Please join with me in prayer by Lee-Ann Costa

 

Heavenly father please open our ears and our hearts to receive your word. As we leave here give us courage and faith to step outside of our comfort zones and to be your hands and feet and to really make a difference in your name Amen.

 

My name is Lee-Ann Costa

Last year while I was on an Emmaus walk God challenged me to trust him by stepping out of my comfort zone and to walk with him in faith For those people who don’t know about Emmaus it is a 3 day nondenominational spiritual renewal program that reminds us just how much we are truly loved by our heavenly father.

 

The story of the walk to Emmaus is in Luke chapter 24 verses 13-35. Two disciples are on the road to Emmaus after Christ’s crucifixion when they meet a stranger. Their sadness and feeling of hopelessness prevents them from recognizing that the stranger is actually the risen Christ. Only after breaking bread with this stranger were the disciple’s eyes opened and their hearts set on fire with the love of Jesus.

 

During the 3 days of Emmaus there are 15 talks by lay people and clergy, worship, prayer, Holy Communion, meditation and a lot of laughs and fun.

The next men’s walk is on the 17-20 August and the women’s walk 24-27 August. Chrysalis is for young people between the ages of 15 to 25. The next Chrysalis flight for girls is on the 29 September to 1 October and the boys the 6-8 October.

 

Would anybody who has participated in an Emmaus Walk or a Chrysalis flight please stand up. If you would like to know more about Emmaus or Chrysalis please feel free to talk to any of these people after the service. Thank you

 

This was my challenge:

On the May long weekend last year I participated in the Emmaus walk No. 41. During one session we were asked if we would like to make a commitment to God concerning something that God had placed on our hearts. At the time my life seemed very comfortable and blessed. I had a good marriage, two wonderful sons, house, great friends, job, good health, money and I was active in our church, but God had put it on my heart that maybe it was about time that I stepped outside of my comfort zone as I had been too long within these safe confines. God was encouraging me that maybe it was time to step out in faith. I hesitantly promised God that I was ready and continued to pray and wait.

 

In the early days after Emmaus I had a few occasions to witness to people, telling them about my walk and the changes it had made to me and to my life. But I felt I wasn’t really getting out of my comfort zone. I was just dipping my toe in and testing the waters.

 

One Sunday morning not long after my walk I was handed a piece of as we left church telling of an upcoming mission trip Living Grace was organizing. The trip would be to Hope Vale aboriginal mission. Hope Vale is about a 5 hour bus trip north from Cairns or one hour north of Cooktown. It is a government funded community now but was once run by the Lutheran Church. As Jan Humphrey handed me this piece of paper she said, “Lee-Ann you just might be interested in this”. As I work as nanny for a school teacher my first reaction was …well if it is not in the school holidays I could not possibly consider going.

 

Later that day as I was reading through the information I just knew God wanted me to go. I had NEVER done anything like this before and wasn’t sure what God had install for me but I was certain that this was the direction that he was leading me. When I discussed the idea with my husband Tony I think he was a little surprised to say the least because I had a real insecurity when it came to aboriginal people. In 2004 Tony and I toured Australia for four months. In places like Kalgoorlie, Cooper Pedy and Alice Springs where a high percentage of the population is aboriginal I always felt very uncomfortable as we walked down the streets. So you can understand Tony’s surprise at me planning to go to Hope Vale.

 

In the June July school holidays of 2005 just before we were to go to Hope Vale Tony and I went for a weeks fishing at Nambucca Heads on the New South Wales coast. The blackfish or ludericks were really biting so Tony fished every day out on the rock wall. We soon became friendly with a local aboriginal man called Johnny Marshall who was a good fisherman. He shared his fishing secrets with us ….. what types of bait to use, the right tide conditions and what type of rigging to use Tony was soon hauling in the fish thanks to Johnny. One day Johnny’s cousin “Uncle Duck” came down to the rock wall and I talked with him for quite a few hours. He showed me bush tucker along the vegetation corridor beside the rock wall and how to catch sand worms down on the beach. Both Johnny and “Uncle Duck” had been alcoholics in their earlier days but were now nondrinkers and spent some of their time talking in jails and schools along the New South Wales coastal area. They talked about life’s choices and the one-way road to destruction of drugs and alcohol. In God’s ever-perfect timing he had bought me into contact with these two men to ease my anxiety about my attitude to aboriginal people before my trip to Hope Vale.

 

In the September school holidays 2005 44 people ranging in age from 5 years to 75 years headed for Hope Vale amongst them school teachers, trades people, business owners, youth workers and musicians. I had no real skill in any one area and wasn’t sure what I could even offer to this trip but was ready to see what God had planned for me. I was going with an open heart and mind and a good sense of humour.

 

Prior to our trip, people who had been involved with the Hope Vale community gave us a few short talks. We were asked to leave our judgments behind and to remember we would be seeing things through “white man’s eyes.

 

When we got to Hope Vale there were no set jobs or rosters you just got involved where you were needed or where your interests lied. Pastor Tom and his wife Lyn have a huge rambling garden around the manse that needed a little bit of T.L.C. Now I love to garden. Pastor Tom gave us free range of his garden and the church grounds. I could garden from sun up to sun down and I was as happy as a pig in mud.

 

One of our group members Marcia Polzin (who is 75 years old) had been a primary school teacher at Hope Vale School over 50 years ago. Alice who was only a small child when Marcia taught at the school came to visit us one night. Alice threw her arms around Marcia and said,” You were my teacher and you made me what I am”. Marcia in her ever-humble way replied “No you did it by yourself but with God’s help and guidance”. The meeting of these two women made me realize that one person really can make a difference in somebody’s life. A difference that can change a person’s whole outlook and direction in life.

 

We visited the Hope Vale nursing home and had an enjoyable afternoon with the older people, singing, dancing and chatting. I was amazed at the strong child like faith of these people, their total trust in the Lord and their forgiving nature. These people bore no grudges to the white man. It was these people who had been herded into the back of trucks along with their German pastor and relocated hundreds of miles away to Warabinda. during World War 2. They watched as two thirds of their own people died there from disease. They had done nothing wrong to receive this type of treatment. It was from this same people who, as children had been taken from their parents, families and communities by well meaning government authorities. Again they had no say in the matter and had done nothing wrong to deserve this treatment. And yet these aboriginal people forgive and continue to trust and have faith in their Lord. I wonder if these things had been done to me would I be quite so forgiving?

 

We “Southerns” soon got into the swing of Hope Vale time. There were no rosters, no timetables and no schedules but still everything got done eventually. Maybe not today but eventually. Jesus never ran his day according to clocks, timetables and appointments. When he saw a need arise or somebody needed help he did something about it with no fanfare or boasting. Maybe we all could do with a little bit of Hope Vale time in our busy lives.

 

Pastor Tom and Lyn have been at Hope Vale for 7 years and believe that community living is not the answer. Yes Hope Vale does have a big drug and alcohol problem, there is domestic violence, suicide and child abuse but aren’t all these problems in our own society. The government allocates huge amounts of money in grants to the community but it is leadership which is lacking. We met Dora Gibson who went to school here at Concordia College and is now the Grade 7 teacher at Hope Vale Primary School. Dora is also the lead singer in the local band. A lovely lady and a good role model. Pastor George Rosendale (a retired aboriginal minister) and his wife Maude are both good leaders and role models Another good role model is Matty Bowen of the Townsville Cowboys Rugby League Team. We didn’t meet Matty Bowen but we did meet a lot of his cousins Unfortunately these good role models are few and far between.

 

Some of my most memorable times during our stay were with the children. We had organized morning activities like jewelry making, rocket launching, face painting, kite making, slip and slide and story telling In the afternoon the children were asked to take us somewhere and show us something in their community. We usually ended up down at the swimming hole in the nearby creek. We “nervous southerns” immediately asked about the crocodile situation but the kids quickly assured us “Oh no miss we kill him crocodile”. I must confess I was always a little nervous about any other crocs that may have come for the funeral.

 

While we were at Hope Vale a lot of the community had gone to a wedding in Cohen. Pastor Tom told us that the children that were coming to see us each day were from some of the most troubled families in the community. I think the wedding was God’s perfect timing once again. We were able to closely interact with 20-25 children and have quality time with them. We had lots of fun and laughs, lots of games and lots of cuddles with most of the children. All they wanted was contact, cuddles and made to feel special. Some of us are still corresponding with the children that we met. It is from this younger generation that new community leaders will have to come.

 

The trip was a great bonding time for members of our congregation and to get to know the people from Caloundra, Googa, Faith College and Townsville. I learnt a few things on this trip. I now know that David Crighton can fit into Jan Humphrey’s clothes but he cannot fit into mine and he looks quite good in them too. I now know you cannot wear frozen underwear. I now know you can never have enough needle and thread to sew up armholes and leg holes in other peoples clothes. I now know you get a bad wedgee when you get pulled along by your legs on the slip and slide.

 

The aim of our trip was to go to this aboriginal community and to plant a seed of hope. We weren’t going there with a magic wand to make big changes. We continue to pray for the people of Hope Vale and for God’s guidance as this seed is now nurtured. A small group revisited in December for the confirmation of 24 young people. Twenty people from Faith College, the Sunshine Coast and our own congregation are at Hope Vale this coming week so please include them in your prayers.

 

Many of us want to step outside of our comfort zone and to be used by God to touch others for eternity. To do so we need to move from simply understanding the principles of truth to walking in its power. When I first read this prayer it was as if it the writer had written this just for me.

“Lord, with the eyes of my heart, I want to see you more clearly. I incline the ears of my inner person to listen for your words to me. You have promised your Spirit to guide me into all truth and to prompt prayers that please you and bear fruit. Lord, fulfill your promises to your servant. By faith I receive them.

I admit I wrestle with many obstacles – distractions, a mind that wanders, emotions and moods that rise and fall, personal opinions and a constant battle with busyness. Lord, slow me down, lead me into quietness, help me to hear your still small voice that whispers and witnesses to my spirit. Speak to me, Lord Jesus. Help me, Holy Spirit, to separate your thoughts from my thoughts. Show me the person you are wanting to speak to or touch through me. Show me what to pray, what and when to speak, and when to serve. Show me your open doors of opportunity. Lord, make me sensitive to you. Cause me to hear and heed your voice. For the cause of your kingdom. Amen

 

I encourage us all to step outside of our comfort zone and to walk in faith with our God. Matthew 17 verse 20 tells us “I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed you can say to this hill…. Go from here to there and it will go. You can do anything”. But remember every step that you take you are not alone. God will be with you every step of the way. Deuteronomy 31 verse 8 emphasizes “Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you. He will never fail you nor forsake you.”

And you never know where that journey could take you even somewhere special like Hope Vale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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