After a tough few years for Scripture Union Family Missions, there is cause for celebration. The mission is on, in person, once again! This year more than a thousand volunteers across 25 teams will be packing their bags, hoping to engage 30,000-plus holiday makers with the message of Christ.
Scripture Union Family Missions run coastal and inland evangelistic missions, sending teams to popular tourist destinations throughout NSW to take the gospel to caravan parks, coastal towns and regional communities. However, many teams were affected in the summer of 2019-2020 by bushfires, and last summer’s COVID restrictions meant that no teams could venture out at all.
Holiday makers ready to go
This year's mission is looking promising. Many Sydney residents are desperate to get away after months of lockdowns and cancelled holiday plans, which means free spots at caravan parks and holiday rentals are hard to come by. These people may also be ripe for spiritual conversations, with McCrindle Research revealing almost a third of Australians are praying more since the start of the pandemic.
Nathan Milham, SUFM’s missions chairman, says it was a tough decision to cancel physical missions last summer, so many teams are excited to be heading off this year. “The [Scripture Union] movement exists to do mission, so to say we couldn’t travel was really hard,” he says.
Although teams and programs will look different to previous years, that hasn’t dampened spirits. “We go out to make God’s good news known,” Mr Milham says, “We’re not just going out to run a kids’ club or a coffee cart.... Capacity limits or masks might affect how we do [programs] but they won’t prevent us from meeting our purpose. We might change our programs and modify our missions, but we can do that because we are committed to a purpose, not a program.”
Returning for the first time in three years
For the team at Kioloa Beach Holiday Park, having to implement a different format for their mission this summer is a tiny inconvenience compared to the joy of finally being able to return in person.
“The joy is going [on mission] and seeing the people and talking to friends in the caravan park from years gone by,” says Hosea Luy, co-director of the Kioloa SUFM team. “We have spent two years away from mission. This year we are keen and looking forward to being on mission, talking to people, building relationships and having that refreshment that we enjoy so much.”
The Kioloa team has had close to 60 members in the past, but this year looks like it will be half that size. Usually they run a 10-day program from December 27 to January 6, with multiple kids’ and family activities each day for the 400 or so families who stay at the park.
“This time, we’ve shortened our organised program,” says Mr Luy, a student minister at Park Road Anglican. “Most people haven’t had the easiest two years, so coming off the back of that and having a short prep time, we wanted to try and make mission as easy as possible.
“Our organised program finishes on the 31st, but we will be at the campsite until Jan 3. We are hoping many can stay as a missional family, sharing the love of Christ between each other, and also seeking to love and care for the park around us without our organised program.”
Pray for teams
Although many teams are preparing with excitement, Mr Milham acknowledges there is still fatigue and anxiety. “We’ve got really thoughtful and passionate directors and leaders,” he says. “Pray for them as they lead their teams and care for their communities. It’s a tough role for volunteers to lead a mission when there are still questions in the air about what the government roadmap or COVID cases will look like. Pray for our leaders – they need encouragement, wisdom and support.”
As his team gets ready to go, Mr Luy prays they would be truly captivated by the gospel.
“It’s the foundation of our faith, really, believing in the good news of Jesus and having that sink into your heart. Pray this will sink into our hearts so that we are thankful to God for his grace towards us and that we desire to share it with others. Also, pray for our relationships with the people who we’ve known for a long time [at the caravan park], the people who we meet, and the caravan park management and staff.”