March 2, 2010

Here's my outreach report-Thought you might enjoy!

Major (and Minor) Outreach Report

My outreach team went to two locations during the DTS.  For the minor outreach, we traveled to the beautiful land of Papua New Guinea and experienced a culture that is entirely unique.  The people are generous and hospitable, yet a large portion of the country lives in poverty.  We had the opportunity to perform dramas and share our personal testimonies.  For major outreach, our team spent the majority of our time in large Australian cities including Canberra and Geelong.  These locations resembled what I’ve experienced my entire life living in a western culture.  During this portion of outreach, our team had the opportunity to speak in schools and churches, and even share the gospel down on the streets.  Both locations presented significant challenges.  However, these outreaches helped contribute to one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.

In Papua New Guinea, we met people that consistently blessed us and were enamored at our very presence.  They treated us like royalty by always giving us fruits and bags at every place that we performed our dramas.  One night, our team dressed like tribal warrior dancers and shared in their traditional “Prophet Dances” in the middle of the village.  That night, I left with coconuts, several bags around my shoulders, bananas, the dress that I danced in, and one of the most bizarre memories of my whole life!  During my time in Papua New Guinea, especially during experiences like these, I learned a valuable lesson.  The way to reach the hearts of people in different cultures is by valuing their cultural norms and sharing in their traditions. This helps break down barriers and shows that that we appreciate who they really are.  Granted there are also a lot of differences between our cultures as well.  For example, the host villages that we spent time in rarely had running water or electricity, they live primarily off the land, and most of the people will likely live in their village for their entire life.  They don’t have hope for the future like we do, and they certainly don’t have opportunities that we have.  All in all, our team adapted well to their society.  It’s important to be sensitive to their way of life so that there is no disrespect among us.  We shared in their dances, we celebrated at their churches, we visited their homes, and we even practiced learning their language: Name belong me Matt!  Visiting Papua New Guinea provided some fantastic memories, plus it built credibility to our testimony as we ventured down to southern Australia to speak about the Ship Tour.

After Papua New Guinea, it was time for our team to prepare for major outreach to our own backyard.  Of course, the culture of cities like Canberra and Geelong is virtually identical to mine in America.  This meant it was easier for me to adapt to the people and understand some of the struggles of the youth.  Canberra is the capitol of Australia, and it has a typical political feel to the society.  The people dress nicely, especially those that work in and around the parliament building, and the city is clean and uniform.  During our outreach to Canberra, I got the opportunity to witness to a couple of guys down at the park on Australia day.  Well, they were no ordinary guys.  In fact, Grant and Guy are a homosexual couple, and both have tested positive HIV.  I built a respectful relationship with them and began to share about my faith in Christ.  They began to cry and became Christians on the spot… Okay, actually they mocked me and told me to put away my “blanket” (the Bible) and suggested that I grow up and consider other religions.  I wasn’t offended though, as I could see past their defensive words to their abused childhoods.  I apologized for the way the church had offended them in the past, but I also reminded them about the truth of Jesus.  During my time with them, I realized that God never gave me more than I could handle.  My faith was challenged, but by no means did I feel overwhelmed.  Grant and Guy are just a couple of ordinary guys looking for satisfaction and fulfillment, and finding it in all the wrong places.  I considered it a privilege to meet them.

Our team finally made it to our ultimate major outreach destination, Geelong.  In this city, there are two kinds of people: the people who surf “2-3 times a week” and the people that surf “4-5 times a week”.  This city reminded me of how I envisioned Australia to begin with.  The beaches are beautiful, the people are laid back and everyone surfs!  During our time in Geelong, our team spoke at many churches and schools.  My favorite engagement was probably the Geelong Grammar School (GGS), which is a wealthy private school complete with a pristine chapel, fancy cafeteria and even a state-of-the-art “Wellness Center”.  Meeting Father Hugh was one of my highlights from my time at GGS.  He’s a former YWAMer and now serves as an Anglican Priest.  He has a gentle heart and of course, because of our YWAM connection, he got to know Jess, Alfredo and me and even invited us to lunch at the school three different times after each of our speaking engagements.  Speaking at GGS was a personal highlight because of how well behaved all of the students were.  Each time we spoke, we had an attentive audience and an opportunity to speak about our testimonies and even encourage them to consider missions in their own lives.  Once again, I was amazed at the way we were honored throughout our time in Geelong.  Everyone we met seemed to take us under their wing, treat us to great experiences and just made our experience such a positive one. 

As it’s pretty common with mission trips like these, sometimes you prepare to give, give and then give some more.  But then you leave feeling like you received more than you ever could have possibly given.  I suppose that’s the beauty of God’s economy.  One of the most encouraging things that I take home from YWAM is the way I feel so encouraged about the state of the church.  Somewhere in between meeting Pastor Ekupu, Stasia from the soup kitchen, Father Hugh at GGS, Loren and Darlene Cunningham and the countless others that have had an impact on me during the last six months, I’ve realized that God really works in all shapes and sizes!  The church is really blooming and there are men and woman of God that are standing up to make a difference in the world.  I feel grateful the journey that I’ve been, and it makes me look forward to what’s coming next, even though I have no idea what’s coming…HA!  I suppose I’ll continue to take one step at a time.  My last step seemed to work out pretty well.