Missionary Diary: Christmas plans in WA

Two-and-a-half years ago, the Hurley family left North Coast Church in Perth, so Brendan could be an assistant minister at St George’s Anglican Church, Bluff Point (with a focus on young families and evangelism). Bluff Point is a northern coastal suburb of Geraldton, Western Australia, with a population of around 1400 residents. Brendan and his family are financially supported by Bush Church Aid.

It’s creeping up isn’t it? Christmas is just around the corner. All the decorations come out. The Christmas shopping needs to get done (in our house we have two birthdays in December so birthday shopping needs to be done as well). But most importantly, it’s a great opportunity to tell our community about the love and lordship of Jesus.

We’ve got a few things in the pipeline for Christmas 2021 that we’re really excited about. First up, we have a team from the Gospel Stand – the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES) group from Edith Cowan University – joining us for a mission week. We’re planning for the students to share their testimonies at the local Christian school and at some different men’s and women’s events that we’re running. They’re also going to give some kids and youth talks at our Splash Kids Club and Amplify Youth, and at church on Sunday, they’ll be running St George’s Kids, giving the kids talk, sharing testimonies and even playing the music at our 6pm service.

This is the second year we’ve had the Gospel Stand join us at St George’s. It was such a delight sitting down with students, helping them write their talks, praying with them and hearing their stories. We are hoping this is a partnership that will continue for years to come and that it will give the students a better idea of what life and ministry are like in regional Australia.

Bluff Point's local puppets are popular at school Christmas services!

Bluff Point’s local puppets are popular at school Christmas services!

Also lined up for December, Paul (minister-in-charge at St George’s), Mike (assistant minister at Geraldton Anglican Cathedral) and I are heading into some of the nearby schools to do Christmas services, explaining what Christmas is all about. We have a great time singing songs, reading from the Bible and getting out some puppets who the kids are instantly glued to as soon as they see them. We’re hoping and praying that the kids will hear the gospel and that they’ll come to one of our Christmas services.

The service that these families are most likely to come to is our outdoor Christmas Eve service. At this service we put on a BBQ, then we sing carols, pray for our community and give a short Bible talk that tries to get people to take a fresh look at Jesus. We often make some good connections at this service and we pray that they may lead to people being saved.

On Christmas Eve as the sun starts to set, people start to head off. That’s when we start to pack up everything. We then have to turn our attention to our next two services, our 11pm traditional carols service and our 8:30am Christmas morning service. Getting to bed after midnight and then getting up early to open presents with kids before church leaves me feeling pretty tired. But it’s nothing that one of my wife Laura’s coffees can’t fix.

St George's outdoor Christmas Eve service

St George’s outdoor Christmas Eve service

After our Christmas Day service wraps up, Paul and his wife Melinda come around to our place for Christmas lunch. Their adult kids who are up from Perth also join us and we have a great time eating and celebrating this busy Christmas season and the year that has been.

As you can see, every December is a busy season for our family. Yet there is a massive challenge that ministers in regional towns face at Christmas which makes life extra difficult. It’s that so many people are away. Volunteers who you’d hope could help are visiting loved ones in Perth. Connections you were hoping to invite to services or events have gone up north on a family holiday. People are often sporadic and busy with everything they have on. Every Christmas, we are not sure who is going to be around, which makes it particularly tricky to plan well. The challenge is to turn this obstacle into an opportunity and use it as a time to train new people up to do a role or to invite someone along who you wouldn’t normally think to invite.

Despite the busyness and the challenges of Christmas, it is a great delight to share Jesus with our community, together with the people of St George’s. And all of us here at St George’s wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. We hope you’ll join us in praying that this Christmas season would bear much gospel fruit.