.

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The Natural Arch

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All of our girls. Holland Park Church. They are the reason we go.

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December 23 – Roan Mountain State Park, East Tennessee

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I said yes.

Finding Peace When God Calls You

My journey on this Brisbane winter trip was a quick, but tough and wild ride. When I got the email from Mark Jent that there would be a Brisbane trip over Christmas break, that would be two weeks instead of six, I immediately starting praying. I asked God if this trip was for me. I asked, maybe begged, for Him to make this a reality in my life. My biggest anxiety was that it wouldn’t be logistically possible. In the post-college world there are so many more barriers! Will my employer allow me to be gone for 16 days? Will I have enough “Paid Time Off” saved up for this trip? Am I prepared to pay most of the trip funds myself? But I quickly realized that nothing stands in the way of The Lord’s plans.

I have been to Brisbane two previous times, once after my Junior year in 2013 and once after my Senior year of college in 2014. After I graduated, I had to come to terms with the fact that I would not be returning to Brisbane on the Lipscomb mission trip. I knew I would be back to visit one day, because the people mean so much to me, but I knew for a fact (or so I thought) that I would not be able to take the time off from work needed for a trip like this. I prayed about the decision and asked my family to pray about it, and then the answer just came to me and it was the biggest “YES, YOU NEED THIS TRIP” that I have ever felt. There is a little selfishness behind the decision because the Australian brothers and sisters, who we work with, encourage me and fill me up spiritually, just as we are going there to do for them. Of course I want to return to see everyone I have connected with in the past, but looming in my mind were all the stressors that would become a reality in the process of making this trip happen. I made a checklist of “barriers” that would be reasons for saying no to this opportunity. There was:
1) Work:  How would I be able to leave my job for over two weeks?
2) Paid Time Off:  Would I have enough hours saved up to take the days off that I needed?
3) Money:  I won’t be able to fundraise $3000 for this trip again, especially since I am working and not in school anymore.

I set up a meeting on Friday with my supervisor to talk about the trip being a possibility. The decision was made that as long as I had enough Paid Time Off and my classes were covered, that I could go! There are many many things that I am thankful for, but working for an organization which supports and encourages mission work is one of my greatest blessings. I quickly calculated the hours of time off I had, and I was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but I had enough to take 16 days off. (I will end up with 8 spare hours, so I’m really hoping I don’t get sick any time soon!) I had committed to this trip in my heart and just told Mark straight away, without even bothering to worry about the biggest barrier, which was raising nearly $3,000 dollars.

I had a very rare peace about raising that money that I have never had before. I worried about it on and off sure, but I was never sick with worry like I should have been trying to raise that much money in 2.5 months. This is what I always pray for: God’s peace. Because He had given me peace about fundraising, I gained a peace about everything else. When Mark sent the email about a Brisbane winter trip, I felt called to this mission. Now it wasn’t until I was on the plane to Australia that things felt real, but I knew from the beginning that I needed to try to make this trip work. I guess that is how it feels when God calls you to something bigger than yourself. Nothing could stop His plan, not even the barriers that spring up when you are a missionary will a full time job.

Brittany Bishop (’14)

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