A chance to chat missions
Raising up young people for mission
I want others to share my passion for mission. My interest in overseas missions began around the age of 10 when I started to read lots of missionary biographies found on the bookshelves at home (my father was a pastor and children’s ministry worker). In high school, this interest was developed by monthly mission prayer meetings before evening church. At university, I attended various mission events in my local area. In 2000, I went to theological college with a view to going overseas for university student work or Bible translation, but instead I married and became a minister’s wife doing mission in churches in Australia.
Promote a passion for mission
I was the missions coordinator at my church on the Gold Coast for nearly seven years. When I first took on the role, little was known about the missionaries our church supported. To promote a passion for mission amongst our church members, I organised regular PowerPoint prayer updates in church services, prayer evenings, and an annual May missions month. Whenever our mission partners were on home assignment, I invited them to run a prayer and information evening. At these events, I had conversations with several different young people from our church who expressed an interest and desire to serve God in either short- or long-term overseas missions. I decided to gather these young people together and the Chance to Chat Missions Group was formed.
Gather those interested
The purpose of the Chance to Chat Missions group was for young people to share their short-term experiences and vision for overseas missions and to pray for and support each other. I also encouraged the group to see themselves as missionaries in their familiar Australian context, always seeking opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus with others.
At the first meeting in 2015, we had six young adults. We met four times that year. By the end of the year, we had 20 young adults meeting in our home to chat about missions.
I aimed to expose them to different aspects of overseas missions and give opportunities for them to meet past and current missionaries firsthand. The meetings were open forum, to share and ask questions. I wanted to challenge them to think through what it means to serve overseas.
At our first meeting, people shared their experiences of short-term mission (trips with schools or medical student placements) and expressed their interest and desire to serve overseas, and we prayed for each other. A retired missionary who attended our church came and gave valuable insight into her experience of organizing short-term teams in China.
At the second meeting, our mission partners from Central Asia were on home assignment after 10 years on the field. It was a fantastic opportunity for the group to get to know this missionary family better and to ask a range of questions about long-term mission work. Some of the questions asked were:
- How do you balance family life with mission work?
- What is it like to work with people of different theological backgrounds/church persuasions?
- What if your desire to work overseas conflicts with your parents/family?
Our mission partners answered these questions and many more. It was exciting to see young people thinking seriously through the issues involved in committing to long-term missionary service.
Short-term mission trip
Several in the Chance to Chat Missions group were interested in going on a short-term mission trip, so I invited Sam McGeown (former missionary in Japan) to share at our third meeting. Sam shared the possibility of forming a Go Explore Missions team—short-term mission exploration trips run by the local branch of the Church Mission Society (CMS)—to visit our partner missionaries in Japan, Dene and Rachel Hughes. The group was excited by this prospect, so I sounded out this idea with the Hughes to see if it was viable to send a short-term team from our church. The Hughes were keen to do it, so I decided to organise a team.
At our final meeting of 2015, Dene Hughes was on home assignment, so he came and shared the ups and downs of life in another culture, the difficulties of Japanese language learning, and his experiences working with KGK (Japanese university student movement). Dene’s frankness and honesty about his experience helped the group to realize that long-term mission service is hard work but very valuable in sharing the gospel. The Chance to Chat Missions group decided to form a Go Explore Missions team to visit Japan for two weeks at the end of 2016. Seven young adults committed to join the team. Those who couldn’t go agreed to encourage, support, and pray for the team.
Prepare the short-term team well
As I had young kids to care for, I sadly couldn’t go, so I asked Sam McGeown to be the team leader. He agreed, and I would help with the team preparation.
In 2016, the Chance to Chat Missions group started meeting monthly as we prepared the team for their short-term mission trip. There were four aspects to the training meetings:
- Six Bible studies on the biblical theology of mission.
- CMS “Go Explore Manual” for short-term mission trip preparation.
- Discovering and sharing about Japan and its culture—each team member prepared a short presentation.
- Practical aspects of the short-term trip.
Part of this last practical aspect of the training was to teach the Go Explore team how to engage with the rest of our church in raising support for the short-term mission trip.
To do this, we had members of the Go Explore team speak at Sunday services. We developed a support brochure for the team to hand out to church members, family, and friends. We also gave out envelopes to the church for financial gifts.
Involve the whole church
We organised a Go Explore Japan prayer night for the whole church. The team made sushi to raise funds. We gathered prayer points from the team members and shared an update, photos, and prayer points from the Hughes family, and prayed in small groups. About 60–70 people from church came to support the team. The team subsequently ran a car wash and a bake sale to raise funds. These fundraisers were multipurpose. Not only did they raise finances for the team but they also engaged the rest of the church in learning more about Japanese culture and were a source of encouragement to the team.
Before departure, we set up a private Facebook group so people at church could receive daily prayer requests while the team was in Japan; many people signed up. It was exciting to see the whole church getting behind the team to encourage and support them financially and prayerfully as they prepared to Go Explore Japan.
When the team returned from Japan, they shared their experiences in church services, and many people were encouraged by their stories. Sam and I also held a debriefing session for the team to help them think through their short-term experience and the cultural differences they encountered and to encourage them to keep thinking about long-term missions.
What the Chance to Chat Missions achieved
The biblical and cross-cultural training and preparation was really helpful for the Go Explore Japan team and equipped them well for their short-term mission trip. It was also fantastic to see the whole church supporting the team and our partner missionaries in Japan more as a result. The Chance to Chat Missions group achieved my purpose in inspiring young people to think seriously about overseas missions and develop a greater passion for mission in the whole church. I hope that you might be able to use these ideas to inspire your supporting churches, or even the churches you work with in Japan, to get their young and not-so-young people to consider their involvement in mission.
Where they are now
I recently contacted the 2016 Go Explore team to see what they are currently thinking about overseas missions. Of the seven members:
One is studying part-time at a theological college, working in music production, and starting a ministry apprenticeship at his church. He, with his wife, are still considering overseas missions.
Two got married; he works as a ministry apprentice with overseas students for AFES (Australian university student movement) at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and she is a Japanese and English teacher at a high school. They are considering overseas mission.
One works as an occupational therapist, considering long-term missions with her husband.
Another one is also an occupational therapist, and though health issues may prevent overseas missions, she is active in local mission in a regional Australian town.
One is studying to be a primary teacher after completing a linguistics/Japanese language degree. He is considering long-term missions with his wife.
One is working as a theme park/entertainment precinct designer, planning an internship with Quizworks (an Australian Christian puppetry evangelism outreach for children), and after that maybe attending Bible college.