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INTERNATIONAL LETTER

We came seeking to encourage, train, and equip. We shared not only our words but our lives.

Mission Tour Australia: Connecting in Christ

Australia is a wonderful country possessing natural beauty, vibrant cities, welcoming towns, and an amazing array of plants and animals. Australia is also home to a caring community of brothers and sisters in Christ. In 2019, my wife, Cindee, and I were privileged to spend several weeks with six Australian congregations as the inaugural representatives of Mission Australia Tour. MTA is a visionary effort by Australian church leaders to expand the mission of Christ in Australia and beyond.

We came seeking to encourage and equip but we were also encouraged and equipped by the many members of God’s family. These brothers and sisters serve as faithful witnesses to Christ in their communities. We came with few (very precious) connections to God’s family in Australia. Many of these connections were from 2004 when we brought a student group from Harding University for a semester study abroad. Others were connections I had made during the first intensive course for Klesis in 2014.  When we departed, we left with many more connections to an extended family that is spread across the continent. 

We spent time with six churches and with members from a number of other congregations. Our messages and conversations were received with expectation and with an appropriate and helpful level of reflection from God’s Word. We grew together in the Lord and in our desire to continue becoming fellow followers of Jesus. The small group studies, the seminars, and the ‘casual’ conversations were filled with discussions of spiritual growth and a desire to reach others with the Good News of Jesus. 

Both the formal and informal leadership of churches seemed focused on pursuing the mission of God. I truly appreciated being included in several meetings with fellow shepherds as they prayed and sought both the welfare of the sheep in their care and the effectiveness of the ministries undertaken to reach their communities for Christ. It was encouraging to see godly men humbly seeking to shepherd the family of God’s people placed in their care. Sharing in these meetings reminded me again of the wisdom of God in having congregations led by shepherds who are committed to reflecting the character of Christ and leading as the Good Shepherd directs.

 

The Christians who served the congregation and the community using their unique talents and gifts were another encouragement during our visit. On many occasions we observed various members of these congregations serving in wonderful ways. Their love for one another was obvious. Stories and reports of individual members and families serving others as they lived out their witness to Christ were common in conversations. Displays, posters, and announcements were filled with efforts of ministry both within the congregations and to the communities that surround them. This outreach was not just limited to their immediate surroundings but was reflected in mission efforts both within Australia and beyond.

We experienced a level of hospitality and acceptance that reflected the desire of our Lord when he declared that the world will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another. In each of the four cities we visited – Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Melbourne – we were provided not only shelter but inclusion into the host families. We were blessed by the many acts of kindness and witnessed the way that Christ lived in each family member.

 

This hospitality extended to the seminars, classes, and other times spent with Christians who meet at Eastside, Macquarie, The Point, Holland Park, Malaga, and Belmore Road. The members were inviting, engaging, and encouraging. The congregations were diverse in a way that reflected their communities but the diversity was not a barrier to being a caring family. Cindee and I were impressed with the intentionality of all members to include and encourage one another. 

We came seeking to encourage, train, and equip. We shared not only our words but our lives. But God, as he often does, blessed us with encouragement from an expanding family. We witnessed a deep and growing commitment to Christ, a desire and pursuit of the mission of God, and a vision that embraces the entire world. What a visit!

Daniel Stockstill is an elder with the Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas, and Associate Dean of the College of Bible and Ministry at Harding University.     stockstill@harding.edu

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