Australia/India Mission Report
Aboriginal Youth Camp
India Pastors’ Conference, July 2010
Aboriginal Youth Camp
We were honored to be asked to join Jamie and Natasha Short for this youth camp, held in the far north of Western Australia, at the remote community of One-Arm Point. After several hours travel from Broome, we joined the team from Cross Road Bible Church in Perth, who already had our tents set up on the rugged coastline. The team had done a lot of work setting up the kitchen area in a tin-roofed shed, with the “camp” scattered around it.
We had two wonderful days and nights in a fantastic natural setting, holding Bible classes, team activities, and a visit to the local fish-hatchery to see some of the amazing marine life of the tropical Australian coastline. Aurora, Aspen, and Matt, our young American team, quickly fit in and were enjoying the adventure. We enjoyed having these three with us, and believe that God has some great plans for each of them. Please remember them in your prayers, that they will remain devoted to the Word and will of God for their lives.
However, as I define adventure, it is the thing you like to read about in the comfort of home, but do not necessarily enjoy when you are going through it. The weather took a turn for the worse and, in the “dry season,” the wind began to howl, and the rain began falling. Soon, tents were buckling, and the elements were raging. On the third day, we decided to evacuate and moved the camp into the Aboriginal community about a mile away. The girls camped under the porch of the local school, the boys in a community center, and we bunked in a small church with a roof but no walls. We are thankful to the leaders and council of the town for their hospitality to us. The council leader, a lady named Rowena, did everything possible to accommodate us; she even attended some of the classes.
We also had a group of university students from St. George’s in Perth, who came to help with the sports activities. Many of them were not believers in Jesus Christ, so this was an added opportunity to present the claims of Christ in the Gospel. We ask that you pray for the ongoing conviction of the truth on their souls.
We thank Jamie and Natasha for all their hard work, and for including us in this camp. We are thrilled that they will also be joining us for the Footsteps of Paul tour in September. We ask that you pray for them as they continue to seek God’s guidance for greater impact in their ministry among the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley region of Australia. They are truly engaged in a mighty work for the glory of Jesus Christ in this great and remote region. At the end of this report, I have included letters written by Aspen, Aurora, and Matt as they present their thoughts about their Australia experience and how it impacted their lives.
India Pastors’ Conference
After the youth camp, I travelled to India to meet up with our contact there for a pastors’ conference (Nan stayed in Australia to catch up with kids and grandkids). This particular conference was unusual in that it included some pastors from extremely poor villages—some of whom have come to Christ and are leading churches—but who, due to poor education, are either unable to read, or do so with great difficulty. It was a privilege to deliver 25 recorders with the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs to these men. They were donated by Dean and Kit Henderson of Houston, Texas. We will be looking forward to hearing how these recorders are strengthening the faith and ministries of the men in those remote villages.
When we gathered the pastors together and began to play the Gospel of Matthew in Telegu, they were so excited to hear. But you should have seen their faces when we told them that each of them would receive a recorder of their own—to be able to hear God’s Word daily—for their own growth, and to equip them for greater ministry. As an added benefit, the recorders are solar-powered, so there is no ongoing cost for batteries. The poverty of these men is so great that even buying AA batteries would be a financial burden!
This conference was one of the best I have ever been a part of in India. The students were lively, excited, eager, and full of good questions. We had some times of banter and good humor, but also serious study in the foundational doctrines of the Word of God and the Christian faith and life. These conferences will run monthly for the next 8-10 months. The next conference in September will be taught by Logan and Mark, our team members from PNG. Please pray for their preparations, as they will be presenting the fundamentals of Bible study methods.
Also, pray for our contact in India, who will be coming to the States soon, and will join us at the Southern California Conference, 20-22 August, taking a couple of sessions to present his work with village pastors in India.
Cross Road Bible Church, Perth
On my return from India, I had the opportunity to speak at the church in Perth. It is always a great joy to catch up with the team from Western Australia and see what God is doing in their lives. We will never forget the wonderful ten years we shared with them in many struggles, many victories, and ministry throughout so much of the world, with their support and participation. We ask that you remember this church in your prayers, as they are now seeking God’s guidance for a pastor after Jared and Tiersa have returned to America. Pray also for the Donigians, as they seek God’s will for their continued service and ministry. Their offering in Australia was invaluable, and we look forward to watching as God continues to refine and bless them in His service. We also had a chance to catch up with Daniel, Katie and Gavin in Perth, before going to Sydney to see Wil and Kris and meet our new grandson, Ashiel! Please remember them all in your prayers.
Nick Bacon Funeral
On my return to Australia, I heard of the promotion of Medal of Honor recipient, Nick Bacon, into his eternal rest and reward. Most of you have read my tribute to Nick on the website.
Nick was a close, personal friend, and the Chairman of the Board of Basic Training Bible Ministries since its inception. Nick’s departure will leave a big void for me, and certainly for his wife, Tammy and the family. I had to cut short my time with family in Sydney to return and take part in Nick’s funeral. At least four other Medal of Honor recipients attended the funeral. What a privilege to meet them! One of them was Leo Thorsness, whose book, Surviving Hell, I read again on my return. I urge you to read it. You will no doubt revise your definition of “tough times” as a result.
My message at Nick’s funeral was not my best presentation. After two thirty-hour journeys, coupled with two commitments in Australia on opposite sides of the continent—all in six days—my mental capacity was diminished. That’s dangerous, when your capacity at best is marginal! However, it was a fulfillment of my word to Nick—to be present if possible, and present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This I was able to do by telling the amazing story of Nick’s prayer in the battle of Tam Ky, of his faith in the truth of John 3:16, of the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1Co 15:1-4), of the victory of the resurrection for the believer (1Co 15:50-58), and of Nick’s present “face-to-face” encounter with the Lord in all His glory (2Co 5:1-8).
As a side-light, while in India, the day before Nick died, I shared Mat 21:22 with the pastors, and told them of my friend Nick. I asked for their prayers, and they decided to stop the conference right then and have a united prayer for God to heal him and raise him up. To many it may seem that that prayer, in light of this verse of Scripture, went unheard. I am convinced, however, that this prayer was heard—to the greatest degree. Nick could have dragged on a long time, in a miserable state, with throat cancer. God heard that prayer, and Nick’s passing was a gracious reprieve from continued suffering—a permanent healing and lifting up of the highest order.
We ask that you will all join us for God’s continued “follow-up” work by the Spirit of God in all these places. Our part is to present the truth of Jesus Christ from the Word of God, and to serve in the sanctifying power of His Spirit. The real work comes after the “mission.” So please remember these ventures, and all the souls who heard the truth, in your daily prayers. As always, we give thanks for you all for your continued hunger for God’s life-changing Word, and your faithful support of all we do. Be assured, it is a team effort, and God is keeping the books. Your prayers and support are recorded for eternity.
We are back in Arizona with a short amount of time to prepare for the Orange County, CA conference. We look forward to seeing some of you there. God’s richest blessings be upon you all in Christ Jesus.
Gene and Nan Cunningham
Aspen Doran’s Letter:
I really want to thank you for your prayer support and donations to my mission trip to Kimberley Australia (Western Australia) this summer! I learned so much from the people we worked with and it was amazing to see how the Lord worked through us to reach others. I traveled with Gene and Nan Cunningham, Aurora Salter, and Matt Jensen— all of whom helped me grow in Christ.
Working our way down to One-Arm Point, I got to experience the joys of 4-wheelers on red dirt for the first time. We camped on the edge of the ocean—I have never seen such beautiful water or colorful sunsets! There were other families from a local Perth church that we met up with and grew to love as well. When the kids arrived from Looma and other communities, I had great opportunities to learn about their lives and hang out with them! However, after a few days of increasingly strong winds, our tents couldn’t take the pressure and decided to fold themselves for us. They were calling for huge storms in the dry season! Although this wasn’t how things were planned, I was having a blast! The wind was strong, the waves were crashing, and I felt His power. How awesome is that? A little reminder that God is powerful and in control; if He says rain, there will be rain!
The people of One-Arm Point welcomed us with open arms and generosity as we relocated to a nearby school, church, and meeting hall. All the kids were great with our transition, and we set up camp on steps and sidewalks. The camp went on! With classes taught by Gene, and activities led by the group from St. George’s University, there was no trouble getting to bed at night! It was interesting working with the Uni group because none of them were believers. Aurora and I shared Christ with some of the boys of the group who had questions—hopefully some of what we said struck a nerve! They also had the chance to listen to some of Gene’s sermons (which were incredible by the way; I always learn something from him). I could tell that some of the Aboriginal kids were really listening too.
We had a camp concert on the last night of the camp, where if anyone wanted to sing or dance, they were welcome to. The Aboriginal kids sang, told jokes, and played the guitar. It was all really fun—until they announced the “American challenge”… I should have started to run when I heard that. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Vegemite, but I’m convinced that, taken in large quantities, it could kill you! Anyways, it’s pretty much the leftovers from making beer. Yummy. Aurora, Matt and I were given two spoons of what looked like chocolate and told that whoever finished first earned points for their team. Let me just say, NEVER AGAIN. It tasted like really salty soy sauce, gelatinized with the consistency of peanut butter. I won, but the stuff came back up and out real quick! Poor bushes…
Toward the end of the camp, after it had rained a few days, we learned that the only road out of the area we were in was closed! We sent Gene off on the food truck—the only vehicle allowed on the road—since he had to get to India. Thankfully, the road opened long enough for us Americans to leave the camp, only a short while after Gene left. However, the other families, as well as the Aboriginal children, were stuck there for a few more days.
Helping with this camp brought me closer to Christ, and I was able to see Him work in my life and the lives of those around me. Being in Australia was an amazing experience— I even got to eat kangaroo! I would do the whole thing all over again if I could!
Again, I am so grateful for your support!
Aurora Salter’s Letter:
With every new situation, there is a lesson that God wants us to learn. With every trial, He plans a path for us to come out on the other side with all that we need. Even before I left from LAX to Australia, God taught me a lot about His faithfulness that I was having a hard time seeing. It’s like He brought to life what I had been reading about Him and His ways all this time. But for anyone to understand this blessing He gave me, I’ll have to go back a couple of months to set the scene.
Now I’ve known for years that I want to be on the mission field. I have no doubt that is where I belong. I also felt very confident that the way I was going to get there was through a nursing career. I applied this past February and everything seemed like a guarantee—I had a strong sense of peace that this was the path I was going to take, so I thought there was no chance of me not making it into the program. But then God threw me a curveball and it really had my head spinning. Everything from softball, to my education, to my relationships seemed, at once, to be thrown up in the air. Every aspect of my life seemed to be crumbling at the same time, but for the sake of space I will focus on my education.
I found out that I didn’t make it into nursing school at Auburn. My strong GPA wasn’t enough to be one of those accepted. I felt like I was punched in the face just to be punched on the other side immediately. I remember feeling abandoned and I didn’t understand why God put the desire in my heart just to keep it from happening. I lost control and God gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach. Was I going to trust Him through it or cling to my finite understanding and try to “fix” things in my own strength? Then, after much struggle, He gave me a glimpse at the answer to my prayers.
I went to hear an Imam speak on the misconceptions of Islam. Through it and conversations I had after the class, I realized how I had been focusing on the wrong stuff. You could say I had “good intentions” behind the areas that I was trying to control. I intended on being a nurse so I could meet the physical as well as the spiritual needs of the people that I would come across. Yet, somewhere along the road, my vision got twisted. Satan is the father of all lies, and he tricked me into believing that I NEED to be a nurse in order for my dream of becoming a missionary to come true.
My heart is for the lost—there is no question about that—and that night God showed me what I had forgotten. After the speaker, I found myself standing with a Mormon couple and four Muslim men, discussing our faiths. God had been preparing me in my time with Him to be equipped with knowledge to pose questions and use examples to get these people thinking.
When I left, I was talking to my mom about how everything finally “clicked”. That whole time, I had been trying to control my circumstances in hopes of doing things for His Kingdom. What He showed me instead was that my knowledge of the proper method to administer a shot and my degree had absolutely NOTHING to do with that conversation. All these areas that I was putting so much weight in truly did not matter. What mattered in that situation was the time I spent with Christ previously to prepare me for the conversation.
His Word was all I needed … is all I need. With Christ in my heart, I had every “weapon” I needed to fight Satan’s lies to these people. So why had I been stressed for so long about something that has no effect on me sharing the Gospel with the lost? Good question, but I learned I didn’t need to stress about it. Christ is more than enough. I can still do all things through Christ who gives me the strength, and with Him I have everything I need!
Soon after that lesson, I applied again for the Spring 2011 term of nursing, but to be honest, I did not believe that I was going to make it into the program, and in order to still remain eligible to play softball, I had to switch my major completely. I felt stuck and in a haze—like my vision was so clouded that every “step” I was trying to orchestrate (in order to reach my dream), was erased and I was left standing on what was once a path. All too quickly, the sense of direction I had turned into was just a spot in the ground, with every other option erased. The only place left for me to look was up.
I came to understand that I needed to fix my heart. I needed to be at the point where I was fully sustained by Christ alone, because there will come a point in time where that is all I have. I was allowing my life situations to affect my joy. I had no right to doubt what God was up to and, after much struggle, I finally let go of my desire to fix everything—I decided to sit back and see what He would do.
Hours before I was going to leave from LA, my mom called me to let me know that I was accepted into the nursing program at my university. God took care of me! I saw how His ways were much better than my own. I realized that if I had gotten into the program when I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to go on the trip at all because of a few classes I would have needed to complete beforehand. His timing was perfect! He wasn’t telling me “no” before, just “not yet.”
This grew my faith so much that, throughout the rest of my trip, I felt like I truly could trust Him with anything that came up. I continued to see examples of how prayer does work, and that God is always going to watch out for His children. That doesn’t mean that it is always going to be comfortable, but our strength in Christ will grow. I had a renewed confidence in His hand working in every situation. God blessed me with solid opportunities to talk with both the campers and the university students about Christ and my faith in Him. I know that the Word does not return void, so I have nothing but hope for the seeds planted that week to grow. People are searching for the Truth, and it is our responsibility to be available to share Christ with anyone God directs us toward. Everything about the trip was a blessing because God grew my faith, and that can never be taken away from me!
Matt Jensen’s Letter:
I recently went on a mission trip with Gene and Nan Cunningham to an Aboriginal camp at One-Arm Point, Australia. One Arm Point is a remote little peninsula at the northern end of Western Australia. The purpose of this trip was to bring the message of salvation to the Aboriginal people by focusing on the children. Also, we went to exhort and answer questions of the Aboriginals who were already Christians.
At the camp, all of the individuals that came to the camp were situated on the beach. There were four major people groups present that day: The Aboriginals, the Americans, the individuals from Cross Road Bible Church, and some university students from St. George’s in Perth. The university students were there to organize and run the games and activities at the camp. It was planned that we would sleep in tents on the beach, and that the classes would be taught in the One-Arm Point community center. However, as is the case in many situations, God had a different plan. After the first day on the beach, there was a cyclone off of the coast, and we were warned that we must move inside. While at first I looked at this with a downcast mentality, I soon came to realize that it was all a part of God’s plan. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.
Despite the cyclone, the camp still needed to run. So I took it as my job to help serve in whatever way I could. I soon found that because of the number of people present, the kitchen staff would need help. I looked at this as an opportunity to both learn something new and to help out. I ended up becoming the grill helper, and soon was actually taking part in grilling the food. It is such an accomplishing feeling to know that you have lightened the workload of someone else, even if, in the grand scheme of things, it may seem infinitesimal; it is the small things that are remembered and teach us to be faithful in the details.
Now it just so happened that because of the wind and the rain, the university students had to stay present for Gene’s Bible classes, where they might not have previously. It soon became obvious that we had gotten through to one or two of them and they began to ask questions. They truly began to seek the one and only answer in Jesus Christ. I do not believe that any became saved, but the seed was planted in every one of their minds, and a small group of them began to wonder and ask questions. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” Deuteronomy 4:29.
Throughout the entirety of the camp, it rained and there were gale-force winds. Because of this, the dirt road that we had taken to get into the camp had become closed. We were not sure if we were going to be able to get out in time to catch our flights. So, we made it a matter of prayer. And it truly is amazing the way God works, because we had a deadline that we had to leave at a certain time if we were to take our flight and just when we were about to start making other arrangements, the road opened back up for just a tiny window of time before the rain came again, and we were able to leave.
The entire trip was an adventure that I shall never forget and never stop looking back to. I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support in getting me over to Australia.