23 Aug 2019

Reflections retracing a pioneering and inspiring walk

Our churches
His purpose was clear: to visit the church in Warwick to encourage its people and share the Way of Jesus with their friends.

His walk began well, however a storm rolled over the range and Stephen was drenched. Despite the temperature dropping, he pressed on with his sandals caked with black soil.

Aged just 30, this trip would be his last. Stephen contracted typhoid fever and passed away after arriving in Warwick. After three years preaching about Jesus and planting churches through the Lockyer Valley, Stephen’s life and ministry ended too soon, leaving us with only the churches and the lives that were changed.

We don’t know much about Stephen except his determination to follow the path he believed God was calling him on. That’s why in May this year, a few friends and I recreated his great walk…

Setting out from Killarney, we headed up a dirt track. With only cows to cheer us on, we got into our groove and enjoyed the banter of mates on an adventure.

Arriving at the top of the hills, the valley opened up in front of us, giving us a feel for what lay ahead. Thankfully the next 16kms were downhill! However the final climb of the day tested our endurance -a trudge uphill to the local Junabee hall.

By now our feet were hurting, and we welcomed the chance to stop for dinner and roll out the swags. We awoke to freezing temperatures and a beautiful sunrise. The quiet roads gave us time to contemplate on what this walk would have been like for Stephen, wearing just leather shoes and a dark suit. As we arrived in Warwick, the end of the track dumped us on a busy road with trucks roaring past, a stark contrast to the previous peaceful roads.

One of my roles at Churches of Christ in Queensland is to tell and re-tell the story of our movement, to inspire people around our core principles, highlight the WHY behind our mission and invite people to bring their best contribution to our work in communities. I often refer to Stephen’s story. If speaking to young people, I remind them Stephen was a young man and they are never too young to partner with God in making a difference. To our business leaders, I challenge them with his pioneering spirit and commitment to risk all for the sake of others. And to our pastors and churches, I speak of the heart of Stephen's message, ‘that every person might hear that the love and grace of God are available to anyone who would come’.

Completing the trek, I reflected on the differences between the Churches of Christ in 1880 and today. Our presence in Warwick today would shock Stephen. Our new integrated Campus, across 10 acres, has a 128-bed Residential Aged Care facility, Retirement Living village, church, café and community centre. Every day it welcomes more than 250 residents and visitors, and is truly bringing the light of Christ into the community.

After retracing Stephen’s walk, it was inspiring to think of his enthusiasm for the message of Jesus and all the good things God has brought out of his simple desire to share his faith with others.