One of the main things that inspires me is helping to bring purpose to those who are seeking something more, who are hurting and wondering, to those perceived as purposeless. I think sometimes we pair these characteristics with people faraway from us and ‘normal’ society, living on the outskirts. However, the statistics are startling and confronting, in Australia alone it’s estimated that 6 to 7 percent of young people aged 16 to 24 will experience depression in any year. 9.7% of our girls have had suicidal ideas. Suicide now accounts for one in seven deaths in Australian males aged 15 to 19 years.1
It is these statistics that have driven me, provoked me and ultimately, brought my group and myself on outreach in Australia. We are passionate about helping to instill a sense of purpose in the lives of Australian teens. During my team’s time on outreach we’ve had many an opportunity to do just that, and the results were almost immediate amongst some of the young people we met. This is the story of the students of West Wallsend High School in Newcastle.
The thing about this school in particular, was that the older students had actually seen YWAM Townsville’s medical ship on it’s last Australian tour, just over three years ago. Not only that, but they had been so inspired the students themselves organized a toothbrush and glasses drive to load up the ship to give out to the people on its tour through Papua New Guinea. That passion and drive to make a difference in the world, regardless of age, continues to this day in the new group of year eight students.
I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the next wave of students inspired to make a shift in the world. It quickly became clear to us that there was a huge opportunity here to challenge kids to see how they can make a difference in the world as well as find out for themselves what beliefs they choose to subscribe to.
One of the days we spent at this school we had an opportunity to speak to five different classes of year eight teenagers. We shared about the medical ship and how it ties in to the commission to love God and love your neighbours as yourself. Considering the fact that Papua New Guinea is the closest neighboring country to Australia, that couldn’t ring more true to the medical ship’s purpose. As we spoke and showed videos of what the medical ship is doing, you could see a visible change in interest in every class. Each time we went deeper into what the medical ship does you could see a longing in many of the students eyes to be a part of something great like that; to not only acknowledge there is injustice in the world, but that they could play a pivotal role in how injustice can be changed. Just as the classes before them felt moved to donate toothbrushes, toothpaste and glasses, so did they.
After only a week’s time we came back to the same classes to find that these five classes donated 50 toothbrushes, 9 tubes of toothpaste and 47 glasses. It inspired me not only to see the results that came from this drive, but to also see something deeper stirring in the students in these classes. They had seen there is something greater, they had stumbled upon a purpose.
After all was said and done I know that nothing is finished in the hearts of the young people that we were privileged to have met. The main theme every time we presented the story of the medical ship was that many people question God’s love and desire to give people the quality of life they deserve, when all they see is injustice in the world. But what they do not see is how He gives each and every one of us the times and opportunities to be the answers to those injustices. We have capacity to love and be broken-hearted for those we reach out to, and this sometimes happens through the awareness of the tragic things of this world, and softening of our hearts. I am thoroughly convinced, based on the response and the continued interest in how they can help, that the students in every class that we visited will continue to be interested in what’s going on in the world and how they can be the agents of change. There has never been, nor will there ever be an age limit or inability to change the world.