The West Australian Field Conference was held from September 19-22, 2013. Entitled, "Here Am I, Send Me," the convention's theme was evangelism, both in one's personal experience and as a church team.
The Reluctant Missionary
We opened the conference with a meeting entitled, "The Reluctant Missionary.” There are a few reluctant missionaries found in the scriptures, but the one we looked at and that everyone remembers—and perhaps remembered for the wrong reasons—is Jonah, the prophet that was swallowed by a big fish.
The book of Jonah contains only four short chapters, but in them is revealed God's compassion and mercy for the wicked people of Nineveh. The instrument God used to reach them was very unwilling, to say the least. Jonah's attempt to escape responsibility and the call of God only resulted in terrible disaster for himself. Through a couple of providential and yet catastrophic events (including ending up in the belly of a fish), Jonah was brought right around to face the God he was trying to escape.
We learned that God did not use the big fish to punish this very unwilling and childish prophet, but rather to save his life from certain death in the ocean. The compassion of God is here also clearly revealed.
When God again commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, this time the prophet obeyed. He had repented in the fish's belly. However, there was still a horrible disorder in Jonah's attitude towards the repentant people of Nineveh. When God had mercy on the people of Nineveh, rather than rejoicing with the angels of heaven over the revival in the hearts of those sinners, the Bible states that "it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry" ().
Jonah had his priorities mixed up. He was happy over a plant that shielded him from the heat of the sun, and angry because God spared the lives of thousands. He wanted to die rather than to do God's will. He was out of harmony with the heart of God, and that is why he was so unwilling.
In this study, we not only saw God's compassion over the city of Nineveh but more so in His treatment of this unwilling prophet, who had the greater guilt. We learned that unwillingness to "go" at the command of God only shows a spiritual illness. We need the compassion of God.
The Gifts of the Spirit in Action
In our next study, we learned that everyone has a special gift from God with which to bless others. We often like to think that our gift is not very significant, and with this thought we often try to excuse ourselves from action, but all the spiritual gifts are necessary in order for the church to be complete in its mission to share the gospel.
“Here Am I; Send Me”
The divine service was based entirely on the camp meeting theme. What moved Isaiah to respond so positively to the call of God? He had seen a vision of God sitting on His throne. He had seen his own weakness and inability and yet trusted implicitly in the grace of God to help him with the task.
The Power to Witness
The next study brought out the fact that there's only one way we are going to receive God's power from above to help us in our work—that is to agonize in prayer for it. We must deeply feel our need for the power of the Spirit to help us in the last great work.
This important work can only be accomplished if there is unity among God's people. It only takes one person working in the right lines for this to start working towards unity. This statement was read:
"The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife. Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God’s servants will speak the same things. The Lord will cooperate with His servants. All will pray understandingly the prayer that Christ taught His servants: ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ ()." Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 251.
Time for Discussion
On Friday, a couple of discussion groups were organized, focusing on the "Qualifications of Missionaries" and "Methods of Outreach." Both of these were greatly enjoyed by those who participated and there was plenty of food for thought that challenged our personal mission activities and as a church.
One of the highlights of the conference was having our brothers and sisters from the eastern side of Australia and visitors from Victoria.
A number of positive testimonies were shared as the conference came to a close. We especially thank the Lord for His presence with us—this is what made the camp meeting so worthwhile.