HCC M&J Blog #7: SOW Mid-year Mission Trip: Justice Week

Three months ago (July 2016), a team from SOW went up to Brisbane to take part of an incentive called "Justice Week" and be part of key community outreach opportunities. 

HCC and the ministry of SOW are committed to reach out to people with the Gospel, and in the process committed to mission, which in the words of Ps. John Piper "exists because worship doesn't". Therefore, reaching out to peoples who have had no or little exposure to the Gospel and learning how to care and love better become our goals.

In this blog, Sijin and Peter share their insights as I interview them about what they did and what they learned from their short trip in Brisbane. 

Q1: [Directed to Sijin] I heard you led the team over the short trip. Tell me about the overall trip and what you did up there!

Sijin: There were 6 of us in our team, and we spent 8 days in Brisbane in a suburb called Indooroopillly. The place is a 13-hour drive from Sydney, approximately 20 mins away from Brisbane CBD! The Indooroopilly Uniting Church opened their facilities for the seminars and invited a variety of guest speakers to speak on the topic of God's Justice. The training and outreaches were organised by TEAR Australia, a Christian organization committed to the work of advocacy to inform churches about concerns for the poor and injustice in Australia and how the Church can respond in prayer and action.

Q2: What did "Justice Week" consist of and what did your team do on the ground?

Peter: We had seminars in the morning and a dedicated time of outreach in the afternoon. We had time to pray as a team in the morning and at various times during the day. Among other things, the team engaged with a local primary school and helped out the local community. We helped with cleaning and in other very practical ways. One time, we were encouraged to reach out to people at a nearby park and during this time, we met a group of local aboriginal people with whom we had great discussions, asking them how their local community is doing.

Q3: That's awesome! Sounds like you had a very packed week; Tell me, what made you want to be part of this mission/training?

Sijin: I've always felt that the aboriginal community doesn't have a voice in spite of Australia's wealth and prosperity. The general feel I get from many organisations is that "other ppl" already take care of the welfare of aboriginal people, and therefore there is a general shift of focus on other areas of welfare except on them. I feel like the Australian Government considers the issue in the same light, so in the end, very little seems to be done to address the elephant in the room, which is the condition of "third world people in a first world country". Last year, IJM's visit at our church inspired me to think again about the local aborigines, so when the occasion presented itself to explore this (i.e. through Justice Week) I decided I wanted to learn more and speak to people who might be able to tell me about the next steps being taken about the issue.

Q4: What are "big picture" lessons you gained from the training?

Sijin: I believe poverty to be a lack of relationship between man and creation, man and himself and between man and God. If that's how we define Poverty, we are all poverty-stricken if not for Christ's work on the cross. This understanding truly paves the way we approach God's Justice, especially in light of our salvation in Christ. God's justice is a theme that runs through Scripture but many Evangelical churches don't have a big focus on social justice perhaps because of a innate reaction from the liberal movement focusing on people's welfare and well-being often leading to "Prosperity Gospel" message. That being said, if caring for people is God's intent, then so should His people, the Church.

Peter: One of the messages we sat at was themed "Helping without hurting" which touched on how the Church can help people effectively. The presenter taught that immediate practical alleviation is not all that the Poor need. Put frankly, just giving money or resources is not a solution. Instead, we want to develop them so they can look after themselves. "Helping people help themselves" is ultimately more important so it can yield a lasting effect for their future. Hence, ASKING what the people need is very important and we realize that more often than not what they need is not what WE think they need. Having a dialogue with the people in need also gives them ownership over their life.

Q5: In the light of this, what do you think is the role of the Church?

Sijin: At a local church/community level: Leaders should raise awareness and equip the rest of the church to understand Poverty to be an issue; one to be addressed and not brushed under the carpet. At an individual level: For every Christian to take responsibility for those in their life, for all of us to meet the needs of those we know and see and to grow a heart and awareness of poverty. We must embrace what Paul says in Romans 12:2, for us as Christians not to conform to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect (in His eyes).

Peter: I want us as God's people to get messy and be involved in caring for people, to be interested in people and to intentionally get to know people. Only there will we start growing a heart to care for people. I have the conviction that Christians should be the ones acting first when something goes wrong.

Q6: How do you expect to personally apply this experience in your life? How do you expect to influence the people around you? 

Peter: I am certainly more aware of social justice from a Christian perspective now, but I am still seriously thinking and pondering over what it means for me to apply God's mercy and justice in my life. My wish however is that these insights eventually translate into action and devotion, however that may look like.

Sijin: This mission/training reminded me of what a church should look like and what to expect from it. The church is not (though it may often feel like it) just a fuzzy good place to catch up and chill with alike people, but the church is, among other things, a gathering of broken, damaged, deeply troubled and disturbed people, gathered to be ministered by the gospel, longing for relief and affirmation that they are loved by God through Christ. The church is where God speaks peace in people's life. This mission experience helped me diffuse some false perceptions of church and reminded me that as followers of Christ, we ought to meet people where they are, and in the process of sharing life, to let them come to meet the rest of the Body, the Church. Furthermore, it might appear that the gospel is more for the circumstantially Poor, but many of us in Sydney who come from rich/medium class families are in need of grace equally as much and I guess this is where I stand at present.

Author: Cyril Laugeon
Interviewees: Sijin Yang & Peter Kim