Friday, July 25, 2008

Fourth Week

Tomorrow is my last full day in Australia! Crazy crazy!

This past week was called our "debriefing" week wherein we compiled all of our study and either emailed or presented it to Jim. On Tuesday, we worked primarily on the needs of Sydney, North Sydney, and Ryde. Apart from simply compiling all of the research we had already conducted, Erin and I also contacted all of the different community centers and volunteer agencies to identify for Jim where the Church may become involved. All three are different regions of Sydney and within them are different what they call "suburbs."

Wednesday, we worked on those particular suburbs within the regions. Unfortunately, by the time we had our meeting with Jim, I had come down with a fever and some type of stomach bug. That pretty much took me out for the rest of the day and most of Thursday. Praise God that I am pretty much 100% (That would've been one awful flight, if they let me on that is). For those of you who heard about my illness and prayed for me, thank you.

Today, Friday, was my packing day because missionaries from Queensland have come to stay with Jungs from now until Wednesday. For this reason, I'm moving into one of the church member's house for the next two nights. I still cannot believe that tomorrow is my last full day in Australia!

My flight leaves at 10:30 AM on Sunday and I arrive in Canada at 7:00 Sunday night. I then head to Atlanta, Georgia for a short time with most of the MTW interns from around the world. It should be a great time to meet some new people and be encouraged by their various experiences. Thanks again for your prayers!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Third Week

This past week has been much more "chill" than last week. My main task this week has been to simply shadow Jim and understand what he does better. At the end of the day we discuss the things that I learn from the different meetings and experiences of the day. For example, on Tuesday we went to a meeting for a group called Korean Australian Pastors Association (KAPA). There I learned about the struggles of ethnics churches and how the church can assist them better. I also went with Jim to a meeting about his campus ministry. Jim and I have also been doing a lot of talking about the components of a biblical church.

One of the interesting values he is attempting to push in his church is a "balanced perspective. "This, "Core Value" as he would call it, is the belief that the church must not major in some important issues and minor in other equally important issues. For example, too often Christians have a strong social conscience, wishing to see systemic evils erased from the world, but fail to major in orthodox beliefs about sin, Jesus, redemption, etc. On the other extreme, there are churches which have the Westminster Catechism memorized but are uninvolved with injustices, the poor, and/or problems within their context. A "balanced perspective" looks at the commands of Jesus and chooses to not fall into the typical mold of majoring in some commands and ignoring, but wholeheartedly looks to obey all of Jesus's commands about the church and how she should relate to the world.

For those of you who are wondering, all of the international hype about the Pope is true. Today, the city was absolutely packed. Imagine getting fifty percent more of the people who reside in the heart Sydney and put them there, not in the apartments and houses but on the streets, touring, singing, etc. All of the "Pilgrims" have these red and yellow backpacks which say WYD SYD (World Youth Day, Sydney). They are EVERYWHERE! The "Pilgrims" also walk around the city in groups. It is fun to see, because all of them carry their country flag and sing or chant.

As for me, I did see the Pope today. It was brief, but life-changing. Just kidding. I did see him though. I also met someone from West Milford, NJ. For those of you who do not go, I had the opportunity to go to Hillsong last Sunday. There I also met two girls from New Jersey who attended Bethany in Wyckoff.

On passage of Scripture I have been thinking about lately is 1 Peter 1:12 "It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look." I would love to read your thoughts on this verse. I hope all is well and thanks again for your support!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ethnographic-Area Interviews Day 4

Erin and I again went to survey the Greater Sydney area. Today we visited just two regions but did a lot more study as they are two potential areas of the church plant. The first region we surveyed is called Crow's Nest. Crow's Nest is pretty much the wealthiest region in Sydney and thus Australia. We ran into some very interesting and insightful people today as I asked my usual questions. Erin and I work very well together. I do much of the questioning and talking as she takes the notes and navigates. The second region we went to is North Sydney. North Sydney is where Jim plans to plant the church.

To recapitulate, the first two days of interviews, Erin and I studied the more diverse, ethnic, and lower-class neighborhoods. Thursday and Friday, we went to the less diverse and affluent regions. I found the first two days very interesting but I enjoyed studying the latter regions more.

From this experience and thinking through the different conversations, I have learned a lot about church planting. The importance of knowing and understanding how your context thinks is so important. For example, the structure of a church in Auburn, a poor, Muslim, Turkish, and Eastern European area should be quite different from the type in Darlinghurst, an artsy, wealthy, homosexual community. I also learned how to better develop questions which really got to the heart of the information for which I am looking. These first two weeks have been so interesting and exciting. Please continue to pray for HCC and Sydney. Thanks again for all of your support!

Religionless Spirituality by Timothy J. Keller

Today, I made a point of asking every person what they thought the general disposition towards religion was of the people of their area. After their answer I asked, "It seems to me that most people are spiritual but few are religious. Do you think that's an accurate observation?" Every person agreed wholeheartedly.

That whole "I'm spiritual but not religious" present in the Australian context has caused me to think more and more about it. Dr. Tim Keller has named it "Religionless Spirituality" in an article that I found recently by him. You can find the article it here. Please take a look.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ethnographic-Area Interviews Day 3

Today, Erin and I went to a bit more of the younger and urban areas of Sydney, namely, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, and Padington. The regions were a bit less ethnic but remained diverse. It was also much more artsy and "trendy" as one interviewee noted. As we were walking throughout these regions, I had a strong desire to personally begin ministry in one of these regions, actually. All of those to whom we spoke talked about the young, "hip", partying, professional, middle to upper-class population, alongside the poor, "drugged-up", "people with whom life has not dealt fairly", drunks, homeless population. One gentleman said that the dichotomous nature of the region is absolutely astounding to him. When I asked him what he thought to be the biggest need of the community he immediately answered that the area needed more social programs designed for the poor and addicted. I also asked him what the general disposition towards religion was in the region and he responded that "everyone in this area is spiritual, no one is religious." I think that is the general disposition throughout western thought but was well articulated by this insightful and honest man. One of the things I have been thinking and reading about is how the gospel responds and how the church should respond to an egalitarian culture adverse to institutions and especially institutionalized religion. When I return to the States I would love to talk to you about that more.

Just as a bit of a side note, this type of environment is the exact type of place in which I would love to minister. On one end you have the intellectuals, the thinkers, the "arsty", the gay, the professionals, the politically active, the liberals, and the conservatives; while at the other end, you have the "druggies", homeless, marginalized, and poor. I find such an environment to be so stimulating and challenging. Yet, what a gospel we have! Gospel, good news, that Jesus is the answer to the poor and the rich's questions. Jesus is the answer to the homosexual and user's search for pleasure. Jesus is the answer. Truly, it does take time to understand how "we can be all things to all people", but really, Jesus is the answer. If we, as Christians, simply proclaim Jesus the Christ, nothing less and nothing more, we'll faithfully and adequately answer the questions of the world.

Ethnographic-Area Interviews Day 2

Yesterday, Wednesday, Erin and I continued our surveys of the Greater Sydney Area. We visited Bankstown, Eastwood, and Chatswood. In especially these three suburbs, I was again reminded of the value of solid evangelical and biblical churches here in Australia. The diverse population is absolutely astounding. In one of the towns (Erin has our notes and is typing them as we will have to present our finding the Jim and Claudia on Saturday so I don't know exactly which one) we encountered two students from India who had been in Sydney for a few months; two Korean students who were planning on returning to Korea; an Aussie; a Filipino lady; and two Chinese men. If the church, by God's grace, could take hold of Sydney or even a section of this city, there could be, again, by God's grace, worldwide affects.

These potential worldwide effects is a missional strategy which I have begun to understand more fully in the past two years as a result of my visit to East Asia and now Australia. Right now, the main region quite averse to Christianity is the Middle East/Muslim nations. In a sense, the United States can do little to directly evangelize the Muslim regions due to our connection with Israel, Christian beginnings, etc. However, it is widely agreed upon that Muslims are far more open and receptive towards Asians than any western nation. For this reason, much of the missionary efforts of the West have been to reach China and Korea in order to see the kingdom expand not only in eastern nations but throughout the Middle East as well. As I said above, one thing that I have come to realize after spending just a week in this great city is the overwhelmingly vast Chinese and Korean population here either studying or permanently living. If, by God's grace, the Spirit would capture Australia and especially the Greater Sydney area, through the faithful proclamation of His Word, I believe Australia could be, with Korea, the largest missionally-minded center of Chrsitianity to the 10/40 window (see below). Would you please continue in prayer with me for this great city? It has become so clear to me in the past week how huge Australia could be in God's plan of redemption.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Many have asked... do the toilets really flush clockwise?

Many of you have asked about how the toilets flush here in Australia. They do, indeed, turn clockwise. I hope you can see it :)!

Ethnographic-Area Interviews Day 1

Today, Erin and I went out into different suburbs of Sydney and studied them by interviewing people of the town. The three cities we studied today were Strathfield, Auburn, and Cabramatta. These three areas are all potential spots of the Harbour City Church plant or at least, we hope, will be affected by the church plant. One of the "core values" of Harbour City Church is a love for the city and a commitment to working for the good of the greater Sydney area. Our task was not only to identify the various cultures and religions of these suburbs, but to discover one thing that the individuals of the suburbs felt the town needed. For instance, a gentleman from Auburn informed us that he believed the homeless and alcoholic populations were serious problems. HCC's core commitment to helping the city in all ways, spiritually, culturally, and socially in this region would then have to be a concern for the alcoholics, those affected by alcoholism, and the homeless. Today I learned the great importance of having open ears with the people you are trying to reach. If HCC chose not to discover and understand the various people, culture, and problems of each suburb, how would they effectively " become all things to all people, that by all means [they] might save some." In all ministry, knowing and loving the context in which you are is of great importance.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Different Type of Ministry

As I'm beginning to settle in and really study church planting, I have realized that my work here is going to be very different from past short term missions and I'm quite excited about that. One of the preliminary steps of church planting is understanding the context in which you are seeking to minister. For this reason, yesterday I went throughout the museums, read, and learned about the history of Sydney. As an intern in the business world not only helps the business with which he works, but learns the basic ropes of any business, this internship is not just learning and studying about Australia, but learning how to study any city and culture to understand how I can better reach out to those in any urban center.

Another one of the preliminary stages of church planting is something called networking. I will probably write about that more later during my experience, but within networking, I have learned of two different ways of networking, namely, micro networking and macro. Today I began to understand in a better sense macro networking as the Jungs had a prominent Anglican minister join us for lunch (his wife is American so she had some fellow Americans with which to celebrate Independence Day). I don't think I have ever met a man with such a love for people this man had. Through this experience all of us were able to ask him questions about the type of church Sydney needs, the type of people in Sydney, how he saw the gospel manifested in everyday life, etc. In this new contact and friendship that the Jungs have established, there is a wellspring of wisdom, guidance, and really people from which the Jungs can learn. This macro aspect of networking is a way of developing relationships with leaders and churches as a whole and through those relationships the planter has also networked with many other people.

Thanks again for your support. I am learning a lot!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Safe in Sydney

Praise God that I have finally, after a twenty-three hour flight, arrived in Sydney. My journey began with a bit of a scare when Air Canada informed me that I would not be able to fly to Australia due to the fact that I did not have a visa. After a few calls by my Dad, we informed the airline that they could obtain a visa for me online. After a stressful thirty minutes, I had a visa and was on a plain headed for Toronto.

Upon my arrival in Toronto, Canada, I had about a three hour layover. From Toronto I flew to Vancouver, and from Vancouver we flew to Sydney arriving at about 8:00 AM on July 2. I then finally met Jim and Claudia Jung, the couple with whom I am living and working. They are a lovely couple with a heart for the local church and people. (Claudia is also a wonderful cook :))I also met Erin Clemmer, the other intern who has been in Sydney for about a month now. She too is a young lady with a heart for the ministry and I am excited to begin working with her.

We then took a quick tour of the city and headed home.
After washing up and settling in, I was given a brief introduction and outline of how I should be spending my next month. Following our meeting, Erin and I went out around the city again wherein she introduced me to the public transportation system and showed me around a bit. Sydney is by far the most beautiful city in which I have ever been. The only American city that I think comparable to Sidney in structure and "feel" is Seattle. Jim said that if you combine San Diego, Seattle, and Manhattan you get Sydney.

After our tour of the city, we returned for dinner. Right now it is almost 9:00 PM as we watch the sporting event of the year, game three of a best of three series named the State of the Origin (Rugby) between New South Wales and Queensland. Rugby is perhaps my new favorite sport :)

Thank you so much for all your prayers and I look forward to sharing with you all that happens here in Sydney this month. Please check back for more pictures and hopefully a daily update.