I am From…

In coming to our close in Australia, my incredible country coordinators’ Kim and Henry had us YAGMs each complete a reflection of our site placements. The document had the simple phrase I am from… followed by a prompt asking to describe the nature, a common saying, our worshipping congregation and much more. I want to let you that some parts you may not understand and I may not give any more context here but please feel free to reply with a question. I do not want this newsletter to simply leave you hanging, I want it to be my chance to share briefly why Luther Heights is my home and give you the chance to join along.

Below is a raw and honest glance at my home in Australia. A tiny piece of the puzzle that has made my year of service all that it has been. My home and a place I truly feel I am from.

I am from the land of sunshine. Where water meets mountain and the feeling of salty air rests on all. A place where the sun shines just a little bit brighter. Where the feeling of sand is like finding your way home. Where succulent plants, palm trees and gumtrees make you feel like you’re in a scene out of Alice in Wonderland. Where steep hills lead to humbling views and the sound of crashing waves.  Where you can hear in the distance, Dave’s whistling followed by a tune and a “join along if you feel led.” Where no drama really means no drama.

I am from the dandelion fields of laughter and joy with Jenna. The parks filled with swings and magpies with Ethan, Anika and Pearl. The understanding and pushing of Pete. The walks, roadtrips and hashtags with Jess. The iced coffee runs, rides from Coolum to Maroochydoore and gracious heart of Dave and the whole Lee family. The land of bush dances and uncontrollable children with Alex.

I am from Blue Polos, from Sausage Rolls and a long black cuppa.

I am from the window views of winter poinsettia bushes and sunrises over the outline of Mt Coolum.

I am from the Richmond Butterfly Vine, and the distant whip birds.

I am from hold on kids, let us wait for the cokatoos to finish their chat, you’ll work it out, from Jess and Jenna.

I am from dances to waltzing manila with a little Pearl and Anika in my arms and chasing Jenna barefoot in the rain and under the rainbows.

From hey, that’s pretty good and Pete’s upbeat circus tune.

I am from Immanuel Lutheran in Maroochydore Queensland.

I’m from Goslemia and Cheeky Rascal Cider.

From the walking home from work with a hairnet over my cap while singing the Star Spangled Banner, and the internalizing of what it means to volunteer in a competitive for hours workplace.

I am from the flying fox platform, watching children soar to new heights with the sun and Mt Coolum on their side.

“You shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

Rachel, a dear member of my community shared this verse with me. Every time I think of it, I can see my home in Coolum Beach come to life before me. Luther Heights was more than a service site or camp to me. It truly was a home filled with joy beaming from every acre. Present in the shivers of cold after jumping into the lagoon on a raft, laughter before diving into the sand at beach games and of course the courage and hope of leaping off the flying fox. Luther Heights has a surprise waiting after every steep hill. Whether it be as simple as a kangaroo, your group’s morning tea or the marvelous view of Mt Coolum and the Sunshine Coastline. This verse from Isaiah is what gives me peace. To know my journey at Luther Heights is always with me. I entered with joy and although it aches to leave, I will always know where I am from.

Thanks be to God.

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An Endless [Joyous] Song

How do you measure the life of an Australian YAGM in 8 months? A hymn that has really spoken to my YAGM year is “My Life Flows on an Endless Song” by Robert Lowry. This classic hymn speaks to sorrow and anguish in this world and the joyous new life found in Christ alone. For those of you who are not aquatinted with this hymn, stay tune, you will soon.
I can visualize a picture hanging in my dad’s office of a tornado not far from our family farm that is captioned with the lyrics from Lowry’s song. That image has always stuck in my mind and in the midst of my YAGM year, I’ve found it alive and evident in all I do.

A little bit of history on this hymn, Robert Lowry wrote these lyrics in the midst of the American Civil War. A hymn of true hope, in the center of so much unvertainty. My own community in Ausralia has had its own unrest. A devastating fire filled drought and  Cyclone Debbie (the term cyclone in Australia, means hurricane in the USA). Greater than the brokenness,  joy rings on like an endless song. Read on to the beautiful lyrics of Robert Lowry, accompanied by a YAGM life in Australia.

 “My life flows on in endless song;”

When I first moved to the Sunshine Coast, I lived with a family that is near and dear to my heart. Every now and again I am blessed enough to meet up with them. One day, it was an effortlessly joyous day at the park. We laughed and played until the sun came down. We swung to new heights and saw brighter sunsets than most. Below you can meet the small but mighty Pearl. When her mom told her I’d be moving back to the USA in a few months she quickly replied “But then we will pray for her.”  My life is occupied by children, a true endless song that I would not have any other way.

“above earth’s lamentation,”

I was working a bush dance one night, where I get to teach classic Australian folk dances to children. That night, I saw a little girl crying off to the side. I discovered two days ago she found out her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She told me the realization hit in waves, after we talked awhile, we went inside and danced the night away. I cannot make the cancer go away but I am blessed with the opportunity to ease those waves a bit, even if it is as simple as a prayer and dance.

“I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.”

On Palm Sunday, I woke up longing to hear the hymn “All Glory Laud and Honor” with the adorable children waltzing around the church with their palm branches. Just one sliver of home in a church that is quite different to my own. Unfortunately, my regular service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Maroochydoore did not have my tune or wandering children. That Sunday though, the Lee family, whom often give me a ride to church were volunteering at the Nursing Home’s church service. In the midst of ten Australian senior citizens, two cats and an out of tune piano we sang “All Glory Laud and Honor.” Not at all what I imagined and exactly the humbling, blessed memory I needed.

“No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.”

If you’ve read my past newsletters, you know the state of Queensland has suffered a devistating drought. Followed in the month of March to a destructive cyclone and flooding. My former camper Anna and her family in Central Queensland never let this ever-changing weather get the best of them. Their mother Katy was telling me how the girls rode horse through the flooded water, with smiles on their faces. From fire, drought and a storm that flooded the mountains, they smiled on.

“Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?”

Cyclone Debbie found my community in a time of clean up and humor. Read the words eloquently written by my dear friend Jess about the cyclone’s effect on Luther Heights. This picture of a shark washed up from the cyclone is what I think of when I picture Queensland. Even in a time of destruction, they find a way to have humor, while looking out for others safety. #Reallifesharknado

 

“Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.”

On Ash Wednesday, I was working all day at camp which meant I wasn’t able to attend a church service. I was on a night shift with my dear friend Jenna and before we began our session she pulled me outside and made the sign of the cross on my forehead from the dirt on the ground. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” that grainy feeling of Luther Heights gravel still feels present on my skin. It is always in the unexpected that God meets us.

“It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?”

I went on a road trip to the state of Victoria with my dear friend and fellow Luther Heights team member, Jess. We saw many breathtaking sights and communities, one of which being Craig’s Hut from the Man from Snowy River. Banjo Paterson wrote this poem of the Australian High Country in the 1880s. Paterson’s words were inspired by the young country and the need for uniting amongst the nation. He felt the country needed a hero to uplift and inspire its citizens. This gave birth to the man from snowy river, an Australian legend. When I was a child my sister Kirsten and I would watch the movie, riding old saddles in the dusty garage. Dreaming of the day we might get our own horse. An Australian legend and a childhood dream, merging into one. An echo of hope for a new born country and young child.

“What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my Savior liveth.”

One night a coworker sent me a picture of my camper asking if that was my foot on the top. Not quite sure how she recognized my foot, I replied yes and she sent me the news release about how she had been kidnapped upon her return to school. In Lily’s nine short years of life, this was her second time being kidnapped. With a family past of drug addiction, she had been in and out of foster homes most of her life. This little girl who mere hours earlier was helping her team across the swing bridge, was forced into a past nobody should have to encounter. I am blessed to work with numerous youth, each one carrying such unique stories. You never know what weight these youth carry when they come to camp but I am blessed to have the opportunity to show them love and hope. Lily was safely found but her journey does not stop there. There is many days I just look out and wonder what Lily might be doing. Is she safe? Does she feel loved? My Savior liveth, is what I know and that gives me hope that my prayers for Lily are heard.

“What though the darkness gather round? Songs in the night he giveth. The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart a fountain ever springing!”

My mother left the United States for the first time in her life, to visit me in Australia. It was a week that flew by but it meant so much to share this community with my mom. It was incredibly peaceful to spend some precious time with my mom. To walk along the beach, pet koalas, worship together and simply be with each other. God has blessed me with a family that means the world to me. A love that spews like a foundation.

“All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?”

I led a devotion at the Australian YAGM retreat in Alice Springs where through my stumbled words, I remembered the loss of a dear family member. I ended the devotion with our group singing this hymn. A tune that has been with me through it all in Australia. Through the unexpected and the joy. This is a glimpse into my life and my community in Queensland. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes but we are always growing and continually blessed.

Thanks be to God.

Life in Color

1I have been humbly blessed to serve as a volunteer at Luther Heights for six months and this time has been painted in vivid color. A variety of shades that reflect not only the diversity of the landscaping, but the uniqueness of all the team members and groups that set foot at Luther Heights.

Shades of blue cannot be anything but the remarkably joyful, graceful and determined team wearing the blue polos. Each and every team member has an inspiring journey that has lead them to Luther Heights, whether it was the desire to join the team after having been a camper at Luther Heights, past experience at another site and looking for a new journey, a place to heal from past work related injuries or a midlife career change. No matter what steps have lead them here, it is clear they have woven a community that reaches out and impacts hundreds of lives, each week.

Speaking of the masses that set foot on Luther Heights grounds, I cannot help but think of them in the most bright shade of yellow. They are what gives life to our service at Luther Heights. A beacon of joy and hope, to be able to push them to new limits on the flying fox or ropes courses or test their brain power in knot tying on raft building. Whatever activity it is, it is the conversations that come out of them that truly show our service. I will always treasure a moment during Summer Camp where a camper simply wanted to tie a friendship bracelet so I sat on the ground with him talking about his family and his faith journey. We ended up making each other friendship bracelets, weaving an array of colors in unity over conversations of life with an eight-year-old.

When I picture red, it is a color with many interpretations. Luther Heights has taught me that my call to serve here is not about what meets the eye. From the outside, my job looks like I simply teach kids to build rafts, play games on the beach, empower team building and attach them to zip lines but it is far more than that. It is the ministry behind the service that makes Luther Heights what it is. When I first arrived here, I really wrestled with feeling I was providing ministry because I didn’t see beyond the surface level. I missed praying with kids and leading worship services like I was accustomed to at my camp experience in the States. God has equipped this team to work with what we are given. We share our faith and ministry in our being. I love being asked by kids how I can be so happy because it is my chance to say because when I look out at this beautiful creation and get to have conversations with youth like yourself because God has blessed me to be here, how can I not be happy? My entire being is a chance to serve as an offering to God. Every time I instruct or debrief a group of kids, it is an opportunity to show grace, hope and love. God’s message is stronger than our flaws. He will use us in whatever setting we are blessed to be a part of in this vast world. No ocean, mountain or language barrier will separate us from Christ.

Thanks be to God.

More than Pie

The Australian YAGMs met up for the first time since August and let me tell you, this was not your average gathering.

Molly, a YAGM serving in Alice Springs, brought a can of pumpkin for us to make a pie together. Little did we know what was in store for us. To make the crust, we used ginger cookies, which are not the easiest to mash into crumbs. We had limited utensils so some of us took spoons to mash the bits while others grabbed a cheese grader. We did not have butter so we sneakily took a few packets from the dining hall of our retreat site. It was not your conventional style of making pumpkin pie but it was hilariously beautiful. It was great, but the story did not end there.

We went to our next retreat session. Shortly followed by the smell of something burning. Molly ran into the kitchen, opened the oven door to a surrounding smoke. We all jumped into motion. Opening windows and fanning the smoke away from the fire alarm. Molly ran the pie outside with a path of smoke following.

After the smoke settled I ran with Molly outside to see this charcoaled pie. Everyone peered out the window. I peeled back a piece of the pie, realizing it looked great under the leathered burnt layer.

The next ten minutes found us gathered on the porch eating the burnt pie by fork followed by a nice bit of rain. It looked like a cluster from the outside. Eating a makeshift burnt pie in the rain but that moment was beautiful. A memory I will treasure forever.

As I sat on that porch, I could not help but wonder if this was what it was like for Mary as she sat in the stable holding her newborn and laying him in a manger of hay. What a cluster that must have felt like for her. The confusion and wonder she must have felt but she treasured it.

Amongst the curves life throws our way is such beautiful opportunities to make the most out it.

My Dad has always said, “Life is not about the cards you are dealt, it is about how you play them.”

I needed that reminder and it came in the form of a burned to a crisp pumpkin pie. Life is not about it being easy or following a standard blueprint, it is about rolling with the punches and making the most of it. My fellow YAGMs gave me the perfect reminder. Nothing is ever too broken. Never stop seeking the light.

We lived our own piece of the Christmas story and like Mary, I will always treasure that moment and ponder it in my heart.

Thanks be to God.

Where are you Christmas?

15202718_10207693269238699_4517427851103020219_nIt honestly did not feel like Christmas. It has been around 32 degrees Celciaus most days (90 F) and if anything, I feel like a melting snowman. It is December and I am the tannest I have ever been in my entire life. The sun rises by 5:00am and with it, the humidity that makes you feel like you are swimming in the ocean just by waking up.

The last two weeks, I have been serving as a Co-Director for Summer Camp and Luther Heights. This involved booking trips to offsite locations such as the Aqua Park, Aussie World, Trampoline Land and keeping track of 50 some 3rd to 6th graders. I kept track of onsite programming, youth leaders and keeping schedules on track. At camp, we had Christmas celebrations which included decorating gingerbread cookies, scavenger hunts to collect decorations, dance parties, crafts and throwing colored powder at each other to finish it off. Despite going through the motions of Christmas it never felt real.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved Summer Camp but I was at a loss for the feeling of Christmas.

I finished up on a Friday, drained after two full on weeks of nonstop going in the Australian sun. I was sitting on my balcony when I opened the YAGM Christmas video. A mashup of various YAGMS around the world each reading a verse from the Christmas story from Luke.

In that moment, Christmas was here. I cried out of realization. I was so tired of feeling like a nonstop machine, going through the motions of life. Trying to give all I could, to feel accomplished and in the midst of my desire to show I am capable, I lost sight of what it means to be a Christian. This video, reminded me of my purpose.

I was allowing my perception of Christmas to be shaped by snow and the feeling of accomplishment in my heart. I desired the ease of entering a new year on a note of success and worthiness.

Greater than the snow filled sky and lifting head of glory is the feeling of faith in your heart that will last you the whole year.

The YAGM Christmas video reminded me that I cannot be fed by bread alone. Whether life leads me to toasty hot sun burned Christmas, a year of success or defeat, it is not by my own understanding or this world that will get me through. It is faith.

A Much Needed Advent

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Advent. May we look forward with love, understanding and hope. I pray that this world is not fearful of the blush crashing waves and sky but rather hopeful because of Christ who will calm the storm.

If you know anything about me, you know I’m not patient. I am a doer, I do not reflect, I move on pretty fast and like to keep moving forward. I like immediate results and answers. Sometimes I can come off quite aggressive. I am reminded of that this week as I hear fellow team members at Luther Heights recite “SAY IT!” as I had barked at them earlier in the day.

This is not a blog post confession of my faults, nobody needs to know my kryptonite. This post is about much more.

I am not patient. Advent demands patience. Or does it?

Advent has come as a fresh new beginning to the Church year that this world could truly use.

I think many people today would agree that they are tired of being patient.

In Australia, Manmeet Alisher, 29, died after an “incendiary device” was thrown at him while he was letting passengers on his bus. A man who was regarded as “not only a bus driver, he is a gem” and “He’s the one, he’s the main family member, all the family is dependent on that person.” Whether he was targeted because of his race or religion is unknown, his family is patiently waiting answers.  In the midst of this tragedy, a taxi driver jumped into action on the scene, opening the backdoor to the bus and saving the lives of those on the bus. Hope was found.

Some days I just look up at the bright Australian sun, knowing there is people freezing in North Dakota at the exact moment. Patience. There have been people untied in protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline since April. From spring to summer to fall and now winter, they have remained. If that is not patience and hope, I do not know what is. In the midst of their standing and solidarity, there is Advent.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked about Trump while in Australia. “Did you come to Australia to get away from Trump?” or “Why would you elect Trump?” or my personal favorite “Can you just keep Obama?” The election is over and we all remain waiting for what is to come. Do not choose hate or fear but have faith in God, beyond your own understanding. A video to honor Hillary Clinton and Leonard Cohen could not have come at a better time. Hallelujah, a sign of hope.

In the midst of political issues, upsets, death, racial and religious inequality we find hope. When we refuse to settle, as the protestors in North Dakota are embodying in their patient fight for rights we find hope. When we refuse to let the tragedy of Manmeet Alisher bring fear and separation of races but look forward to a long overdue of uniting Australia, hope wins. When there is people like the brave taxi driver who jumped into action to save his neighbors, hope wins. As long as there is driven, honest, loving people in America who refuse to let hate, fear and Trump get the last word, hope wins.

This Advent, I cannot be patient. I know Christ is coming. The blue is getting darker and I am ready for the sun to rise. We welcome a new church year now and I am filled with hope, eager and ready for the promises of this new year. Hope is alive in our world, don’t let the darkness dictate your Advent. It is not ourselves who can calm the storm, only Christ can do that. Immanuel, God with us. Hope wins.

Thanks be to God.

Walks with God

img_5156Some days I will walk to work by myself. On these days, it is typically 6am and I am just waking up but the sun has been up for hours. The perks of Queensland not having Daylights Savings Time. A debate for a later time. On these walks a constant is my attire, I always rock my blue Luther Heights polo, black and pink Nikes and a set of headphones. Another constant is someone always walking down David Low Street with a surfboard, a mother running with her children in a stroller in front of her and of course, the dog walkers. The most important constant, is the smile on these individuals faces and their genuine upbeat greetings.

The happiest I see random strangers is at 6am on my way to work. These simple interactions motivate me like non other. By the time my 40-minute walk to work is finished I find myself walking with a natural caffeinated energy from contagious morning people.

These occasional morning walks give me more than enthusiasm, it has become a form of prayer to me. Since coming to Australia, I have found myself praying like I have never done before. One of these times is on these simple morning walks. I find myself energized by my encounters with strangers and even more alive is that I am walking with God.

Walking with God? With every step, I am centering my day towards Him. By taking the time to set my focus and direction towards Christ, I remember why I am in Australia, why I do everything that I do. Not for myself, but as an offering for Him. It is a simple path to work, three left turns and one right, two steep hills but nothing outrageous. Yet, the thoughts and conversations with God in my head are far from simple. I pray for those random strangers smiling by, for those who cannot walk outside without fear for their well-being, I pray for those affected by the disaster at Dreamworld theme park in the Gold Coast, for clarity in political disconnect and some days my prayers are silent. A silence to allow God’s creation to speak to me. For the wind, sun, palm trees, smiling strangers and passing cars to be my prayer. I pray that in the complexities of this world that we may never lose sight of God’s presence in all around us. To know that grace is alive in creation, to be heard, felt and shared.

Thanks be to God.

Meet Donna

Donna is not your typical camper. She has the brightest purple hair and the spunk to match it. She has an infectious smile and a laugh that needs to be shared with the world. Donna is the one to know your name, and remember it. Not only your name, but everyone she encounters because she looks out for all.

I sat down at the dining room table, across from Jeff, next to Allison and kitty corner to Donna. Within a minute of joining this group, Donna had already jumped up to get each of us a cup of juice. No one asked for it but she served us anyway. This is how I met Donna.

It did not take me long to realize Donna’s servant heart. She lives out a love that feels often hard to come by in this world. Not because it is not out their, but because sometimes it seems easier to let the world jade you. Not Donna.

We played a game of Tic Tac Toe, where the group competes by racing from one side to the other to place a cone in a hula hoop that forms the board. Donna had a sore ankle but she did not let that stop her. She hurried to the best of her ability and cheered her side onto victory many times.

I spent approximately two hours with Donna. Two hours. Within a minute of meeting Donna and her handing me a cup of juice, I knew she was about to make an impact in my life.

Donna is not your typical camper. She is more than her purple hair. More than her age. More than her weight. More than her outspoken personality. More than her smile. More than a leader. More than her sore ankle. More than her mental illness. Donna is an unstoppable servant.

No obstacle can separate Donna from living the life she does. I may not know what inspires her infectious giving and humbleness but I do know that there is a light shining incredibly bright in her being. Something we all should strive to show more often.

Thank you, Donna.

Thanks be to God.

Language and Identity

“Are you Scottish…British…Irish? Ah American!” I have a feeling, this may be the most consistently asked question throughout my YAGM year. A week of camp at Luther Heights Youth Camp is in the books and despite speaking the same language, it is quite evident that my accent adds a degree of separation. Whether it is fellow team member introducing me as “Lexy, from America, ask her about fast food” or simply asking a team member to repeat what they said because the words just slip past my brain when spoken in an Australian accent.

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I am incredibly grateful for the universal perception and power of a smile. 

Little did I know how much my accent would really stand out but I am blessed with a community that bears with me. Together, we are discovering the endless possibilities of English. To name a few:

Jumper = Sweatshirt

Lolly = Candy

Tig = Game of Tag

Air Con = AC

Biscuit = Cookie

Rubbish Bin = Trash Can

Footy = Football

Bluey = Red Haired Person

Chips = Fries

Sometimes it just a traditional custom I take for granted. Singing “Happy Birthday” is just a whole new ordeal. A camper had a birthday on Wednesday and I stopped singing when I am accustomed to ending the song but the group kept going with more hoorays and clapping the years of the young mate’s age. Meal times are similar but with an added few: Brekkie (breakfast), Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, and Dinner. Brekkie would typically include  toast, yogurt or cereal.  Morning and Afternoon Tea are the ones that throw me off my schedule. If it were not for other team members, I would never remember to grab morning or afternoon tea for campers. Typically, these meals I tend to forget, include a Bickie (cookie) and apple. A common Bickie would be an Anzac, similar to a honey plain granola bar which was sent to Australian soldiers during WWII.

I love the constant learning of new words! Australian English is the gift that keeps on giving. Although at times, I have to wonder whether I am giving an adequate depiction of American English. I after all have my own odd phrases and words. It is a journey of discovering what is American English and what is Lexy talk. I think back to my dear friend and boss Marnie Backer, who has a post it outside her office door with “Lexy-isms.” This sheet would include words such as precious, you’re the best, too kind and more that I am at a loss for. Most Americans, probably do not say precious nearly as much as me. One word for example I find myself saying a lot is “guys’s.” “Your guys’s raft looks great” has led to questions of why are you talking about a geyser? Do Americans say guys’s or is it just me? The world may never know.

“What is your expectation of YAGM in Australia?” When asked this during orientation, I truly underestimated the difference of my accent and how entertaining it would become. A building at camp is now referred to as the “hole” instead of “hall” because for some time, I definitely thought there was a place called the hole when in reality, everyone was just saying hall as an Australian would. The power of language is astounding but the feeling of community and faith at Luther Heights has been the greatest blessing. I may not have expected language to matter so much but God provides and turns it into a reckoning and uniting force. Talk about a true humbling experience. Thanks be to God.

Together

As I prepare to head to my own host location in Coolum Beach, Australia I feel the need to reflect on the unity of the Australian program. It is time to journey off without the comfort of my fellow Australian YAGMS and coordinators. It is a little unnerving but before I can jump into my own community, I need to put into words what it means to be a piece of the Australian YAGM group. We are a cluster of individuals whom I love dearly. We are stepping forward without each other but we are always together. No one else will be able to grasp what it means to be the first Australian YAGM group except these other five beautiful humans. Together, here is the journey we have shared with each other thus far, that we are incredibly eager to share with the world.

Together, we have been in Australia for a whole week! Spending the week in Adelaide with my country coordinator Kim, her lively two young sons and caring mother and of course my loving Australian companion volunteers.

Together, we journeyed to the countryside of Adelaide where we stayed near a small country church, in the midst of sheep, wind turbines, magpies (an interesting sort of bird) and of course the chill of an Australian winter. We grew in community, cooking soup, pasta, cheese bread and discovering the deliciousness of Tim Tams.

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Country road outside of Adelaide. 

Together, we discovered what it means to work with children by taking a Child Safe course at the Lutheran Church of Australia. Every person who works with youth in Australia goes through this class which revolved around risk management, mandatory reporting and planning church events.

Together, we had our first Australian sausage sizzle. A barbecue held in the neighborhood before every Monday night netball game. A simple slice of bread with a classic pork sausage placed with the option of tomato sauce or barbecue. Meeting the genuine and caring neighbors who are seminary students and their families. Their openness and hospitality was incredibly heartwarming.

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Emily, myself, Ethan, Jessica and Molly enjoying our first sausage sizzle!

Together, we journeyed through the Migration Museum in Downtown Adelaide. Discovering about the Great Migration after World War II, the White Australia Policy, the Stolen Generation and modern stories about individuals becoming Australians. Upon much reflection it is apparent that these deep topics will be ones to ponder throughout the entire year. Much, much more to come.

Together, we learned about the journey of Lutheranism in Australia. The merging of the UELCA and ELCA to form the current Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). The laying aside of differences to form one united church body that is justified by faith alone. We learned about what excites the LCA seminary students and their families and also their fears. Sharing our journeys with Lutheranism, our home congregations and dived into what it means to keep church alive in this modern materialistic world.

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Quilt in the LCA office which signifies the uniting of the UELCA and ELCA in Australia. The quilt has a row for every church that became unified by the 1966 merger.

Together, we conversed with the Global Mission Service office of the LCA. We learned what journeys are ahead of the LCA in the Asian Pacific and shared with them about what led us to YAGM. Joining in devotion we were blessed by the LCA office on our journey and welcomed with open arms.

Together, we walked among koalas. We journeyed to Morialta Conservation Park where we witnessed the beautiful creation of cliffs, Mulberry trees, creeks, falls and of course koalas and their cubs.

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Cliffs and falls at the Morialta Conservation Park. 

 

Together, we blessed and communed with one another. Breaking bread together one last time before we parted ways all around Australia.

Together, we form one body. I totally joked about this initially, assigning each volunteer a part to a hypothetical body but as I board my plan to head off to my own side of the Australia I know it is true. On our last night, we walked linked arm in arm down the sidewalk. United in laughter, smiles and joy in our hearts. This is where we journey onward and although we might feel alone, we are always together. Here’s to the first Australia group of YAGM volunteers, peace be with you all and know you are never alone.

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To my readers, please keep these beautiful people in your thoughts and prayers. As pictured from left to right: Emily Edmonds heading to Hopeville, Myself heading to Coolum Beach, Mary Cathryn Proctor heading to Port Lincoln, Ethan Johnson heading to Shepparton, Jessica Craver in Adelaide, Molly Christine heading to Alice Springs.