Teens Serving the Mission of God in Thames
The Salvation Army in Thames became a hot spot for discipleship and evangelism this summer. A group of six young people with three leaders from Teen Missions International travelled all the way from Queensland, Australia, to the small town of Thames in the Coromandel to serve in the corps and local community. Hope Burmeister reports.
Lieutenants Jesse and Ben Willis, the corps officers at Thames Corps, have a personal connection to Teen Missions as they participated in the programme themselves as young people. They actually met each other during the programme and went on to marry. Ben moved to join Jesse in New Zealand and they trained to become officers in The Salvation Army.
Teen Missions retains a special place in their hearts and Ben mentioned that his first Teen Missions trip, ‘set my life on a path which has led me to now become an officer and to be ministering here in Thames’.
Practical summer mission
The coordinators from Teen Missions recently got in touch with Ben and Jesse, asking if they wanted to have a group come to serve in their corps. And so, for the first time, a group came to the small community of Thames, ready and willing to do anything to serve God.
One big project the team undertook was painting the church building, which took weeks of prep and painting. They went through 28 tubes of caulk! Jesse and Ben were impressed with the high quality of the work when the job was complete.
This was one of the many ways the team served the corps and the Thames community. They also led church services in the corps, and played worship music, made balloon animals for the kids and connected with locals at the Saturday street market.
Thames is a small town, so the group’s efforts were noticed, and the young people got to know many locals by name and built connections.
They were even able to help some who were in desperate need, for example, a man experiencing homelessness. They invited him for breakfast and a shower. There were many times when the group invited people they just met to join them for a meal or just chatted with them.
‘…the kind of culture around town is really great because people are genuinely interested in getting to know who these people are who have come here,’ said Ben. ‘You want to get to know them before they leave.’
The team endured challenges when, after prepping to lead a community meal and church service, they all had to isolate after most of them caught Covid-19. But they still remained optimistic and excited for what God was doing, despite the disruptions.
One of the teenagers, a 15-year-old, preached his first sermon at Thames Corps, after which he received a big round of applause, as everyone was excited to see such a young person up there speaking.
A summer well spent
On their last Sunday in Thames, all of the young people in the team got up and shared with passion and confidence a God moment they had experienced on their trip.
‘It was really cool to see the growth even in a few short weeks from when they first arrived to when they left,’ said Jesse. ‘Just real confidence in their faith … and that really encourages and excites us.’
Ben was impressed with the group’s ability to be practical but also talk to people about Jesus. Despite not being from The Salvation Army, they demonstrated the Army’s values.
‘I was really pleased and blown away at how they really embodied the spirit of The Salvation Army like the two wings on a bird: you’ve got the social action and you’ve got evangelism and if you have one without the other then the bird will just crash to the ground,’ he said.
A special thing about the Thames Corps building is that it’s the oldest Salvation Army building that’s still being used, 137 years later. Ben feels it was special to have these young people not only come in and physically paint it, but also bring an enthusiastic, youthful presence to their corps family.
He declared, ‘it almost feels somewhat poetic—that the year starts off with these young people coming and blessing us and we really hope and pray that’s a catalyst for more’.
The Teen Missions Team Reports Back
1. What was the highlight of the trip?
2. What was something you learned?
3. How did God speak to you?
1. I loved talking to people in the markets and hearing their stories.
2. Missions is not only to help other hearts change but mine as well.
3. God spoke to me in the moments when I had complaints and during devotions.
1. When we got to provide food and a shower for a man who was homeless.
2. Prayer is so important and impacts your life immensely.
3. He taught me that he has all things planned out and to not be anxious but to step into it with courage.
1. Seeing the complete project after we finished painting the church.
2. Spending time with God is very good for you.
3. Through devotions every morning which were really powerful.
1. Playing Christian music in the Thames local market.
2. If you allow God to enter your life and are after his heart, he will use and change you.
3. God asked me to put him at the centre of everything, and rely on him wholly.
1. Even though we were all different, the team became close really fast.
2. I loved learning about David from the Bible and how strong his faith was in God.
3. Through devotions, as it’s really fun to read about Jesus and God.
1. Evangelising was my highlight. Thanks, Lou, for helping me.
2. Help others, not myself.
3. Talking to God about anything as he helps me with any problem I’m having.
Words: Hope Burmeister