The Road Ahead

Right now there isn’t much that is certain about the road ahead.

However if we’re really honest there never is.

Sometimes we have this illusion of certainty that we sit with for a while, but in truth life is way more fickle than we would like to admit. We don’t have anywhere near as much control over our future as we sometimes like to kid ourselves with.

I remember being a youth pastor at Scarborough Baptist and sensing my time was up there. I hadn’t made a ‘pastoral movement’ before (chuckles quietly to himself…) so I didn’t know quite what to expect. My only guidelines for God were that I would go anywhere within a 3km strip of the coast. I think he chuckled quietly to himself too…

Then came a call from Lesmurdie Baptist Church… in the hills of Perth. I laughed and quickly dismissed it as lunacy, then 9 months later ended up going there as the youth pastor. Strangely those were 5 of the best years of my life, and we were privileged to be in a place where the Holy Spirit did some pretty exciting stuff. I would never have expected to enjoy my time there. I never thought I could enjoy life anywhere away from the ocean, but when I drive up the ‘hill’ I now have a feeling of warmth, familiarity and even a willingness to go back.

Then my time as youth pastor ended and slowly the calling emerged to be the pastoral team leader of the same church. The current team leader was willingly stepping aside to focus on more pastoral aspects of ministry and the church invited me to step into the role. I said ‘yes’, expecting to be there for a long time. We did improvements on the house and got ready to bunker down.

Then one day on the back patio, 14 months into this new role and barely with my toes in the water, I sensed God calling us to move on and to start over. As a church, we had been looking to support another church plant somewhere but no one was emerging as a church planter. I sensed God saying ‘just go and do it!’

I didn’t expect that.

I did expect to be there another 10 years and to lead the church as it grappled with some significant issues. But I couldn’t deny this calling. It certainly wasn’t in my ‘5 year plan’. I sensed there were 4 other families I was to ask to join us.


I don’t hear God like that much at all.

But we asked them… and they all said ‘yes’, to selling up, moving 65 km north and building houses.

It was embarrassing and awkward to share this with the church. I was stymied as to why it had developed in this way.

We left but not with the blessing of the church. Despite affirming the whole idea of church planting and mission when the rubber hit the road and it cost them people and friends, we felt ourselves on our own. It was said that we were ‘released with their blessing’, but the fact I/we have been invited back just once in 5 years to share what we have been doing communicated a very different message. There are a few who pray for us and we love them, but from the ‘organisation’ cut us adrift and didn’t want anything to do with us. Requests to go back and share news have been met with disinterest and a request for financial support when we were heading into difficult waters as a family was never responded to.

A little while back I heard that ‘Hamo had pissed off and taken a bunch of families with him’.


The lack of interest from our home church was extremely sad as most of us had been in there for at least 10 years and some most of their lives. Loss, grief and pain can bring some strange and unexpected responses. It has taken us a long time to come to grips with this.

What’s strange is that if we went back there this Sunday I have no doubt many people would hug us, kiss us and treat us like family and it would be genuine. What do you make of that?…

So we came to Brighton expecting to set the world on fire. At least I did. I thought we would be the people who demonstrated a new way of doing mission and church and would inspire others to do similar. It was somewhat brash, but then I had pretty much been successful at everything I had put my hand to so logic would say that this project would follow suit.

If you’ve read this blog for while then you’d know that our inability to do what we set out to do has been an issue I have grappled with for most of our time here. Lately I have been at peace with where we are at, but it wasn’t always that way.

Most people hate to use the word ‘failure ‘in relation to our venture up here, but I’m not so reserved on that one. We have achieved a lot, learnt a lot and in many ways experienced God, community and mission in ways we probably never would have back at home base. In that alone our experiment has been a wonderfully successful venture – that and the fact that we have simply done what God called us to do and haven’t quit.

However we didn’t actually achieve what we came here to achieve – so I am content to say we ‘have failed’ on that front. (And for what its worth I would still very much love to see many local people come to know Jesus and follow him – so I haven’t ‘rationalised’ that one away.)

But almost 5 years on (we moved into our house on Sep 12 2003) we have seen our core team shrink from 5 key families to 2 and with us on leave next year it doesn’t seem wise or even practical to leave Gav & Helen to hold things together on their own.

The question of what to do is still up in the air. We have talked, prayed, waited… but there is no clear sense of whether we stay or go, whether we reshape and re-imagine ourselves or whether we stop Upstream altogether.

I am tired, very tired and aware that I need a long break. I haven’t ground to a halt and I’m not close to a breakdown or anything like that. I feel more like a long distance runner who has slowed to jog and is now pacing himself so he can get to the end – the ‘end’ being a sabbatical year in 2009.

I’m genuinely not sure what the season beyond that will hold.

I sense some shifts in life direction and focus starting to emerge and I think life will ‘re-form’ when we return, or maybe ‘as’ we return, but I’m not sure what shape that will be.

A part of me would be happy to re-imagine our work here and keep going. Another part of me would happily pull up stumps and go back to leading a church. And then again we have also spoken of heading to the bush and starting a new project there.

Based on past history the chances are pretty good that the future will not look anything like any of the above!

Anyway, I was aware my reflections on our own missionary experience have dried up a little lately, partly because of my own innner tiredness, so I thought I’d take some time to let you know what’s ticking away inside of me.

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably a friend and someone who cares, or maybe you’re just a nosey bugger.the curse of el charro online

25 thoughts on “The Road Ahead

  1. Hamo…I know how you feel. I have felt the same way over the past year. Alan Jamison has been a great friend and comfort to my through his book Chrysalis. If you can get it, I’d really recommend it.

    I would say that after working through my own time – I didn’t even want to preach on the weekends – God has taught me so much through this time of silence and now I’m re-invigorated. While I do not know how much longer I will be in my current context, I have fallen in love with God all over again, but in a different way…and my faith has grown stronger while my beliefs have changed in a positive way.

    I will be praying for you. Thanks for sharing…

  2. Thanks for sharing your life, I’m praying that God will give you clarity, strength, rest and vision for what’s ahead-praying for you in the “States” 2 thess 2:16-17

  3. Could not call my self a friend and actually not very nosey but I read to the end for the same reason that I keep you on my blog reader and this is why: You are humble enough to let us into your life where you don’t have all the answers and if God doesn’t lead or say anything you don’t try to come up with something anyway and say it is God. Your honesty is what keeps me reading because I find myself in the same spot in many ways. Thanks.

  4. Hamo, I relate very much to what you are expressing! God has taken me down so many roads over the last 50 years. Most recently, I resigned from my ministry and returned to school because I believed God told me to do so. I will graduate with a BA in psychology in December and “plan” to enroll in graduate school…provided God does not tell me otherwise. I am VERY afraid!!! Yet, I thrill at the prospect of blindly following God because we have a long “nontraditional” history together. I am excited for you because I know God has something marvelous up His sleeve for you and your family! I anxiously wait to hear where your road leads…….

  5. Hey bud, been reading your blog for several months. Hope you’ll be encouraged to know that the staff of a Presbyterian church in midwest USA is keeping tabs on you and praying for you.

    I heard someone say recently that “Failure is not an option. It’s a necessity. There is often no other way to find your way into God’s way.”

    Hang in there. May you find rest.

  6. Hamo,

    I have been reading your blog I think since before your move to Brighton, while I don’t comment much I have always been encouraged, and/or reaffirmed, of the fact that God calls us to do things outside the norm, and that few people actually do it.

    Recently my wife and I have been seen the “yes/no” answer and lack of interest from people in our church as well, and that is in reference to “traditional missions”… They say they want to send, but it’s taken them 8 plus months to create an account where we can start saving, and we’re not planning on leaving for another 2 years.

    It is strange, because we, like you, know that they are geniune, but something keeps them from either A. understanding, or B. having faith that God has spoken.

    Thanks for keeping it real.

  7. Hey, I read this far – though I have met you once, I certainly would consider you a friend and yes, I can be nosey.

    Thankyou for sharing a dot point journey.

  8. thanks folks – ok friend or nosey bugger is a rather unfair choice! 🙂

    I apreciate your thoughts – and nice to see you still there Travis – it has been a long time!

  9. hey bud,

    thanks for being co-travellers on the journey of reframing our collective understanding of what it looks like to strive to be faithful followers of Christ.

    may you know peace and grace on the road ahead, matt

    PS – the real success of the move to Brighton has of course been your conversion coffee – what a wonderful new world you have discovered 😉

  10. Indeed – perhaps this was “all in God’s plan” 🙂

    Just so I could find myself some decent coffee drinking habits!

    i have ofted joked that if I ever write a book now it won’t be entitled ‘how to change the world single-handedly’, but it will be ‘if we really do learn more from our failures than from our successes then I ought to be a bloody genius!’

  11. that book title is brilliant!

    oh, and failure might be a self-imposed word used if you didn’t achieve what you thought you were setting out to achieve, but in the light of looking at what good risk taking challenges your journey has helped to inspire in others – friends or nosey buggers alike – well, the word failure is the total antonym

    so for an alternate book title:

    The Ripple Effect – how one person’s honest journey inspired a hundred others to “live the life” outside church walls

  12. I have to echo Kel: You lot have been, and continue to be, an inspiration to me. I hope I can least fail like you. Maybe it will take hundreds of us failing in a hundred ways before our dreams finally take root.

  13. Hi Hamo, I am like some of the other guys and girls above, I have never met you but have enjoyed reading your journey. I too really appreciate your honesty.

    One thing that always springs to mind for me when I read your blog is the initial missionaries to China. Much of their work did not seem to achieve much in the way of visible fruit, but it opened the door for future generations. We all now know the big impact of the house church in China. Maybe your work is opening the door?

    God Bless,


  14. Sincerely – thank you to those who have written words of encouragement.

    I always falter when it comes to writing posts that are somewhat self revelatory, because there is a danger it may be seen as attention seeking or a ‘pity party’.

    I’m also aware that some sneer at what we have sought to do and speak of supporting experimentation while all the time scoffing at those who step out and have a go. I hate to fuel their fire.

    We actually feel very blessed to have been able to do what we do and to have shared the journey with many of you, some in person, some ‘virtual.

    Kel – if that title has some truth then I reckon I could die a happy man!

  15. Mate, I reckon your big trip around ‘Straya next year could provide a few clues. Maybe something will open up for you as a result of your big trip. Whatever you do, you’ll do it well.

  16. G’day Hamo,

    Thank you for sharing.

    I think you have done something great for many Christians and Churches here in Perth, to think about who we are and how we do church. You and your team have stepped out into the forest and led the way for many. thank you.

  17. well Hamo, judging by the comments, it’s true for a few of us here, and probably the other 90 nosey buggers who lurk and don’t comment 😉

    so there’s your hundred

  18. hey Hamo

    Thanks for your honesty…it is encouraging to hear from someone who has tried and not gotten the results they exepect – yet honest enough to say so, and committed enough to be faithful and trust that God will open the next door.

    The ‘initial missionaries to China’ thing that Dave mentioned resounds with me. Also, Joseph’s story – he spent so much of his life dealing with undeserved setbacks and doing seemingly random things, but God used each moment towards his purpose.

    I pray you will feel God’s smile and his peace, as well as sufficient direction and contentment.

  19. Thanks for sharing all that mate. Very helpful to get a bit of your back story. There’s lots I connect with and some I hope I won’t have to. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment. 🙂

  20. Hamo, In some kind of way the fruit of your adventures in Brighton and your willingness to share your journey has effected people far wider than Brighton. I read the above comments and meet with people inspired by your journey and I know that your willingness to invite all your readers along with you over the years will have long long lasting effect for God’s Kingdom! It has for this reader!


  21. And so comes the discussion about ‘results’.

    Do they matter?

    Do ends justify results? ie, should we sell our soul because the results will be worth it?

    Are we called to live a life faithfully, or faithfully discharge talents and abilities into the field in which they will most widely be seen, appreciated and taken on?

    I just saw some cogs and I had a spare spanner… thought I’d chuck it in…

  22. hey hamo, danelle and kinder,

    ah i can only echo the numerous comments of unity, inspration and support. i believe that you guys will continue catylzing(?) people like myself and those on this comment list, as well as many others. here is a farming analogy for y’all up there in brighton…breaking dry ground to even be prepared for any type of seeding, let alone growth is a slow long grueling process…and i tell you WA is a dry state. you are and will continue to be west aussie father/family to us who seek to serve God as best we can in whatever context we find ourselves in.

    peace–Asher and Jaye Van Wollingen

  23. Hamo,

    What Scott says is true, it has inspired, challenged and encouraged people far wider than Brighton.. and on another note, if your looking for possible future directions later, just come and join us… if we end up doing our dream…


  24. I guess I have to confess to being nosey. I have enjoyed reading your journey…forunners never “appear” to be “successful” but without them we do not have the reformation we seek.

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