This group, form what is known on the island as, 'Straddie X' and who identify themselves under the Scripture Union (SU) Qld banner. SU Qld is commonly known for its role in placing chaplains in schools throughout Queensland, however SU is also involved in running many camps and community outreaches (known previously as Beach Missions).
My husband and I have been directing Straddie X for four years, however we were involved in the team for many years prior to taking on the Director's role.
The destination for this group was North Stradbroke Island, which is accessed by a large vehicular ferry. Many had travelled 13 hours to join the rest of the Straddie X team and as the ferry was boarded, the excitement was so evident, though perhaps some hesitation could be observed regarding the task ahead for the next seven days.
The aim of Straddie X is to provide a positive alternative over the holiday period for holiday makers on the island as well as the large local indigenous population. Daily children's programs are run over three locations on the island, along with a program for teenagers and then family fun in the evenings.
The Christian message throughout the programs is not hidden. Each team member have personally encountered Jesus in their everyday lives and are excited to share about how He changed their lives. None of this is forced upon anyone or presented in a judgemental way.
The team's desire is that the hundreds of children they come across on the island, recognise the team's aim is to let them know that they are loved by a Living God, and that they are 'special' and have a 'unique place' in this world.
One parent, whose children attended the program said, "I just want to thank the Straddie X team for bringing this kind of joy into my kid's holidays", while another said she could not believe that this group had given up a week of their holiday and finances to be there for her kids.
She went on to say that the quality of these young people was amazing and she hoped to see the team back there next year. One grandfather said that this program was a ticket to his freedom for a week while his grandchildren were entertained!! (Grand-dad's need a break too). Some came along to the program to seek support and prayer or just for a chat.
As directors of the program, we not only see people on the island impacted by the free events, but we also see so much spiritual and developmental growth in the young people on the Straddie X team. They are given the opportunity to learn leadership skills, planning and running events, communicating with adults and children, as well as working on a team.
Straddie X is a platform for all this to occur, but most importantly, is a place where they can grow and mature as Christians and strengthen their faith. Most come back completely changed by the experience and we have watched many flourish as leaders in their churches and schools.
Hundreds of families attend the program and we see the need to expand what we offer every year. The indigenous program is proving to be very well supported and is so welcome in a place where there is little else to do over the holidays.
Our 3 boys have grown up as part of the Straddie X team and they look forward to it all year. Huge fund raising efforts are required, along with training and performance checks on all the volunteers to keep up with current legislation. All the hard work pays off however, seeing the smiles on the children's faces and seeing lives changed for good.
Straddie X is an experience of a lifetime!