Joel is a final-year ministry candidate of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. As part of his training programme, Joel went to Fremantle in December 2017 with other candidates and PTC staff to serve the local community alongside the Presbyterian Church of Western Australia.
Sun, sausages and serving Jesus is perhaps the best way of summarizing PTC’s mission trip to Western Australia. We boiled under a hot sun, ate and gave away an enormous amount of sausages, and there were plenty of opportunities to serve Jesus.
The mission team was based in Fremantle; specifically, the Fremantle Presbyterian Church. We were welcomed with the open arms, Scottish jokes and enthusiastic zeal of Stuart Bonnington. Stuart has a passion for the city of Fremantle and the work of the gospel in W.A. For most of the week, we set up a BBQ in front of the church and gave away free sausages and bottles of water. Due to the high foot traffic passing the church, many people stopped. As soon as the hungry crowds knew that there was no catch (you could grab a sausage and walk away), people were inclined to talk to us. People asked, ‘Why are you guys doing this?’ This provided an excellent opportunity to share the gospel.
The W.A. Presbyterian Church, hearing that the best crop of candidates had already left the college and seeing the ‘friendly rabble’ left at the college, believed it was in their best interest to accommodate us in the Fremantle Prison. Part of Fremantle Prison has been converted into a youth hostel. The facility was amazing! Every morning on my way to breakfast, I would walk past the room where prisoners on death row were hung. The greatest thing about staying at the youth hostel was the interaction with people. We were able to cook meals and play volleyball with the people that were staying at the hostel. Some of the people then came along to church with us!
The most challenging part of the mission trip was carolling in the streets of Fremantle. Standing in front of a crowded pub singing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ brought not only a strong sense of irony, but stirred a great sense of my fear! However, though I had not done anything like this before, I was surprised at the positive reception. Many people enjoyed hearing Christmas carols at Christmas time; who would have thought!? There were mothers who parked their prams in front of our choir and friendly horn blasts from cars as we sang the gospel.
The many opportunities to share the gospel was definitely the highlight of the mission. God opened doors for us to tell others the good news of Jesus. Along with this, my own personal highlight was meeting the various elders, ministers and leaders of the W.A. Presbyterian Church. Though the church is small, their leadership is powerful. I was moved by the stories of elders travelling hundreds of kilometres every Sunday to preach the Word to congregations that had no preacher. I was challenged and uplifted by the men and women in the Presbyterian Church of W.A., though having little, had certainly not buried their talent. It was a joy to see congregations genuinely excited about the gospel and living it out. All of this was an incredible encouragement!
The PTC mission trip to Fremantle will live on in my memory for a long time. Serving alongside men and women who dearly love the Lord Jesus and want His name to be known everywhere was a great privilege.