Schoolies in Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay is a small beach town located in the far-northeastern most corner of the state of New South Wales, Australia (about four hours from where I live in Brisbane). Because of Byron Bay’s unique location and stunning beauty, it has become a deeply spiritual place and draws people from all over the world.  In the evenings we would often find a group of hippies gathered in a circle  playing the drums and other homemade instruments as people danced under the moon next to the sea.

During the second half of Schoolies, I got transferred to Byron Bay, which is a couple of hours south from where I had been working with RED FROGS in the Gold Coast. The environment in Byron Bay during schoolies was completely different from the Gold Coast. It was so much more relaxed, with only a couple hundred of schoolies in Byron Bay versus 22,000 in Gold Coast. We got to build more long-term connections with Schoolies as we saw the same ones every night. A few of them chose to follow Jesus, which was super exciting!

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Thursday night when I arrived into Byron Bay, I was standing outside of “The Hub” which was the volunteer tent that RedFrogs put up to give aid and assistance to schoolies. I looked out over the sea with the moonlight sparkling on the water. As the sea breeze blew through my hair, I had a flashback to a year ago when I was standing in this exact same spot. I remembered how God spoke to me then, “A year from now, you’ll be here.” In that moment I thought, “No, I won’t.” But then over the next few months, God gently nudged until I finally said, “Yes” to His plan for me to return to Australia. But I thought God meant that I would be back in Australia, not necessarily in the exact same spot a year later!

Our ministry time each day started in the late afternoon and would go until about midnight, so I would get up and run at sunrise and explore the little shops scattered throughout the neighborhood of the church where we were staying.

One morning after my run, I was sitting on a driftwood log, watching surfers catch waves. Meanwhile, this middle-aged man came in from taking a morning swim and smiled at me and said, “Isn’t it a beautiful morning to be alive?” I laughed and agreed. “Can I sit?” he asked. “Sure!” We chatted at first, then talked about his job at the Byron Bay Cookie Company. He recounted his fishing and snorkeling stories and about the yearly whale migration. The whole time that he and I were talking, I kept praying about bringing up spirituality. But  our conversation ended and he left before I had the opportunity to ask this man if he knew Jesus.

On my run home, I felt a bit disappointed in myself and so I told God, “If you give me another opportunity today, I will take it.”

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Later on, I was prayer walking along the beach before our volunteer time began and I saw this rock formation that fascinated me and I wanted to explore more, so I went in closer to take photos of the textures. On the other side, I saw a girl a good distance away. The way that she was standing looking out at the waves would’ve made a perfect picture. I was standing there with  my camera slung over my shoulder, analyzing the lines and lighting and mentally framing the perfect picture, and wanting to take a photo of her. But as a general rule, I try to meet strangers before taking their photo, so I didn’t take it. I went closer, taking photos fo the textures and colors that I was seeing and then she turned around and said, “Can you take a photo of me?” And I felt dumbfounded because if only she would’ve known that I was wanting to take one of her!

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She ran over to grab her phone and I said, “Oh, I’ll take it on my camera if that’s okay because it will be higher quality and then I can use the wifi on my camera to download it to my phone and then I’ll airdrop it to you!” I took photos of her and then had trouble with airdrop not working. We began talking and I found out that she had just arrived that day from Germany to work on a film project about the Back Packers traveling through a town close to Byron. She expressed her uncertainty about her ability to excel at the project. Since airdrop wasn’t doing its job of transferring the photos from my phone to hers, we exchanged contact information.

Just before we were about to part ways, I knew that this was that opportunity that I had prayed for earlier. “Hey,” I said, “I don’t know what your religious viewpoints are but I feel like God wants me to tell you that you are loved and that you are beautiful and that He is going to help you to excel with this project.” She began to cry and said that it meant so much to hear that. “There’s something different about you,” she said, “I don’t know exactly how to describe it but you are so happy and I can tell that you love life.” I told her that I haven’t always been this way but that Jesus transformed my life and that He would love to transform her life. She said she’s still trying to figure out what she believes but thanked me for sharing and we parted ways.

It was encouraging to have this encounter because I struggle to share my faith. It’s much easier for me to live out my faith, to do kind things, say kind things, carry the Spirit of Christ with me but it is so difficult for me to speak it out. But I am trying to grow in boldness and to share the good news, because IT IS GOOD!

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I spent Thanksgiving in Byron Bay, eating avocado toast and finishing up our last day of ministry with RedFrogs in downtown Byron. When we had packed up, we ordered pizza and ate it around the picnic table before heading home to Brisbane. Time and time again, as I’ve stepped out in faith and ventured thousands of miles away, God has provided me with a community of people around me to be like family.

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God has been so faithful to me during my time in Australia. The adjustment was harder than I expected but as of this week, I do feel settled and happy in my life here now.

Gaining Inspiration

I got so inspired to create things and to create my own art as I walked around and took in all the details and textures and styles and colors of things being sold in artsy shops around Byron Bay.

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McTavish Cafe and Surf Shop

McTavish is a custom surf shop with an espresso machine at the checkout counter, just like so many other Aussie shops. I passed this place on my morning run and came back later to grab a cuppa and use wifi to do some prep for my upcoming outreach to Malaysia. But while I waited for my latte, I walked around and just took photos.

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A proper depiction of Byron Bay culture.

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McTavish has a surf club and the group of surfers that I talked about earlier actually came from this cafe and were quite talented.

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Sunrise at the Lighthouse:

The Cape Byron Lighthouse is perched on the Easternmost part of Australia with a gorgeous panoramic view of the ocean. On our last morning in Byron, I took a couple of friends along to watch the sunrise. We had to park outside of the gate (which was still locked since it was so early in the morning) but we walked up to the lookout and got there just in time to see the sun slip over the horizon.

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Peaceful morning, sun slipping gradually over the horizon. Yesterday’s worries are gone and today rises with new possibility.

The sun moves slowly up the horizon. The waves crash in over rocky shore, ebbing and flowing. Wind blows the grassy turf and birds fly overhead. I take it all in, letting the newness wash over my soul.

This particular spot is called, “Tallows Beach” and is visible from the lighthouse in Byron Bay. It is a popular surf spot and if you look closer, you’ll see that the swell is dotted with surfers waiting to catch a wave.

That’s a wrap for Byron Bay! I hope you enjoyed this.

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