Heavenly Father, thank you for the way you have been gracious to us over the last semester. You have spared us from many of the direct effects of the pandemic and enabled us to endure through the indirect effects with comparative ease. Please grow our faith, that we may be ready in all times to persevere with joy, knowing that your goodness poured out through Christ revitalises our hearts in a way that no affliction can ever affect. Please grow our knowledge of your love, from which we can never be separated. Please expand our hope in the work and power of Christ, and in his wonderful return, when we will have peace and rest with you forever.
Feel free to flick through and hear how things have been for us up here. You’re welcome to echo my own prayers that I have jotted down through here or add you amen to them. You can skip down to them (in bold italics) for those short on time.
The semester gone
As it has been for everyone, this half of the year has been particularly messed up. However, for our small group here in Cairns, this has not caused too many difficulties. By the time any restrictions had set in, our group had really only established a couple of regular Bible studies. We were able to transition these to Zoom fairly easily. Although many students felt “zoom fatigued” we still seemed to have a good core group joining in each week. In fact, our average attendance was significantly more than last year. There were also a handful of students who joined in who I have never met face to face, some of whom are just investigating Christianity for the first time. I’m quite humbled by God’s work in this way as I really have had less contact with students in every normal forum.
I’ve very thankful to God that we have also been able to complete almost every step required to become an official club on campus, including an AGM (which we held online). Only a few items of paperwork are left before we can register with our student association. On the whole they are very receptive to groups like ours, so we don’t foresee any hassle getting approval. Nevertheless, I pray that God will remove every obstacle and enable us to bring this about.
I’m looking forward to thinking together with the students about how we can best be “proclaiming Jesus Christ at Uni, in order to present everyone mature in him,” which is the core aim of AFES. It would be great to work hard at thinking about the relationships that we have and how we can be pointing people to Christ and speaking of the hope that we have in him. In some ways the pandemic has opened up opportunities to speak about significant and meaningful things that we have not had before. I pray that the students and I will find ways to make much of Jesus during their years at uni.
Father, thank you for the way that you have been building up our group even during the lockdown period. Please help us to trust you to build your kingdom. Help us to be persevering in prayer and ready to give an account of the hope that we have in Christ. Help us to proclaim Christ, in season and out, that many may hear of his salvation and trust in him. Please give us wisdom and creativity to find avenues to point people to Christ, but above all give us boldness to speak when we have opportunity.
The in-between times
Usually, once the official semester times are finished, AFES generally capitalises on the downtime to hold staff training conferences and mid-year camps for students. Things obviously had to look a little different this year so we held our usual senior staff conference via zoom (in a trimmed down format). I found that this worked quite well and was really encouraged by the teaching from 2 Timothy by Peter Adam. Throughout the week we prayed the words of the letter for ourselves (see here, here and here). I’d love it if you could be praying it for us all as well!
We are hoping to have a trimmed down version of our mid-year camp via zoom as well. We’re calling it the “CU School of Theology” and will be looking at the topic of God’s guidance with a generous appearance from Phillip Jensen for a question and discussion time. We realise many of the students are a little bit tired of online training at the moment so recognise that we won’t be overrun with participants. Even so, I’m really looking forward to this training time with them as this has been a common question topic this last semester.
The rest of the in-between time will be spend preparing teaching material for semester 2, apart from the lovely 2 weeks annual leave I have just finished taking. The first week of leave we just spent resting at home and enjoying Cairns in its coolest moments (lowest min 12 degrees). The remainder has been spent with family who have come up to visit, which has been really encouraging and restful for us (plenty of cousins to play with the kids!).
Father, thank you for spurring us on through your word as Peter preached for us during the Staff Conference. Help us to keep doing our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Please help us to keep training up the students you have given us to serve, feeding them with your good word during the semester break. Thank you for the times of rest and work that you have graciously provided during this time.
Rest of the year
I’m not really sure how this will look at this stage. We’re hoping to keep running our Bible study either online or in person if possible. I hope to spur our group on to come together in prayer more (again, probably online at this stage). I also hope to put extra effort into discipling our leaders particularly and helping them think about setting the tone and culture of the group around the gospel.
A highly modified National Training Event (NTE) will be happening in an online format as well this year, so I’m hoping that a lot of our students can get a taste of how good it is and be keen to come along when we are able to come back in person. It’s such a significant factor in the growth of students that come through our group, so it would be great if you could pray for this positive spin off from the changed format as well.
Gracious Lord, we entrust ourselves to your sovereign care for the coming months. All things are in your hands, and you will build your kingdom, though it seems as small as a mustard seed. Please grow our students in the likeness and fruit Christ. Please grow our group in number as your word is proclaimed and people hear and trust in you.
I’m really am so thankful to God for all your support and prayers during the last little while. Please keep teaming up with me as I seek to serve Christ up here in Cairns. This week in particular I’ll be working my way through the list of people praying and supporting me, so I’d love to hear how things are going for you at the moment and how I can be praying specifically.
Keeping hanging on to Christ!