I have heard alot of things about “Beach Mission” from friends in different Christian circles, both young and old. It seems to be the popular, fun, engaging and loving way to spend your time as a Christian in the New Year. At the back of my mind, I wanted to test this and see if what was said about it could be matched with my own first-hand experience of it. I learnt over the ten days I was there, that the rumours were indeed true! Alas, all these things rang true but mostly what stood out for me was the role of service and the abounding love that Christians can show to one another and their communities.
So this year, 2011-2012, over New Years, I spent ten days in community with other Christians from all over Sydney (some where strangers, others not). We did this by camping on a designated hill top, sharing our tents, our bathrooms, and eating the same food.
My role on mission was head Chef! Something that scared me from the outset because I wasn’t completly sure whether I could organise myself around the schedule, the seemingly inexpensive budget and muster up enough energy to continue cooking everyday and evening. I did however feel confident in the recipes I was preparing, their ability in feeding the team and my capabilities in the kitchen tent (whether on the grass or on the floor I was excepting of the challenge of camp-style cooking). But despite my trepidation, perhaps at maybe someone falling ill from a hygeine issue, I feel I excelled in my role. This is not because I learnt to rely on my cooking skills or safety precautions (though they were numerous) but because of the surprising yet welcomed unwavering support by team members. It was one of the first times that I truly felt for certain that I knew what use these cooking skills could have, and how I could be creative with this great gift my family has passed onto me.
Upon a recent visit, my aunty from Malaysia was sharing with me about how she had a desire to go on an overseas mission yet she didn’t know entirely how she could be of use. To her delight, a cooking position came up which allowed her to use her cooking expertise and business knowledge. Yet in the context of serving in Africa, she really was challenging and expanding her skills honed in a restaurant kitchen to serve the medical team by assisting with food functions. Although my time on mission was shorter in comparison and had a different impact on the community in the caravan park in Australia to my Aunties’ in much-needy Africa, I really felt strongly about clinging on to what I thought of as her lesson in trusting God. That as believers, we can have a real desire to serve God in unknown places yet if we learn to nurture a deep trust in the Lord we can always take comfort in the truth that He is full of provision and will show us a way. That he will provide the right opportunity to use the gifts he has shaped in us and these can be a blessing to those in need.
Ultimately, serving the team and the people at Regatta point Caravan park was an intense yet highly satisfying time to remember and understand what it means to be Christ’s servant and be stewards of our gifts. I think it is so appropriate that the mission, hosted by SUFM, follows the festive season of Christmas. At a time when Christians rejoice in the coming of their saviour – the light of the world, and are spiritually preparing for His return, it is almost certain that what folllows is a New Year which takes hold of the Day. For if we are still living in this world, many people need to hear of Christ’s goodness and forgiveness, and to take hold of the moment – in our contemporary society, means to spend time away from our rushing-hectic-frenetic lifestyle to be in unity and community with fellow believers.
And lastly, what is so lovely about mission is that by simply being a loving Christian community that lives in harmony and forbears with one another (as Paul talks about in Ephesians – the book we spent our devotions in) is a true witness to non believers. That when outsiders look on us as a group and see our actions to one another, they can be inspired by the fact that individuals from very different social backgrounds in Sydney are living and breathing in the same space! It can cause them to wonder how they are different in the way they live their lives. So – I’m truly relieved to know that ultimately, the work on beach mission boils down to our loving actions and care towards the people we encounted and that this pointed them to Jesus Christ and the Father of all people.