A few weeks back, Aaron Habegger traveled down under to Sydney, Australia to spend time with the leadership and folks from Sovereign Grace Church in Australia! We interviewed him about his time there and thought you would be encouraged to hear about the trip!
What was the purpose of this trip?
I went to Australia primarily to continue to build a connection between our church and the brothers and sisters of the local church in Sydney. We really desire to be part of something bigger than just our local church and to increase the sense of our partnership with other churches through Sovereign Grace Churches. I also went to help Dave Taylor (the lead pastor of the Sov Grace church down there) and Rich Richardson with expanding and strengthening our global missions efforts. During my trip, we brought in pastors and wives from the Philippians, South Korea, Nepal and India so that they could explore who Sovereign Grace Churches is and how they could partner with us. I essentially went on behalf of Rich; this will likely be an annual thing for me.
Who did you visit with / stay with?
I stayed with Dave & Emma Taylor (again, he is the lead pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Sydney). Lynn Baird from Sovereign Grace Church in Pasadena, California and Todd Peterson from Cross of Grace church in El Paso went too, which was awesome and also served to further strengthen our sense of partnership all together. We visited with the entire leadership team in Sydney and also pastors from the other countries that came.
How did we (as a church) and you (specifically) become connected with the church there?
Mostly through our partnership with Sovereign Grace Churches. Rich and I met Dave Taylor at a pastor's conference a few years back. With Rich being the director of Global Missions for Sovereign Grace Churches, he was traveling to Australia and asked em to come with him a couple years ago. Since then, Rich has asked me to build that connection and go annually. It is a beautiful part of our overall partnership and really wonderful to be part of something bigger and what God is doing in other churches beyond our own.
What all did you do while you were there?
One of the main things we did was take part in a retreat for pastors and wives, spent 2 days exclusively with the international couples letting them ask questions, teach them about the values and doctrines of Sovereign Grace Churches, walking through what a partnership with Sovereign Grace would look like, and sharing our heart for them and explaining how we could provide resources and training for them and their countries.
What did you learn about the church in Sydney and the country of Australia in general?
The Sydney church is extremely "international" in its congregational culture. There were probably 20-25 nationalities represented within the church - and the church is only 150-200 people! The folks are very welcoming and very evangelistic - always looking to see how they can bring their neighbors, coworkers, family members, etc to church. They just had their 7th anniversary as a church and they are getting ready to plant their first church in another part of the city! They already have folks ready to go on the plant as soon as the leader gets back from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College.
Sydney is actually one of the top 5 most expensive cities to live in, so the church is very sacrificial in their giving and support of the church.
One fun thing I've learned is that the Australians LOVE giving everyone nicknames as a sign of affection and love! It's totally a thing there! They shorten everything and put an O or an Y on the end of everything, - so they called us "Toddy," "Lynno," and "Azza" (Aaron). When Rich went last year they called him "Colemo" as soon as they found out that his real name was actually Coleman! They call McDonald's "Mackas" and we haven't quite figured out how that one evolved...
Can you share some exciting stuff that God is doing there?
One of the most impacting things were the stories we heard from the international couples. Two of the international pastors came from countries where they are overseeing 13-15 churches. One of them had to move away because he was repeatedly being beaten and throw in prison. Another was kicked out of his house shortly after becoming a Christian and told to never come back, and especially to never try and share the gospel with his Hindu family. But God ended up bringing his entire family to know the Lord in the end!
Another of the international pastors leads a church of 1500, but they meet in a small old chicken shed so only 600 can come per week. So the folks alternate coming every other week - many walking 6 hours ONE WAY! And when they do come, they sit back to back, shoulder to shoulder, tightly packed into the shed. And some folks make the 12 hour walk round trip knowing that as soon as they get home, they will be beaten by their husbands or fathers for it. They know this will happen, yet they still come very week. These people are facing some serious persecution for the gospel and it is deeply humbling and very inspiring.
How did God meet you personally on this trip
I was really encouraging to see how God is working globally in so many different countries, and the great sacrifice these husbands and wives are making to spread the gospel and establish churches. God has given Dave Taylor (and all of us!) a vision to try and help these international pastors in any way that we can and come alongside them as pastors.
How can we be praying specifically for the church there and the people of Sydney?
Please be praying for the upcoming church plant in 2018, for their evangelist efforts, for the Christians and pastors in the Asia Pacific region mentioned above and for strength and faith for those being persecuted for Jesus.