It’s Schoolies time again!
What is that all about? Well, every year near the end of November, Australian students let their hair down in various parts of the country for a big party for a couple of weeks – much like Spring Break in the US.
Around 50,000 of these students turn up on the Gold Coast. It’s the biggest concentration of Schoolies in the country, because everyone wants to come to Surfers Paradise!
While here, students let their hair down by partying up, drinking up, drugging up, and hooking up. Basically, its just an excuse to engage in debauchery outside of their parents control.
This presents a fantastic opportunity for the Gospel, and every year for the last 6 or 7 years, Operation513 have been doing just that.
I arrived in the Gold Coast on Friday and stayed with some previous neighbours who had retired here. They dropped me off at the apartment at Surfers after lunch the following day. They have been blessed to use the apartment, owned by the parents of the organiser, with three good sized bedrooms and a huge lounge area. They had just taken possession of the apartment that week, so there was no dining or lounge furniture. That suited us, as it gave us more room to stretch out on air mattresses on the floor.
In all there were 11 regulars staying at the apartment; three of us were from NZ – myself, Glen from Christchurch, and Phil from Whangarei. The other eight were from Australia – Ryan & Bekk, Paul, Kane, Abraham, Will, Dino, and Nathaniel.
We were also joined during the day by local guys from the Brisbane team.
The main schedule was two hours online outreach in the morning, Bible study of Ps 119 after lunch, two hours outreach down at Surfers, dinner, then another three hours at Surfers.
On Saturday night we had dinner, then went out for our first of what was to be at total of 13 outreaches over the week. – all in the mid-afternoon and evening. These were all around the Cavill Ave area, as it was the main thoroughfare to and from the main entrance to Surfers Paradise Beach. There was always organised activities going on – either at the beach, or street performers and musicians up and down Cavill Ave – meaning that there were always hundreds of kids going in all directions, providing us ample opportunities for conversations.
Last year I made notes on all my conversations so that I could do daily blogs. However, this meant that a lot of my time on the outreach was spent taking notes on my phone. Also, all my downtime at the apartment was spend typing them all out, meaning I missed out on a lot of fellowship time with the team. This year I started to make notes on conversations, but decided to stop, and just make one blog of the whole week. This presented a different challenge, as not making notes meant that most of the unmemorable conversations all blend into one. So at the end of the day I am a bit conflicted as to what to do next time.
I started out a bit nervous for some reason. Looking down Cavill Ave, all you see are masses of kids coming towards you. I had to take a deep breath and just go for it. After the first one broke the ice (with a lot of help from Bekk), I was into it! I made notes of names for the first two days outreaches (Sat & Sun). I counted five notable conversations the first night. From memory a couple of them were very receptive.
Sunday was a bit different. We went to church together in the morning. Ryan decided we would check out Liberti Church in Carrara. It was a great service. They had just finished going through the book of Revelation exegetically, and this was their celebration of finishing it. Whole chapters were read out, and worship sung to match the verses. It was something different, but very cool! The afternoon was free, so we played some tennis (me badly), and went for a swim in the complex’s pool. No dragons around the pool to bite Phil’s fingers this year!
I remember after last year there were a few conversations and names that will stick with me for a long time. This year was no different. On Sunday night I spoke with 2 boys down Cavill named Gabriel and Jayden. They were just right for the plucking – God had providentially prepared their hearts specifically for this conversation It’s not often you get 2 in the same conversation convicted of their sin and profess faith – normally it’s neither, or just one. I could feel their hearts sinking when they realised they would go to hell if they died tonight. They were so hungry for the truth that they were begging to know how to escape hell. I felt like a doctor who held is his hand the cure to a deadly cancer, and the dying patient on their knees begging for it. They were relieved to know that escape from hell was through not having confidence in anything they had done, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross. I was able to show them how to download an ESV Bible for free, and they promised they would go back to their room and start reading it straight away! Like me, they weren’t locals, so didn’t know of any good churches they could attend. I gave them a link to a good church search. I asked them to look around. They did, and I asked them if Schoolies now looked the same, or different. They said much different. I asked them what they should do if they are concerned for their Schoolie friends. They said to tell them what I told them. I said we were around all week, so come and see us and ask questions if they had any. They said they might, but I didn’t see them again. Then again, they looked like all the other thousands of blonde-haired Aussie boys there, so I could have passed by them heaps and not noticed them!
There were plenty of other ‘church’ groups down there as well. Some the same as last year, but others as well. I remember talking to a kid dressed like Jesus. With him was a guy dressed as Luigi from the Nintendo games. ‘Jesus’ then peeled away so I began chatting with Luigi, and it was going quite well. Then a lady carrying a huge sign that said ‘Jesus is Lord’ butted in. She said she had a prophecy for him. I thought ‘good grief!’. She said she was drawn to him because the Lord showed her he had a mantle on his shoulders that would bring him prosperity. I was so angry, but I backed off. I had intended to catch up with him again after she had finished. Then she put a hand on his forehead and started ‘decreeing’ and ‘declaring’ all sorts of garbage over him. I could almost smell the Pentecostal poison spewing from her. When she left, I went back over. ‘Jesus’ asked me if I wanted a photo with him, so I said sure. By the time that was done, Luigi had left, and then Jesus went after him. I told him to bring him back, but there was somewhere they needed to be. I wanted to give the woman a piece of my mind, but I thought that my time was better spent just finding someone new to talk to.
There was a guy from a ministry I remembered from last year, and he recognised us. It was a dodgy healing ministry he was with, but this year he was alone. He tagged alongside us nearly ever night, listening to our chats. He kept saying how he liked the way we opened our conversations (‘Can I ask you a question, what do you think happens after we die?’). I didn’t mind, so long as he didn’t interrupt me. He didn’t, but he did with one of Will’s conversations. Will told me that a conversation was going great, and the guy was close to professing faith. The healing guy (I never did get his name) asked the boy if he wanted to pray the sinners’ prayer with him. Will could not believe it. Afterwards, Will had to tell him bluntly that it was OK to listen in, but not to intervene again. I don’t think he did, but he kept tagging along. One night he asked each one of us individually to pray for him, as he had a ‘spiritual heaviness’ and couldn’t feel the spirit move in him to pray for healing for people. That suited us fine! I think we all politely declined, which annoyed him. I think in the end he got someone from one of the other dodgy ministries to pray over him.
There was a group from another church that came out one night. They sang some rap songs which the Schoolies loved and danced to, but the message was pretty squishy. One girl sung a Lauren Daigle song (Daigle is from Northpoint Church in the US, ‘Pastored’ by heretic Andy Stanley). She had an awesome voice, but it was all about God moving mountains for her, so offered absolutely nothing biblically.
The Hari Krishnas were a jolly nuisance all week. Often I would be in a good conversation when they would come by. It was annoying having to pause the conversation until they went past, as they had amplification. The drums were very loud, and there was a constant entrourage of Schoolies dancing and yelling with them. One of the team jokingly threatened to bring a pair of pliers with him to cut off their amplification.
All these distractions were Satan’s way of trying to put us off the work at hand. Most of them were at the night outreach. But they didn’t work, because report after report was coming in about amazing conversations the team were having! This is why evangelism can often be much better with a big group – you can tell one of the others team members details of a chat you just had, and that encourages them. It also gives us opportunities to pray for each other when discouragement pops up.
For every time we went out, I must have had at least 25 start-up conversations. From that, most would either take a tract or stop and talk. Of those who did stop and talk, only one or two at the most would make it through to faith profession. But we don’t have a quota to fill, we just move to the next person and carry on. God is the one that gets the results, not us. It’s impossible for us to know how God is working, and if a seed was planted or watered. We just leave everything in His hands, and pray that He grant the increase, for His glory. Therefore, we have a saying that goes ‘No chat in vain’, because God moves as He wishes. We just tell the Gospel truth!
At the end of this report, I’ll tell you about the most memorable chat I had on the streets, with a guy called Jonah.
I mentioned earlier that we spent two hours each day online. The guys do an online YouTube stream every day. We joined in for the days we were there, and some of the team even managed to do online live stream. You can find all their YouTube streaming videos here.
The chats used to be on a platform called Omegle. But this has since closed down, so now we now use another platform called ome.tv. We do have a facility where we can record the details of every chat over two minutes in duration. Over the week I had recorded 58 of these chats.
Ometv lets you choose a country you want to randomly talk to. A few times I selected New Zealand to see who would pop up. Often it would be school aged kids in class, who would wear an earpiece and talk silently so the teacher couldn’t hear.
One time I was paired with a lad from Auckland, which turned out to be a great chat. At one stage the teacher came over and asked what he was doing. He said “I’m talking to a man about Jesus, Miss!”. She told him he should be doing some work. When she left, he sat closer to his phone and carried on the conversation. He was very humble. He believed that praying and asking for forgiveness would get him to heaven. I said that they were good things to do, but these things alone won’t take away our hell punishment. I told him what did, and he did end up professing faith in the end! After giving him our social links, and the Bible download link, I thanked him for listening to me, but told him he should probably obey his teacher and do some work. God has His own ways of reaching people!
Many chats that popped up were just there for shock value. I was paired with a guy from Dublin, who was proud to tell me he shot a black man, and had served 5 years house arrest. I asked him if he had lied or stolen as well. He burst out laughing and skipped the conversation, so I have no idea how much of it was true.
It was amazing how high a percentage these random calls were picked up by those of a Muslim faith. I gave a few of them some thinking to do – a Muslim doesn’t have any assurance of going to heaven, because he has no one to take his hell punishment. A few left the conversation in a huff, but a few said they would have to check it out more. Either way, they all know the only way they can get to heaven!
I remember a conversation with a couple of Pacific Island guys named Sonny & Alex, who were online back home in New Zealand. They were quite funny, and had that laugh that makes their bodies shake. They both became quite sombre when they realised that all the lying, stealing and lusting would send them to hell. But they were both humble enough to accept the gift of Jesus taking their hell punishment. They both indicated they would do this straight away! They downloaded the ESV Bible on their PC and said they would start going to church that week!
Well I could talk and talk about all the conversations I had during the week, but I have to stop sooner or later…
…but not before telling you the promised story about Jonah…
It was on the second or third afternoon. I was having a rest from the sun when I spotted Jonah just standing there next to me, looking around. I decided to engage him with the afterlife question. He said he believes in heaven and hell. I asked him where he was going, and he said heaven. He showed me his lanyard – he was a Red Frog, but off duty. Red Frogs are a group of volunteers that walk around the Schoolie hot spots helping them out wherever possible – escorting them home safely after a night out, supplying new ID cards for them when they get lost, etc. They are supposedly a Christian organisation, but not all of them are.
I asked Jonah if God asked him why he should let him into heaven, what would he say? Shockingly, he pointed to the good works he was doing! So I had to go back to square one with him, asking him what about all the bad things he had done, what happens to them? He said God forgives. I asked him if he had lied, stolen, and lusted. He said yes, of course. I asked him if these are some of the things God will judge him for, would he be innocent or guilty? He said guilty. Do guilty people receive a reward or a punishment? A punishment. Does that punishment sound like heaven or hell? Hell. I paused, and he looked at me out the corner of his eyes. I asked him how can we avoid our hell punishment? He again talked of God’s forgiveness. I gave him the courtroom analogy, showing him how crazy that is, expecting a judge to forgive him. He reluctantly agreed. I told him there was only one way he could avoid his hell punishment. He asked what that was. I said the only way he could avoid it is if someone takes 100% of his hell punishment for him. If someone takes 100% of your hell punishment, how much is left for you to take? Zero. I asked who would do this for him? He looked at me me with a smile and said ‘It was Jesus!’. I said ‘Yes. That’s why he died on the cross!. If Jesus takes 100% of your hell punishment, how much is left for you to take?’ ‘Zero!’. Now he offers that to you as a free gift. Do you have to do anything to earn a free gift? He said no. I said that’s why all your good works count for nothing to God, because what’s the only way to get to heaven? He said ‘Believing that Jesus has taken 100% of my hell punishment!. I asked him at the beginning of this conversation, what did he think would get him into heaven. He said all the good things he was doing, and that God would forgive him. I asked him so if he had died before this conversation, where would he have gone? He thought about it, then his eyes got big and bulgy, and he said “I would have gone to hell!’. I asked ‘But if you died right now, where would you go?’. He said ‘Heaven, 100%!’ ‘I said so this conversation is life-changing for you, isn’t it?’. He folded his hands behind his head and said ‘Yes, because now I know I’m going to heaven!’.
Jonah grabbed my hand and thanked me. I showed him how to download the ESV Bible on his phone, and stressed how important it was to read it every day, starting in the Gospel of John. He promised he would. I told him he needs to get into a good church as well. I asked if he had any questions, but he said no. He didn’t want to walk away, and neither did I. Eventually he did, his hands still locked behind his head.
On the last night of the outreach I spotted Jonah again. I was with Paul. This time he was in his Red Frog t-shirt, with some of his team. I yelled out, and came over to him. He shook my hand, and said he had started reading John, and was enjoying it. He introduced me to his team. I introduced Paul, and he started to engage with some of the other members of Jonah’s team. they weren’t that interested in talking, which was a shame.
If I take anything away from this week, it will be my chat with Jonah – although God will get all the glory for the week anyway!
On the Saturday morning it was time to leave for the airport. I caught the tram and then bus with Abraham who was also catching a flight – although he was headed to Melbourne.
So it was an exhaustive, yet exhilarating week in the Gold Coast. I know really enjoyed coming back here, and Lord willing, I will be back again next year to do it all again!
Again, many thanks to Ryan & Bekk for hosting, feeding, and leading us for the week.
Thanks to all the team members, who supported and encouraged me though it all – it was a privilege to serve alongside you all!
Thank you to my amazing wife Jan, who keeps encouraging me to follow my passion in evangelism!
And of course, all glory to God – who sustains me through it all, giving me a reason to get out of bed every morning!