The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia took a small group of seven volunteers on a STORMCo mission trip to Laos from July 7 to 21.
Service To Others Really Matters (STORMCo) is an initiative run by the Australian Union Conference (AUC) youth ministries which has been running for more than 30 years internationally and across Australia.
The mission trip was the first of its kind to be held in Laos, as part of AUC’s Global Mission Partnership Program. The group was hosted by Phonsivan’s Namtipsavan Bilingual School, a kindergarten, primary school—up to grade 3—and an English language centre located in Xiangkhouang Province. While there, the team conducted a STORMCo/VBS program for the 60-70 junior and teen young people in attendance.
“Each day began with team members being immersed in classrooms teaching and assisting in the teaching of English,” said Pastor Murray Hunter, AUC media project officer and associate ministerial. “The morning teaching program was then followed by an afternoon filled with singing, stories, games, physical challenges, craft, as well as the team being taught the finer points of traditional Lao cooking!”
“This first STORMCo mission was a resounding success despite the challenges that can present themselves whilst ministering in a country that is 95 per cent Buddhist and communist controlled,” said Pastor Hunter. “It’s hoped that this trip will be the first of many that will leave our shores to go and help the Church spread the good news of the gospel respectfully and sensitively in a country full of opportunity and possibility.”
For participant Tulip Nguyen, a highlight was the time they spent at Namtipsavan Bilingual School. “Each day, we were given the opportunity to work in classrooms, converse over lunchtime, have a friendly football match, run our STORMCo program and teach English in the afternoons.
“However, the true blessing in all that we did was building friendships,” she continued. ”Despite the cultural and religious differences, we were able to connect and bring a glimpse of joy and hope to the community.”
The AUC has initiated plans for three STORMCo mission trips to Laos in 2024. Their objective is to send volunteers annually to the region, expanding the reach of their community programs.