Would you like to hear about our Far North Queensland Trip?

When you start a trip off in a plane with someone who feels like vomiting the whole way there, you know it’s going to be good! But seriously, the Luminate mission trip was a once in a life experience for these guys and I’d love to be able to share a little bit about what it was like with you.

After a late start out from Cairns (got to love rental car places that think I’m going to have a Pajero when we ordered a 12 seater van...) we drove the 5 hours, with only one mishap of spilling soft drink over themselves because they didn’t listen to me, to arrive in Hope Vale just as the sun was going down.

Hope Vale is an Indigenous Community which had missionaries come to it in the late 19th C, and as a result, their faith in God is a core part of the town. As the participants came to discover, the week there was more about listening and learning, rather than us doing things for them. We did a lot of wandering around the town and dropping in on places. Some of the highlights included: men's shed (for the blokes), the cultural centre where we saw the women painting, the daycare and kindy (so cute!), the school where the Lumineers did a devotion and also went into the classes, the Op Shop run by the Lutheran Church and more! Our main contact for the week was Pastor David Spanagel, who introduced us to everyone and helped us get involved. We were privileged to join in the special Muni Day church service, as well as see 3 kids being baptised! It was a blessing for the Luminate participants to see worship done in different ways, including being able to hear songs sung in their local language. The people of Hope Vale are very special indeed.

We also spent an afternoon in Cooktown and went up to the lookout, went to the croc shop and had an icecream. If you’ve never been there, it’s worth the hike up the hill to have a 360 degree view of Cooktown- just stunning.

By about the second day the participants decided that they wanted to see a crocodile and made it their goal. So I would yell out ‘bridge coming’ every time we were crossing one so that they could have a look. But alas, no crocodiles. Until….we went to Wujul Wujul for the day and a local, Gloria, gave us a tour to the falls and there he (or she…it’s hard to tell from a distance) was- okay so it was a small crocodile but it counts!

Soon it was time to head to Cairns. We did the 5 hour trip back, stopping at the Coffee Works Factory (a highlight for some!) and safely arrived at the school to meet the billets (who were all exceptionally lovely!). We also picked up a stray by the name of Garth along the way, which we were very happy about. Okay….I was very happy about. From then on the participants called us ‘mum’ and ‘dad’. [editor: Garth is Sarah's husband who flew up to join the trip for the second week]

The next day we attended the church service at Trinity which was where we would run the holiday program for the local kids and sussed out the space. We spent that afternoon shopping and prepping for the program and then heading home for an early night to be ready for the next day.

Now, when I say ready, I don’t know if anyone can be truly ready for what we were about to do- we had almost 30 kids arrive on the first day from a variety of backgrounds and ages. And it was hectic for the 8 of us. But what an experience.

The Monday to Friday structure was: holiday program in the morning, lunch and debrief/chats and then relax or explore Cairns. During the program we looked at some key stories from the Bible and how they relate to us now. The water afternoon was definitely a highlight for both the kids and us! But hearing at the end of the week what they had learnt about God and themselves made it all worthwhile. I saw the Lumineers grow a lot during the week too, and I hope that they will take these new skills back into their own ministries.

Saturday we went to Port Douglas for the day and wow, what a drive along the coastline! If you've never done it, I highly recommend it. Pristine blue water the whole way. That night we also had a BBQ to thank all our billets who were so generous to us during the week. They really were a blessing.

God blessed us poor Brisbanites with weather that wasn’t too hot, and I am truly thankful for that because I did not want to deal with everyone being grumpy from the humidity. Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing and as is likely when you spend 24 hrs with people for two weeks, there were issues along the way we had to deal with. But overall, it was a great experience. I could go on about the other stuff that happened but it would take too long, so you will just have to ask the participants yourself (make sure you ask them about the second croc encounter…)!

{If you’re a young person and this sounds like something you’d like to be involved in next year, can I encourage you to head over to our website (www.luminate.org.au ) to check out if the Luminate Gap Year is something for you!}