15 students, 2 nine hour bus rides, 3 nights sleeping in a sheep sheering shed, and 2 days in the hot, dusty outback No Showers!

This blog is written by Sierra Howard. Sierra is a Spring 2018 student from Azusa Pacific University.

My first thoughts when I heard “no shower challenge” were pretty neutral. I had done it before for various camps and missions trips so the feat didn’t seem too daunting. I looked around the room though at some of the other students and saw a look of horror in their eyes.

4 days total:  

15 students

2 nine hour bus rides

3 nights sleeping in a sheep sheering shed

and 2 days in the hot, dusty outback

NO SHOWERS!

I can’t say I blame them for being a little nervous about the trip. Despite some hesitations, we all chose to fully commit to the experience and take on the challenge.

Day 1: The first day was not bad at all, but that was to be expected. After all, it had only been a matter of 12 to 15 hours for some of us since our last shower. Although, I did miss the feeling of a nice, hot shower after spending nine hours on the bus sitting in recycled air. Sitting around the nice, hot campfire was the next best thing though.

Day 2: Waking up after our first night in the outback was actually really nice. I got up, got dressed, put in my contacts, tied my hair up in a ponytail and was good to go. I appreciated how easy it was to get ready for my day and although my hair already had started feeling kind of gross, it didn’t bother me much knowing that everyone else was in the same boat. I will say though, my baseball hat quickly became my best friend!

Sierra holding Australian Cattle dog puppy

Sierra holding an Australian Cattle Dog puppy

Day 3: My hair was definitely feeling pretty greasy by the time I woke up on our second morning at Bonus Downs.  However, I felt completely fine after once again hiding that grease underneath my baseball hat. Aside from my gross hair, I didn’t feel too much different after not showering for a few days. Sure we were all extremely dusty, but we were camping. Everything was dusty! There wouldn’t have been much point in showering to get the dirt off because we would’ve regained it the moment we stepped out of the shower. I used some facial wipes to clean my face at morning and at night and definitely applied plenty of deodorant, but body never actually felt that dirty.

Jacob, Sierra, Paige and Dalton enjoying their ride

Jacob, Sierra, Paige and Dalton enjoying their ride

Day 4: Our last day was anticipated to be the worst. It had been a while since any of us had showered and we were getting back on the hot bus for another nine hour trip. While it would have been nice to have cold water to stand under and wake ourselves up after the fun, but exhausting weekend, at this point, it still wasn’t too bad having not showered in a while. Surprisingly, I never noticed anyone really smelling bad. Although, it is possible that we just all smelt bad at that point and had gotten accustomed to the stench!

Enjoying the company of our host Madonna at the Ooline forrest

Looking back at our weekend without showering, we definitely all felt pretty gross by the end, but it wasn’t as bad as many of us thought it would be. Something about us all being in it together, made you feel less gross and at the very least, all seeing each other look like a mess together was definitely a bonding experience. There is something about seeing everyone at their worst state that really breaks down barriers and allowed us to be more vulnerable and open with one another. We got to see each other without being done up or put together, without putting on the facade of perfection that we feel the need to have for the world. We got to see each others flaws and imperfections and with that, we gained a whole new level of comfort. You could tell the dynamic within the group had shifted by the end of the trip and it was cool to see the whole new level of closeness that had formed since we had arrived in the outback on the first day. Overall I would most definitely count the no shower challenge as a success! However, I must say I didn’t waste any time taking one as soon as I got home and it was most definitely one of the best showers I’ve had!

Truly life changing, and for the better!

This blog is written by Emily Schnefke. It comes from her personal blog “A pilgrimage“. Emily was a Spring 2017 student from Missouri Baptist University. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been lightly edited. 

It’s been one year since I hopped on a plane incredibly excited but very nervous for a semester full of unknowns. I had no idea what those 4 months were going to bring, but I was excited for the journey. I met the group in LA, 22 strangers who soon became close friends, and we all made the flight to Brisbane.

Reflecting now, I am so incredibly thankful for the amazing memories that I made with all of these people, including that flight where we all were just getting started.

 

I miss the adventures to new and exciting cities, the bus rides commuting to and from school, grabbing coffee in the mall with fellow ASCers, chapel hangs, eating dinner with my host family, and learning in Kimberly’s classroom. During these four months these activities shaped me and molded me into someone who was different than the girl that hopped on that plane to LA. I learned about how beautiful community can be, gathering with others and pouring into them and being poured into. I learned how real God can become in a place where you know nothing else and have to rely on Him for things you made never had to before. I learned how to better be a pilgrim, to look at the places and the people I was around as more than just pretty scenery and faces. I learned that God works to teach us things in unique ways, whether they are beautiful (often times they were) or a bit messy and maybe not what we would have chosen. I learned to embrace life’s question marks, if you think too much they will stress you out but they can be very exciting when you trust God’s plan. Through the ups and downs that the semester brought I learned to completely place my trust in Jesus. To trust in His promises and in His character, He won’t let us down. Now, having been back for one year, I am still learning some of these things, and still learning new things from the trip! I smile (very big) thinking back on all of those late nights studying, eating at the Pancake Manor day one, donuts in the city, rugby with the fam, staying up all night in Sydney, laughing in class with the whole group, Carmello koalas in psychology, star gazing in the outback, and experiencing Straddie with everyone and the many more memories that have become of my semester abroad.

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A group of us smiling whilst snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

I have stayed in contact with a lot of the people in the group and have even met up with some! My pal Anna came to visit me in STL for the weekend and I saw Tanner in Indianapolis while I was coming through for the weekend. I have plans to meet up with two more ASC’ers in May for a week to catch up (its been far too long). Boy, am I thankful the ASC brought me to these wonderful people from across the country. That was such a big part of the program for me, getting to know the group of us Americans as we made the journey together. We were all connected by similar yet individual stories with our semester abroad.

 

So, through the adventure and the unknowns, difficulties included, I got to experience a semester unlike any other. Truly life changing, and for the better! I will forever look back on those crazy four months and be overwhelmed with such joy and thankfulness for such an amazing opportunity.

A Weekend on Straddy

This blog is written by Alex Andrews. Alex is a Spring 2018 student from Wheaton College.

Several weekends ago, the ASC team boarded a ferry and headed over to Stradbroke Island. We spent two days learning first hand what being apart of Aboriginal culture looks like—our first “in-Country” experience. We were met by Matty Burns, an Aboriginal man, who kindly welcomed us onto his land. Matty showed us the cultural dress, ritual face painting, and depicted a story by expressively playing the didgeridoo, a long woodwind instrumental. We learned dances, which was a fun and also incredibly significant experience. Aboriginal dances carry meaning and tell a story, a primary way of telling and passing down information from generation to generation.

Lea (our First Nations lecturer), who accompanied us for the weekend, spoke about Aboriginal values and practices. Aboriginal life is complex and places emphasis on community as well as balance, specifically between humans and the earth. By each individual taking responsibility for the earth and one another, Aboriginal culture maintains a beautiful dynamic of care. Furthermore, this society intricately allocates these responsibilities, ensuring that everyone and everything is taken care of.

Indigenous hand print

Sand art at Cylinder Beach

Later that day we had the privilege of meeting Uncle Norm, who showed us around the bush. He explained the names and importance of the wildlife surrounding us as we huddled for shelter between the rainstorms. Of course, we weren’t finished until we’d all had a go at some spear throwing!

While on Stradbroke Island, or “Straddy”, we also had the opportunity to do sand art on the beach with a man named Craig Tapp or “Tappy”. His excitement for us to join him in this community art project was contagious. None of us knew what to expect, and the majority of us had guessed that we would mostly be observing. However, in less than ten minutes, our hands were stained by coloured sand and we were absorbed in drawing animals, from sea turtles to kangaroos, and filling them with different shades. A group of us ran down to the shore to gather shells. We placed the shells in the body of a dove, completing the artwork.

eagle

Our weekend on Straddy was one of experiential learning and community building. Aboriginal culture is beautiful and complex, yet it has been disregarded, misunderstood, and neglected ever since the Europeans first invaded their land. Since then, Aboriginals have fought for their rights to what was theirs in the first place. Today, Aboriginal men and women navigate what it looks to live in modern society while holding fast to their culture with strength and grace. As a member of Western culture, and the citizen of a country that has also robbed its First Nations peoples of what was once theirs, I have a newfound desire to seek out reconciliation between the two communities.

How Studying Abroad Drove Me To Think…And Then Act

Excerpt from Dora Mahoes’ personal blog “A Story of Stories“. Dora was a Fall 2015 student from Biola University. Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been lightly edited. 

It’s crazy to think that a little over two years ago, I studied abroad in Brisbane, Australia at the Australia Studies Centre (ASC). One of the biggest highlights was a class my fellow ASCers and I took called The View of Australia. In class, we talked about Australia’s general perspective on different issues, and one that really caught my attention was Australia’s response to refugees. My eyes were opened to the reality that many countries (not just Australia), are afraid of welcoming refugees into their communities. Although this fear is understandable due to many terrible events that have occurred around the world, I wondered if it could also be the reason people ignore refugees and the challenges they face?

After returning from Australia, I had many questions which led me to several research projects on the refugee issue. Through my research, I learned about catastrophic events such as 9/11 impacted how refugees are viewed. Refugees are often referred to as “dangerous,” “terrorists,” and “threats.” However, these negative labels and images often prevent people seeing the injustice and difficult circumstances refugees face during their time in camps, detention centers, and even in host countries. I was challenged to see that if left unchecked, fear prevents society from seeing refugees as people. People who had to escape war and conflict and seek to find safety in new communities.

Real Australians say welcome poster

Real Australians say welcome poster

Whilst researching how fear shapes the refugee issue, I am reminded how God responds to foreigners and sojourners in the Bible. Through this, I was reminded how much God loves foreigners and calls believers to exemplify His heart for foreigners by welcoming outsiders into their communities (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:18-19; Ps. 146:9). A verse which impacted me most was Acts 17:26-27 (NIV):

“From one man [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” 

This verse highlights God’s vision for people in specific times and places with the hope that they will seek and know Him. When I read this verse, I realized believers have a choice to view the refugee issue as a missional opportunity. Although it is scary and overwhelming, God invites us to see how He redeems the horrible circumstances of millions of people to one which gives hope by giving them in new lives in countries like Australia or the United States. Countries where refugees can come into contact with the Gospel – some for the first time. God desires believers to participate with Him in redeeming the refugee crisis by loving and serving refugees who may not have had any meaningful relationships with Christians. Through these interactions, hope is found. A hope which may inspire refugees to seek God, reach out to Him, and find Him.

Acts 17:26-27 challenged me so much that it led me to what I am pursuing today. By the end of the year, I hope to be part of a ministry team based in Phoenix, Arizona. The ministry is called GoTEN and they seek to make disciples among refugees by living in community with them, serving them, and sharing the Gospel.

As I look at where I’m now, I can say my passion for refugees did not come in one moment, but instead it grew from the different choices I made. Who knew my decision to study abroad would lead me to Australia? Which led me to the ASC, which led me to learn about refugees, which led me to do some college papers on refugees, which finally led me to realize this was something I wanted to pursue after graduation. I sure didn’t! Two and a half years later, when I look back at what God has done in my life, I’m realizing He’s forming a pretty cool story, and it’s definitely far from over!

ASC students Fall 2015

ASC students Fall 2015

Life “Down Under”

Excerpt from Jaclyn Holmes’ personal blog “Daughter of the Most High“. Jaclyn is a Spring 2018 student from Bethel College. Reproduced with permission.

Brisbane river

View of South Bank along the Brisbane River

I’ve been in Australia for almost two weeks now, and it has already been a whirlwind. A variety of thoughts have appeared ever since I stepped off the plane (after my 14 hour flight to Brisbane), but the most predominant one has been:

“What have I gotten myself into?”

Do not get me wrong, Brisbane is beautiful, exciting, and diverse. As I have soaked in the beauty of the city, the realization hit me that I am on the other side of the world, surrounded by people who live, speak, and act differently than I do. It has been challenging who I am and what I know. *I am only two weeks in the semester and I am already having existential thoughts*

Broad Beach, Gold Coast

Broadbeach, Gold Coast

Even simple things have been teaching me about myself. Relying on the bus system to go to the mall or asking my host mom to take me to a friend’s birthday party have humbled me. You wouldn’t think riding a bus would teach you a life lesson, but for some reason, relying on someone else to get me where I need to go is making me realize just how independent I like to be. Back in the states I can just hop in my little Mercury Sable and go wherever I please. Here, I have to set my pride aside and ask for help (or chase down a bus). I have to tell myself it is okay to depend on others sometimes, and many times its necessary when you’re on the other side of the world.

I became comfortable at college since I’ve been there for three years. I had my routine, friendships, classes, and professors that I knew like clockwork. I liked being independent and going where I please. I found comfort in the familiar. Now that I am in the unfamiliar, and I am known as “the American”, it is pushing me. I am essentially starting over.

I think dependence and humility are going to become themes of my study abroad. Not only dependence on the people I meet here in Australia (and different ways of transportation), but dependence on God. Because as fiercely independent as I like to be, I need replace that with humility so my heart can be open to change.

It may be difficult, but I think this season of change is much needed. If I want to be the woman that God calls me to be, I have to put His will above my own, and situate all parts of myself- heart, mind, & spirit- to be changed (even if there is some discomfort at the time).

My time in Australia is going to be a wonderful experience and I am going to see some amazing things, but I would like it to be so much more than that. I’m hoping that I learn things about myself that I never knew before. I also look forward to seeing God work in my relationships with the Australian students, host family, and in myself.

“The seasons change and you change, but the Lord abides ever more the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad, and as full as ever.”- Charles Spurgeon

ASC Potluck Party

This blog is written by Olivia Burkhart. Olivia is a Spring 2018 student from Grace College and Seminary.

Arriving in Australia three weeks ago, ASC students have been settling in to their new homes that they will be staying in for the duration of the semester. As students have taken this time to get to know their host families, there have been many stories, both of awkward moments and joyous times shared among students. This prompted an eagerness for an opportunity for students to mingle with members of other students’ homestays. It just so happened that students would be able to participate in such an opportunity with their host families.

At the start of the third weekend, the ASC organized a potluck dinner at the residence of one homestay family. Earlier in the day, the students took a trip to St. Helena Island for an interactive historical tour of the island as part of The View From Australia class. As this was an all-day trip, some students seized the opportunity to take a quick nap on the ride back home to ensure they had enough energy to last through the potluck party later that night.

With the stereo system playing throwbacks,  families started arriving with their student and finger-food in tote, the party was soon underway. The night was filled with yummy food and fellowship, as students and families were able to mingle with each other. A photo booth was also set up so that families and students could create lasting memories of their semester together.

ASC student and ASC host mum

ASC student Maleya striking a pose with her host mum Susan!

Once people had enough to eat, a game was played in order to test how well families knew their student and vice versa. This proved to be an entertaining bonding experience between students and families as they were able to learn more about one another. The night ended with students going for a refreshing swim in the pool whilst parents continued to socialize among themselves. All in all, the potluck dinner was a success, it fostered new friendships and strengthened connections between students and families.