Throughout this year I’ve been undergoing a course in Youth Work, as I had figured I didn’t want to “just” spend the year working and earning the necessary funds in the lead-up to going to Cambodia, and training in Youth Work would hopefully help me to engage more meaningfully with a larger portion of the Khmer population (as mentioned in the previous post, there is a high proportion of young people in Cambodia [69% under the age of 29], which brings in a whole different aspect of needs when considering how an outside mission worker can impact positively and sustainably).
As part of this training, I am required to engage in at least 120 hours of work placement, in order to demonstrate practically that I understand what I am learning in class. Working cross-culturally was something I wanted to incorporate largely into my training, and as well as this I hoped to re-engage with Australia’s asylum seekers, as this is an issue of social justice close to my heart (I blame Plunge for firing up this passion!).
At first I had presumed this work placement would happen in a community detention centre context, however since the Australian government recently, after many political debates and (in my opinion) a lot of political spin and propoganda, made the decision to push many of these people who are applying for protection and hoping to start a new life, on to small offshore countries with less-than-favourable living conditions; The Salvation Army has gotten involved on a humanitarian level in providing some compassionate, practical assistance in helping these detainees to adjust to their new surroundings and lifestyle, engage in recreational activities such as soccer and swimming, and provide opportunities to learn English and other subjects while on the island.
Major Paul Moulds from The Salvation Army writes earlier this October,
“We now have 150 male asylum seekers in our care with a capacity of 1500. 124 Sri Lankans, 20 Iranians, 6 Iraqis. What beautiful people. How privileged we are to serve them, in these very challenging circumstances. Things change daily in Nauru …There is so much sadness, despair and hopelessness, but in the midst of this The Salvation Army is providing an amazing service, you would be so proud to see the English classes 5 times a day, the constant cricket matches, the Games and sports that go on in an unbelievably difficult and harsh environment. There is hope here, and there is life. People notice it and comment on it. God is here because his people are here.”
I love the hope that The Salvation Army brings with them to places of great darkness – however, I’m not quite sure I agree with Paul on his last words, or perhaps I misinterpret what he means by “his people”. Regardless, God, thankfully, is there long before the mission workers ever arrive. Although I am going with an aim to encourage hope and light, I don’t want to bring that from my own strength – that would be unrealistic and exhausting. I want to reflect God’s hope and light, and find the places that the Holy Spirit is already working.
This is just some of the things I have been thinking about in the lead-up to the trip, and even now as I write this, there are hiccups (I just received a phone call saying that my flight has been delayed until the next day) and minor panic attacks (I still haven’t packed everything, I’m terrified that I will forget something, I’m going to miss so many people). However, I’m trusting and praying that God is already working in Nauru, and that He will go before me, carry me through, and give me the words to say so that I can be His hands and feet. To me, that is such an honour. I only hope I can be a good ambassador of His love.
My dear friends, family and extended church family, please keep praying for me over the next four weeks as I venture into the unknown!