As I sat to reflect on the invitation to put together some thoughts on my experience with Lipscomb, the mention of “15 years” took me aback. Fifteen years? Really? Half my life? Wow - God has been so good to me! For half my life I have looked forward to June-July every year and the Lipscomb student’s arrival with great anticipation. For half my life I have had the delight of ever deepening friendship with my beloved Beth Jent – former LU student, part of the first ever trip to Brisbane in ‘99, current faculty at LU, wife to Mark (also a dear friend thanks to Lipscomb), mother to 3 and one of God’s greatest gifts to me.
Now of course, the yearly anticipation I mentioned above has changed over the years. Way back in that first year it was nerves, excitement and wonder. Who are these people? Will they like me? Will I like them? Why are they really coming here? I hope we don’t have to play any embarrassing games. I’m not kidding you, I really did think that. Being naturally shy and somewhat uncertain of myself, these seemingly confident, loving “rock star” students just completely won me over. That’s not to say that every student was loud and outgoing and that I was transformed into an outwardly confident teenager at the end of three weeks. On the contrary, what made them “rock stars” to me was the way each of them, in their own way, reached out to us and made us their priority, sometimes at the expense of their own comfort, as I found out as I got to know them better, and thus I saw afresh that people matter and are worth your discomfort. I had also been taught that community was important in the Christian walk. Well, watching these new friends open up and work together was Godly community coming alive before me and it made sense. I wanted to be a part of it. And thus I saw afresh that God can do great things through one soul committed to Him, but He can do even greater things through His people working together. The taste of God and fellowship I got through those weeks was GOOD and I’ve never gotten over it! It drives me still today! And I know I’m not the only one. Over those teenage/young adult years of students coming and going, a new culture developed amongst our young people. We enjoyed and benefited greatly from the mentorship of Lipscomb interns - wonderful people who gave months of their time to live life with us while they left their immediate family behind in America. We had weekly guys and girls studies, we had Sunday afternoon devo and sports, we had weekend activities – we took every opportunity to be together, to sing praises, to learn, to have fun, to serve and it was awesome. It’s a season of my life that I look back on with much joy. The particulars of my “community” have changed over the years as the seasons change but the importance of it remains and I’m grateful for the tangible example Lipscomb students and interns set in some formative years.
Fast forward to the last handful of years. My involvement with Lipscomb in Brisbane is primarily in an organisational role - a bit part in a team of volunteers who do what they can to facilitate a fantastic trip for Lipscomb and Brisbane students alike. When June-July rolls around, if all is completely perfect in the world, Beth Jent is about to land on Aussie shores to accompany the current batch of students, and I’m on cloud nine. But even if she doesn’t, I still look forward to this time of year. It’s a reminder of God’s goodness to me personally but it’s also exciting to wonder what other great friendships will form out of this trip and how He will connect the dots individually for students but also, how He will connect families and ministries forevermore because a student in Tennessee said “yes I’ll go” and a heart in Brisbane said “yes I’ll let them into my world”.
I believe that at the heart of Lipscomb’s trips to Brisbane is the desire to build relationships and closeness to God so that we can respond to God’s call to love the world to Him, wherever that journey may take us. My “yeses” have taken me all over the world and I wouldn’t exchange those opportunities for anything, but the great encouragement I have received through my Lipscomb relationships is to see every day as an opportunity to say yes to God by loving others. So, my encouragement to anyone reading this is to consider the people God has put around you right where you are and whether you are actively engaged in each other’s worlds. We need each other if we are to fulfil God’s call to be His ambassadors. Don’t wait for someone to show up and be that for you, show up and be that for someone else. God will connect the dots. And if you happen to have the opportunity to support a young person who wants to cross the ocean and love on some Aussie kids, do it. I guarantee you there will be eternal consequences.