Ten years ago today (1999-2000) I was in Australia on a missions trip with an amazing group of people many of whom left an impact on my life. I wrote this a couple years ago. Happy New Year!
The date was Dec-1999-Jan-2000.
I was in Australia, where we lived at the time, and the days following Christmas and into the New Year found me on my first mission trip with Solid Rock Cafe, a coffee shop ministry. We had intensive evangelism training in the month or so before, and role played and prepared to share the gospel as well as prepare short, relational, relevant testimonies that we would each share during the 2 week trip. The location was a small beach town called Narooma, in New South Wales, about 5 hours south of Sydney. We set up ‘shop’ in a boy scout hall and turned it into a coffee house for the time we were there. We had a pool table, inflatable lounge furniture, white fairy lights as they’re called in Australia, white lights if you aren’t sure, and several small tables and chairs set up with candles as a table centerpiece. After we were set up, we spent the first or second day in groups of 3 walking on the beach, campers, and in front of the small town shops to let young people that we encountered know that we were there and that we had a coffee shop set up, from 7-midnight, with live music. This was challenging for me, as I was afraid of approaching strangers, but after a bit of observing and encouragement, I was finally able to give it a go.
I don’t remember all of the things we did during the days; I remember worship times, and prayer, meal times at the church, sleeping on the floor of the local Anglican church, one church for the girls, and another church for the boys, and also brief memories of an outing on our day off. But the nights were amazing. Behind the coffee shop, one of the guys on the team had parked his truck. Each of us had a prayer partner for the trip, and we covered the whole trip with prayer. During the evenings we had prayer going almost constantly, and the truck was our prayer room. Inside the truck was a journal that we recorded prayer requests and answers to prayers. We watched with awe and amazement as God answered prayers before our very eyes.
Two pairs of prayer partners prayed in 20-30 minute rotations throughout the 7pm-12am night. Inside the music and testimonies were happening throughout the night. We had 2-3 testimonies each night, I think. Other team members inside the coffee shop would write specific prayer requests on a slip of paper and someone would bring them out to us in the prayer truck. Some of the prayer requests included asking God to bring a specific number of people in to the coffee shop. We saw these prayers answered, some of them in very short amounts of time, even getting slips of praises run out to us. I learned a lot about the power of prayer at this time. We sat down with them, served them coffee and just got to know them. We played pool with them, and engaged them in discussions. We hung out with them and invited them to come back or hang out with us on the beach the next day in a game of beach volleyball. As relationships were built over the course of ten days or so we were able to pray even more specifically for God to work in their hearts and in their lives.
I don’t remember how many lives were “saved” but I do know that seeds were planted and that we made an impact on the lives of those that we encountered.
We closed the coffee shop shortly before midnight on December 31st 1999, and walked down to the local field where a small town fireworks display would be shown. It was fun, and after it was over we all headed into the cars, trucks and large vehicles quickly and were off on a midnight millennium adventure.
We drove up a road for a short time and were suddenly offroading through trees, bumping along, it didn’t seem as if anyone knew where we were headed. After what seemed like a long time driving through the trees in the dark, we finally stopped and disembarked. It was a very dark night, and some of the leaders placed blankets down and we sat down huddled together. Bread was passed around and sparkling cider was passed around, and one of our leaders began praying. We were having communion. The best possible way to begin a new year. Not partying pointlessly. Not singing some ancient song that holds little meaning or relevance. Not drinking. Not kissing.
No, instead we spent the first moments of the New Year intentionally, sharing the Lord’s supper with fellow brothers and sisters, as we sat at the edge of a short cliff of the East coast of Australia overlooking the Pacific ocean
Every year that goes by, I notice that something is missing. Start a new tradition, join me and have communion with your family, or the people you are with at midnight, if they’re not the type to take communion with, maybe they’re not the type you should be with on New Year’s Eve. Just a thought.
(note: this photograph of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was taken on that night, although at a different location from where we were. For more about the story behind the word “Eternity” click here first, then here.)