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Report on Conference in Nansha China

Payne Stewart Cup/ August 12th to 15th 2008

We know what it’s like to be thirsty and without water.  That’s a little like how my life has been of late. I have been going through the motions of loving and serving God, but it has been a struggle.
I have been getting into bad habits, not praying or reading my bible much and feeling isolated.

I was given the opportunity by generous followers of Christ from the USA to attend the 3rd Payne Stewart Cup in China in memory of Payne Stewart who died from a plane crash nearly 10 years ago. A letter was read from Tracey his wife thanking us for continuing to remember and celebrate his life.

I went there thirsty, but came home with my tank full. Being among 60 men and women from all around the world whose greatest passion in life is to share the good news we have in Jesus through golf, you can understand how this could happen. We had groups of brothers and sisters in Christ from China, Hong Kong, Japan and America and others from Argentina, Russia, Germany and myself from Australia.

Prior to the Payne Stewart cup, a group of American teaching Pro’s and players as well as British Open Champion Bill Rogers gave 3 days of golf instruction and shared their life experiences with a group of Chinese Professional Golfers. We arrived to see the conclusion of this program and it was evident that this was a valuable and life changing experience for everyone.

We also had at the conference Josh and Jason two of the longest hitters of the golf ball in the world. For both days of our competition we got to use one of their drives on the par fives. We only had a 9 iron to hit into the green for our second shot. They don’t always hit it straight but they hit it long. Jason is regarded as the longest hitter of the golf ball in the world and he averages around 360 metres off the tee. When he gets on to it, well, it goes even further. He’s a big guy, but has a soft heart.
The local followers of Jesus from Hong Kong and China organised the conference and did a great job.

I was glad to be given an opportunity to speak about my own journey at the conference and to share some of the work we are doing in Australia.
It is amazing how God is raising so many people in different parts of the world to share the good news of Jesus through Golf. To hear their stories was truly inspiring, as God calls people out of darkness into his light.
For three days each morning and night we heard from different people about how the gospel was being spread in their countries.  From China we heard about the ministry of the church, in its open and underground ministries. We heard of an exciting development to build a theme park with 7 pavilions telling the biblical story. We heard about the missionary endeavours in China where the church is growing rapidly and sending missionaries west on a journey across the nations back to Jerusalem. We heard how one believer is working with an orphanage to bring the light of Christ to rejected children and how believers still suffer persecution and arrest in China, especially when they seek to gather in groups.

Our spiritual leader and founder of Links Jim Hiskey with his Son Peter, led us in bible studies on the theme of being a disciple of Jesus, a follower and learner of the ways of Christ. We touched on the themes of becoming like a child and serving, the importance of prayer, putting Christ first in our lives above all else, caring for the least of the brothers and sisters of Christ, following Jesus words, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and reaching out to others as Jesus calls us. It was great to sit under a man who has lived this out for the 20 years I have known him.  He continues to inspire me, even at a young 71 years of age.

Jim’s favourite question was asking us; who is the most important person to reach? His answer is himself. We have to be who God wants us to be to help others. There is a lot of truth to this. Out of our own integrity and love for the Lord, we can see Christ work through us. Also, in relation to this he says; you will never take another any further than you have gone yourself.

We also tried to call ourselves followers of Christ and refer to Jesus more rather than use the word Christian.  I agree with this and have tried to do this myself, because I find the word Christian in Australia has lost a great deal of meaning truth and integrity.
On the golf side we played 3 games of golf, one a practise round at the Nansha Golf Club Resort in the South of China. It has a mountain and a valley course.  I lost an average of 3 balls each round, so tight was the golf course. There were only fairways, then out of bounds or water, very little rough to play. But it was a delight to play golf there especially among the hills and valley. My partner from Japan and I came in about 10th out of 24 groups in the Payne Stewart Cup.

We also had 2 days of golf instruction from some of the best coaches in the world I have sat under. The instructors gave their time free of charge because they saw this as an opportunity to serve Jesus and his church in China and we all benefited from their expertise. We all went home with practice drills and new things to work on.
The conference was good for me because I needed a lift, a time just to sit and be encouraged and to share fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters from around the world. I saw a passion for Jesus in their hearts that I had lost.
As I reflected on the conference in China, on my personal journey with Jesus and the Links ministry I felt a strong urge to pray and to seek the Lord afresh in my life. Among the things that are in my heart at present are the following

  1. The need for me to have a mentor, someone who can encourage me and work with me in my prayer and bible study and my walk with Christ.
  2. To seek the Lord for a greater bonding among the leaders of the Links ministry in Australia.
  3. To develop in conjunction with the PGA’s growth into China and Asia, a network among Golf ministries in the Asia/Pacific region.
  4. To bring to Australia a couple of our international brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage us in our ministry that could include coaching, testimonies in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland. To look at a conference in the next two years.
  5. To go to the USA for a short time for fellowship and growth among those working in the USA.

I was so glad I went, as I was initially reluctant to go. I thank God for each and every one who attended who encouraged me to love Jesus passionately above all else and to follow the greatest commandment;
Love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark Ch12:30-31).

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