Excerpt from Marissa Showalter’s personal blog “Riss Lynn Takes Brisbane” Marissa is a Spring 2017 student from Messiah College. Reproduced with permission.
Hi friends! It’s me again. Just procrastinating writing a paper and such, so instead I thought I’d write something just for the heck of it.
I just realized that I haven’t shared about my service placement yet, and I want to take a moment to do that because it is a super important part of my abroad experience. So every Tuesday while I am here, I volunteer in the mornings at Gateway Baptist Church in their Care Centre. This is also the church that I have been calling home since arriving in Brisbane, as every week I have been tagging along with my host family to the 10am service and the young adult service at 6pm.
I love volunteering at Gateway for soooo many reasons. Of course one of those reasons would be that I get to connect with more people who attend the church. And I have met such lovely individuals — people who truly want to do the Lord’s work and further His kingdom here on earth. It is a privilege to work with them every week and see the way God uses their willing hearts! I also love that I get to serve and affect lives for Christ even while overseas. As I wrote in my first blog post, my heart longs to be so much more than just a tourist during my time here. Being a part of an organization like the Care Centre allows that to become a much more tangible reality. I don’t want to simply be served and give nothing back to the community that has been giving me so much! I want to do my part as well.
One of my favorite aspects, though, would have to be the opportunity to interact with a part of the community that I wouldn’t usually have access to. I mean, I attend a private Christian uni, basically all of the friends I have met are church attendees, and my host family is Christian. I don’t have a lot of exposure to the marginalized society here aside from this opportunity. And how powerful it has been to rub shoulders with individuals who have been going through deeply troubling times. Australia is a place where life seems so incredibly perfect; the sun shines about ninety-nine percent of the time, people are friendly and cheerful, and everyone is always hanging out and having a good time. As one of my Aussie friends put it, “Life is just too good here!” In a world that seems so pristine, it is hard to imagine that there are people going through some truly harsh realties. The Care Centre helps put that into perspective for me.
Part of my job at the Care Centre is to package food to give out to those signed up for the On Track program, which assists those who are going through financial struggles. I also do interviewing with clients that are signed up for the program in order to help assess need and to check in to see where they are at in their lives (very reminiscent of social work-type duties). The Care Centre is a well-rounded program, offering assistance with food, clothing, household items, and also responding to emotional and spiritual needs.
Some days are nothing short of heartbreaking. Once we had a woman come in who had been evicted from her home the night before with a litter of young children to care for. Another day we had a Syrian refugee share the joy of the birth of his new baby boy, only to have that joy dimmed by fearfulness for the family he left behind in Syria and the unknown future his young family now faces in a new country with no connections and few provisions. We had another sad soul who shared her struggle with suicide and depression. I ache for these people who have been dealt such unfair hands in life. Tuesdays are for heavy hearts.
There is beauty in that pain, however. There is beauty in walking alongside these people and letting your heart break for them when theirs is already so fragmented that it can’t break any further. There is beauty in lending strength when the burdens that are borne are so heavy that they can’t be shouldered any longer. There is beauty in a smile that says that “sure, things aren’t great now — but you aren’t alone anymore.” And there is beauty in the resilience that I see as I stare into the eyes of those who have been battered, but not broken.
Tuesdays are for heavy hearts. But they are also for redemption and renewal, transmitting a hope that comes from Christ alone and the work that is being done to further His kingdom.
Thanks for reading friends.