Urban Xposure: Young Adult Adventures

7th November 2019

Going to Cambodia on a Global Xposure in January was a transformational experience! How you ask? Well, God opened my eyes to what His mission looks like, not only in Global context, also in my local context! The Xposure trip had me asking questions and reflecting about what I had observed and how we could bring our learning back home.

We visited several incredible social enterprises that helped the Cambodian people on the margins to learn new trades, be rehabilitated, become educated and re-enter the work force. We saw the impact of faithful cross cultural workers who were serving, building relationships with their local community and making a difference in the lives of those they had met. Our team experienced local village life and community within the friendships of local workers. We feasted together, shared stories, shared life and saw what God is doing amongst the least reached people groups. The end of the trip was spent in reflection – there was a time of solitude, listening and hearing from God, times of laughter and fun, poignant times of sharing our hearts and coaching through our next steps as we headed back into our local communities in Australia.

Urban Xposure was birthed out of our Cambodian experience.  How could we learn from what we saw overseas and use it in our local church context? How could we inspire the next generation to put down their devices and engage with their neighbours?!

We started by having an Unearthed Feast in July this year with mission minded youth and young adults from various churches at Kilsyth South Baptist Church. Like in Cambodia, we ate together and heard from a young adult, Andy, a Global Interaction candidate. We had opportunities to share our stories, ask questions, dig deeper and reflect on what we had heard.

Having done some research, Creation Care and Social Justice Issues were areas young adults want to engage. Our first Urban Xposure was to explore Planted Places, a social enterprise in the heart of our city focussing on Creation Care. We had a group of seven young adult leaders from various churches and backgrounds join us in September to visit ‘The Green Room,’ which is operated by Planted Places and run by Sherry and Geoff Maddock. They shared about their mission, which is to directly address disadvantage through the cultivation of relationships through plants, people, and place. They do this by connecting with people experiencing social isolation and hardship, specifically asylum seekers, refugees and international students.

Sherry shared her heart for what they do, “Our generosity doesn’t have limits, we need to love people who do not feel loved, we need to wake up each morning with a lens of love.” These inspiring words had us excited to hear and see more. Geoff shared their history and experience of mission in the US, reminding us that “social isolation is an epidemic.” Sherry encouraged us to “live a life that evokes questions, as we are the ones that hold the light to share Gods love in the world.”

On reflection of their time in ‘The Green Room’ the team shared that Sherry and Geoff “were passionate, genuine, engaging and really transparent, their energy was contagious, what they are doing is incredible.” Another stated “I really enjoyed the opportunity to come across a different type of missionary, it inspired me to try and involve the people I work with in a similar eye-opening experiences.”

Our Urban Xposure team then met for lunch and heard from Wendy, a Cross Cultural worker from Global Interaction, who had served in Asia for over nine years with her family. She shared about their call, their Creation Care experiences, her involvement running a café and family life. She shared that “God lights up each step ahead, not the whole path” and that “we need to trust Him as we walk our journey.” Another inspiring story from an amazing woman of faith. The team shared afterwards “it was inspiring, and they loved “how strong she was,” and “it was so real and raw.” One of the team shared how they felt after hearing of Wendy’s experiences “being a missionary is not easy, you have to go through a lot of difficulties at times, but if you put yourself in God, nothing is impossible.”

The common word to encapsulate our day was “INSPIRING!” We spent time debriefing and reflecting upon our learnings and what it may mean for our local context.

The third aspect of the Urban Xposure was a Reflect Day on Monday 28th October in Warrandyte.  This day somewhat resembled time that we carved out in Cambodia to reflect on what we had seen and heard. We began with community, with six young adults sharing coffee together at “the church of my heart,” as Callum one of young adults described our home base for the day, Now and Not Yet Café. Walking along the beautiful surrounds of the Yarra river in Warrandyte allowed us time to “take a moment and listen,” to slow down, reflect on the story of Jonah, and Jesus calming the storm. We spent time on our own to shift our gaze towards Jesus, asking questions, listening and meditating on God’s Word.

During a delightful lunch, we met with a Global Interaction cross cultural worker R, who described his experiences in Asia and shared his heart with us about faith and building relationships.  Jamie, another young adult felt challenged by R to be “hungry for the Lord – as you are what you eat,” and that we need to seek Jesus “as He will provide us with the daily strength to face the world’s challenges.”  We then met with Derek Bradshaw, who gave us insight about what church looks at Now and Not Yet Café, and how Global Interaction and his Global Xposure trip to Asia played an important part in his story. We heard about his desire for those entering into the Café to experience the love, care and community Jesus offers. Amazingly, we learnt that his visit overseas, to our previous speaker, Wendy’s Café, sparked his idea to start the Café environment church in Warrandyte. After hearing Derek, Joel shared that he “realised how we are already in God’s kingdom and we need to live out that kingdom for everyone to see,” he also realised that “Church doesn’t always have to look like church, it just has to be a place for people to experience Jesus.”

Why run Urban Xposure? We want to partner with churches, youth groups, young adults and individuals to start thinking about what Global Mission looks like in our own neighbourhoods. This will then give us the opportunity to look at what we already do well, and how we can use what we have observed and become creative in innovating what mission looks like in our local church context. It is a springboard to exploring what Global Mission looks like and how Global Interaction’s missiology, ‘empowering communities to develop their own distinctive ways of following Jesus,’ is relevant in our daily interactions and walk with God.

Oh, by the way, I was so inspired and transformed by my Cambodian Global Xposure that I gave up my job as a Primary teacher (15 years!) to work as the Young Adults Consultant at Global Interaction!

Sulari Nielsen
Global Interaction, Young Adults Consultant Vic/Tas