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Stephen Longbottom, Kauvaka Tupou, Gamuchirai, Jemma Whittaker
Stephen Longbottom, Kauvaka Tupou, Gamuchirai, Jemma Whittaker

Christians awake

Young leaders talk about faith

Four emerging leaders in the Uniting Church talk to Journey about their passion for living out the gospel.

Stephen Longbottom, 29, lives in Toowong, Brisbane and has a background in corporate accounting and finance.

At Toowong Uniting Church I participate in a leadership residency program, coordinate our English as a Second Language program and help lead our junior youth. I also volunteer with Student Life, teach religious education and lead an inter-church young adults ministry called Converge.

What are you passionate about?

During the last half of 2015 I’ve been volunteering with Student Life International Student Ministries (ISM) at the University of Queensland.

What I love about the Student Life ISM model is that it has such a strong missional focus. New Christians are discipled and mentored for only three months before they are expected to start leading their own Bible studies and discipling others. In this way, we have seen several students spread the gospel down to four generations in under 18 months!

I have seen ISM Brisbane experience rapid growth in 2015, with scores of students getting saved and baptised. Many of the students are from families who will disown them for becoming Christians. Following Jesus comes at a great cost, but they have real joy on their faces when they tell you about the radical change Jesus has made in their lives.

Working closely with ISM has inspired me to re-imagine the typical Western church experience. My dream is to help create a modern version of the first church described in Acts 2. The excitement of seeing non-believers coming to know Jesus for the first time has realigned me with our commission as Christians: teaching and sharing Jesus with others and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest.

If you’ve caught a similar vision I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at stephenlongbottom7 AT gmail DOT com

Kauvaka (Ben) Tupou, 22, lives in Boondall, Brisbane and is a student.

I am currently in my final year of studying for a Bachelor of Business (majoring in marketing) at Queensland University of Technology. I also have the privilege of leading the awesome youth group at Park Church Uniting Tongan congregation which I have attended since I was little.

What are you passionate about?

Growing up I suffered with severe depression and anxiety disorder and as a teenager had sought out many ways to cope with mental illness. I’ve always attended church and found that during my darkest hours, God had surrounded me with amazing family members, leaders and mentors. Experiencing the impact of God’s love through my family and faith community, I then felt that I have purpose, hope, and that by God’s grace I had been saved so that I may serve others.

Today I serve in our youth ministry, and with the guidance of our minister Rev Maile Molitika have set up a safe environment in which our youth can come and share their journey and prayerfully seek God.

Currently one in four young Australians is experiencing some sort of mental health condition and the number one killer of young Australians is suicide. By raising awareness and participating in Mental Health Week (the week of 10 October) we can try to eliminate the negative stigma and provide people with the opportunity to have open conversations.

Furthermore, simply providing a safe place—be it at home or church—where our young people can comfortably share and seek God will allow us the opportunity to pray with them and direct them to further assistance.

ucaqld.com.au/calledtocare
lifeline.org.au

Gamuchirai (Gamu), 13, lives in Atherton.

I live with my parents, Rev Johnson and Bridgetta Makoti, and have four siblings. I attend worship at the Atherton Uniting Church.

What are you passionate about?

To sing is to let your soul speak. Praise and worship has been a part of our churches for years and we have come to make music an essential part of our services. Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; music can express things words cannot. Music can make the presence of the spirit noticeable and I have always been able to communicate with God better through song.

Children, teenagers, middle-aged people and the elderly all have one thing in common; they enjoy music of different types, whether rock ‘n roll, pop, rhythm and blues or country. Gospel music is the music of the church and I believe that it should not be considered anything like the stereotype of old, slow and boring, but should be able to produce a meaningful message in an upbeat symphony.

If we could invite more instrumentalists and singers to step up and share their talent our churches would grow rapidly and be alive, flooding with new members, young and old. This does not mean a church should not contain old hymns and songs, but that as a growing church we should be able to extend our range to songs past and present.

I have faith in the modern church of today, that our churches will grow and we will be a healthy, happy, living church with music that we love. People say we should have faith without sight, but I have faith with sight because I can see it happening.

Jemma Whittaker, 27, is the youth and young adult resource person for the Northern Synod.

I attend Nightcliff Uniting Church and am a member of the Pilgrim Presbytery of Northern Australia, the Northern Synod and the 14th Assembly. I am also connected with the national young adult scene, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and UnitingJustice.

What are you passionate about?

One of my passions is seeing people within our church engage authentically with our First Peoples. At the briefing before the 14th National Assembly in July, the youthful members met with Uncle Sealin and his family, central figures in Congress WA.

The experiences of ongoing pain and dispossession they shared were echoed by the youthful members of Congress from Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, and the whole group was deeply moved by our time together. It was a special, sacred, and painful space.

Driven to respond to what they had experienced, the youthful members stood before the Assembly and called upon the church to intentionally reengage with covenanting, with a focus on building meaningful relationships.

We dream of a 15th Assembly rich with stories of how congregations and communities, families and friendships have been transformed through the development of meaningful, creative, life-giving connections between first and second peoples.

I am passionate about seeing this dream become a reality, and feel called to help encourage people and congregations link in and begin to imagine what covenanting looks like in their context.

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