Avondale University College students resurrected their bi-annual faith festival in just two weeks after COVID-19 sent campus ministry leaders back home behind closed borders.
With seminarians Megan Hunter and Esther Meale studying by distance mode from Queensland and Western Australia, and public health order rules limiting the size of gatherings, the feasibility of Festival of Faith (August 31-September 4) did not look good.
“In my mind, FoF was already off,” says Pastor Brock Goodall, chaplain on the Lake Macquarie campus. But he “yielded very quickly” when meeting with a group who had expressed a strong interest in the event. So, Pastor Goodall issued a challenge. “I told them, ‘If this happens, it means you’re essentially signing up to be a part of the FoF team. Is that OK?’ And every single student in that circle said, ‘We’re in.’” They divided up roles and, within two weeks, went from having nothing organised—even the planned speaker, under COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, had to cancel—to organising four services a day across two venues.
To comply with a COVID-19 safety plan, the students presented the morning and evening services in Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church and in Ella Hughes Chapel. Each featured their own band and hosts with the presentation by the church’s lead visionary, Pastor Nimrod Maua, live streamed from the larger to the smaller venue. The theme: “Run to the Roar”.
Inspired by Mark Batterson’s book Chase the Lion, which is based on 2 Samuel 23:20, Maua spoke about having courage and chasing God-sized dreams. “The roar we chase is the roar of the Lion of Judah,” he says. “In chasing the Lion, we find a purpose to live and to die for.” The former became the focus of the morning services, the latter the evening. Maua initially said no to presenting but changed his mind when told the students had requested he speak. “We’re a campus church, and they’re our core business. How could I not help them?”
With only one unit to complete this semester, final-year Bachelor of Business student Mikalya Davidson had time to serve as program director for the services in the church. Second-year Bachelor of Arts student Brooklyn Chan served as program director in the chapel. But having the time to serve and wanting to serve are different. “Festival of Faith connects students to Christ. If no-one else was around to do it, of course,” says Davidson.
An average of 100 students attended the services in the church and 45 in the chapel. An average of 45 watched the live stream online. Almost 30 students completed a response form, with an even split wanting Bible studies, wanting to learn how to share their faith, and wanting to learn how to make disciples. One student requested baptism. This “makes it all worth it,” says Davidson. “The students connected with what we did and have been blessed. God moved.”
Pastor Goodall is grateful. “Our team of hard-working students made FoF happen. I’m excited to see what God does next.”