I was sitting at Morisset (NSW) train station (good times . . .) when I struck up a conversation with the elderly lady next to me. She told me that she had lived in the area for more than 40 years. I eagerly leaned in and explained how I was a student at the local Avondale College (a seven-minute drive from the station). She looked baffled and questioned where that was. It was then my turn to look confused.
I was both surprised and saddened by the realisation that someone could live so close to the Avondale community and not be impacted by it. A place supposedly flourishing and thriving with young people who are on fire for God. A place full of energetic youth who attend spiritual events, study compulsory subjects about Christianity and who claim to be followers of Jesus. Yet the salt of the world—people called to flavour others’ lives with goodness—were caught up in the salt shaker.
It was from this experience that LAMP was born. LAMP stands for Let’s Actually Meet People. We can’t just be cosy and comfortable in our own bubbles with people who think the same as us and let this joy and hope inside our souls eventually die with us.
Often we put LOTS of energy, resources, money and time into church events or outreaches that sometimes fade away and discontinue based on people’s commitment and enthusiasm. Yet within our towns and cities there are often weekly community groups that are thriving. Badminton, books, soccer, Spanish, running, craft, travel, geocaching and ukuleles. A myriad of clubs, filled with people seeking friendships, growth and community.
So. Here it is.
Why not join a group doing an activity you have been wanting to do for years? You will love getting involved, learning new skills and building friendships with people who don’t actually know God. Week to week you can be an example and a witness through your love, kindness and interest in them.
"We can’t just be cosy and comfortable in our own bubbles with people who think the same as us and let this joy and hope inside our souls eventually die with us."
In 2016 this was a concept I put into practice. I joined indoor soccer groups on Mondays and Wednesdays and an outdoor soccer team on Sundays and—you guessed it—I like soccer! I can now say that I have a handful of people who I have tackled, collided with, shared laughs and conversations—people who have no idea there is a God who loves them with all His heart. Sometimes we chat about food, travel and work. Other times we chat about God and what we believe about life. Each moment is a seed planted. I now have plenty to pray for and seek the Lord about.
A quick story I would love to share is about Linda. She is beautiful! The first time I played on her indoor soccer team, she embraced me and welcomed me. She is so open and expressed immediately that she actually was keen for some new friends (woohoo!). A few months later, we went out to a café and she expressed that she wanted a faith in God but was struggling because of her upbringing. I have been able to pray and chat with her and it’s all because of soccer. I would never have known Linda without getting out there. She would not have walked through my church doors on her own. The journey with Linda still continues but who knows where God will lead. There is a Linda out there for all of you—striving, yearning for something greater—but they have no-one to turn to among their friends. They need you to show them Jesus.
So let’s do this folks! LAMP is a concept I would love to see in every church. It is totally achievable and it gets us out and about within our communities, being the salt and light!
Put that pamphlet down and pick up your hockey stick. It’s time to make some friends.
Anna Beaden writes from Toowoomba, Queensland, where she teaches at Darling Downs Christian School.