Happy hour at the caravan park - and other gospel opportunities

Being a Grey Nomad with purpose takes practise

Grey nomads travel Australia and revel in the delights of this country. But you can also travel with a clear purpose if you become a nomad with the Bush Church Aid Society, as my wife Sue and I are doing.

In March, 63 of those purposeful BCA Nomads gathered in a caravan park beside the historic Narromine airfield, in central west NSW, for several days of training and encouraging, as well as renewing and making acquaintances.

BCA Nomads are in their prime as evangelists.

The assembled crew, ranging in age from early 60s to mid 80s – and in varying states of health or decay – had travelled from afar as Mareeba in Queensland and Cohuna in Victoria to meet each other. Along with several BCA field staff, all of these purposeful nomads might not have met otherwise.

My wife, Sue, and I experienced our first gathering there. It may have been wise for us to have first attended last year’s event before we set out as naïve newbie BCA Nomads. Sunday by Sunday, we rocked up at various churches (Baptist, Uniting, Salvation Army) wearing our BCA identification badges.

“Oh, what’s that?” we were asked week by week, until we went to an Anglican church where recognition was immediate and enthusiastic. Then it dawned on us … BCA is Anglican! And we’d thought that we were going to have a year-long holiday from Anglicanism; ha, wrong.

So, Sue and I had lots to learn at the fourth gathering organised by BCA Nomads stalwarts, Doug and Fran Orr.

Headlining the schedule was evangelist dynamo James Daymond, who reckons BCA Nomads are in their prime as evangelists. “You have life experience to draw upon,” James told us as he launched into an afternoon’s instruction on evangelising in caravan parks, where there are so many opportunities to start gospel conversations: at “happy hour”, meals, campfires, by the swimming pool, and even while setting up or lending a helping hand.

Drawing on his experience as a BCA-supported evangelist in the Narromine Anglican Church (that experience included reaching every house – in the town and on nearby farms – in a period of just over two years!), James said there is not one right way to do evangelism.

He encouraged us to let people know what God has done for us through Jesus (as per 2 Corinthians 5:21), whether it’s incorporated into general chit-chat, or in a planned evangelistic foray.

James’s three essentials were: connect, share and establish. First we connect with people by chatting with them. Next, we can gently steer the conversation to either of two powerful questions: “What do you know about Christianity?” or “Who do you think Jesus is?” Then we can share our answer to the question and offer to help others explore further with suitable resources (paperback Gospel of Luke, for example). We might also be able to establish ongoing contact.

Perhaps you could encourage us, and the other Nomads, to have the guts to purposefully open our gobs for Jesus wherever we go.

James gave several Nomads the opportunity to join him and his team door-knocking the few outstanding homes on his list. Watching the master at work (and chipping in when and where appropriate) was inspiring.

Right now, Sue and I are at James’s “practise, practise” phase. Perhaps you could encourage us, and the other Nomads, to have the guts to purposefully open our gobs for Jesus wherever we go.

Two of the field staff we met were chaplains in nearby towns. Ayumi Tamsett (pronounced I-you-me) said of her 75-minute SRE classes at Gilgandra High School: “It was an eternity!” Being an SRE teacher was a springboard for her to become a chaplain.

Indigenous woman Alfrene Wright spoke about the challenges of being a chaplain at the mostly Indigenous primary school at Gulargambone.

Sue and I first met BCA’s Indigenous Ministry Officer, Neville Naden, at Katherine Christian Convention last year. We were on our second stint as BCA Nomads, helping a diverse group of helpers from Maitland in NSW, as well as Melbourne, Darwin and a bunch of other BCA Nomads.

Hearing Naden speak at Narromine was most encouraging. As recipients of the gospel “at the utmost ends of the Earth”, he said “we have a responsibility to proclaim those wonderful truths”.

“I use smoking ceremonies to be able to launch out into the gospel.” – Neville Naden

Neville startled me to rethink my attitude to Indigenous beliefs when he pointed out that the wider community say with incredulity to Christians: “You guys believe in a God who shows himself through a burning bush. How can you guys believe in a God who reveals himself through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night?”

“But it’s what the church does … it turns around and does the same thing to our Aboriginal people: ‘How can you believe that?'”

When asked about how he handles smoking ceremonies, Neville said, “I use smoking ceremonies to be able to launch out into the gospel. This is what our people believe. Hang on, look what the gospel says about those things.

“Think of ways that you can use their culture to teach biblical truth.”

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