Friendships of Faith Under the Southern Cross

Friendships of Faith Under the Southern Cross

February 2015 By Jennifer Urbanski, trip participant Traveling to Australia has been on my bucket list; but traveling with friends, making new friends, going beyond the typical tourist sites, and having conversations about faith and Christianity was transcendent! Kim and Martin Rathjen led a group of eleven members of Immanuel (& one honorary member from Arizona) on a two week adventure to southern Australia. Yes, we saw the novelties of kangaroos, koalas, and kookaburras; but more importantly, we made many new friends who share our faith and the challenges of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. Even though Australia is generally considered a secular society, the Australian Lutheran Church, along with their service and evangelism efforts is alive and well. At each of four different towns, six families volunteered to be billets (Australian for host) for two nights to each of our six couples. They graciously opened their homes to share their lifestyles and faith journeys with us. We learned how one family has been working with the native aboriginal people in the outback to spread the news of Jesus Christ. Another family has been working with a variety of Christian churches in their community to perform a "living nativity" at a public site each night, the week before Christmas. People from miles away come to see this event. Our hosts spoke of many visitors who have never heard this story and want to learn more. What an incredible way to evangelize! Worshiping at Lobethal Lutheran Church made us feel right at home. The service was very similar to Immanuel's 10:45 service. Their contemporary band called "Throne Together" played similar songs including "Our God" by Chris Tomlin. We also witnessed how important it is for people to respect God's gifts in nature. Water is a scarce and precious resource in large parts of Australia, so ingenious methods of collecting and using rain water are common. Low-flow toilets, quick showers, and recycling of water are necessities. Even so, we never heard complaints that they were lacking anything from God. Warm friendships are sprouting from the abundant love that was showering down on these new relationships. Our trip was titled "Friendships of Faith Under the Southern Cross." We seek to repay the generous hospitality we received. Hopefully, we can reciprocate with an Australian group experiencing "Flourishing Friendships of Faith Up at the Northern Star." We are grateful to the Rathjen's, to the host families, and to God for this tremendous experience.

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