We’ve just returned from an encouraging, exciting week in Bomaderry. We partnered with Bomaderry Anglican Church, a two congregation church full of kindness and gospel hospitality.
Sean Heslehurst has served as the rector of the church since he began his exile from the Shire. He is full of energy, encouragement and humility, and looks a bit like the English comedian Lee Mack. We met him on Sunday wearing a bright-red (mahogany-red?) shirt. The congregation pointed out to us that the happier the shirt, the harder the sermon, and so they entered the service expecting rebuke.
Sean’s story in ministry hasn’t been an easy one; periods of joy have accompanied some real lows. Despite that, he loves his job and his community.
Scott Williams, the prodigious first-year on our team, preached at that first service, to great acclaim. He spoke from Colossians 1 on the core message of the gospel – that a supreme God would descend to our realm such that He could literally turn to you, face-to-face, and hold a conversation.
Monday was a day-off for the whole Shoalhaven, orchestrated by head-honchos Chris Thompson and Kathy Smith. We travelled to Hutchinson Beach. We swam and we ate and we walked along the beach. It was a genuinely great time, and I found it immensely encouraging to meet some of the first-years on the team and to hear their gospel-stories.
On Tuesday the charming Lauren Driscoll and the erudite Chris Thompson spoke to three chapel gatherings at Nowra Anglican College. Both talks were challenging and thoughtful. I think that the hard work they both put in, laid the foundations for Peter Jensen’s visit later that week.
In the afternoon we visited Bomaderry Primary for scripture. We met two lovely servants of the Lord, Darryl and Leslie, who in their retirement have taken on something just short of half-a-dozen scripture classes. Their patience and prayer are a great service to the town.
Wednesday was a scripture day, with us teaching three classes. By this point, a well-drilled team was reaching peak-performance. Tim Bones delivered a short-talk on the true saviour, Lauren Driscoll ran the games, and Scott Williams and Steve Driscoll performed a Logie-quality skit. It was great fun and an opportunity we all greatly appreciated.
Thursday morning saw Peter Jensen travel to Nowra Anglican College for a Q&A in the morning, and to a local club for an evangelistic talk in the afternoon. His approach at the Q&A was quite an education. He began with a short three-point talk that established certain foundational Christian convictions. Then he opened the floor and engaged in a winsome Socratic interrogation of anyone who asked a question. He would work the room with great patience, and finally, give an answer that invariably related back to his three-point talk.
Friday saw more scripture in the morning, at a local public high-school. It was a bit of a battle to gain the attention of the crowd, and we couldn’t rely on our usual skits. This gave us an appreciation for the hard work of scripture teachers who serve less-compliant classes, as well as valuable practice at being interesting. All of the team gave testimonies to the classes and engaged in impromptu Q&A with the audience. It was encouraging to see the Christian students in the class owning their faith, and we felt that even some of the least interested students, seemed to reflect and listen as the lesson went on. Team leader Tim Bones did a great job of steadying the ship, Scott William dug-deep to find his best scooter anecdotes, I talked about financial investments, the crowd asked for Scott to come back, and we slowly earned some respect. I even got to run through Two-Ways-To-Live with a small group! It was a very, very rewarding morning and a lesson in ministry.
That night was the enormous youth event in Wollongong, with upwards of 2,000 attendees. We travelled down on a bus from the Nowra area. A sense of anticipation gripped the greater Bomaderry youth group as local Youth-Group Minister and former Hip-Hop evangelist Wiki Ochieng danced on stage and encouraged the crowd to join. You could see the taciturn resistance of Moore College lecturers breaking, one-by-one, with Shoalhaven head-honchos Kathy Smith and Chris Thompson leading the charge.
The talk was on Matthew 6, and a call for response saw many youths heading downstairs. Two of our youth-kids were actually heading to the bathroom, but they got swept up, Lion-King style, in a passing stampede of respondents; so they ended up praying with the staff. Praise God!
On Saturday team leader Tim Bones bravely volunteered to lead the young adults of the greater Bomaderry in a kayak expedition. A reasonable group turned up, and the kayaking laid a platform for Tim to share a gospel talk with the crowd. As this was occurring, Christian-celebrity Colin Buchannan was performing two concerts in town. Most of the team was commissioned to ensure that the event ran smoothly and that the requisite amount of merchandise was sold.
Blogging talent Steve Driscoll spoke at both services on Sunday morning, from Matthew 6. He argued that we all need treasure, but that Earthly treasure is a poor deal.
And then as we walked out after church, it suddenly hit us that mission was over.
We said goodbye to our billets, who had both been extraordinarily generous and kind.
Billeting is always one of the best aspects of mission. When you enter a stranger’s home you don’t quite know what to expect. We were greatly encouraged to meet two wonderful servants who plied us with donuts and encouraged us after days out on mission. Around the world, in millions of homes, good Christian people have more in common than they have apart.
The charming Lauren Driscoll and I were sad to go but very glad to have come.
If you’ve come this far, can I encourage you to pray for Bomaderry Anglican and the surrounding schools? Gospel ministry there is made difficult by the beauty of the area. You could pray for deepening commitment of the Christian community to the church, and to ministry. You could pray that the visit of the team would serve as an encouragement to the many faithful servants. You could pray for endurance, joy and wisdom for Sean.