In November 2022, 14 disciples from Sydney and one from the Gold Coast moved to Newcastle, Australia as part of the first new church planting in the South Pacific / Australia (SPA) region in over 20 years. (Adelaide and Christchurch were also replanted in the last few years)
For my husband Ben and I, leading this planting has been an adventure and a privilege and I have seen God work in so many incredible ways over the past six months.
I was honestly quite nervous to begin with. I had never visited Newcastle before, and neither had many of the disciples who moved up with us. I also found out in the first few weeks of being here that I was pregnant with our first child – definitely a cause for great celebration! However, this has also been something that has tested my faith. I am naturally a self-reliant person and God has certainly been training me to rely on him more and more over the months, trusting that he will work powerfully even as I am unable to continue to work at the pace I am used to.
Our first official church service filled the hall with many disciples coming up from Sydney to encourage and support the team. It was so exciting to look at the crowd and imagine what God had in store. The next week was a little more sobering as I looked across the same room and there were just 12 of us, the same size as the Bible talk I was a part of before moving to Newcastle! But when we started to sing, the passion and the joy of the disciples again filled the space and I was reminded of Matthew 13:31-32: “He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.‘”
Over the next weeks we begun sharing our faith almost every day, meeting together to pray and reach out at the beach, in shopping centers and on the university. Again I was supported and inspired by the persevering joy of the entire group, even when it felt like we were sowing so many seeds with little response.
Elkanah was our first baptism. He was initially met at the beach in January and gave his number to the brothers, but then life got busy and he never ended up studying. Then he was met again a few weeks later at the university and this time he realized it was God giving him a second chance, and three weeks later was added to God’s family.
We met Laura on campus during the first week of semester and after studying the Bible she invited her family to come to see her baptism. Without realizing it, Laura had been reaching out to her family through the example of her repentance. She brought her mother, Karen, to church that Sunday and because of the changes Karen had been seeing in Laura, she was eager to start studying herself. As she studied the Bible for the first time in her life with the Newcastle sisters, Karen’s faith quickly began to grow and a few weeks later Laura had the joy of baptizing her mother!
Ben and I are expecting our baby in early August and this has created an opportunity for us to hire a part-time intern while I am on maternity leave. I am so excited to have seen Jeanne grow and mature and step up in her leadership and I cannot wait to see her lead the Newcastle women with great joy and faith.
Now we are closing out the first half of this year, and at the end of June we have witnessed 11 new brothers and sisters make Jesus Lord, and have welcomed a brother back through restoration. We have grown from a little team of 15 to a church of 27, and we cannot wait to see what God will do with the rest of 2023!