Toowoomba Team (QLD)
Meets the 3rd Saturday of each month at 11am at the Margaret St McDonalds. The team also meets the 1st Thursday night of each month for prayer.
Contact Doug Espie for more information.
The last half of 2021 certainly has been memorable here in Toowoomba. We’ve engaged in a number of big events and we’ve had some good discussions with people on the street.
Two members of our team met an atheist during one outreach. This man was very quite set in his ways and quite hostile to the existence of God or the Gospel. We did our best to respectfully listen and gently challenge some of his underlying assumptions but he was adamant about the truth of his position. It’s always difficult to know whether such an attitude is just a “public front” or whether someone is genuinely set in their ways and further conversation is futile.
This time around we spent a fair bit of time talking with him and eventually chose to wrap up the conversation. We hope to meet him again someday and have a deeper discussion about the things that really matter in life.
Another conversation we had was with an older gentleman who goes to a local liberal/progressive church. By liberal/progressive I mean a church that denies some significant aspects of the Christian faith in favour of more “modern” understandings that directly and self-consciously deny the Bible’s truthfulness on particular issues.
We spoke with him at length and the man was open to discussing some of the important differences between Biblical/Apostolic Christianity and modern liberal/progressive groups. It was a blessing to speak with him and to have someone so open to hearing alternative opinions. We pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to speak to his heart long after our conversation. We also pray
that this bloke will find a Church that is grounded in God’s Word and that will lovingly embrace this man in his spiritual journey.
The final conversation (that I have space to share) was with a young guy who was really struggling with life. One of our team members found him sitting by himself and spent a significant amount of time chatting with him. The young guy really appreciated the talk and afterwards said he would like to learn about the Bible more. He exchanged numbers with us and we wished him well. Since that time we’ve tried to get in contact with him but to no avail.
This may seem disheartening at first, but those of us who have been involved in this ministry long enough know that our work is to care for every person we meet. If we were able to provide a listening ear that helped “take the edge off” the difficult situation the young man was facing..even just for a few minutes..it is worth it. We hope and pray that things work out for this young guy and that one day we will hear the story of how Jesus transformed his life for the better.
On another note, this semester was also our busiest time of the year with the Carnival of Flowers, Gospel of Luke Distribution and Christmas Lights Outreach.
The Carnival of Flowers was absolutely huge. It was possibly the biggest Carnival of Flowers we’ve ever experienced and there were people literally everywhere. After lockdowns and the challenges of 2021, every man and his dog decided to come to the Carnival of Flowers this year. I’ve attached some photos to this report and needless to say, we were able to give out a lot of Gospel tracts!
Our second major outreach was the Toowoomba Christmas Wonderlands show in Queens Park. This beautiful event attracts people from all over the region and we were able to hand out 1600 Christmas Gospel tracts over two nights. We’re extremely thankful for the chance to share the good news of Jesus at this very topical time of year!
The final big event we engaged in was the Gospel of Luke distribution efforts across Australia. The Australian Christian Lobby fund-raised and then supplied half a million copies of Luke’s Gospel to be shared across the nation at the end of 2021. Our team spread our efforts between conventional street evangelism and distributing Luke’s Gospel to homes across a number of suburbs in North Toowoomba. We had a number of outside helpers as well which made a significant difference.
All in all, it has been a big year. God has been good, His news of hope and freedom has gone forth and we pray for a mighty work of God in our community in 2022!
The last few months of evangelism in Toowoomba have been both challenging and encouraging.
On the encouraging front, we have never had so many Christians volunteer to labour with us for the first time. Sharing the Gospel with the people of our beautiful city is a wonderful privilege and seeing the passion in these newcomers is inspiring in so many ways.
On the challenging front, we experienced a number of difficult outreaches in this time, where the majority of people refuse tracts and don’t want to talk at all. On one particular outreach, I was able to give out 8 tracts in one hour. My teammate and I experienced a 90% refusal rate. Normally it’s around a 30% refusal rate.
The rest of our team had better numbers on that particular outreach, but each team member has experienced at least one tough outreach this semester. Whether it is in the indifference to the Gospel, stereotypical labelling or angry, rude refusals, we’re learning to crucify our pride and to trust in Him who loves us and loves our community. It’s very easy to idolise the acceptance of others but we’re progressively learning to lean on His unearned and never-failing acceptance of us through Christ.
On a related note, we had an interesting experience with an African street preacher this semester.
My team mate and I found a young African bloke preaching at the corner of Margaret and Ruthven, which has been a favourite spot for a number of street preachers over the years. We introduced ourselves and then asked him about his message.
S--- greeted us and said that he was preaching/reading from Romans 10. He then shared his testimony with us and how God had saved him in juvenile detention around the age of 15. It was a gripping story. He then told us how he demonstrates to people that Christianity is true. He said “I tell them that they can call out to the “gods/beings” of Islam, Hinduism, New Age etc, but because Jesus is the true Son of God, only He will actually save them from their situation. This is how we know God exists and that Christianity is true”.
In a remarkable display of humility, S--- then asked us “What do you think? Is there any way that I can improve on my approach?” I was surprised by his openness at first.
I gathered my thoughts and said to S--“I can see what you’re saying. But perhaps it’s better to tell people to come straight to Jesus first, rather than challenging them to try other religions? They will experience a lot of unnecessary pain as they find out the hard way that the religion is false. If we tell them to come to Jesus first and experience his saving/delivering power, then they can know him without all the brokenness that comes from road-testing false beliefs.”
S--- said that this approach made sense and that he would encourage people to come to Jesus first. We then chatted about a number of subjects, including church. He infrequently visits a church near his home and I urged him to relationally connect with this church family. I strongly advised that he get to know people there and to allow others to get to know him. I elaborated that the best way to do this is to join a small group and engage in the Church’s corporate worship.
S--- said that he would consider it and we parted on good terms.
One final interesting thing about this term is that one Saturday we came across a large group of protestors in the Toowoomba CBD. They were protesting the idea of mandatory vaccinations and were busy handing out leaflets to all who would take them. We exchanged literature with some members of the group, who appeared to be an intriguing mix of Christians and secular libertarians. As far as protestors go, they were quite friendly!
I’ve included some photos in this post.
This semester has been memorable for so many different reasons. Please pray for us as we welcome newcomers and seek to love and serve the people of our city.
Join us in praying for the Gospel to go forth, for people to be saved and for Jesus to receive all the glory.
Well the last few months certainly have been busy. We pressed on towards our goal of tracting as many suburbs as we could before the end of the year. At the end of 2020 we were able to share the Gospel in tract form in Rockville, Harlaxton, Drayton, Wilsonton, Newtown, Middle Ridge and Rangeville. I (Doug) would estimate that the Gospel went out to over 2000 homes during this time and we are incredibly thankful that God had given us the privilege of this unique ministry in extraordinary times.
By God's grace we have also been able to return to "regular" evangelism recently and we are looking forward to face to face conversations once more. Jesus is the Lord of Australia and His Kingdom is expanding as He continues to transform the lives of all sorts of people across our region.
We are excited about what God has in-store for our local area in the coming year. As always, please keep us in your prayers. Satan certainly opposes Christ's work in Toowoomba but we take hope and minister from the unshakable truth that "the Light [Christ] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" -John 1:5 (ESV)
Covid-19 brought some radical changes to our evangelism in Toowoomba. We had one Saturday before the social-distancing restrictions kicked in and we used it to share the Gospel in the CBD.
I had a really interesting encounter when I gave a gospel tract to a young man with long black hair. He was dressed like an academic at the beach. After skim-reading the tract he came up to me and said with a thick European accent "If your Jesus was to come back today, do you think He would recognise the Christianity as taught by the institutional Church?
I replied "That's a good question. I think it depends which Church you're talking about. There are a lot of "Churches" who weaponise religion for their own gain. There are also a number of solid Churches who continue in the faith handed down from the Apostles."
The young European bloke then came over to me and stood next to me. He draped his arm over my neck. It was now getting intimate. Real intimate. "What if I said to you...." continued the man "...that Christ would completely disagree with your Christianity?"
"Really?" I responded "How do you know?"*
At this question, the bloke disengaged his arm and quickly walked away. I was so taken aback by his sudden reversal that I didn't know what to say as he made his speedy exit. I was somewhat disappointed by such an outcome, but my hope and prayer is that post-COVID we shall meet again someday and continue our discussion.
After this memorable outreach, the social distancing restrictions began and we needed to change the way we shared the Good News about Jesus with the wider community. Our team undertook OP513 on-line evangelism training which taught us how to use Omegle. Using Omegle is not for the faint of heart and requires appropriate safeguards. However some of the Gospel conversations that I saw on this platform were incredible.
After a significant amount of prayer and discussion, our team decided to instead focus on "tracting" suburbs i.e placing tracts that explain the Gospel in household's mailboxes across certain suburbs.
So far this year we have tracted Rockville, Harlaxton and Drayton. This month we will be tracting Newtown on Saturday the 29th August from 10am-1130pm. There are unique benefits** of this particular approach of evangelism, and if you would like to join us you are more than welcome. You can contact us through the OP513 contact page***. The harvest is indeed plentiful but the laborers are few. Please be in prayer for us as we seek to bring the truth of who Christ is and what He is doing in our world to the people of our community.
* Special thanks to Greg Koukl for this insightful question. I highly recommend his book:
I've found the question "How do you know?" one of the most useful questions to ask anyone when they posit their opinion on a controversial topic. It respectfully allows a person to present the justification for their position and it very quickly reveals to all parties just how well-thought out (or not) a person's position actually is.
**If you're skeptical about the effectiveness of Gospel Tracts, check out:
When you head off to an outreach, you never know what to expect. This is what makes street evangelism both nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. The last three months have given our Toowoomba team plenty of practice in expecting the unexpected, as well as seeing God use ordinary people to make a simple difference in our city.
For example, two of our team members (Adro and Tim) had an encounter with J-, a young man who walked up to Adro and Tim and asked them to pray for him. J- began to explain his story and shared how he had faced a number of significant relational and financial challenges in the last couple of months. A tradie by profession, J- had been struggling with work and also in his relationship with his partner.
He had a Church background and was quite upset and so, at his request, Tim and Adro prayed together with him on that bustling street. After some significant pastoral conversation, the three of them parted on good terms and J- is still very much our prayers as he navigates the road ahead. We genuinely hope to see him again sometime and journey with him further.
Another encounter we had was with a different J- and his partner C-. These two (and their cat) were sleeping on Margaret street and had taken up shelter in the doorway of a building. To the best of my knowledge, all of their possessions were in that doorway, including mattresses, blankets and pillows.
C- was heavily pregnant and only had 8 weeks before their child was due. J- and C- were worried that if their baby came before they had permanent accommodation then they would have their child taken from them by the Department of Child Services. Tim and I (Doug) spoke to them and spoke to them about a number of services available in Toowoomba for people who were living on the streets. Both C- and J- seemed quite familiar with these services but, as their circumstances are unique, these services were only of limited value to them.
After purchasing a food voucher for them from the local Woolies, we left J- and C- with the promise that we would keep our eyes open for accommodation that would suit their growing family.
If you, dear reader, know of anyone who would be willing to help house this couple, please contact me through Facebook or through the contact details listed on this website.
Along with our “usual” ministry of handing out Gospel tracts and striking up conversations with people, we have begun building relationships with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who man an information booth each Saturday in the CBD. This well-known cult often put Christians to shame with their zeal and dedication, yet the fact remains that their destructive message must be engaged by Christians committed to loving these people in the long-term and sharing the Gospel with them.
Over the last few months we have met a number of their group who have been rostered on to a particular Saturday. Many of them are older and we have focussed on sharing the foundational Christian truth that justification (being declared righteous by God) is through faith alone and through a process of trial and error I’ve chosen my “go-to” text as Romans 4:1-11 and the example of Abraham. I’m looking forward to walking some of our JW acquaintances through the text and ask them what they think it means in the next outreach.
None of the discussion above is designed to be done as a “once-off”. People are people and tend to discuss issues best in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect over an extended period of time. Thus we are seeking to build our friendship and discuss these crucial issues with people in general and our JW friends in particular. Regardless of the outcome (because people aren’t projects) we want to continue loving and caring for every person we meet, regardless of whether or not they agree with us.
So that’s the wraps for the last three months of outreach in Toowoomba. Many more encounters have occurred and a number of other interesting dialogues have taken place through the team’s ministry, but, as usual, we only have so much time to write reports and share with you all.
Please keep us in prayer as we enter into the second half of 2019!
Our last two outreaches have been radically different from one another.
This outreach was discouraging for a number of us. There was a very real, almost tangible spiritual hardness in the CBD and very few people would receive tracts or even less people would engage in conversation. Normally the majority of people take tracts and a small minority want to engage in spiritual discussions. Not today. After almost an hour of persistent rejections, our team was tired. There was however, one conversation that myself (Doug) and Elisa had with two older Indigenous men.
When we offered them a tract, D-- and N—told us they have their own spirituality. When I asked them what they believed, they said they believed in Indigenous spirituality. As the conversation progressed, they explained that they believed that history runs in a cycle (there is no such thing as “progress” in history) and that the Mother Spirit inhabits the Earth. This spirit is personal and is expressed in every created thing. This Mother Spirit has a particular relationship with the original inhabitants of Australia, as they cared for nature and lived in (relative) harmony with it. One day Mother Earth will cast out all non-Indigenous people from Australia and history will once again reset.
It was at this point that things took an unexpected twist. At first, D—and N—claimed that Indigenous people are the first of Mother Earth’s creation and are the “most pure”. Everyone else in the world are “less pure” races that were created afterward. A little while later they changed this somewhat racist claim to instead say that every race is descended from the original inhabitants of Australia. Those races who inhabit land outside of Australia were cast out many millennia ago for violating tribal law.
Throughout this time, Elisa and I did our best to listen respectfully and also to gently probe how they knew these things to be true. D—and N—replied that Indigenous culture is the longest surviving culture in the world, and therefore their beliefs must be true. Before I could point out that this doesn’t necessarily follow (non-sequitur fallacy), both men said that Christianity was false because it was a crutch for the weak and the Bible had been changed many times.
Elisa then powerfully shared how God had been a crutch for her through many difficult seasons and together we explained how every person on Earth uses a crutch to get through life’s difficulties. Whether it’s alcohol, family relationships, an upcoming holiday...you name it, we all use crutches. The real question is whether they will break in our hands when we lean on them heavily enough. I shared that only the infinite God is strong enough to bear the weight of our pain and suffering, because every finite thing and every finite person we use as a crutch will one day fail us.
D—then fell back on the “Bible has been changed many times” objection. This objection requires a small amount of historical knowledge and explanation to defuse*, but unfortunately due to time restrictions Elisa and I needed to go. Overall, this conversation went for over an hour and Elisa and I spent the majority of the time listening, which is in many ways one of the most crucial skills for all Christians to grow in when engaging with others. We hope that this discussion was one that could open doors to future dialogue and all four of us shook hands on good terms and departed.
Once we returned to our team we heard just how hard the day had been for many of us. In hindsight, we all know some months will be harder than others, but the challenge for us to trust God as He refines us and to hold firm to His promises. Jesus is the good King and we are thankful that He sees our difficult days and is powerful enough to mould everything together for our good. Not because we are good...but because He is love (1 John 4:16) .
*For info on how to deal with "The Bible has been changed many times" objection
This month we introduced the OP513 flip-chart into our ministry. This flip-chart has the “Good Person Test” on it and is designed to be set up and used to engage interested groups of people who come over for a chat or through open-air preaching. After the team ran a few practice runs, we split up to either draw interest to the chart or to hand out tracts and begin conversations.
It wasn’t long before two interested teenagers came over to Merv and I to do the “Good Person Test”. A—and H—were friendly young men who engaged the presentation and asked some good questions. After we had shared the Gospel, A—said “This makes sense! I’ve heard about this in Youth Group!” We encouraged both of them to engage a Youth Group and gave them some tracts as they left to consider.
We then switched gears and Merv began to preach, using the chart as a guide. He did an exceptional job and I noticed a number of interested people at the traffic lights with their windows down watching the presentation.
Overall it was a very interesting outreach. We praise God for the privilege of sharing His good news for humanity through words, flip-charts, tracts and the many varied ways that He has allowed us to use this month. Only in eternity will we know the true impact in people’s lives.
In November we were able to have some significant conversations with people in the Toowoomba CBD. The first of these conversations occurred between Merv and a group of teenagers. This group was eager to engage and spent a fair bit of time talking with Merv regarding spiritual things. During the course of the discussion, a number of them claimed that they didn’t believe in Christianity due to evolution.
This is a very, very common objection with younger people and so Merv began to unpack some of the issues surrounding this important topic. As Merv was speaking his wife, Alisa, came over and also began to speak with the teens. One of the teens picked up that Alisa was agreeing with Merv and asked her “Are you with him?”, a statement which delighted our faithful husband and wife team. The conversation eventually wound down and the teens took some tracts and were left with much to think about.
Another one of our team members, Sarah, had a much different conversation. She struck up a conversation with an older bloke who said he was once a Christian but had stopped following Christ. He also intriguingly believed that everyone will be in Heaven one day. It was a difficult dialogue and the bloke didn’t really want to talk. In moments like these, it’s best to respectfully leave the conversation to another day and so Sarah bid the man farewell and continued on.
In all honesty, speaking with people who describe themselves as “ex-Christian” is often the most painful part of following Christ, especially if they are your friends or family. Few experiences are more emotionally agonising, though it shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus predicted that many would follow Him yet eventually choose to turn away from Him. He even included this warning in a number of His parables, such as in the parable of different soils (Matt 13:18-23) and of wheat and weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-42).
Consider Judas, who saw spent three years living side by side with Jesus. Judas travelled with Jesus, healed people with Jesus, saw countless miracles by Jesus and shared numerous meals with Jesus. If Judas could turn away from Christ after following Him into full-time ministry, how much more should we be to prepared for the reality of apostasy* in our own midst? How much more do we be prepared to live together with and love those who have turned away from Christ?
It’s not over till it’s over...and thankfully God has brought many a Prodigal son (and daughter) back to Himself over the years. This is a hope that drives our ministry on the streets whenever we encounter ex-Christians. We have the beautiful hope of a powerful, patient Father whose children can take a million steps away from yet need to take only one step back.
All in all, it was a challenging outreach and we look forward in faith to see what God will do in the coming weeks and months in the lives of the people of Toowoomba.
*Some helpful resources on the topic:
Christmas Lights Outreach
Each year our team has the privilege of handing out Gospel tracts at the Queen’s Park Christmas Lights festival. We met together at 6pm and after a time of prayer we split into pairs to cover the various footpaths around the event. As usual, it was extremely busy and almost everyone we encountered was in a festive mood and were happy to take tracts. We were able to hand out a couple of hundred tracts in a very short period of time.
We had one memorable encounter with a volunteer from the event. She walked over to us and say quite pointedly “What are you fellows handing out?” I responded, “Gospel tracts ma’am”.
Suddenly her entire demeanor changed and with a big smile, she exclaimed “Great stuff! Praise the Lord!” and with a spring in her step, she returned back to her post. Talk about a change of attitude!
At the end of the night, we assembled together again and told stories of how our respective adventures went. God has blessed us with an incredible team and as we look to the future we’re excited to see everything our amazing and faithful God has in store for us in 2019.
It was like a dream. Protestors marched in front of us. Two Jehovah’s Witnesses sat to our left. Two Mormon missionaries stood to our right. It was going to be an exciting morning in the Toowoomba CBD. Our team split into pairs and headed out.
Adrian and I went over to talk to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. D and L were a pleasant, middle-aged couple who were happy to talk. In the course of our conversation I aimed to discuss two questions: “Who is God?” and “What is the Good News?” These two crucial questions divide Christianity from its cultic detractors and the answers lead us to either worship the true Christ or to worship a false Christ who cannot save.
On the question of “Who is God?” D and L denied the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity* and instead they insisted that God created Jesus as the archangel Michael. D also said that Jesus had no power over His own resurrection. I pointed out that in John 2:18-22 Jesus claims that He will raise Himself to life:
“So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
“D” countered by saying that in Acts 3:15 it says that God raised Jesus from the dead. I said “I agree with you entirely D...so was Jesus lying when He said He would raise Himself from the dead?” D was unsure of how to answer this question, so I encouraged to him to consider the idea that perhaps God was a Triune Being after all. He then listed a number of Scriptures that he thought disproved the idea of the Trinity, but in reality they only disproved the heresy of Modalism**.
Most JW’s in my experience tend to think Trinitarians are Modalists and when I ask if they actually understand what Christians mean by “God is Trinity” they tend to reply “I don’t know and I don’t care...it’s a false belief anyway”. D&L’s response to my request was no different and so I was stuck trying to explain how John 2:18-22 and indeed all the Scriptures they brought up makes sense in light of the Trinity....a light they expressly claimed to have no interest in learning about***.
It was at this stage I realised I needed to shift the conversation. We then moved onto the topic of “What is the Gospel?” Every JW I’ve met believe that a combination of Christ’s forgiveness and a person’s good deeds will earn them a deserved place in Paradise. D&L agreed with this idea and I endeavored to show them the Good News that because of Christ’s death in our place for our sin we can all be forgiven and are declared righteous completely independently of our good deeds.
Our good deeds are the fruit...not the root... of our salvation. The presence of good deeds in our lives demonstrate that we are saved...they do not contribute in any sense to our salvation from sin. Jesus has paid it all and that is what makes His favour towards people so undeserving as us so incredible.
D&L argued that good deeds do in some way help us to merit our salvation. I asked D to read out Romans 4:3-8 with its special focus on God counting righteousness apart from works:
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered,
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
I also asked him to look at Romans 3:28:
"For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law [e.g. obeying the 10 Commandments]."
Some people might think this means that good deeds are optional in the Christian life, so I made the point to D&L that good deeds are important and necessary and that they demonstrate that we are saved. But they do not help merit our salvation in any way.
D&L grasped this and said they would like to get back to me on this topic. When our time came to a close we thanked each other for the discussion. While we disagreed on critical issues I was immensely grateful for their candor and their respectful discussion.
Meanwhile, the other team members were having some good discussions as well. Johnno and his friends from Goondiwindi travelled up to Toowoomba for the outreach and both he and Callum found themselves speaking with the protestors we’d all seen earlier. It turned out that it wasn’t a protest after all, but rather a public march of solidarity and welcome for Toowoomba’s growing refugee population.
Johnno and Callum had a few conversations with some of the immigrants who attended the march but it was rather challenging with the language barrier between them. They were able to speak with others during the day as well, such as a man on a bike who was willing to talk and also an older woman. Overall it was a good day with a number of tracts handed out and a number of good discussions were had. Please pray for this ministry and keep us in your prayers as we seek to faithfully share the Good News of Jesus with our city.
*** To explain the Trinity, I’m thinking of printing out the ever-helpful Athanasian Shield for outreach and for home use when the JW’s/Mormons come knocking... see
****Note: This is a report of October Outreach. Reports from November and December will follow soon: