The countdown has truly begun now, and I find myself about three days from leaving Brisbane and a week from leaving Australia. Anyone remember that old Kenny Chesney song, “Don’t Blink”? Yeah, well, I think I blinked. I honestly have no idea how I am already at this point in my journey. It just doesn’t feel right, you know? Shouldn’t I be here at least a few more months?
But here we are, nonetheless. And as I am reflecting over my time spent in this wonderful place with these wonderful people, I realize that one of the things that I am going to miss the most is the church community that I’ve found here.
I have gone to church my whole life, but I’ve never felt like I truly connected deeply at any place that I attended. However, during my time here I have had the church experience that I had been longing for for years. I had been looking for a place where I could really feel a part of a community of Christ-followers, a place where everyone is welcoming and genuine, and Gateway Baptist Church did that for me in my brief time here.
It all started when I was talking to two of my first friends at uni, Madison and Jess (shout out to you guys!), and they asked me where I was planning to attend church this semester. I told them that I wasn’t exactly sure, but that I’d probably just go wherever my host family went. They told me that I should go to their church, Gateway Baptist, because it was the best, and Madison also promptly invited to go to his life group with him.
Well, it turns out that Gateway was exactly where my host family attended as well. Funny enough, I was also placed at the Care Centre there to do my service hours for uni.
I was the only American from the group who really went to Gateway, and at first I was a bit reticent. I was excited to meet new people, but it’s intimidating going in and not knowing anyone, especially when strong friend groups are already established. But I am SO GLAD that Gateway is where I ended up, because some of my favorite friendships have come from this church community. And what a welcoming community I found there!!
The cool thing about Australian culture is how relationally-focused most people are; they will just stand and chat to you for ages, and if they don’t know you most people aren’t shy to come up and say hello. And the church culture of life groups here is so strong as well, which I think is awesome! When I first arrived, I got invited to at least three different life groups. It is that kind of genuineness that is going to further the kingdom.
So a big shoutout to Gateway for being such an amazing Aussie church family — I was so well loved by your community. Thank you for letting me be a part of it for a season.