"Hip hop is here!", declared a young student to an audience of, mainly older, conservative country folk, over a shared meal together.
What on earth?? Ok, a little bit of context: This was the beginning of a testimony shared by a young man about how God had used hip hop to challenge and encourage him in his faith. To think about how he can use all his gifts and talents – including hip hop dancing – to the glory of God.
This young man was a part of a group of 10 students and 2 leaders who have just returned, tired but bubbly, from six days of serving on mission to a small town in country Victoria called Maffra.
I work with these students, striving to mentor and train them and build them up in their faith so that I may, in some small way, as Paul does in Colossians 1 verse 28, proclaim Christ, 'admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.'
Part of helping these students – who range from 19-25 years old, reach maturity is to have them experience the joy of serving others in a variety of ways, doing things they might not have realized they were capable of.
On this mission, two guys preached excellent sermons on the Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13). The team visited two aged care facilities, sang carols and delighted the residents with their friendliness and conversations. The guys visited a correctional facility and were touched by the fact that the inmates were human, just like them.
They ran a Christmas program for a school, bringing the message of Jesus, God's chosen King, to 100 or so primary-aged children. They led bible studies, prayer meetings, and visited people's homes for practical help, like gardening and cleaning.
A huge highlight was hearing each student give their testimony; that is, the story of how God has worked in their lives. For some, it was a clear before/after conversion story. For others, as they reflected on growing up in Christian homes and schools, they gave thanks to God for the way he used ordinary means – parents, church, youth group, university ministry – to grow and mature them.
Not only did the students learn lots and grow in their faith, but I learned something about myself too. See, I'm a real details person. When events come up, put me on admin and watch everything run smoothly – of course! But with great strength comes great weakness; I like to do EVERYTHING myself (because then I know it's been done right!). But that's not how this Mission operates!
Students take lead
I had to step back, coach from the sidelines, and let the students take the lead. Yet, when I did, the joy I experienced from watching them 'fly solo' was so much more than if I had done it all myself! Seeing God work through these young people to touch the hearts of people in Maffra was infinitely more worthwhile than ever doing it all myself.
Through all the work, there was a whole lot of laughter and fun had by the team. Put 10 students from very different backgrounds together, and you never know what might happen. Yet, no one was left out. Because they had one very important thing in common; their goal. To serve God, and to love each other. From there, everything seemed to fall into place.
It was also great fun watching mostly city-fied students enjoy the country. Things like country hospitality – great spreads of food of every variety – were devoured with great delight (I think we've all come back about 5kg heavier!).
Staying on a dairy farm, they learned about 'low fat' cows (Fresians) and 'full fat' cows (Jerseys). They discovered cow tipping is a myth, learned how to tackle a dirt road (carefully!), experienced the thrill of a 4 wheel drive excursion, and learned from the example of a tight knit community that really cares about each of its members.
It's always hard to come back from experiences like this. You're not quite the same person as you were when you left. These students came on Mission expecting to be the ones serving and being a blessing to the Maffra community. Yet, as the week went on, they discovered that, in fact, they too were experiencing blessing and service in return.
In fact, it's just as Paul wrote in Acts 20 verse 35:
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
Sarah Urmston is based in Melbourne and shares a 5x7m flat with her husband, Stephen. She works with RMIT Melbourne's Christian Union group as an apprentice, and loves the privilege of sharing Jesus with the students. Since beginning student ministry, her desire – nay – need for coffee has grown exponentially.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html