CMS Summer School with the Patons
Clint & Julie Paton

Each summer, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) runs CMS Summer School, a week-long mission conference at the Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) centre in the Blue Mountains. This year, the Paton family from 10am church attended for their second time, along with many others from Grove Church, and they have shared their experience here.

We went to our second CMS Summer School this year—last year for three days and this year for four days of the week. The daily program is to arrive at the site at 8:30am, drop off the kids at their program and head up to the big hall where there’s a two-hour gathering, including the main preaching session—Jeremiah this year—singing and interviews with missionaries. After that, there’s morning tea followed by one-hour breakout sessions around the site with missionaries speaking on different topics about what is happening for them.

At night, there are other optional sessions with preaching on a different topic and a missionary presentation. We just go in the morning at the moment, but the night sessions look excellent if you have the energy to go to them!

This year, there was great teaching on the Book of Jeremiah, which is about spiritual hypocrisy in believers and the cost of truly living for God. We were challenged that we can have the outward appearance of living as Christians, but not truly be responding to what we read in God’s word. We can go to church, read the Bible each day, even go to Summer School each year, but just be ticking off a checklist rather than really responding to God by making changes in our lives.

The speaker, Gary Millar, talked about spiritual deafness—not listening and responding to God’s word—and how we can fall into this even though outwardly we might look like a ‘model’ Christian. It’s inevitable that many of us will fall into this trap and it’s a warning to change. If we aren’t wrestling with areas of sinfulness in our lives, then are we really living out our faith? The talks were very challenging and you can buy and download them on the Summer School website.

The missionary sessions generally show you just how difficult it can be in other countries to evangelise and share your faith. I learnt a few more things to pray about that I didn’t understand before. For example, France is very ‘post-Christian’—religion is a private matter, there’s no Scripture in government schools and Christians can’t meet in any public buildings. It’s much harder to plant a church and have a venue to meet at. Praise God that a Catholic school recently allowed a church plant to meet onsite!

Being at Summer School and hearing stories about people’s lives first-hand is quite moving and challenging. Hearing it second-hand just doesn’t do justice to all the things you hear from missionaries. It’s worth coming up for one or two days to try it out, though you should note that the kids program books out every year and you need to apply ASAP and by the deadline to get in.

I always felt CMS Summer School was for those Christians who wanted to go on overseas mission and so I just disregarded it as an option! But after speaking to Andrew West and hearing his view that Summer School was his favourite time of the year growing up, I was curious about exposing this ‘amazing’ time to our boys. (As well as Summer School, we also send them to the CMS mid-year youth and children’s camps.) As Clint and I both come from non-Christian families, we have tried to create traditions and memories for the boys that encourage their faith, walk with Jesus and Christian network, particularly during their potentially turbulent teenage years.

Apart from awesome teaching all round, I have been personally convicted to appreciate the struggles of those Christian brothers and sisters experiencing massive hardships on the field, and the unique place Sydney remains in being able to share the gospel and Christian life with others with very little consequence. A highlight was a missionary session, called ‘I don’t want to go to church’. The missionaries shared their struggles of attending church and not enjoying this time for several years due to the language barriers of not understanding the service, cultural issues and not having ‘real’ friendships for an extended time. They all persevered and with much prayer, God worked through this time and provided them with what they needed.

The missionaries also spoke about the strengths of their host cultures compared to Australia in how their communities take on each other’s burdens with a view to not only support, but share the problem as if it were their own. A challenge for Sydney, and perhaps St Aidan’s, is that as a church family, we can be less needy and too self-sufficient at times. We do not want to burden others. Could we be more authentic and open in our struggles so that our church family can love and serve us? So that our relationships might deepen, others might see our community as different and that this might bring glory to Jesus in our city? What are some ways that we can depend more on our church family as we might our immediate family to strengthen our love for each other?

CMS has helped me to take what others have done in harder places and to be more opportunistic in ways to share the gospel in my very own patch of the world. We still have so many opportunities!!

CMS Summer School

From our kids:

Summer School has been fun as I have caught up with friends and I have made new ones. I have enjoyed the talks and the most memorable one was about how we have turned away from God and have worshipped idols. It has also been fun seeing my friends from church, Reuben and Max.

I liked Summer School because I got to catch up with a lot of friends from Camp Milimani (CMS’s Year 3–6 camp in October). I also saw some people from church, such as Damon and Ed. We learnt about Jeremiah and how he was a great prophet. Jeremiah was a prophet which means he got a message from God and he had to spread the message. Jeremiah was also a prophet who was sad quite a bit, which is why they call him ‘the weeping prophet’. The talk was all about how bitter it would be if God went away from us and he didn’t know us anymore. The leaders were awesome and very kind and friendly. I also love singing the song ‘Rejoice’ and all the other songs. I loved the game ‘King Caractacus’ because it was a team game. Altogether CMS Summer School was one of the best camps I have ever been to and I really enjoyed all the things we did.

Summer School is very welcoming and the people are nice. They do lots of singing and games. It was good to catch up with my friends from Camp Milimani.

Next year’s CMS Summer School will be on 4–10 January with Rev Simon Manchester as the main speaker. Whether you can go for a day or the whole week, we think you should save the date—it’s a wonderfully encouraging way to start the new year!