2019 SHINE Gathering Student Testimony
By Joe Fitzgerald
G’day, my name is Joe, I’m 15 and I’m in year 10 at Mt St Patrick’s College in Murwillumbah. I live in Crystal Creek. I doubt anyone knows where that is. It’s a small town, actually it’s more of a village, with a small public school. When I was in year 6, there were 70 kids in the whole school. It’s small.
I didn’t know the first thing about religion or God, we didn’t learn about it so it wasn’t a part of my scope and sequence. When I moved to Patties, I didn’t really like it at first because I was literally the only person from my school who went there. I had no friends for a couple of days so it was a bit odd. But it’s totally fine now aha. I have some good mates. But at this point God wasn’t really in my life, like learning about Him was all new to me.
My first real experience of something like Shine was Festa Christi, which I went to in year 8. Yeah well, I thought it was amazing! 2 days off school to go climb trees and do mad activities, “umm yes, I will be there aha.” I had a great time.
And so life went on and I just went with the flow. In year 9, I was eager to join CSYMA which is a RE class where you don’t just learn from the textbook. I thought it was great, you do activities and little games and I had my mates in that class. It was so much fun.
But then, it came to my attention by one of the old YMOs that there was a thing called IGNITE, so I went and looked it up and realised that it was what my sister had been to. I decided I was going to go with my sister and signed up for something called Ignite Launch (which is the event at Movie World). Basically, you go in stay for the whole day, go on rides and everything. At closing time when everyone else leaves you get free burgers, I know right. When everyone has had dinner, we go into the Scooby-Doo Castle to sing and dance with Emmanuel Worship. We’re worshipping God but it feels like you’re at a Jesus Doof. Most people don’t realise that they’re worshipping God. Honestly, attending Ignite Launch was the best decision I have ever made. I had a ball! Oh my goodness it was so good. It strengthened my faith a bit more. I like knew God was there, I just didn’t know how to talk to Him, you know?
Ignite conference, Brisbane, came along. I was like, “Yo, I’m defo gonna go to that aha.” When I approached mum and dad they were like, “nah you can’t do that cause you’re going on the snow trip.” I tried to convince them but they weren’t having a bar of it. You know when your parents get into that mood where like the more you ask, the more they don’t wanna let you do it? Well yeah, that’s what was happening. I felt pretty shut down and I was all bummed out. My sister came and talked to me and was like, “well if you’re that bummed out about not going there is an Ignite Summer Camp. It runs in the 6 week holidays, it’s only for about 4 days.” My first thought was, ‘no way am I going to a Jesus camp when I could be at the beach or chilling out in air-con.’ But I soon changed my mind, knowing it was something I wanted to experience.
Do you know how I said going to Ignite Launch was the best decision I’ve ever made? Well well well… this was a wayyyyyy better decision. I am so thankful for my sister bugging me every day about it.
Just a heads up, I’m about to get deep aha.
Ignite Summer Camp opened my eyes to a world of possibilities and made my faith what it is today. To sum it up, I had the best time I have ever had at this Camp. I met so many inspiring and kind people who were an open book. I didn’t know anyone at all, and it didn’t take long before I was welcomed into different groups. I left knowing over 50 new people.
The first day I guess I was a bit iffy about it all and it probably wasn’t until the second night after prayer teams that I started to enjoy it. A prayer team is when two leaders pray for you. They begin by asking you what you want prayer for. Then they each rest a hand on your shoulders and simply offer a prayer on your behalf, its actually really peaceful. They sometimes speak tongues. It sounds like gibberish, but the Bible explains it as a gift of the Holy Spirit allowing the person to communicate with God. I decided to give it a go. I approached the prayer team and was like, “I’m really open, and I want you to make a prayer for all of my mistakes.” I was a little weirded out but them speaking another language.
While one of the leaders was praying an image appeared in my mind, that seemed to come out of nowhere. The image was of a field and I was standing in the middle of it. Jesus stood about 10 meters away from me and we were playing catch… as you do. Except the ball wasn’t a ball. It was like the ball was made out of all my problems, my mistakes, my regrets, all bundled into a sphere. When I threw the ball to Jesus, he caught it and just walked away with all my problems. I just stood there for a moment, on a balcony with the two leaders praying for me and I felt this weight being lifted off my shoulders. I physically felt lighter.
So while this image was playing out in my mind, I kid you not, at that exact moment the leader, whose name was Lochie, said, “Joe, I just got an image in my head and you’re playing catch with Jesus. Let him take your problems.”
As soon as Lochie said that, I could not believe my ears. I literally started bawling, like Niagara Falls out of my eyes. At that moment I knew God was real and that He loved me. He loved all my problems. He loved all my mistakes. He loved everything that was me. Jesus wanted to take these mistakes from me, to leave me with no regrets. And, I’ve had none since then.