When I started my first full-time ministry position post college, Julie was one of those older women at the church who immediately gave me that sense of ‘we are sisters-in-Christ and we doing life together’. When I think of what I want to be like ‘when I grow up’, Julie encapsulates it! Becoming a Christian later in life has not slowed Julie down in using her gifts and life experiences for God’s glory and his kingdom. Tell me if you know of any other woman who started her missionary ‘career’ in her seventies! Let’s meet Julie:
Me: Julie, first of all tell us about you: how you became a Christian and how has becoming a Christian changed your life?
I grew up in postwar England, and had always had some idea about God and the church, as did most people in those days. However God was distant and I had no idea of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When my family moved to Australia in 1973, a neighbor asked me to come to church with her one Sunday. The impact of that first sermon I heard was profound, the minister preached on the Good Samaritan, and I had never heard a sermon quite like it. As a result I returned the next Sunday, when we had a visiting minister who, with his family, had recently returned from mission work in India. He preached on the Samaritan woman at the well. I sat amazed at his teaching as he appeared to know all about me and my background and for the first time I felt convicted that I was not on the right road. We spoke after the service and he invited me to meet his wife and have afternoon tea. At that meeting he explained forgiveness to me, the vertical and horizontal relationships that would follow, with Jesus and with other believers. There was no question in my mind, and I prayed the prayer of repentance, really meaning it, at that time. I have never regretted that and from that day on I have known the wonder of being part of God’s family and the joy of knowing Jesus, my Saviour and Redeemer.
Me: When and where did you start doing one to one ministry?
I did not start my one to one ministry until some years after I was saved and moved to a great church in Gladesville, where Michelle was one of the women who impacted my life in a positive way during the time she was Women’s Minister in that church. This would have been in the mid 2000’s. Previously I had led Bible studies but never had the notion of reading the Bible one to one presented to me.
Me: In 2009 you decided to study at theological college. What made you decide to set aside that time to study at a theological college?
After the sad breakdown of my marriage in 2005, I continued to be involved in one to one ministry and bible studies. In 2008 my minister at the Gladesville church suggested that as I now had time and was available, he asked if I had ever thought of doing some theological study, so I started a halftime course with Moore College in 2009.
Me: Tell us a bit about the ministry you are doing now:
I am now a member of Pioneers Australia, a global mission organization. I work in the United States with Native Americans, specifically the Apache people on a reservation in Arizona. I am part of a team of five adults and three children. Our plan is to make disciples, who make disciples. We take seriously the Matthew 28 passage which encourages us to ‘…. go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded……” Matt 28:19,20a. Our approach is to build relationships with Apache ‘persons of peace’ and hope that they will invite us to their homes to share stories (they are basically an oral culture) from the Bible, to which we are pretty sure they will invite extended family and friends as they are a community minded people. We usually start the stories in Genesis and work our way chronologically through the OT and NT. As we do so we invite those listening to answer questions about the impact of the stories on them, and we also suggest that they share the stories each week with members of family that are not there that day. The following week we invite them to tell us how they went with this. The success of this method with native peoples has been quite amazing. The idea being that over time as people become Christian, they can have further training on how to do this themselves. Native people learn best from having training modeled to them, rather than through reading lots of material. So this method has been great for them. Alongside this, our model for ministry is incarnational. So we share life with them as much as we can. This can be a challenge.
Me: What opportunities do you get for one to one Bible reading there?
There are already Christians on the reservation. Although no really healthy churches and this leads to problems. I hope to be able to invite some of those I meet in daily life, who are Christian, or who claim to be, to read the bible with me one to one, although this could, in itself, be difficult as many of them are not good readers.
Me: What are some of the highlights for you of one to one ministry?
Highlights for me in the one to one method are the opportunity of seeing light dawn about a particular passage we may be reading together, regarding some aspect of the text. Also hearing people say how much they have grown since they started doing one to one. To see that people grow in confidence in handling the Word of God for themselves, and then perhaps starting with another person doing one to one and being the instigator of this.
Me: What are some of the challenges?
There are many, time is the most challenging, as people are very busy and perhaps do not see this as a priority. People who are unable to read aloud can be a challenge. But the biggest one for me was a lady who was from an orthodox background, who professed a love for Christ, but was very reluctant to take the Word of God over the teaching of her church, and who constantly referred to the Father as the ‘one upstairs’! This lady taught me patience, as I constantly had to bounce my frustrations off my minister at the time, who had a much more patient view of her than I did. That time with that lady did much to prepare me for what is ahead here. She finally left the one to one study and I don’t think we got anywhere very much with her. One of her main stumbling blocks was that her adored husband, who had died, was not a Christian, but she was convinced he was in heaven because he was such a good husband.
Me: Any tips for those new to one to one Bible reading?
Make it a priority. For the first time doing this find someone with who you feel comfortable. Be open to God’s leading as you read. The Holy Spirit will be with you as you share together, so trust God and keep looking at the text to find out what it really says. Later as you grow in confidence be willing to find someone to do this with yourself thus spreading the one to one idea further afield. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to do this once a day, six days a week with different women!