Update on ministry in Tasmania

For those who are further away (and maybe interested people closer to home too) here is an article I wrote recently for the Bush Church Aid Society - our partner mission organisation (who are very generously funding a significant portion of my position here in Tasmania).  It gives a brief overview of what's been happening and what we're up too in Tasmania since we arrived here in 2010.

We moved to Launceston in April 2010, just two years after arriving in Australia, and  following nine years church planting and student ministry in the UK and Germany.  Our growing family (Liz was six months pregnant when we moved!) was made to feel very welcome by the small congregation at St Barnabas' Anglican Church, Newnham and by Bishops John and Ross and other members of the Diocesan team. While we were hugely excited about this opportunity to serve God in pioneering ministry with students and young adults and within the Anglican church - each of these elements being things I feel specifically called to - we also realised the amount of work, time and energy which would be needed to even begin seeing this ministry develop.

Our ministry in Launceston is a long-term ministry with small beginnings.  I have come to see that we have twin priorities here: 1. the creation of a culture of discipleship and mission among students at the university, and 2. the replanting of St Barnabas' Anglican Church (Barney's as we now call it!) to be a healthy, missional community of disciples.

In February, we began gathering university students together once a fortnight on Thursday evenings - for worship, teaching, prayer and sharing what Jesus’ is doing in our lives.  We began casting vision for a network of small groups, across the campus, sharing life, reading the bible together, growing as disciples together, and praying and ministering together, and witnessing to their friends together.  In the last few months we have seen four groups emerge, who are beginning this journey of discipleship and mission together.

I have been able to gather sixteen student leaders with a proven desire to grow as disciples, into three leadership huddles meeting fortnightly - where we explore together some of the key principles of discipleship which Jesus taught, and hold each other accountable to applying these principles in our own lives.

Despite the hope that the refurbished building at Barney’s would be completed around the time of our arrival, we were finally able to move in May 2011!  Yet even in the midst of this very challenging situation, we saw God’s faithfulness, providing people with the gifts needed to complete the project just when we could see no way forward.

Even after the building opened, we were challenged with some key members of the already small congregation falling ill and being unable to contribute all they had previously been able too.  And yet here again, we see God lifting us and calling us to greater faith in him.  We have had some really encouraging gatherings at Barney’s in the last three months or so, with some teenagers becoming Christians, a couple of young families joining the church who have been away from church for some time, and still others feeling called to join us in replanting the church.

The biggest lesson we have been learning over the last few months is the real wisdom of trusting everything to God, and learning to abide in him, and follow him like the Israelites followed the pillars of cloud and fire.  I am learning to lay down my “good ideas” and really discern what God is doing and trust him.  Zechariah challenges the remnant of the people of Israel not to despise the day of small things.  I no longer do.  I’m excited to see God’s work beginning and growing, even though there is a long way to go. 

As you can tell, this is very much a work in progress, and we're learning loads of great 'trust in God' type lessons as we go.  Which I am really grateful for...

About BCAThis article was originally written for the Summer 2011 edition of The Real Australian - the quarterly magazine of The Bush Church Aid Society.

If you want more information on BCA, visit their website.  You can also read about the many other missional projects around Australia which they support, or sign-up and receive their prayer notes and magazine every three months.