Year of Youth 2018

Live Your Life on Purpose: A Netter’s Tale | Year of Youth Blog

Last edited 20th September 2018

Live Your Life on Purpose: A Netter’s Tale | Year of Youth Blog

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

The Gospel passage from Matthew continues to echo into the hearts of people all over the world today. It did for me when I entered into the experience of being a full time missionary with NET Ministries Australia.

2018 is a special year for NET Ministries Australia because thirty years ago in 1988, a group of young missionaries answered GOD’s call by evangelising to schools and parishes all over the country. Little did I know that I would follow in their footsteps.

Back in 2013, I was the new kid on the block in Sydney. The only people I knew were my family and my church friends. My first introduction to the NET team was at an event during World Youth Day in Sydney. I can recall the experience clearly in my mind. We had Dr Robert Tilley and Gary Pinto as the guest speakers and the NET team were the group that facilitated the event.

My initial reaction to the NET team was “These guys are cool. They’re young and they come from different parts of the world and they have this awesome zeal for GOD”. After the event I got photos with the NET team and one of them said to me “You should come to our weekly gathering.”

Meeting the 2013 Sydney NET team at the World Youth Day Sydney Experience

The following Wednesday I found myself on a train to Flemington to go to ‘Chill n Chat’ where we would discuss different topics regarding our faith, enjoy a good meal and spend community time with other young Catholics from all over Sydney.

The NET team was an inspiration. I loved their easygoing nature and I respected the way that they expressed their faith so genuinely. I asked myself “Is this something that GOD wants me to do?” I blurted out to NET member, Pete, “Hey bro, I’m looking at doing NET next year,” he replied “Come and meet us for dinner next week.”

The following Wednesday, Pete brings me my dinner plate, a pen and a copy of the application form, and before I know it, I’m filling it in, two weeks pass and boom! GOD sends me to NET to become a full-time missionary in 2014.

Following GOD’s voice would be a recurring theme for my NET year. I’ll admit, I knew the NET team did retreats but I didn’t understand what it meant to live a life as a full time missionary in the NET world.

If Youth Ministry was a reality TV show like Survivor or The Apprentice, it would definitely be through the eyes of a full time missionary. The morning would start with an hour of personal prayer, followed by facilitating a retreat for young people. In the evening, we would pray together as a team and would end off with night prayer and spending time with the families and friends that we would meet on the journey. Being on the NET team gave me insight into how it would feel to be a modern disciple of Christ.

2014 NET National Team

Being one of Christ’s disciples means to lay down your life for one's friend. To love your companions through the good times and the bad. It isn’t like being at work or at school where you can avoid somebody that you don’t like. NET teaches you to truly value a person the same way that Jesus would walk with his disciples in spite of their different personalities.

I was placed in a team with a mixture of personalities that I either got along with or clashed with. A young woman in my team loved having structure and being prompt, whereas I was a YOLO person (“You Only Live Once”), living life on the edge.

Due to our differences, our relationship became strained. I used to think to myself “Is she just picking on me because she doesn't like me? Alright then, two can play at that game.”

We were on the crossroads of our relationship, and I approached her and said “We obviously don’t understand each other, where can we go from here?” She replied and told me “The reason why I need to be punctual and organised is because people had let me down in the past and I need to make sure that I won’t make the same mistake for others.”

It wasn’t until this revelation from my team mate that I could actually empathise with her, and understand the reason why she acted the way she did toward me. From that day onwards, our relationship slowly grew, and we eventually got to truly know each other.

The weird thing about it is that when I got to the end of my journey, I realised that the team I spent ten months with knew the real me more than most of the people who had known me for most of my life. GOD’s grace is at work, and building solid relationships within my team was one of the most rewarding experiences that I had as a Netter.

I went home learning that in life, it’s good to be structured and organised, and this has helped me in my position as a Youth Minister. She went home knowing that sometimes it’s okay to have fun and to enjoy life as it comes.

I could go on and on about my year on NET, but I’ll need to do a part two sometime in the future to talk about all the rest of it (my relationship with GOD, brotherhood, spiritual growth etc.). For now, I’ll share some quick practical tips to assist you in your discernment of becoming a full-time missionary.

TRUST IN GOD’S PLAN: Like most vocations, not everybody is called to become a full time missionary. You need to know if it’s the right time for you, especially with family commitments, finances etc. Talk to your family and loved ones who will assist you in making the correct choice. At the end of the day, GOD will provide.

RESEARCH WHICH MISSIONARY GROUP SUITS YOUR PURPOSE: NET is one of many organisations that provide full time missionary opportunities. There are other groups such as YMT (Youth Mission Team), The Culture Project Australia, IMS (Immaculata Mission School), LV (Lasallian Volunteers) and many other movements both in Australia and abroad who offer various opportunities for people to live out their faith. It would depend on your purpose.

KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO: If I could relive my experience again, I would’ve loved to know more about NET because my impressions were that NET is a team who only run retreats around Australia. However I didn’t know about the importance of team building and the spiritual life required to be on NET. If you want less thrills and surprises, spend some time with the group that you have chosen and ask as many questions as you can.

BE OPEN TO WORKING WITH OTHERS: When you’re a full time missionary, you’re called to work with people from different backgrounds and they will have different points of view. It is similar to being in a sports team or a classroom. Being able to adapt is important.

When Jesus tells us to be fishers of men, he wants us to throw out the net beyond the shallow waters because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Richie has been in Youth Ministry for 18 years and he is the founder of the Youth Ministry Game Changers movement. He believes in Youth Ministry because it has the ability to transform peoples lives. His friends know him best for his loyalty to the countries of Samoa and New Zealand.

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