THE RELATIONSHIP between Uniting Church young people from Indigenous communities near Weipa and the Crossways Korean congregation in Brisbane continues to strengthen after a visit to Weipa in August.
Ten Crossways members headed to far north Queensland at the invitation of Frontier Services’ Cape York Patrol minister Rev Michelle Cook and her husband, Western Cape youth worker, Pastor James Hughes.
Led by Rev David Won Kim, the Crossways team spent two months preparing for the trip where they visited Weipa, Naperanum and Mapoon.
The team had many aims for the trip including continuing to build the friendships between the two groups which began when the Crossways congregation hosted some of the youth from Weipa after the Summer Madness youth camp this year.
“We hope to become advocates … for the benefit of aboriginal communities in Weipa; learn about the history of aboriginal communities; understand and embrace what it means to be multicultural Australia; and learn more about what the Uniting Church in Australia has been doing for churches and communities,” he said.
The Crossways team prepared a worship service, music, entertainment, booklets on Christianity and T-shirts that said “God loves Weipa”.
They visited Mapoon School, a medical clinic and joined 100 children at Napranum Uniting Church for two nights of sport and music and ran activities such as nail painting, producing instant free photos for those present, and doing hip-hop dancing and Taekwondo demonstrations.
“People accepted us so quickly even though most of us were not able to communicate well in English.”
Mr Won Kim said one team member, Kevin Oh, was so moved by the trip that he plans to return as a ministry worker.
“It was a privilege for me to witness how God works through us to reach out to those neglected and pushed away people,” said Mr Won Kim.
“All we did and said was, ‘We are here to love you because God has created us in his own image and loved us all’ and it worked!”
Uniting Church president Rev Alistair Macrae and Congress chairperson Rev Ken Sumner also spent time with both groups.
Mr Hughes is passionate about giving the youth from Weipa, Napranum and Mapoon as many opportunities for personal and spiritual growth as possible.
Mr Hughes and Ms Cook have taken groups to Summer Madness, Uluru, NCYC and the National Aboriginal and Islander Youth Gathering (with assistance from the Western Cape Communities Coexistence Agreement).
Mr Hughes said the Crossways’ youth visit renewed old friendships and forged new ones and was enthusiastic about the exchange.
“These two groups of young people knew very little about each other’s culture and lives before and this visit helped break down stereotypes about both.
“There was a real sense of joy and openness to each other as they talked and shared good times together during the week.”
Mr Hughes hopes relationships continue to grow in the future.
He said the young people who attend Uniting Church activities in the Western Cape are making positive choices in their lives.
“Through this cultural exchange they gained skills in communicating and organisation as well as an appreciation of the wider Uniting Church as they participated in programs the elders and their local church make available for them.
“Their faith in God grows and their confidence blooms as they experience the consequences of leading challenging and balanced lives which reach out to others.
“Young people are learning about what it means to be the pilgrim people of the Uniting Church today — together on the way.”
Photo : Crossways and Western Cape young people share in fun and faith. Photo courtesy of David Won Kim