On our 2015 Tasmanian Country Town Tour last week I was invited to speak to the Launceston Gateway Baptist Youth Group and who turned up – young people from Congo, Ethiopia, Sudan, Bolivia, Nepal and much else besides.
Our long time Well-Being Australia Tasmanian co-ordinator Steve Suba arranged for me to speak to the youth group and deliberately held back the international nature of the members of the youth group so as to surprise me.
Indeed I was surprised. But this is regular youth group 101 for Gateway Baptist. A bus collects a whole bunch of these young people from around Launceston and delivers them to the church and returns them home after the Tuesday night function.
Yes, that's right, Tuesday night youth group. This was thought through carefully as weekend are so full on today regardless of where one might live in Australia and so Tuesday nights were deemed the best evening for the youth group.
There is a planned roster set out by the leaders Scott Beeston and Tommo Priest with an elderly gentleman Peter Morehouse who casts a supervisory eye over everyone. Peter spent 15 years in Bolovia as a missionary and adopted three Bolovian children now teenagers.
As these young people, a United Nations youth group, came through the church youth group's upper room door (it was a cold evening so the door was kept closed), there was this mass of young people from every quarter of the globe.
Scott and Thommo have a program set out which includes down time (a game or two), some serious time (a presentation), small group discussion, a prayer time and then supper. Youth group 101 anywhere in Australia.
The game scheduled for last Tuesday night was a game I too played as a teenager and it seemed so familiar to me all these years later that I too was invited to participate. Thommo and Scott held the stick (Limbo) and so the taller ones started first and they needed to bring their entire bodies under the stick without any part of their body touching the stick and forwards. Their torsos leaning back.
Everyone had a lot of fun, the shortest tends to win these sort of games and sure enough the younger shorter ones featured strongly to the eventual winner.
There were two parts of my presentation, the first included an introduction, then a teaching on Paul's first missionary journey and how through a dream they took the Gospel into Europe for the very first time.
In effect, being an historian, I was able to demonstrate how 'time lines' work and that today, we can trace that time line from us here in Australia when Captain Phillip bought with the First Fleet a Christian Chaplain, and by the time, show how the message of the Gospel could be historically traced back to this historical moment in time.
The question therefore became, not one of historicity, as the time line illustrates the Gospel message, rather not believing the Gospel message and therefore thinking about what might be some of the reasons it might be rejected – for next week's small groups.
The second part was showing two short videos from our YouTube Channel, one of the 2015 young writers conference and the other an interview with Charlotte Goiris on the Australian Missionary News IPTV – a model and a Miss Universe and Miss World contestant.
Tahnee March one of the leader helpers from the WEC (Worldview Bible College) provided a balance to the leadership.
These international young people were fascinated by my white beard one even asking whether I was a Santa Clause, one asked whether the girl in my story became my wife (she did) and everyone wanted to be part of the photo with me and wanted to see themselves on Facebook.
They were introduced to new words such as opulence and in their small groups the following week will be thinking about why their friends and many others reject 'following Jesus' as a way of life.
Peter Morehouse told me these young people make a big effort to come out on a Tuesday night to come to the youth group and be presented with strong Gospel messages such as hope and grace and true love.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html