The Melbourne Team has now been meeting on Friday nights for around 4-5 months and though we have not kept up with our reports, there has been some great stuff happening. The team averages 6-8 people each week with a committed pool of around 10 workers. We meet to pray around 7pm and then head out to preach for 2 hours, usually as pairs doing "walk up" type witnessing. Here are some highlights from the past couple of weeks (apologies for the very long post):
As many of you know, On Friday 20th January, a deranged man drove his car into Burke St mall and struck and killed a number of innocent people. As a result, the mood the following week was very different. Usually Burke St Mall is dominated by the sounds of very talented musicians busking and groups of people having fun, but this week things were very subdued. There was an astonishing collection of flowers left outside the GPO building as an impromptu memorial. We set out to preach and at first we were a little gun shy because of the mood, however we found the events of the previous week caused many to think about mortality.
Simon spoke to John and Tracey (pictured). John had a Catholic background and so Simon spoke to him about the relationship between works and grace. The Mall is very multi-cultural and we meet people from all over the world. Andrew spoke to a couple of different French groups and to a couple of Nepalese guys whose girlfriends got bored and walked away! He also spoke to a group of pastors from New Zealand who tragically could not between them articulate the gospel.
The best conversations of the night happened near the Memorial. Andrew and Elise spoke to Luke and his friend Naomi who were reading cards left with the flowers. They were both very open about eternal matters and Luke was really keen to read the Bible for himself. Andrew gave him a Bible and pointed him to the Gospel of John as a starting place.
The best conversation of the night was with Raj, a Sihk guy who works security for a shopping complex on the Mall. The team has now spoken to him a few times and given him a Bible. He regularly asks great questions but at the same time he seems to be grasping for objections and trying to find reasons not to believe.
There were many great conversations this week. Canaan and Amanda were able to share with Milee, a young lady who had been put off Christianity by her family and with John a catholic and his Mormon wife, Anne. Simon and Troy talked with Louis a spiritualist, and Arkash who was from a Hindu background. Andrew chatted with James, a Navy guy with an Anglican background who was employed in some sort of confidential role!
This was Simon's last night with us before he flew out to serve with MAF as a missionary pilot in Arnhem Land. We were sad to lose him but encouraged that he will be preaching the gospel wherever he goes.
Canaan chatted with a young man name Finn who was raised Catholic. He was very agreeable so it was a little difficult to see if he really held certain beliefs or was merely being polite. He had a right view of God's justice in punishing sinners and the need for forgiveness, even to the point of saying that he would be deserving of Gods wrath if he died. Unfortunately, he just seemed a little apathetic about it all.
There were huge numbers of tracts handed out that night (compared to normal for our small team) but comparatively few conversations.
The night started with a group of Mormon missionaries and a group of people giving out free hugs. The free hugs were nice enough, but the givers could not come up with a consistent motive for why they felt this was important. Andrew was able to share with one of them about the Gospel.
The Mormons were interesting. Canaan and Amanda spoke to 3 and Andrew and Elise spoke to 3. Andrew was able to speak to them about the integrity of the holy books as a reason to trust the Bible but reject the book of Mormon. He then transitioned to the differences in our respective understanding of atonement and about how Jesus had completed the payment for our sins, not just contributed to it. The young Mormon missionaries were intrigued by Ephesians 2:8-9 but then the leader of the group (from Canaan's conversation) burst in and declared that they all needed to head back now and that this conversation was pointless. Andrew declared that it was anything but pointless because one of us was clearly wrong and our souls were at stake. This angered the leader who left while the young Mormons lingered to read Ephesians 2:8-9 from their own preferred translation.
Andrew, Nick and Elise met Sergio (middle of photo) from Brazil who knew the right answers but seemed to lack a lot of fruit. Andrew challenged him about what true repentance looks like.
Canaan and Amanda finished the night chatting with this young couple who were quite friendly and reasonable. The guy was taking things in and seemed to be thinking through the Gospel rightly. The lady had a lot more objections, but it was nice for her to question back and forth and give her answers on things.
There are many wonderful things happening on the Melbourne team and we promise to write updates more often! Please continue to pray for us!
Soli Deo Gloria!