Faithful To The End—The Story of GO Fest Sydney 2015
How to convey what we experienced together at GO Fest Sydney…
Speaking for the organising team, over the last two years different ones of us have carried the ball in different ways, at different times. It all amounted to putting up an effort well past what we thought we had in us.
We had to know it wasn’t going to be all for just a four day event. We knew there was a bigger picture but no one anticipated what that would be.
The event itself went off like a dream. The whole of YWAM Wollongong, plus volunteers from other bases worked hard together. The location we ended up with in Western Sydney was a perfect fit for us, and our design team dreamt up and transformed it into a beautiful, inspiring space, fitting the theme of “Find Yourself in The Story”.
Our event coordinators were on the ball, keeping our fly-in speakers and bands well looked after and the program flowing somehow without hiccup. Coffee was ‘on fleek’ as they say, thanks to the Six8 Coffee Roasters parked out front.
But the unanticipated elements that our exec team responded to and let fly was what caused this event to surprise us, even after all the planning.
Wednesday, opening night, set the tone. YWAM Perth Performing Arts team kicked things off with a dramatic interpretation of “Find Yourself in The Story”. The legends from NZ, Edge Kingsland were there. The man, Loren Cunningham was there. And Pastor Peter Walker was there.
Who’s that last guy? Well, we were put in touch with Ps. Walker only days before GO Fest, as we were hoping and searching for an Indigenous elder to bring a ‘welcome to country’ and bless the proceedings of GO Fest as only an Indigenous elder could. His words were full of hope, even as he recounted a massacre that occurred only one kilometre from where we were sitting.
He spoke of peace brought through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. He spoke the truth of the pain inflicted on this land in our missionary history, and blessed us to “go” in a different way.
Later that evening as Edge Kingsland led us in worship with many Maori lyrics, they encouraged us to vocalise our worship to God in our own languages, and another Indigenous leader got up on stage (unplanned), bringing his didgeridoo. This voice so rarely even thought of in a Western Christian worship context, caused our spirits to soar.
It was as if we got a taste of what it’s like when First Peoples are in their rightful place of leadership in their own land.
As Edge Kingsland continued to lead us in worship throughout the conference, their particular wisdom and sensitivity to God’s Spirit were key to navigating us through some really incredible terrain.
At one point there was a spontaneous response of humble repentance. Many gathered around the feet of the tribal elders in the room and there was weeping from us and forgiveness from them. What a blessing.
Each of our planned (and unplanned) speakers expanded our scope of God’s world and God’s Word. Loren Cunningham and Fred Markert, both master storytellers, shared account after account of the ever-increasing Kingdom of God. Many of their stories were experienced on their own travels to the farthest corners of the planet and in the company of some of world’s most well known political and religious leaders. (Pope Francis ring a bell?)
Their resounding theme: We’re living in unprecedented times as the kingdom of God grows exponentially. We need to be like ‘the men of Issachar’ in Scripture, “who understood the times and lived accordingly’.
Andy Byrd, brought a glowing passion for simple, radical devotion to Christ.
His challenge to “cross the line” was delivered with great conviction and no small amount of humour. His exhortation that changing the world begins by simply “loving the one in front of you” struck a chord with many in attendance.
And the world changed for the six youth group kids who boldly stepped forward to invite Jesus to be Lord of their lives in the ensuing ministry time.
Our last night highlighted the sixth of our themes embedded in Find Yourself in the Story: “The Mountain” – looking toward The Kingdom Come in it’s fullness. John Dawson, who wasn’t scheduled to speak in a main session, got up for an hour and gave us history and context to what had been happening over the span of the conference, reporting on a significant meeting that took place between himself and Indigenous leaders towards a unified spiritual declaration over the land (like a Statement of Faith).
Using the example of New Zealand, John talked about the blessing released when people humble themselves and come together in mutual submission–when oppressors and oppressed are reconciled, and those titles dissolve through forgiveness. When we are caught up in each other’s well being, the Kingdom is at hand, and we are no longer separate. It couldn’t have fit the evening’s theme any better.
So God did something, and is doing something. It’s all a bit fuzzy, like waking up from a dream, but thankfully it was a corporately shared dream so we can continue to remind each other.
For now we ask God to keep on leading us, and we remember the stirring Maori verse, “kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui”. “Be strong; be steadfast; be willing.”