It was a quiet Saturday afternoon in October 2015. I had finished my preparations for the Sunday services and was just about to sit down and watch some sport when the phone rang. “Phill, I’m in the airport returning from the South Pacific. I’m returning next year and they’ve asked me if I could bring along a local pastor to share some experience of pastoring a local church. Have a think about it and we’ll talk when I get home.” And so it was that on Sunday 9th October 2016 I boarded a plane heading for the South Pacific with Dr Chris Palmer.
I was asked to do two main tasks. Firstly, speak at the OMS missionary retreat and then to speak at a special missions week at the bible seminary. It was a great honour to be asked. Being aware of the need for retreat and rest when involved in full time ministry. I felt a little anxious as I approached the retreat as I wanted to make sure the time was as profitable as possible and that the missionaries would leave the retreat feeling spiritually refreshed as well as physically and emotionally renewed. For me it was a special time to get to know these great people on the field. It was a wonderful opportunity to laugh, share, play, worship and pray with them. I left the weekend deeply appreciating the people God has called into the harvest field.
My time at the bible seminary was also very special. I was given such a warm welcome by the students, staff and leaders there that I feel like the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the church at Philippi and said; ‘I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ’. It was a great blessing to see a group of young people being trained to take the gospel to that part of the world. I was also impressed with the wisdom and spiritual depth of those who are teaching them and caring for them. One of my highlights was sitting with a small group in one of the open air classrooms discussing mission. I was excited to hear the students explain how they wanted to be trained so that they can go back to their communities with the gospel. It was such a blessing to see their passion and zeal.
Another highlight was helping one of the OMS missionaries in an English class and a Sunday School workshop. It was great fun with lots of laughter and it allowed me to interact in a different way with the students which I enjoyed immensely.
Finally, I will never forget the seminary mission trip to a local village to help after recent flooding. Despite being overcome by the heat at one point and a severely delayed journey home, the memory of being involved in practical mission with this group of people will remain with me for some time (although the visit to the beach and the swim in the sea helped too!)
Pastor Phill Evans – Newbridge AoG church