Scripture Union NSW has announced that mission teams will not be travelling for the 2020-21 summer break, and is urging all teams to find creative alternatives to reach communities with the gospel.
“Mission is not cancelled, but this summer we’re not going to travel,” says SU NSW’s missions chairman, Nathan Milham. “In light of the challenges of COVID-19, in our best wisdom under God, we think it’s good for us to pause traditional mission structures. We’re directing teams to plan not to travel but instead find other creative ways to stay keen for mission and stay connected.”
"Mission is not cancelled, but this summer we're not going to travel"
Scripture Union family missions are commonly known as beach missions, although they occur inland, in suburban areas and country towns in addition to many holiday parks along the NSW coast. Teams spend an average of 10 days running children’s and family activities and sharing the gospel with locals and vacationers.
Mr Milham says the decision was not made lightly. “Missions are a ministry that people hold very close to their hearts, so it’s a hard thing to do differently. When we look at the risks and the other alternative opportunities, we think this is the best way forward for the movement right now.”
Care from afar
This will be the first summer in nine years that Georgia Condie won’t be setting up tents and speaking with campers about Christ. Although there is disappointment, the co-director of Huskisson mission says there is a sense of relief.
“We had bushfires last summer, which was high intensity and very stressful and we felt exhausted at the end of that,” she says. “The thought of going back to mission with another thing… the prospect of planning for that was huge. How would we do social distancing when we sleep in tents? How would we run activities without putting people at risk and damaging our image within the community?”
Mrs Condie will miss reconnecting with campers most, and the team is brainstorming ways to care for the campers from afar.
“This kind of ministry is very face-to-face and relational,” she says. “There are a group of families who camp right near us. They’re always up for a chat, and that’s been the long game for the ministry. We feel like every year we can share another gospel truth, and see them move towards Jesus in small ways. Last year, they came to church with us, because their daughter had never been and wanted to know what it was like. I feel really sad we won’t see them.”
Mr Milham is hopeful that this year’s disruption will encourage teams to think creatively about how to reach out to communities now, as well as for future summer missions.
“Our prayer is that we make God’s good news known wherever we are,” he says. “It’s not a summer thing, it’s an all-of-life thing. Pray we wouldn’t be discouraged by a change in plan, but that we would preach the word in season and out of season.
“Pray also for the communities that will miss us. A lot of caravan parks will miss having a mission team there. Pray they would welcome us back again next year and that the doors would remain open for years of mission.”
With Scripture Union missions pausing travel, it’s vital for holidaying Christians to boldly evangelise.
“There’s no better time than when people are away from the stress of life, have a bit more time and are a bit more ready to talk about what they believe,” Mr Milham says. “Particularly this year – a year of anxiety and disruption – people are open to asking what it all means and finding out about the certain hope Christians have. We have really good news that answers a lot of these questions.”