The locals affectionally call it, “Goldie.” Tall sky scrapers line the shores of what is called, “Surfers Paradise” where hundreds of people come to swim and surf and enjoy the beach.
Gold Coast is about an hour and a half by train from where I live and I’ve been here twice before on day trips. It’s where I saw my first whale in the wild! But this time, I’ve come here for different reasons. Why have I come here? During early December when Aussie students graduate from high school, they travel to the beach with their friends to celebrate their accomplishments by partying. It’s similar to what “Spring Break” would be in the USA but one of the starkest differences between “Spring Break” and “Schoolies” is that Schoolies is for 17 and 18 year old since the legal drinking age in Australia is 18. Which means that it easily becomes a place where alcohol and drugs are abused.
On the first night that we gathered at a RedFrogs rally to worship before going out into the streets to minster to schoolies. The leader of RedFrogs shared his vision with us about winning this generation of young people by learning to serve.
“Serve and love this generation. To win a generation, you just have to serve a generation. That’s what Jesus did.”
Red Frogs recognises that the culture of young people is dominated by alcohol. In situations such as Schoolies/Leavers Week, excessive consumption of alcohol and other substances means that things can often get out of hand and potentially alter the direction of a young person’s future. Our volunteers act as the eyes and ears in accommodation venues and out on the streets, providing a positive peer presence to school leavers.
What redfrogs does: “WE ASSIST SCHOOL LEAVERS (OR SCHOOLIES) IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS, OFFERING PANCAKE COOK-UPS, ROOM VISITS & GAMES, ROOM CLEANS, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, WALK HOMES AND OFFERING THE LOLLIES, ‘RED FROGS’ TO THE SCHOOLIES.”
It was estimated that there were 20,000-22,000 schoolies in Gold Coast alone. Each RedFrogs team (which consisted of four people) was assigned to certain hotels and if the hotel was big enough, we were assigned to a certain part of the hotel. Me and my team served in a small family run hotel on the edge of town. We started by going around and knocking on their doors and meeting all of the schoolies; giving them lollies and a card with our hotline number on it. The strategy that RedFrogs has created, is to meet them and build relationship before they are in a moment of crisis. That way when they are low, they know where to turn.
I scribbled into my journal late one night after a long shift out on the streets:
It’s dark and I’m laying on my balcony out under the stars replaying all the events of today. I’ve had so many conversations over the past couple of days with schoolies that have made me think, “What would Jesus be saying if He was in this situation?” And I guess that’s the joy of Him living inside of me, when I don’t have words, I can tap into His wisdom. Sometimes that means praying while others talk. Oftentimes it means laying aside my own human judgement to look at people through Jesus’ eyes. As I walk the streets night
after night with my team, instead of focusing on the darkness, I’m starting to get such a heart of compassion for all of these people who are so desperate to know love and to understand what the true meaning of life is.
We got a few hotline calls for pancake cook-ups at other hotels. I was thrilled with this view as I flipped pancakes and lathered them in Nutella while my teammates sat in the living and dining area of a hotel suite, talking and building relationships with Schoolies. One thing that really impressed me throughout the week was how shocked the schoolies were that we had paid to come and to help them. They couldn’t believe that hundreds of people had come together to volunteer and just to show that they mattered and that they weren’t alone.
There were heavy situations through the week; suicide ideations, alcohol and drug overdoses that left people unable to care for themselves. But one thing that surprised me almost more than anything were the individuals who were sick of the party scene and felt the loneliness and dissatisfaction that was so rampant everywhere.
Surfers Paradise, 05:00 o’clock.
Even though we worked through the nights most nights, I would still usually get my morning run in along the beach before crashing for a few hours of sleep and starting the shift all over again in the early afternoons.
Time and time again, God has put me in situations of intense and exhausting ministry but there is always beauty to meet me in those places and to remind me that even in a broken world, there is so much beauty waiting to revive our souls.
ESPL is a quaint little cafe that had a good view of the sea and was conveniently located in close proximity to where RedFrogs had set up their headquarters. While I am not a coffee addict (I don’t need a cup a day to keep the blues away) I call myself more of a “social coffee drinker” meaning, that if I’m with people who are drinking coffee and I know that the cafe has a good roast, I might order a cuppa Joe. But I’m equally satisfied with a tea or smoothie.
I was delighted with not only the smooth iced latte that I enjoyed at ESPL but also the friendly and welcoming staff working there.
Paradox Coffee Roasters:
On my last day in Gold Coast, my RedFrogs team leader took us to Paradox cafe since he had been telling us about all week. It was a little walk from Surfers Paradise but worth it! The staff were friendly, the big windows let in the midday sunlight and bathed all of us in golden warmth.
Australia has a strong cafe culture and it was interesting to hear the conversation about what makes or breaks a cup of coffee that my three Aussie teammates were having as we sat down and relaxed before our shift. They know their coffee!
Me? I’m always drooling over the pastry cabinet. When it comes to food, I’m pulled in by gourmet looking food that is fresh and smells as if it’s been pulled straight out of the oven. I also love when restaurants have good presentation and that’s something that Paradox excelled at.
That’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this little peak into Gold Coast. For privacy reasons, we didn’t take photos of the Schoolies but I’m linking the episodes that RedFrogs posted on their youtube channel to give an idea of how a week of Schoolies really is.
Up next, I’ll be posting about the second half of my Schoolies outreach week which was spent in Byron Bay.
Have a lovely day! -Gretta