During the summer of 2003, I had the wonderful opportunity to serve with the International Mission Board and be placed with a church in Buderim, Queensland (Australia) as a youth and children’s worker. The church with which I worked, Goodlife Church, was relatively new and employed a rather interesting ministry model in terms of their building. Rather than seeking to build a traditional church building, the church leadership and membership built a community center, complete with a basketball court, swimming pool, skate park, aerobics room, squash courts, seminar rooms, and cafe. During the week, the building functioned as a gathering place for people in the community, and on Friday nights and Sundays, it was a gathering place for the church.
Thanks to the generosity of the founding pastor, Doug, I was loaned a car to use. This allowed me to participate in almost every program offered by the church including weekly children’s and youth activities, touch rugby matches, youth camp, Sunday services, and discipleship and planning meetings. It also allowed me explore the area – Mt. Coolum, Kondalilla falls, the Australia Zoo, and local beaches.
While all that was great fun, the best part of my free time was learning to surf. Buderim and the neighboring communites of Maroochydore and Mooloolabah are in an area called the Sunshine Coast. This area is beautiful. One of the couples from the church loaned me their longboard, and almost everyday, I went to the beach in the afternoon to surf. Very quickly, surfing became a way that I engaged people and made friends. On the water, I met teenagers who I invited to youth activities. I also met a group of people my age from Goodlife would go surfing each Friday morning at sunrise and make breakfast on the beach – I was there each week, and these were good times.
There were many experiences I will always remember from that summer – going to youth camp, worshipping with a group of vibrant believers, handling logistics for the church’s missions expo, trying a skateboard for the first time, playing touch rugby each week, going to my first and only Australian rule football game (Brisbane Lions), fishing at Noosa, making French Toast for some close friends on a Saturday morning, SCUBA diving, seeing the Southern Cross for the first time, and watching the sun rise over the ocean from a longboard. Nevertheless, there is one that stands above the rest – my final surf.
On my last full day in the Sunshine Coast (7-28-2003) I gathered with a few friends, Russ, Kane, and Smiley, and we hit the waves one more time. I don’t fully remember the waves I caught or the times I crashed. However, I do remember sitting on my board, surrounded by some good friends and enjoying God’s Creation.
If God ever allows, I will return in a heartbeat. There will always be a special place in my heart for the Sunshine Coast and the people there.