Awardee for 2016, Nathan Barton (Queensland), shares his faith story:
God brought me into a committed Christian family in the small country town of Murgon. Growing up I was involved in the local Uniting Church going through Sunday School and Youth Group. I also was a member of the Boy’s Brigade (which was supported by the local Baptist church) where I was awarded the Queen’s Badge, (the highest award one can be achieved).
In terms of my faith walk, I gladly received the teaching about Christ I was given and my parents always encouraged me to develop a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer and study. I accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour by way of Confirmation in the Uniting Church.
After graduating year 12, I went to Brisbane to study a Bachelor of Arts (psychology) at the University of Queensland. While I was there, I was greatly involved in the youth ministry at Aspley Uniting Church. I helped leading Priority One (a group for kids in Grades 7 and 8) and a number of Holiday camps. On campus, I became involved with Student Life where I received training in evangelism, discipleship and group leading.
In the middle of my second year of University, I had an encounter with Christ that changed my whole outlook on life. I had gone home to Murgon for the mid-year break and was sitting in church one evening looking up at the large cross that is suspended over the pulpit. The Holy Spirit gave me a new realisation of the reality of the crucifixion. A realisation that every time I sinned, Christ had to suffer more pain on the cross. Here I was accepting what Jesus had done for me and yet still following my own self-centred path. Such was the conviction I felt, that I broke down in tears. From that point on, I endeavoured to make Jesus the centre of my life and to seek His will.
This meant re-evaluating many things including why I was at university. Through prayer and my quiet times, I sought what God would have me do with my life and felt God calling me to a life of full time ministry but the exact from of such ministry was unclear. To that end, I began a Period of Discernment with the Uniting Church, which looked at my gifts and abilities and the possibility of being a Minister of the Word within the church. Also in my final year of University, I was challenged to consider becoming a Student Life missionary.
The conclusion of this searching (although not officially completing my POD) was that I felt God was perhaps calling me to become ordained but not at that time. However, seeing how He could use me on campus and also how I could grow through the experience, I applied to join Student Life and for the next three and a half years worked at UQ being mightily blessed to see the many ways God was at work in and around me.
At the end of 2006, I finished my time as a missionary with Student Life as I felt God leading me to pursue more directly the “ordained” calling He had placed on my heart. To that end I began study at the then Bible College of Queensland. During that time, I had the opportunity to serve as an Associate Pastor with the English-speaking congregation of the Korean Exodus Mission Church in Hong Kong. My experience there did much to confirm to me my call to ministry and thus when I returned to Australia I completed my POD and was accepted by Moreton Rivers Presbytery as a Candidate for Minister of the Word in 2013 with the aim of completing formation in 2016.