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.
Anna Cannone, aka Carbonara, Junior