God has an interesting way of making me ‘eat my words!’ As I reflect back on some of the things I have said it is interesting how sometimes the complete opposite has happened.
I once said: “I could never be a youth pastor!” and I have now been a full time youth pastor for over 5 years!
I once said: “I could never live in Papakura” (after living most of my life on the North Shore) And a couple of months later I was living in Papakura.
I once said: “I will never be interested in off-shore missions” and I now find myself signed up for an off-shore mission trip to Vanuatu with the hope of taking my own youth group/young adults group there within the next couple of years.
I sometimes wonder if God hears our words, smiles to himself and says; “Yea right!”
My disinterest in off-shore missions was not because I didn’t see its value or importance; it was simply because my own heart was being led towards pastoral ministry and mission within the local community! Knowing that we have all been created with different gifts, which combined form the body of Christ, I was not worried that I was not interested in off-shore missions because I knew it was an area that excited other people – just not me!
Many of my youth and young adults often floated the idea of an off-shore mission trip past me but my disinterest, combined with a paralysing fear at the thought of taking a group under my care into an unknown country, prevented me from pursuing the idea any further.
In a recent job review, Geoff (minister of Papakura East Presbyterian Church) challenged me in this area and reaffirmed a point he had already tried to make with me over the years; “You should seriously consider an off-shore missions trip with our youth and young adults!”
In a similar way to a child kicking and screaming when they don’t get their own way I decided there was nothing left for me but to pursue an off-shore mission trip – little did I realise this was all part of God preparing me for what the future was going to hold!
Once I conceded I was left with the problem of where do I start? I knew nothing about off-shore missions.
After meeting with an Elder, who is our ‘mission’s guy’, I contacted ‘Global Missions’ with the hope that they would be able to provide me with the tools, materials and contacts to transform our idea of an off-short mission trip into reality.
The Very Rev. Pamela Tankersley (Global Missions coordinator) emailed me shortly after with some information about ‘Going Global’, a short term mission trip to Tanna Island, Vanuatu for young adults. She suggested it may be beneficial for me to experience a mission’s trip before leading one.
Geoff and I decided that because it was only 8 weeks away time was not on our side. There was also the added complication that I was scheduled for preaching and worship leading during the dates of the Vanuatu trip which compounded our decision that this trip would not be possible.
However, I think God had different ideas.
A few days later Dr. Carlton Johnstone (co leader of the Vanuatu trip and National Youth Ministry Development Leader) phoned me asking me to reconsider attending Vanuatu and all I can say is that he was very persistent and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. All the reasons I gave for not attending Vanuatu, Carlton, seemed to come up with a solution – including that if needed, he would find someone to preach in my absence.
Finally we agreed to take it to the church Eldership but I warned Carlton that we hadn’t given the Elders much time to think about this venture that he wanted me to embark on.
I don’t think I have ever seen the Elders make a decision so quickly – I almost thought they were going to pack my bags for me!
So, in a typical Tui billboard fashion Jeremy said; “I will never be interested in off-shore missions” and God replied “Yea Right”!
I guess all I can say now is; “Vanuatu, here I come!”
Training has commenced and we are now beginning week three. It is extremely interesting because I am still yet to meet anyone from the group (except for Carlton who I already knew). Training is fully on-line which works well as our group is scattered around New Zealand.
Week one consisted of introductions and developing an understanding of what we personally understood missions to be – it was great being able to start to interact with each other and see who else we will be serving alongside with in Vanuatu.
Week two began with the introduction of our team leaders and a summary of the training weeks ahead via video. We were given a couple of articles which introduced us to the concept of “Misso Dei” (mission originates from God) and how mission fits into the overall theme of the Bible. These were discussed alongside some of the history of Presbyterian mission and we were challenged with the concept of partnering with the people in Vanuatu and realising that through the relationships we establish we are all going to be helping each other.
Although it is interesting training on-line with people that we have never met before (the first week definitely felt a little weird) as the weeks progress the group is starting to open up and interact more with each other and I have no doubts that it is going to be an amazing trip.
I am excited at how everything is working together and although so much has already happened I know so much more is about to take place!
I can't help but thank God that he keeps challenging me to step out of the boat.