For the first 17 years of his life, Chris Webb and his family lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where his parents worked as Bible translators for Wycliffe. Growing up in a Christian family, he remembers his mum and dad teaching him the gospel from a very young age and he can’t remember a time when he didn’t trust in Jesus.
“They taught me how to read the Bible, and they modeled to me what it meant to follow Jesus. By God’s grace, that was enough to establish my faith in Jesus to this day,” he says.
As Chris grew older in PNG and became more involved in his parents ministry, he felt God give him the desire for his friends to come to know Jesus.
“I could see that [the gospel] was something that they needed, even though they were from a different culture. As I finished high school, I was convinced that a worthwhile way to spend my life would be to help other people hear the gospel. And in particular, helping people from other cultures different to my own, to get to know Jesus as well,” he says.
Training for a future in ministry
Back in Australia, Chris was studying Social Science and primary education at Newcastle University and became involved with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES) group on campus. It was here that the staff encouraged Chris to think about ministry in the long term and told him about MTS apprenticeships.
After three years of working as a primary school teacher, Chris decided to do MTS with the AFES group at Newcastle University to get some training and experience.
Each week, Chris was allocated different areas of responsibility including running a Bible Study in the medicine faculty, and another Bible Study in one of the residential colleges on campus. He also spent time with his trainer Greg and doing one-to-one Bible readings with students.
Chris says that doing MTS helped to confirm him and his wife Karen’s desire to do cross-cultural ministry but he knew he would need to do more study and continue to learn.
He says, “MTS just showed us that it was a really good idea to understand the Bible better if you’re gonna continue teaching it to others.”
Following MTS, Chris and his wife went on to study at Sydney Missionary Bible College (SMBC) for three years.
Cross-Cultural Ministry in Broome
“Over time we heard about lots of opportunities for cross-cultural missions, including the need for workers among aboriginal people in North Australia ” Chris says.
“That kept coming up in different ways and piqued our interest and so we started to explore that. In our final year of Bible college, we actually went to Kununurra, which is a town in the very northwestern part of Australia.”
It was this experience in Kununurra and Chris’s interest in Aboriginal focused ministry that led him and Karen to Broome to work with an Aboriginal congregation at the Anglican Church there.
“As we explored that, it seemed to tick a lot of boxes for us. So then it was a matter of working out how we would be supported in Broome,” he says.
Eventually Chris and Karen spoke to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) who were willing to partner with them, and send them to work in Broome.
“So we did some more cross-cultural mission training with CMS and then landed in Broome.”
Day-to-day in Broome
The ministry in Broome revolves around a small church congregation known as Broome People’s Church. The congregation’s main aim is to reach Aboriginal people in Broome, and grow them as disciples of Jesus.
Chris and Karen have now been in Broome for almost nine years, and in that time, feel that they’ve learnt a lot about Aboriginal culture, language and spiritual beliefs.
“The day-to-day really boils down to getting to know people and spending lots of time with them. Over the years it’s been encouraged to see people getting more comfortable reading the Bible and discussing it together.” Chris says. “Our main aim is to equip Aboriginal Christians for Christian service in both small and big ways.”
The ongoing impact of MTS
Although he didn’t end up in campus ministry like his apprenticeship, Chris uses a lot of his apprenticeship experience and training in his current ministry.
He reflects, “When I think about MTS and what I do now, I think that a lot of the skills I learnt in MTS, I still use now. Essentially my job is being able to read the Bible with someone in a relaxed way and to help them understand it. That was definitely something I I started learning through the training and experience I got during MTS.”