Festival of Faith renews Avondale students’ commitments to Christ

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Pastor Brock Goodall at Avondale College's Festival of Faith. (Credit: Kiara Olivares)

A week of spiritual emphasis held at Avondale College (NSW) has seen 10 students requesting baptism and nearly 30 students committing their lives to service.

Festival of Faith, as the week of spiritual emphasis is known, is held early in each semester. It’s completely student-run, something Avondale College chaplain Ray Moaga said is crucial in empowering the students in their faith journey.

“When students come to the program, they know that it’s their friends who are leading them in worship, setting up the prayer room or greeting them at the door,” he said. “It’s a discipleship process—we have student leaders, and my job is to make sure they’re all doing okay, but really, the students run 99.9 per cent of the program.”

“[Our theme was] Refocus,” said Sahil Nath, who coordinated Festival of Faith in his role as Student Associated Ministries leader. “We wanted to bring a new perspective to the Old Testament.”

Pastor Brock Goodall, who serves Haven Campus Church at Central Coast Adventist School, spoke 11 times during the week on Leviticus. The book, which emphasises ritual, legal and moral practices, is not as accessible as others in the Bible.

“And that’s the reason I chose it,” said Pastor Goodall. “We read it, and it makes no sense, which only reinforces why we don’t read it. But the book’s in the Bible for a reason. Someone took the effort to write it down, so it must be important.”

Pastor Goodall’s message to the students: God is good with you. He illustrated this by referring to the three classes of sacrificial animals—bull, sheep or goat and dove or pigeon—mentioned in the first chapter.

“You realise they’re all listed so people in every economic class could have access to God,” he said. “Some of the texts in Leviticus are pretty brutal and make me uncomfortable, but when we refocus and see things as the original audience saw them, then we see something beautiful.”

Before the Festival of Faith began, Pastor Moaga initiated a “prayer challenge” for all staff and students, inviting them to gather to read Scripture and spend time talking to God. With up to 20 participants some days, Pastor Moaga said the student involvement in the challenge even inspired some staff members to take up a regular prayer walk.

The event, which was live-streamed on the Avondale Student Life Facebook page, drew more than 6000 views across the week. On Friday night alone, more than 1000 people tuned in to watch the program.

“[Avondale] has a lot of distance students, who aren’t able to physically be on campus,” said Pastor Moaga. “Creating a prayer challenge via Instagram or live-streaming the program means those students, whether they’re interstate or even overseas, can still be involved.”

Students lead out in worship. (Credit: Kerule Cram)

The decision cards, handed out on Friday evening, played an important role in laying groundwork for further commitment and service. Ten students in total requested baptism, a further 13 asked for Bible studies and 30 students indicated they had a specific prayer request.

Committed to ensuring students continued their spiritual walk, this year’s decision cards also asked students if they wanted to serve, giving a choice of serving on campus or at College Church. More than 30 students indicated a desire to serve in some way at College Church, while 27 students said they would be more comfortable serving in some way on campus.

“So often we have decision cards that come in where the person has ticked a box simply saying they want to serve,” said Alex Green, associate pastor of College Church. “From a follow-up perspective, that can be difficult, because we have no idea in what capacity that person means. Do they want to serve in their community, their family, their church? If we are able to distinguish where a student is more comfortable serving, then we can follow that up much more effectively and intentionally.”

The buzz on campus following the Festival of Faith is something that remains with the students for months.

“It’s such a highlight and a real spiritual booster for the campus,” said Pastor Green. “It’s an intentional week where students are being fed spiritually twice a day with solid biblical teaching. They can wrestle with and explore Scripture for themselves, and pray, be encouraged and worship God with their peers. Every single time we hold a Festival of Faith, the spiritual temperature on campus just increases. Before [last week’s event], students were still talking about the Festival of Faith we had in second semester of last year.”

And it’s not just Festival of Faith that highlights the spiritual transformation happening at Avondale.

“The way the Spirit of God is moving on campus is truly remarkable,” said Pastor Nimrod Maua, senior pastor of College Church. “We have so many students in Life Groups and leading Life Groups. One theology student took our Life Group Ministry from 30 people attending across five groups to 230 people attending 27 groups, mostly led by college students. We have students leading other students to Jesus through Bible study, and students leading Bible studies for our College Church members. This generation is ripened for the challenge.”