Several weeks into lectures, Evangelism week was upon us and I sat in my chair trembling at the thought of evangelizing because it’s never been a strong point for me. But Allen, the lecturer got up and began by saying, “I want to take the pressure off of you.” And I breathed a sigh of relief. The following week, our whole school packed up for our first week of outreach in the coastal town of Byron Bay!
It was a good taste of what outreach will look like for my team, since we’ll be staying in Australia. But instead of five people traveling and sleeping on church floors, this time there were 50 of us!
God gave me the word, ‘bold’ for this week. Boldness isn’t something that comes naturally for me and so I knew that it would be a week of tapping into God’s strength. And it was!
On the first day when I had a little free time, I went exploring and found little shops within walking distance of where we were staying, full of light and aesthetically pleasing displays and felt so deeply inspired by the creativity in these spaces and the people that filled them.
As I walked back to the church where we were staying, I glanced down at a newspaper that lay on the ground and the headlines read, “Growing bolder” in bold letters across the front page. Such a confirmation of what God had already spoken to me earlier in the week!
The reason that we were in Byron Bay over the week of “Schoolies” which is the Aussie version of Spring Break. YWAM works with an organization called “RedFrogs” that provides support to the teenagers graduating from high school. They come to Byron Bay (and other coastal towns as well) to celebrate their accomplishments and we were there to show them the love of Jesus in a practical way.
During that week, I learned first hand that evangelism is in essence seeing the needs around me and serving. It is being the hands and the feet of Jesus. It can mean holding back someone’s hair while they’re too drunk to do so themselves. Or simply giving them a drink of water. Ultimately, evangelism is pointing them to a better way but first, it means meeting people in their place of need with a bit of kindness and genuine love and drawing them into truth.
I’m learning that evangelism is more a lifestyle; it is simply telling God that we’re available to do His work as we go about the mundane tasks in our day to day life. It isn’t so much filling a certain quota or flaunting about all the people we’ve converted.
(The Hub where the RedFrogs and YWAM were based out of.)
Evangelism is about this lifelong relationship with Jesus that just keeps getting better and allowing His joy to spill out to those around us. Evangelism is learning to understand people and in order to do that, you have “to stand under people.”
As dusk fell on our first day in Byron, a few of us sat outside of the Hub and played instruments and sang. Two people walked by, one with a double bass and the other having one guitar in one hand and another strapped to his back. We invited them to come over and play with us and spent the next hour or so swapping songs and talking to them.
One of their friends came and joined us. He sat down next to me and introduced himself, “I’m Gossie.” We got to talking about traveling. “I like adventure, so I’m a sky-dive assistant.” He went on to talk of all the places he’s been and how he almost died in Bolivia because he had appendicitis and was far away from a hospital. He survived, obviously, but had his appendix removed and lost a lot of blood. “I thought it was the end. I said my prayers and my only regret was that I hadn’t told my family goodbye.”
I had to leave before our conversation was over but I felt at peace because I knew that my interaction with Gossie wasn’t wasted.
The nights where our outreach team wasn’t on shift, we would walk around the park (where the hub was set up) and we’d talk to the high school kids. It was probably mostly due to how intoxicated the kids were, but they were so open and receptive to God. I had one conversation with a girl who told me that she was skeptical about prayer. She went on to tell me about how every one of her family members had failed at this test that was important for them to pass in order to be accepted into University (or ‘Uni’ as they call it here). At the end of our conversation, I said to her, “Look, I know you’re skeptical about prayer but how would you feel about me praying that you would pass that test?” Her eyes got moist with tears and she said, “Please do.”
I met Mattice, pictured above, in downtown Byron Bay and me and my friend paused to listen to him play his music and then we struck up a conversation. I asked him what brings him most joy in his life and he said,”Music and surfing but also traveling.”
On Wednesday evening, YWAM Brisbane joined YWAM Townsville and YWAM Byron Bay along with the RedFrogs volunteers for an open worship night before we hit the streets.
We had a time to pray over each other and the guy who sat next to me turned to me and said, “I don’t know how you feel about spiders, but I got this picture of you being a spider making a web. I see that you are filled with so much creativity and you’re making this intricate web and you can’t necessarily see the beauty because you’re too close up but people are going to be caught up in the beauty of the gospel and be drawn to God because of what they see in you. You know how spider webs look in the early morning when the light is shining through the dew and everything is sparkling? That’s what people will see when they look at you; a beautiful masterpiece.” I was stunned.
Later that evening, I met Bintou. She’s originally from Nigeria but migrated to Australia 17 years and has raised all three of her children here. I asked her if she had any life advice for me and she said, “Don’t be afraid to love. And dance like there’s no tomorrow.”
One night, I was standing in the hub talking to several kids and one guy struck up a conversation with me. I didn’t even have to bring up God, because he did! “I just don’t see how God could be good because He let my uncle be killed.” I listened and then had the opportunity to share a little bit of my own story about losing my dad and brother and struggling for years to understand God’s goodness but then finally realizing that for me, God was the only way to find healing from the trauma of losing loved ones. He listened attentively and then asked me to pray for him. The whole time that we were talking, his friends were boisterously chatting, “C’mon mate! Let’s go get a drink!” But as soon as I started praying, they quieted down and after I had finished praying they said, “Can you pray for us too?”
As the week drew to a close, my outreach team and I went up to the lighthouse. This is the Eastern-most point of Australia and even though I’d been along the beach all week, I was stunned with the breathtaking view as we arrived at the top. Ocean spread out on 3/4 of the horizon.
Byron Bay has a deeply spiritual atmosphere. It is a place where many people come to seek God or to “find themselves.” We spent time taking in the incredible scene of ocean crashing in over the rocks below us and then retrieved guitar and box drum from the car and spent time in worship up there and then spent time praying and processing through what all had happened during the week.
There was something so incredible about ending the week on that note, taking in beauty and listening to God out on the rocks as the waves crashed in below. It gave us strength to finish our last night of ministry well.
Thanks for taking the time to read this! I’d love to hear back from you, so if you have questions about what I’m doing here, drop them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.