We have been involved with tourism ministry since 1996 with the opening of Australia's Bush Orchestra in Moruya on the NSW south coast, a two hour drive from Canberra.
Over these many years since I have also been called upon to offer seminars and workshops on tourism and a Christian ministry might develop. This is an email received from Sylvia living in the UK for 12 years, originally from Slovakia.
Dear Dr Tronson,
I came across your article on Christian Today website when I was researching evangelism in tourism. Your article was the only relevant writing I found so far.
I live in Leeds, UK, but I am originally from Slovakia.
I have lived in UK for past 12 years but only recently moved to Leeds to join a church plant. Though I have lived in UK for a long time, I am planning to move back to Slovakia in 2 or 3 years. I have been thinking about what I want to do when I return home. I love the rich history of Slovakia and the potential it has for tourism. I am also looking for opportunities to tell people about Jesus as a part of my work. So using tourism as evangelism really appeals to me.
I also visited York Minster couple of weeks ago and was blown away by the rich history and the opportunity the church has to present Jesus to the visitors (most of whom wouldn't come to a church service). But it made me sad that York Minister is not using this opportunity to its full potential. In the museum I did not see any section focused on Jesus himself. It would fit so well bringing context to the rich history of the place and showing how relevant Jesus still is for us today.
So I started to look for people who have done or are doing something in this area, to learn how it can work. From your article I understand that you have done some research and some practical evangelism in this area yourself.
I would be very grateful if you could share your experience with me and also pointing me to direction of useful materials, or projects worth finding out more about.
Thank you for your lovely email. Yes, Australia has ministered in tourism for many years, partly because Australia is an international tourism destination. Many Cruise Ships have on board chaplains—Cruise Ships are a huge deal in Australia being a huge Island.
The Whitsundays Hamilton Island has had a chaplain for many years and does many weddings. The Whitsundays is a famous area of north Queensland with large numbers of resort holiday Islands. Some large hotels have a chaplain or more than likely, a chaplain (Minister) who they can call as have the large tourist theme parks.
My wife Delma and I developed and ran for 10 years ‘Australia’s Bush Orchestra’ in Moruya, New South Wales south coast. This was a 10 acre block of tall IronBark forest (trees) the natural habitat of Bell-Minors (Bellbirds) which sing from morning to dusk. They never stop.
We were on the tourist bus routes, on the national tourism stop list, we provided a cuppa if scheduled, it was all very low key. It functioned whether we were there or not. There was an honesty tin where visitors put in $4 per family. That worked pretty well.
Along the bush tracks we had strategically placed 14 posts with story plaques along with wood carvings of 14 great evangelists throughout history. We had the 10 acres block as on the far side we constructed a large lodge as a respite facility for the elite athletes of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra—the national capital. It was a 2 hour drive to the beach (Moruya).
Whereas in Europe you can drive from one country to another in two hours, in Australia it is relative, as it is such a vast country and we have all grown up driving long distances. 2 hours in Australia is like a local trip, a short drive.
Yes, I would encourage you to think along such lines. Tourism Ministry is self-starting, no one will show you how it is done, it is really up to you to go from idea to strategy to initiation.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html