Areli says that she is not a writer, so I will try to tell her story as best I can. The real beauty of this article will be all the wonderful photos that Areli was able to capture on her Australian Adventure.
This adventure began back in September of 2015. This was when the youth leaders, Ben and Dylan called a meeting for anyone interested in going on the summer missions trip. I took Areli, who was so excited to finally get the opportunity to try missions. I was thrilled as well, having done 5 trips as a young woman. I understood how impactful and life changing they are. We learned at the meeting that the destination of the trip had not yet been determined, but it would probably be somewhere in Africa, Asia, or Europe. Oh my…that is most of the world…and so very far from home.
Areli jumped into the unknown with two feet; praying, seeking God, and participating in fund-raising events.
Sometime around February, the exact location had been chosen…rather revealed by God, and it wasn’t Africa, Asia, or Europe.
It was Australia!
Someone had been praying for Dylan and prophesied to him that he would lead a team to Australia. Then one of the girls on the team had a dream that they were all on a beach in Australia helping a man in a red shirt. When the leaders shared this dream with their contact in Australia, Nick from Kenmore Baptist church, Nick said that they had a group in their church that wore red shirts! They were called “The Red Frogs” and they ministered to young adults. So Australia it was!
It turned out that the only time that the team could travel to the “land down under” was the perfect time to be there. It was during their winter break when the Kenmore Baptist Church ran the Kids Holiday Club. This ministered to 380 children, many of whom were unchurched children whose parents needed a safe place for them to be while they were at work. Also, Georgian and Winnie Banov just happened to be at Glory City Church in Brisbane during this time as well! I love how God works out the perfect place at the perfect time.
The team (which consisted of two guy leaders, two women leaders, 16 high school girls, and three high school boys) dove into training almost every weekend starting in April. They had homework each week, to read a chapter of Translating God by Shawn Bolz and complete the workbook. This included many practical applications such as giving encouraging words to three people during the week. I highly recommend this book. I have only read three chapters of it so far and I have encountered revelations from God’s heart that have opened my heart and mind with each chapter!
They practiced listening to God, praying and prophesying over each other, and praying and prophesying over strangers. They practiced treasure hunting at Lancaster’s First Friday. Areli and a group of girls prayed for God to give them clues that would lead them to His special treasure (a person who He wanted them to share His love with). One of the girls got an impression in her mind of the name Angelica. Areli decided to purchase a bunch of flowers and they started giving flowers away while they searched for Angelica. It was time to return and they hadn’t found her, so Jessica yelled out, “Angelica!”
A girl close to them turned around and said in shock and amazement, “How did you know my name?”
“God loves you and he knows your name,” Andrea said. They gave her their very last rose and Angelica walked away still marveling at the fact that God had called her out of the crowd!
Chris and I were a bit concerned about the $3,000 Areli needed for her trip. “Where God guides, He always provides,” we used to say in YWAM, and Areli didn’t seem worried as she enjoyed preparing for her trip. Almost immediately Areli received generous donations that covered her entire trip!
My mother’s heart was overwhelmed and undone, and I felt God say, “None of Areli’s faithfulness has gone unnoticed by me.”
You see, Areli works in the home day after day cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and taking care of her special needs sister and her younger siblings. She almost always has a good attitude. If she worked out of the home doing the same things, she would have quite a nest egg by now! She pours herself out every day for her family, and now her trip was covered!
She still needed spending money, some new clothes, and her dream was to get a new, better camera to satisfy her passion for photography. Now we felt confident that God would provide all of those needs as well…and He did!
Quickly the time for the most anticipated trip had arrived. The team was traveling on Air Canada, and I downloaded the App so I could follow their progress across the world and pray for them. Throughout the day on Wednesday, June 29th, I saw that their first flight out of Baltimore was being delayed again and again. They finally took off, but their connecting flight in Toronto was supposed to be leaving as they were descending into the Toronto airport. Air Canada held the airplane as the missions team RAN through the airport and security as fast as they could. They made it!
After a 5 hour flight to Vancouver and a 14 hour flight to Brisbane, they were there…and they had lost Thursday. It was now Friday morning even though their bodies were ready for bed. They decided that the best way to beat the jet lag was to stay awake all day and spend it at the beach, the Gold Coast Beach. It was a little cooler there (sixties) being the dead of winter, but it was a lovely day! They even found some strangers to pray for and encourage.
On Saturday the team visited the Byron Bay Light House and explored and treasure hunted. Areli’s group got the clue, “Bumble Bee” but they weren’t sure what that meant. Later in the day, they saw a girl dressed in yellow and black and talked with her and prayed for her.
Sunday morning the team had to pack up because they were leaving the basic motel where they had been staying. The leaders were preparing the students for the worse, hinting that they would probably be roughing it in conditions far inferior to the motel. Areli said they were all bracing themselves for what was coming next…when they arrived at a beautiful 10 bedroom, 6 bathroom mansion! This was a “God thing” as the tennis team who had rented this house for the week had just pulled out before one of the leaders had called to inquire. And it was less expensive than the hotels in the area. It was right in the city and prefect for the youth training meeting that they would be hosting for Kenmore Baptist Church.
Sunday the team went to encourage racers in the Gold Coast Marathon. Dylan and Leah actually ran the half marathon while the other team members ran part of it or cheered and encouraged people from the sidelines. Areli ended up speed walking for 6 miles and she was exhausted! The team still had energy to try some surfing.
That evening they attended the service at Kenmore Baptist Church and met a lot of the members of the church that they would be working with.
Sunday night while they were all sleeping, it was just Sunday afternoon here in PA. Chris and I decided to invite the amazing families of the missions team to our home for a cookout. Many of the parents and their other children were able to come. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other better and sharing the sketchy details that had been trickling in from our children. Some of the parents had purchased international packages for their child’s cell phones and were able to talk or Skype, but not very much. We hadn’t purchased one, but had hoped that Areli would be able to connect to Wi-Fi to message us. It turns out that in Australia Wi-Fi is not such a big deal and hard to find. Still, I had received an email and a text from one of the leaders, Amelia, who was able to send me a Picture of Areli smiling on the beach. That warmed my heart and put my mind at ease.
I thought about what faith my mom had to allow me to travel to Mexico for two weeks without hearing a word from us until we returned. I missed Areli so badly and wanted to hear from her about all that she was doing. Well, talking to the other parents was the next best thing.
Soon all the parents retired into the sitting room while the children went to shoot hoops at the park. We had peace and quiet to share amazing stories and pray for the team. There was such a sense of joyous expectation for what God was going to do. I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to Australia myself, to participate in this wonderful trip. Then I realized that I was sending my very heart and soul and DNA; all that I had taught Areli and invested into her was now being released to bless the people of Australia! One Dad mentioned how a teenager grows and comes into their own on a trip like this in a way they never could do with their parents with them. Another Dad said he saw springs of living water welling up in the floor in the middle of our prayer circle and going out to all the world. I was so encouraged by all of these things.
Monday the team spent the morning helping with the Kids Holiday Club and made some great friends.
The afternoon was spent training the youth and young adults of the church in prophecy. The Kenmore Baptist Church was just beginning to discover the gifts of the Spirit, and most of them had not prophesied before. Prophecy is simply sharing with other people God’s heart of love for them, sometimes tapping into God’s knowledge of things that we would never know on our own. This was a key ministry and transforming for the young people of the church. Some of them heard God’s voice for the first time! Areli prayed for an Australian, Alexia who would become one of her best friends on the trip. Areli had received the word “Hope” by one of the leaders. Areli saw that Alexia was like a hope dispenser, giving hope to everyone she met. Alexia was quite moved by this revelation. (Sometime later in the trip it was clear that Alexia’s prophetic gift of bringing hope and encouragement had indeed been activated! She went from person to person on the bus, praying for all who were present. Then she continued praying for every shop with in sight. She was catching God’s vision for people and the city and she just couldn’t stop!) Following the prophetic training, they all went out treasure hunting and then returned to the house for an American style Fourth of July barbeque.
Tuesday was more Kids Holiday Club, Prophetic Training, treasure hunting and a bonfire with the church youth. Wednesday’s schedule was very similar with the treasure hunting taking place at Southbank. Areli’s group received the clue “orange” so they walked towards the orange Brisbane sign and then towards an orange bridge behind it. Once they got there, they saw a boy in an orange shirt. They tried to talk to him but he spoke no English, only Italian. This was discouraging because they had been walking for a long time and seemed to have hit a dead-end.
After walking a bit longer, Emma and Gillian both began signing the same song about a consuming fire, so “fire” was the next clue. They encountered Ben who encouraged them that the Italian guys were probably a clue that was pointing to the Italian restaurant across the street. As they walked towards the Italian restaurant, one the Australian guys said he got the clue, “woman” and “broken foot.” They saw another restaurant setting food on fire so they continued towards the fire. Then they kept going towards orange traffic cones (from the original clue) until they got to the street corner. Around the street corner they saw…a woman with a broken foot! The entire group was taken aback by this very obvious fulfillment of the clue and how many clues it had taken to get them there! They prayed for the woman and she was very blessed!
Another team was running along the streets because the time was running out. One of the Australian guys stopped running and Andrea asked him why. He said that he had an old ankle injury that prevented him from running. He had been big into riding his mountain bike in competitions. Andrea prayed for him and his ankle was miraculously healed. (Later in the trip his wrist was also healed. Another healing happened, but I am not sure exactly when so I will include it here. Emma was praying for a teen who hadn’t been able to touch his toes since a childhood skiing accident. He was healed and Emma got a video of him happily touching his toes about a thousand times!)
Thursday morning the team visited the Kai Coffee house, owned by a friend of Ben. They prayed for and encouraged this friend and his family.
After that, the team went hiking on the sunshine coast.
They attended a revival meeting in the evening.
Friday they got to attend a leadership workshop given by Banning Liebscher of Jesus Culture. That evening they went to Glory City Church for Georgian and Winnie Banov’s service. They all prayed for people at the end. Areli and a few other girls were praying for a woman and Jessica got the word “child” for that woman. She said that she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child, so the girls prayed for God to send her that very special blessing!
On Saturday the team helped Kenmore Baptist Church with a service project. They built a fence around the yard of a single mother who had two daughters. One of her daughters had special needs like our daughter Ashlyn. However, this girl couldn’t talk or walk at all. Apparently she was very good at getting around despite her disability, because there had been an incident when the neighbors noticed the girl crawling down the street while her mother was unaware in the house…hence the need for a fence! When I saw pictures of the white picket fence and the raised flower beds that they created around the yard, I was struck by how beautiful it was!
Saturday evening was spent helping Georgian and Winnie again.
Sunday morning the team went to street markets and did some shopping. They visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
After that they had fun on at a local watering hole.
They attended the evening service at Kenmore Baptist Church. Ben and Dylan preached and the team prayed for the people. Many of the Australians went out to eat with them, and they said their tearful goodbyes. The team had gained such wonderful friends, and they all want to go back and visit.
Monday morning began their 28 hour return trip home. I was so excited the entire day and watched my phone to track their progress. Cadin was counting the hours until Areli walked through the door because he was tired of cleaning the kitchen, he said.
Areli came home at midnight, tired but happy. Over the next few weeks she has been telling us the marvelous stories. She said that the biggest thing she learned on the trip was that praying for strangers and making new friends was not as hard as she thought! The team’s love and wiliness to work impacted everyone they met. What is more, the gifts that they helped to discover and activate in the youth of the Kenmore Baptist Church will continue to transform the Brisbane area and beyond with the love of a Good Father who knows each of His children by name!