Those of you have read the previous South Bank Mission Reports will have some idea of the nature of the ministry and the diversity of people it attracts therefore the methods and strategies we employ probably don’t need repeating. Here are some highlights.
As mentioned in my “Drawn To Something I Never Thought I'd Love" garden blog, two of my good friends from Victoria recently came to visit me.
Now an “amazing” thing happened, or at least you could say, something occurred that was divinely providential that would later connect to an experience at South Bank.
From Maranatha To Maranatha: During the week, while I was at work, my friends went to visit a beautiful place I had previously taken them to called “Wappa Dam” – a quiet serene place with a beautiful reserve that surrounds a large reservoir. While they were driving there, a campground with signage arching across the front entrance, reading “Maranatha,” caught their eye. This is not to be confused with M.M. as we know it. As it turned out, curiosity got the better of them and they decided to pull in and enquire what this ‘Maranatha’ group was all about. There happened to be a young man there cleaning his vehicle while a meeting was taking place in the main hall. My friends introduced themselves and conversed with this man. His name was Zach. He was a volunteer youth leader and he told them a little about what this church group was about. After a few minutes my friends made their way to the lovely restful Wappa falls/dam.
After I had finished work that day, I noticed a text message saying they were at Wappa dam and asked me if I’d like to join them there. Since I usually pass Wappa dam on the way home so I decided to meet up with them. (Now the irony of all this is that they did not tell me about their encounter/exploration with Maranatha, and meeting Zach.)
Later in the week I asked Igor and Stefan if they would like to come in for the day and join me and my other friend Blair in the ministry.
Beyond Coincidence: Then came Sabbath. Igor, Stefan and I drove to South Bank to join up with Blair and another friend named Richard in our outreach. South Bank is located on the other side of Brisbane – about a ninety-minute drive from where I live. So the chances of meeting anyone that I know from this side is remote. We met up with my other friends and as we are getting better at doing, we connected with people who were willing to pause for a while from their leisurely walk along the river path. We handed out DVD’s and brochures and after about and hour or so into the day, I saw my friend Igor look up while his eyes locked towards a young man accompanied with a friend heading toward us. “Hi, hey, how are you….!!!?” The young man seemed to wonder why Igor was talking to him as if he’d known him. “You remember don’t you, come on now; think! last week, remember?” (Igor is an experienced youth worker by profession and connects well with young people.) He continued, “Come on, you really love Jesus don’t you?!” Even at this point although the young man seemed cheerful and responsive, I could detect some uncertainty and a little embarrassment in his face, as the poor guy was struggling to recollect and make the connection. Then Igor said one word and the “penny dropped”; “Maranatha” – remember? Last week." And then, suddenly, it all came back to him. A little disconcerted he replied, “Oh yeah…. I remember now” (I couldn’t understand why at first Zach couldn't recall who Igor was. But I guess we have all had similar moments.) It is a bit like the disciple’s experience on the road to Emmaus when for a moment their “eyes were beholden” from recognizing Jesus.) It seemed like an amazing coincidence but we believe it was mysteriously divine – most certainly the Father’s providential leading. I came over to meet Zach and his friend Michael. They were still a little startled or humbled by the surprising encounter of meeting us, against all odds, this side of Brisbane at the same hour of the day they met Igor and Stefan days earlier in the week. This was a perfect time for Igor to take it to the next level and share some potentially life-changing literary treasure with him and his friend.
He showed him Christ’s Object Lessons and The Desire of Ages and encouraged Zach to read it saying that, “You’ll be truly blessed by these books…to which Zach happily accepted. Igor finished the conversation with, “Hey, you know what, I don’t think this is an accident, I think God wanted you to meet us here today” and going by their expression they seemed to agree. Then Zach and Michael touched by the Spirit continued on their way.
After they were gone I turned to Igor and said, “Igor I’d like you to write the next MaranathaMedia. mission report blog – you've got to share this! Well, I know he had a long drive back to Melbourne so I am taking the liberty to write it on his behalf.
There were a number of other positive experiences that day. There were actually five of us working together there this time. Among other things, we gave out many copies of one of our new favorites – “Back to Eden”, that inspiring “must see” gardening DVD, I wrote a separate blog about.
I think the memory of Zach’s happy face will remain in my memory for a while. I learned a real lesson from my God-fearing unassuming faithful buddies and how they always look for ways to engage with people. They are masters at knowing, “How to win friends and influence people” and most importantly, in a humble and sincere Christ-like way. Our friends are precious and are truly God’s gifts to us.
On the following Sabbath I met with a friend of mine named Blair and one of his friends for the South Bank ministry. Again we had a few more fresh and wonderful experiences with a diversity of folk ranging from Muslim’s, I guess you could say “New Agers” and others. We discussed ways in which we can simplify improve the overall aesthetic presentation of our ministry. (I have mentioned before, because of the huge damage caused by years of the promulgated Babylonian doctrines, most Aussies are not in any way attracted to anything they perceive as “religious” – and with this in view, can we blame them?! Religion has messed everything up and we are faced with the challenging task (proclamation of the second angel’s message) to try clear up some of the confusion about God and His character that makes people very reluctant to want to know Him.)
Working Simply and Wisely: During a quiet period we had a little informal business meeting and all three of us thought we need to be more “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” although I’m sure you’d assume we are pretty harmless fellows. We recognize that there is no question we are reaching certain people and they are usually the ones who are decidedly searching for something that will make a difference to their lives. And that’s good that we are reaching them but it’s not good enough in the sense we are missing out on others. There are too many people that are indifferent, don’t know they are lost or are in the valley of decision. It’s very sobering to realize their first impression of us and our set up could mean the difference of them stopping or just passing by. Therefore we are thinking of better marketing strategies with one simple punchy theme. Mixed topics can be a bit confusing for people IF that’s all they see at the beginning. The first impression must be that of a clear non-confusing uncluttered message that will awaken enquiry and serve as a lead-in. Sometimes you only get one chance and so we want to make the most of that one chance! Once people stop and talk, the rest becomes a lot easier. So in order to “upgrade” our standard, we plan to have more uniformity, T-shirts with a specific caption or clear image printed on them and a more simplified spread of resources on the table. Hopefully this will expand the range of people we hope to reach even if it’s just a little bit. If we lived in the 60’s or were set up in Africa or India it may not matter. In that case we could be more religiously open and direct, as those people have ravenous spiritual appetites and very quickly our table would be cleared of resources and we’d be packed up and gone in 10 minutes! But we live in 2012 in materialistic “rich and increased with goods” Australia. Hopefully when our new look gets underway, it will not appear “religious” and immediately close the door of people’s hearts. Hopefully it will serve to draw some of the larger non-churched or religiously indifferent segment – to at least give them another opportunity to reconsider some of the usual life-changing truths we carry in a way they have never heard before. I believe this is our greatest challenge, however, this is also where the Holy Spirit comes in.
We do have a few ideas, but if the Spirit of God impresses you with anything then feel free to share it with me and I can share it with my evangelistic buddies.
Please continue to pray for this ministry. Only this morning I received a phone call from one of our contacts I met last Sabbath after she had attended a conference. At the time she (a very well dressed Samoan lady) said she was “really searching…” This morning I talked with this lady for around 40 minutes. She called to tell me she and her sister had watched the health DVD’s we gave her (including “Luminous” and “Back to Eden”) last Sabbath and that she wants more! She wants to share them with her “Mormon” cousins! If that’s the case, and I did warn her, she might be in for a real spiritual battle and potential resistance. Please pray for her. (Blair and I plan to meet up with her again this coming Sabbath to pass on more material to her.) She told me her father (now passed away) loved the Bible and used to share Bible stories with her when she was a little girl and that although she kind of let things go a little it is starting to come back to her. It maybe inappropriate to disclose her name at here since it is not a common name and people may pick up on it, however, I will share a text I received from her just after our conversation.
“Thank you. I have prayed for Him [God] to help me with my journey and place the right people in front of me that will help me with my journey. God works in marvelous ways Jeff Wilson. Have a blessed day.”
Most Holy righteous Father: Forgive us for our slowness and our feeble ways. Forgive us for those times we have failed to work in a wise and tactful way that glorifies Thee. We thank you for your love and grace. Thank you for giving life and breathe to all. Thank you Father for sending the rain on the just and the unjust and drawing people through your Holy Spiritual life. Thank you for the wonderful opportunities to share the Gospel of the kingdom to the children of men. Father we pray for the Samoan lady mentioned, we pray for young Zach and his friend Michael and ask your blessing on their life and that you would move upon their hearts to continue the narrow path that leads to Your kingdom of glory. We pray for all the other unnamed people we met. All blessing glory and praise be unto Thee O God. Amen.