David Wesley and I began a journey to beautiful Australia, with a “short,” 16 hour, flight from Dallas to Brisbane. The purpose of our trip was to provide an orientation to the 365M program for local leaders and ministers who will mentor and guide the academic process of the certificate program. 365M serves students interested in learning about culture while engaged in ministry, often in global contexts like Australia. Previous 365M students engaged in contextual learning in places like Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Brazil, and other creative access countries. Our goals include meeting prospective mentors for the program and visit some of the congregations and local contexts that will shape student learning.
We were greeted at the airport by Steve Walsh who serves as a pastor and district leader for the Australia North district. Steve’s connections provide a bridge between local churches and NTC Manchester, who will serve as host for our students while in Australia. As David, Steve and I toured three of the churches, Steve provided a bit of a resume’ on each congregation and the possible ministries through each church. Congregations in this area are smaller in size that some metropolitan churches in the United States, but actively engaged with community groups and often quite holistic in their ministry to people both within and beyond the congregation. Steve noted most of the leadership in this area working collaboratively as pastoral teams, often blending multicultural ministries within their local congregation.
We later met with Richard Giesken who co-pastors and also teaches at Nazarene Theological College (NTC)- Brisbane. Richard guided us to a local coffee shop where we began to discuss in earnest the cultural context of Australia. Richard and Steve alike noted that students arriving in Australia from the United States first assume the cultures seem quite similar based on similar language and metropolitan settings. However, visitors soon begin to notices small differences that cumulate into a kind of “culture shock” as they realize there are real differences beyond learning to drive on the left hand side of the road. Adaptation and learning through this context may be equally challenging to another setting where language and behavior seem radically different.
Later we joined John and Vickie Moore. John serves as regional field strategy coordinator for Australia and New Zealand as well as Missional Superintendent, Australia Northern Pacific District. John and Vickie were gracious enough to host us for lunch where we discussed the 365M program as well as plans for upcoming workshops that will resource both this district and the Australia South District. It became evident that John possesses a missional heart for the pastors, particularly in nurturing young leaders as they grow in ministry. John has developed a mentoring program for these leaders and I look forward to interacting with them this coming Saturday.
One of the amazing aspects of our visit is the wildlife of the region. John and Vicki enjoy the presence of a number of colorful birds in their own back yard. These birds including, Lorikeet and Kukaburra along with others, also provide a bit of personality of this area through their seeming domestication. Vicki noted that Kukaburra birds will sometimes “line up” on the rail to be fed. In this case one proved tolerant enough to accept food from myself. The combination of rainforest and mountains provided a rich backdrop.
David and I both had additional opportunities to feed these Lorikeets at a nearby restaurant. The Lorikeets surround guests as they sat and enjoy the view. We put packets of sugar in our hands (and apparently on top of my hat) which drew the birds in droves. John says that the entire area teems wildlife from wallabies, to boa constrictors, to large iguanas. Frankly I think David and I had enough just with the lorikeets, who seemed to be giving us wise counsel to avoid reptiles if at all possible. In all, this humorous but beautiful jaunt provided a needed respite between our long travels and serious conversations about our upcoming presentations to mentors and district pastors. Much like our earlier trip to Ireland, David and I are tasked with providing an orientation to the program’s goals and educational design, information crucial to the students who will be coming as part of 365M. Today provided a great start to establishing this vital educational setting.