Jakin Mai is the Associate Youth Pastor at Restore Church in Castle Hill. He is married to Hannah, and they have 2 little girls, Lydia and Ainsley. He and his family have been involved in a range of mission activities nationally and internationally, and through the youth ministry program at Restore Church. In this conversation, Jessie chats with Jakin about a life spent between the local church and the global Church, and how his formation was informed by multiple generations of reliance on God.
This interview is a transcript of episode one of Mission Unplugged. You can listen to the interview on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Transcription by Pidj Sorensen.
Jessie: And how long have you been involved in youth ministry for?
Jakin: Oh man, I'd say since I was a youth, since I was a teenager, I reckon. I just kind of fell into youth leading and then almost fell into youth pastoring and just haven't stopped. [Laughs]
Jessie: Yeah, sick. So when you say you fell into youth leading and you've been part of youth group for ages, does that mean that you grew up in a Christian family, or did you get saved at a young age then straight into youth ministry?
Jakin: Yeah so Christian family, and I think that was a big part of it, we just always went to church which, looking back, was such a good thing for me I think because wrestling with all the questions that I had and just other stuff, just consistently going to church and being around other people who love Jesus, helped me massively on my journey. I don't even think necessarily my family was my main source of input, but my church community almost more was. Super thankful for that. So, I don't know, around them for a while and then started drumming. I was the only drummer in our church so I was drumming twice on Sundays-
Jessie: You're a drummer, no way, that's sick!
Jakin: [Laughs] -and on Friday nights as well, so then somehow, I don't know exactly even now, but then just started youth leading. Just jumped into the team I think because I was already up the front drumming. And then I just loved it, it was fun!
Jessie: So with your parents, did they come from Christian homes, do you have some sort of awesome Christian lineage?
Jakin: Yeah well, no. Both parents had their own journeys of faith, I think. My dad was more religious family so we went to church but I wouldn't necessarily say they loved Jesus. It was just more of a traditional thing. And then he met Jesus at a young age. And my mum, not a Christian family at all, met Jesus at a young age and never stopped going to church. She used to walk herself to church every Sunday since she was eight! So something stuck in her, way back then, and she never stopped going. And then they actually both met on the mission field, which was pretty funny.
I think also the ministry stuff they were doing was drama-related. So they would go around the world doing drama. So sometimes they'd be in a country where the whole skit wouldn't have any dialogue, it was just all visual because anyone can watch that and engage with that. So I think they said there was times like that where it felt like a really big deal, like some of these people had never had anything like that before. And people coming to meet Jesus after you perform some kind of a drama and then a message about Jesus, I think that's pretty cool. Because it was a rough mission field, too, the whole belief that God would provide everything. So they had basically nothing, absolutely nothing. And I was actually born while they were still on the mission field, but that's when they realised this isn't really a place to raise a kid, this isn't really working. So they left, probably because of my fault. But it was good! So that's where we started going to this church out in Penrith and they never stopped until recent years, yeah.
Jessie: Have you ever been back to PNG or done anything with them to see some of the stuff they've done, or been to those villages?
Jakin: No, not with that ministry group. But I mean, because of my parents living like that, I've been on so many mission trips from a really young age. And I think that's been a huge part of my journey, it's something I'm so thankful for.
We were never a family that stayed in just one area for too long. We were around our home church but when I was like ten we moved to the States and we lived there for three years, kinda where my dad grew up, and then from there we came back and just living in different houses as well. A lot of exposure to some rougher parts of Sydney then some nicer parts and then in the States as well, kinda similar. I think my mission trip was when we were in the States, I was about twelve years old, went to Mexico with my dad, helped build a church there. And then I think my next one was when I was fifteen in Australia went to Sri Lanka. Then I did one in an Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory, a little bit later than that. So, I don't know, I feel like I've always been doing that kind of stuff. But I think having that constant exposure to other cultures and other people has been so great for me because I think so many people I know have lived in the same city, have lived with the same group of people, have gone to the same church their whole life and I think it can sometimes not be helpful if you're not intentional about it because you can have this small mindset like 'God has to work inside this framework'. Whereas I've had a massive exposure to so many cultures and looking back I'm just so thankful for that because it's just broadened my worldview massively. And I feel like it's made me more flexible, I'm willing to go wherever God calls me because I've seen a lot and I've experienced a lot and I know that it can work in a lot of different ways, instead of 'Okay God, I'm happy to do what you want me to do but as long as it works in this little box', whereas I don't think I'm like that. And my wife, it's funny, she's the same, she's had a very similar upbringing to me. So we are both just are pretty open to whatever God is wanting in our lives which I'm thankful for and I want to be able to give to my kids.
Jessie: Wow, I love that. So good! Yeah I think it's even just from how I know you, man, I feel like you're a very humble guy and you've obviously learnt humility from your parents and just that servant attitude, that put others before themself, that really comes through. And it's been cool to hear the different ways your parents have modelled a lifestyle that's meant that you actually just believe that God does provide, that he will show up, that extent of faith to know that he is a good God, you know, Jehovah provider. Yeah, it's great. Wow, so cool. And I guess for me, one of the reasons I was intrigued was because I didn't grow up in a Christian family, got saved last year of high school and I don't have that heritage and legacy? The odd person comes out of the woodwork where they could have been a Christian and they probably had an affiliation but it's always hard to know how committed verses how religious, if most people passed away. But we got one aunty who's Filipino that my uncle married and my uncle's the first person in my family to get saved. And she's just like a loose cannon for Jesus. I reckon that she genuinely prayed us in. [Laughs] She basically is the reason that I came to Jesus, and so my parents, so.
Jakin: Yeah that's it, hey, because I have a lot of friends who grow up in Christian homes and they're not following Jesus now. So it's definitely not the be all and end all but I think that consistency was probably a big part of that for me. I guess, what I've seen with a lot of my other friends is that when they were having doubts or just didn't really want to go to church, their parents wouldn't make them and they just maybe wouldn't go and that's when they then started falling away. Whereas I think that as long as I was living under my mum and dad's roof, they kept making me go. Which I know for a lot of people, they don't like that idea, but I think for me it was actually good because I had a good place to wrestle with a lot of that stuff instead of just out on my own and Google whatever I want and then find all sorts of weird answers. So yeah, I think that's a big part of it.
Jessie: I remember man we were at Drastic Camp, maybe it was 2018 I don't even know, could be last year I've got the dodgiest memory, but we were hanging out on a couch chewing the fat after a long day of youth ministry. I know I was definitely tired, I don't know about you, you probably had some energy left, but we were just chatting about life and you were mentioning that, I think, you were involved in YWAM and you'd been here, here and here. I'd just love to hear a little bit about that journey and that formational shaping for you because I think there's just so much in that story. If you've got any stories to share around Mongolia or even what lead you to YWAM, if it wasn't YWAM what was it, that kind of journey, would be great bro.
Jakin: Yeah, my wife and I have always had a heart for missions and we know that the mission field is just as much here as it is anywhere else. We kind of wanted to explore that, just 'okay God if it is somewhere else, let's trial this'. So we decided that after we got married we really wanted to try some kind of missional training together. So we looked at a few different options, we looked at Heidi Baker's School of Harvest, we looked at a few different ones and for whatever reason, I'm not even sure exactly how we landed there, but we decided we were just going to go on this YWAM DTS and kick off with that. So we did the DTS in Belize which is on the Caribbean or Caribbean, however you pronounce that, and it was beautiful man, [Jessie laughs] it was paradise and it's one of the biggest reefs in the world. I think it's the longest reef in the world but it's not as big as Great Barrier reef. But anyway, we were there for three months doing our lecture phase which was like the easiest Bible college you'd ever do-
Jessie: Mate, struggling for Jesus, you know-
Jakin: Mate, it was not a struggle, I'll tell you that.
Jessie: Enjoying a few too many mocktails on the water, diving, tough times bro.
Jakin: Yeah my wife got her scuba licence, I already had mine so we went scuba diving, I learnt how to sail so we went out sailing every other day, I was spearing lobster, we take it back for dinner, I'm not even kidding this was like the dream.
Jessie: Bro, come on!
Jakin: And we lived in this little casita on the beach. I basically just wore boardies and nothing else for three months it was great. [Jessie laughs] And so that was our lecture training time and it was so funny because we had some kids straight out of high school, I was probably twenty five, but some of these kids are straight out of high school so they're like 'oh man we have so much study to get done and we're have so many assignments to do' and I'm like 'bro, we're sitting on a dock, reading a book and all we have to do is do an essay afterwards, this is the dream mate'. [Jessie laughs] It was so easy! Anyway, that was not hard at all, it was awesome because it was our first year of marriage. We learned a lot about each other in that time, there was a lot of that kind of stuff, and praying together and getting a heart for ministry together was really, really good. So that was a great time, that was a real blessing. We obviously had enough free time because we got pregnant [Jessie laughs] with Lydia. Nothing like a casita to get- yeah anyway.
Jessie: Yeah, yeah, it's good mate!
Jakin: So that was fun. And from there after you do your three months training then you do two months on mission. And so our mission, we got selected for Mongolia. That was on the other side of the world and it was so expensive man, we had it all budgeted out and that was a real step of faith for us because we had it budgeted so we could come back, we'd done all this stuff and then we'd come back and have this much money left over so that we could continue just living in Australia, but it all got blown out, the costs got way blown out. The Aussie dollar had dropped heaps at that point so our money was worth like half of what it was before that and anyway, it was crazy. So we literally had to put everything we had in and trust God for the rest. We really felt like God was challenging us not ask anyone for money which, I'm not saying everyone should do that, but I was reading this book at the time by Brother Andrew and he was challenged by God not to ask for money but just to know that your God owns everything and he'll provide. And so we didn't ask anything, so I was freaking out because we put every dollar in it from our bank account first, we felt that was a real step of faith so we wanted to put our own money in first and trust God for the rest. It was terrifying seeing zero dollars in our bank account. Then that week, I kid you not, we had maybe three to five grand just come in out of nowhere. My aunt contacted from the states and was like: 'hey, just wanted to send you guys this money, love what you're doing' and just sent some US dollars over to us. And then one of these guys who I had loaned money to ages ago and just kind of had forgotten about or wasn't expecting he'd ever pay me back, was just like: 'hey man, just come into some money and I want to pay you this back' and so I got that money back that week and just different things. I've never seen that much money come into one week. And we didn't ask for a penny of it. So God just made this way for us to go.
So we went to Mongolia for two months and that was a really rough time, it was actually not easy at all. Mostly because we were a team of seventeen living in a two bedroom house and so me, my wife and I are married, and we have this other girl in with us for two months so it was just really strange. So yeah, it was pretty rough, mostly because of team dynamic and because there wasn't a lot of transparency about the financial stuff and so I think a lot of people were stressing out and not feeling like this was going well. Anyway, the missional stuff was great, I loved being in Mongolia, had some awesome opportunities to speak and to love people and to see that their culture at the moment is so open to the gospel. Because they were in communism for a good many years, communism ended in 1990, I think, so not that long ago really, and they'd been a communist nation for so long that they had forgotten who they were, they didn't even remember their old history or anything so they got to this point of 'who are we now?'. It was awesome because some missionaries came in straight away and began preaching the gospel and a lot of Mongolia is super open to Jesus because they're just like, okay we want some kind of culture here. So it was cool to go in and see the people hungry and it's so easy to talk about Jesus there while here it's not so that was really fun. That part of it was really good. It was tough too for us because we had kind of a scare with Hannah's pregnancy where it looked like we maybe were going to lose the baby and so we were really praying through that time. I mean, Lydia's born today and she's a fully happy, healthy kid. So there was some real rough stuff during that time. But all in all I would say there was so much learning of so many different things in that season. It was awesome and it taught me a lot about okay, if I want to lead a team, what does that look like? You know, if I wanted to do missional stuff long term, overseas, what did that look like, and it made it really practical and helped me think it through fully. All in all, when we came back from this trip we realised we felt quite strongly that God was calling us to be in Australia for the time being. We didn't feel like overseas was right for now, anyway, we don't know if one day it will be, but we really feel like we wanted to set ourselves up financially so that way we could be able to do ministry stuff and not have to be supported by a church or by anything. So it was good, [Laughs] a lot of learning in those couple months, yeah.
Jessie: So good. I'd say there's a couple people on this podcast that'll be looking to explore what does it mean for me to do mission or locally, nationally or globally, or they're like you bro, they're like: 'okay I'm just going to go overseas, test the waters and see if God's calling me to Mongolia or to mission overseas. How did you and Hannah practically discern that, how did you come up with that decision?
Jakin: Yeah, it's a good question. I think, as much as there is steps of faith, I think there is also just wisdom too and I think that we realised that a lot of the ministries that we saw that were doing really well were financially supported really well, like a lot of our friends overseas have to spend 80% of their time just contacting people back home, updating them, asking for more money, just to do what they're doing. And then we've seen other people over there who just do business as mission or they've set themselves up in the States or whatever and now can just come over here and work on, it doesn't cost much to live in some of these countries. And they were just thriving and they were loving it and they weren't stressed out about financial stuff and they were able to be more of a blessing because they weren't just pinching every penny but they were like: 'we've set ourselves up, we've been really wise with our finances and now we can actually just be a blessing'. I'm a big believer in that blessed to be a blessing, I think that's a huge part of what we are. We didn't feel like there was any direct calling from God like: 'okay this is what I want from you now' so we thought, okay, if we're not hearing that then let's go with wisdom, and we feel like the wisest thing for us to do would be to set ourselves up so that maybe one day we could go and do this really well, not just scrape by.
Jessie: Nah, that's super helpful man, I really appreciate that. My wife, Abby, she'd never been overseas before and we were like, twenty, I might have been nineteen. Anyways I popped the question to her two days before her first mission trip. I'd been overseas before and we were going to Madagascar, rural Africa, she had no idea, but similarly we were really open to 'hey God, we're about to get married, use us. What do you want to do?' And we went there and were like, pretty quickly, 'hey, we don't speak the language, this mission thing is pretty fricking hard'. These local Indigenous guys, they're doing a killer job, how do we raise funds here to bless them over there and partner with them as local churches, as local Christians in the West? Because I genuinely believe without a shadow of a doubt the West needs Jesus and that's why I feel like there's so many missionaries get sent here from China, from Asia, because we're not reaching our own people, why should we go reach theirs? And I'm not saying that's the correct view but it's been a real wrestle for us as well.
Jakin: Absolutely man, I'm a big believer in short term missions but I think short term missions tend to be more for the person going than they are for the people on the other side. Which I think is great because that really helped me and my heart and my worldview but I think long term mission, there are already a lot of people doing an awesome job and if we could support them that's huge. And yeah, I agree, I think the church in places like China and even in Afghanistan and places like this where you wouldn't even know how many people are coming to Jesus, it's all so hidden and underground, man we could learn from those guys. I think, all in all, the Church is going to be blessed because of them and we're actually going to learn from them rather than us teaching them. I feel like it's going to be the other way around probably.
Jessie: Yeah I agree bro, I've definitely learnt the most personally in places like going to Zimbabwe with Embody and seeing the impact that safe water has had over there. So going back to some of the things you were talking about before, when did you first see mission being modelled in your home? Or when did you first see mission being modelled in your world, it might not have been your parents but it might have been someone you remember from a young age that was a youth pastor or a leader, someone significant you went: 'this guy is living mission-ly'. And for you that might mean a whole bunch of different things but I'm just wondering... even just someone pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly if that's a more helpful explanation.
Jakin: Hm! I think our church community itself around that time, it was just a small church community in Cambridge Park which is out near Penrith and it was in one of the roughest parts of Western Sydney, and the church was just plopped right in the middle of this suburb. Man, we saw so many broken people coming in and out of those doors with all sorts of issues and it was interesting because a lot of the people that went to that church and were even just a big part of running that church and leading were all from pretty wealthy areas and pretty wealthy families. It's just interesting, they easily could have gone somewhere where maybe it was a bit more comfortable but they didn't. They were just there. So we had this really interesting mix of people. Like a few of the guys in that room owned more than half of Penrith and the other people in there had nothing that week. And so it was just like, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of people. So I think our church itself was so missional. And me growing up there in that kind of environment was awesome because I just saw that Church is just having all sorts of people come through the doors and we just love them no matter what. And seeing how some of the people that have maybe not that much stuff or material wealth are some of the best people you'd ever meet. So I think that was a huge part of our church itself was just always so open to anyone. We had all sorts of misfits there. And it's funny, I remember in my teenage years wishing, like: 'why do we always have such weird people coming?' [Jessie laughs] 'Why can't we just have cool people come to this church? Why are there so many weirdos?' And I think that's because they felt safe, they felt comfortable, they felt like they had somewhere they could go. And so I think that's a really good thing and that's a really good reflection of the church's heart. It was never a massive church but it just had this flow of people coming in and out, people come in that were broken, find healing, find Jesus, and then flow out again. It was kinda interesting, a really interesting church, more of a healing centre if anything, I reckon.
Jessie: Yeah, I agree, it sounds like a hospital, a Christian hospital, to heal and restore and renew people. What a blessing! That sounds like such a beautiful thing to see, to be exposed to people that were wealthy and could have just used or abused their wealth while being selfish to actually go about loving and blessing others that didn't have as much. It just reminds me of Acts, that whole concept around 'no one in our community was without want' and I just love that there was a lot of wealth, or status or whatever you want to describe it in your community but people shared, people helped and people got alongside those that were struggling. Such a good witness!
Jakin: Yeah. Absolutely, it's awesome. It's funny because I love it now but I didn't like it at the time, always growing up in it it was just a bit messy. It's uncomfortable, it's awkward. We had all sorts of weird people that had full demonic activity happening Sunday after Sunday, where they'd just be manifesting on the floor and we'd be like what the heck and they'd send the kids out. It was just nuts! Then I come to some of these other churches that are so tame and I'm like: 'oh this is kind of nice and comfortable'. My church was never comfortable! I remember I didn't want to invite anyone because I was like, I don't know what could happen on a Sunday so I don't want to invite anyone to come.
Jessie: Wow! Gee wiz, that's a lot of life and vitality. Crazy! What was it like being exposed to something like people being set free from oppression or something demonic or even just set free from whatever's going on in their world, what was that like actually witnessing that as young person?
Jakin: I'm not sure if I thought too much of it at the time. I think when I was really young it scared me a bit, I was like: 'whoa this is freaky, this person is talking in another voice' and I could tell something was going on. But I think it actually really normalised it for me in a good way, where I realised the spiritual world was a real thing. So I think it was good for me to have that kind of exposure, see that kind of stuff and see people get set free from years of demonic influence.
Jessie: And what have you learned from those youth ministry years, either being a kid or becoming a leader and leading in that space, what are some of your gleanings and learnings? Because it sounds like there's so much that you've gleaned and learned from you church experience in that sort of formation sense but I guess for me, most people listening to this podcast will probably be either a young person that's thirteen to eighteen or someone in their early twenties type thing. So what did you learn in that stage and season of your life?
Jakin: I would say a big part of those years I think a lot of my relationship with Jesus was religious, a little bit legalistic, but I don't know if I'd say I was unsaved. But I don't know if I was, maybe, in love with Jesus as much as I was just trying to do the right thing. And so I think that was a really big journey for me in those years. I love doing youth ministry, I'm a super competitive person so I just love getting in the games and making up dumb games. And me and my friend used to make this dumb videos that we'd post every week - or not post, we didn't really have social media. We'd show up every week on a Friday night and loved do that kind of stuff and was always really involved in that way. And that was actually when I first started preaching. And I had a lot of stuff going on in my world like I was kind of addicted to pornography and all sort of things so I remember having this weird thing of how am I going to lead these young people when I feel like, man, I am the biggest hypocrite. But I actually saw that as I started doing that, as I started even preaching and things like that, or sharing my testimonial, sharing a story, even though I was still so messed up, God was using it and people met Jesus and people, you know? And I think that always kept me real humble [Jakin and Jessie laugh] because I know that I am a mess and yet God is using this thing.
So it wasn't until I got around the age of eighteen that I reckon I got pretty serious about God. I realised that I was living on the fence trying to be a part of the world and be a part of the Church and I was just pretty miserable. And so I realised that I wanted to go all in for Jesus. So I left a lot of my friends and friend groups. Not necessarily like I sent them all a message like: 'hey, I'm leaving you, bye' but I just stopped going to the things they were going to and stopped doing the things they were doing and just naturally we just lost our friendship and so I started trying to invest more in friendships that were good for me, hanging around people that were good for me. I got rid of a lot of secular music, I stopped watching a lot of stuff I shouldn't be watching and I just kind of fell in love with Jesus. I reckon it was around the age of eighteen when I got serious about my walk with him and that's when I actually found that I loved following Jesus. Whereas before when it was all about I'm just trying to do the right thing and be good there was a lot of guilt and shame, like: 'this is what I should do' it changed to: 'wow God is so good and I just want to do this, and I love him and this is so much better than life without him!' So there was a lot of learning and I feel like there was a wrestle in my head and in my heart during those teenage years where I reckon it was a wrestle to God, not away from him.
Jessie: What advice do you have for a young person, then, that's hearing you share and going: 'I can relate to Jakin as a teenager, I can relate to the older brother in the prodigal story' that someone that was saying the right thing, doing the right thing, maybe a bit more religious but knew in their heart of hearts they weren't all in for Jesus, didn't love Jesus?
Jakin: Yeah, that's a great question. I reckon for me it just came down to that point. There's gotta be a point where you decide that you're just going to be 100% in. There's a point where you actually have to cross a line where you can't go back. I think I was always holding on to like 10% of this other stuff that I just really didn't want to let go of, whether it was my friend group and I just felt like I couldn't imagine being able to say no to them or let go of that or being laughed at or any of that. So I was still holding on to something there, there was that wrestle of watching these movies and listening to this music that I really liked where I felt like God was telling me to give it up and I was like: 'I don't want to give that up'. So there was these little things that I kept holding on to and I felt like there has to be this point where you're just like: 'okay I'm done with everything else all I was is Jesus and I'm just going 100% in.' It's like you're crossing a bridge that you can't go back on. And I think you gotta get to that point otherwise it's always going to be this, I feel like for me it was always just a sense of duty instead of I actually love God. So I think that really helped me fall in love with Jesus, was where I got to that point where I'm like: 'okay God if it's just you and me from this point out I'm going to pursue you no matter what.' And it was scary because I didn't know if he was going to come through, I didn't know if it was gonna work, I didn't know if I was signing myself up for something that I shouldn't. But there has to be that step of faith and that risk of: 'okay this is it, this is it, I'm in and I'm not going back and I'm going to make a way that I can't go back.' And that's when it came real for me.
Jessie: First of all I'd like to know what are you personally passionate about, what wakes you up in the morning, what grinds your gears in that sense?
Jakin: Yeah, that's a good question. I think the biggest thing for me is that I've realised in recent years that I really love pulling the gold out of people. I see a lot of potential in people that are around me and I feel like a lot of people don't actually see that in themselves. They don't realise how much capacity they have. I think I always am seeing that in other people around me. Whether that's youth, whether that's church, whether that's whatever it is, I think I'm just wanting to show people: 'man, you have so much capability through Jesus and through what God wants to do in your life just stop limiting him in what he's able to do'. That's definitely something that gets me fired up. And looking back over my messages of recent or last year's, realising how much that's probably a common thread throughout all of that and so I reckon that's definitely something that's close to my heart. Just waking people up to their potential.
Jessie: What unearthed or unlocked that in you? Do you know why you're so passionate about that? Was there someone you saw doing that, or was there a whole bunch of you went: 'these guys have so much potential but no one's doing anything'?
Jakin: Yeah I think that, I think I would say maybe in people that have done that in me, people that have spoken life into me, people that have just really believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I think I'm my own worst enemy, I'm way meaner to myself than anyone else ever has been. And so I think for people to speak life into me has always meant so much and so I'm doing things now that I never dreamed I would do. And so I've realised that man, if I've got this, and I know that there's more in me than I'm stepping into yet and I feel like everyone has got that capacity and more. So I think as we read through scripture you just see it from cover to cover. The people that God uses are a mess. And I'm better than a lot of these people in the Bible and God used them! The simple thing is just obedience and a love for Jesus and he'll use you. So I'm like, if I can wake someone up to that that's just going to set them on a course. I guess because it's happened to me, because that's what I see in the Bible. Man, that's just something that's on my heart, yeah. I guess too, I wished when I was a teenager I had stepped up earlier. I think I always thought: 'oh I'm just a teenager I can't do anything'. I think, man if young people knew how much potential they have now and how much opportunity they have now in their school and with their friends. Man, I wish I could go back in time and do that again.
Jessie: So good.
Jakin: So I love seeing young people who are already five, ten steps ahead of where I was when I was their age. That's so exciting to me because I'm like: 'man, God's already got a hold of this person and you're already going to change the world before you're eighteen.' It's great!
Jessie: Love that, come on we want to see young people changing the world before their eighteen, so good. Man, how cool would it be to see a generation rise up that took everyone, including their parents and grandparents, by surprise. I'd be so stoked to see, you know, newspapers, the media, tell good news stories about young people doing great things in their world and in their communities. That'd be absolutely unreal.
Jakin: Absolutely, I think too no one expects young people to do that. And I think so often we just rise to what's expected of us. The world expects that teenagers are adolescent, they expect that they stay home and play video games, they bludge off their parents, they get up to mischief, when you walk past a group of young people in the shops you expect that they're going to do something stupid. They have a bad rap sheet. What if we actually expected young people to be more? What if we expected them to be some of the kindest people in the planet or the most generous people in the planet or whatever? And I want to expect that of our young people and change that rap sheet. We could actually be like: 'the young people in the hills, which is my group, or the young people wherever here, they're so different to what other people expect'? And I think that would be awesome.
Jessie: So good, love that. Great vision. So you're a youth pastor, what does that look like in the everyday? How do you make that happen, how do you actually get the elderly in the community or get the people that are like: 'these youth, they've got nothing', how do you get the naysayers to stop being the naysayers? What are you guys doing practically as a community?
Jakin: Yeah, it's a good question. I think a big part of it is our church on the whole, we try and focus more on young people. And I know that sounds bad, but I feel like if you're aiming for fifteen to eighteen-year-olds you tend to actually hit everyone. Whereas if you're aiming for the thirty-five-year-olds, you're going to miss a lot of other people. And so we as a church-wide community have been refocusing, I wouldn't say we're there yet, we've been working on: 'how does our entire church revolve around young adult, young person age'? And I think that's a big part of it, to realise that we're all in youth ministry. And we have some of the best older people on the planet in our church who are so young at heart already and love seeing young people step up and it's awesome. To get people like that around these young guys is so good. I think another thing we do is we have been working on getting involved in our communities. So we have done this homeless outreach where we got all the kids to save money- their own money. They raised over, I can't remember how much it was, it was almost a grand I think of their own money, and then went out to Kmart and filled up these backpacks with stuff and then we just went out and handed them to people in Sydney that needed it and just sat down and had conversations with them for the afternoon. And that was good. And we've done stuff like we juts did a random acts of kindness day around here and we counted up and we realised be blessed over 350 people in like an hour-
Jessie: Wait, what!
Jakin: Yeah, it's crazy what you can do!
Jessie: Through a youth group? That's crazy!
Jakin: Yeah! We just went out and just did random things, we stuck notes on people's cars with an encouragement, we got a bunch of balloons and handed them out to kids, we did so many different things, just random things, we helped people with their lawns, like these guys went into a nursing home and they ended up moving a bunch of furniture for these people who couldn't move it. We did so much random stuff in an afternoon. And then we came back and had pizza and shared all these stories. It was such a good time. And I was like: 'man, if we can impact that many people in one hour, just with being random acts of kindness' - we didn't say: 'hey we're doing this because we're from the church and we love Jesus and you should give your life to Jesus', we just loved people and let God work with it. I think our young people love doing that stuff, this generation loves doing things that are bigger than themselves. And that's awesome because I know sure didn't when I was a young person, I was like: 'pfft, who cares about anyone else, this is about me' but I think our young people want to make a difference so we're trying to give them an opportunity to do that because they have a heart for it.
Jessie: Wow, mate, honestly, I feel like we could talk for another half an hour just off what that random acts of kindness day was about [Jakin laughs] practically, that's so cool to see, what does it mean to - I genuinely believe we are more blessed when we are a blessing [Baby crying] oh man, I just really wish I was in that room right now, I'm getting some FOMO! [Jakin laughs] I'd love to just be eating pizza, smashing a solo, and hearing young people go smiling, beaming, sharing stories about the little things they did to bless people and how they responded so kindly, that's cool. So so so cool.
Jakin: That's the thing, hey? We talked about how much happier they felt after that hour than they did playing videogames that week, whatever, watching Netflix then anything, they were like: 'yeah this is way more fun than any of that'!
Jessie: That's so smart, love that. [Child talking in the background] Yeah it's interesting that if you frame up something and then you do something it's actually in the debriefing and sharing space that you actually learn the most, or you actually realise like, for example, 'hey actually my video gaming isn't bringing me much joy. I'm addicted and it feels good but I actually feel crap afterwards but I did this thing and I'm stoked on life right now'. Was that a particular homeless outreach, was that something you guys did and then you went to the city, like what did that look like, what was that for?
Jakin: Yeah so that wasn't with an organisation. We thought about doing that going forward maybe but this time, it was just because it was actually one young person, it was their idea-
Jessie: Love that, love that!
Jakin: So we just rolled with it. But yeah, they had been in the city and had seen how many people just sitting on the sidewalk. So we did that, we had to have permission slips obviously, but we just went on a Sunday after church. Took the train out and all these backpacks that were full of stuff, we had a list of what kids should buy to fill up these backpacks, not just random stuff but some actual helpful items [Jessie laughs]
Jessie: Fair call.
Jakin: So we took those out with us. I think we ended up taking like twelve backpacks or something? They were probably about fifty bucks each worth of stuff so you can do the maths on that, I don't know how much money that is.
Jessie: So good, so good. 600, six hundy.
Jakin: But that's how much we raised.
Jessie: So good bro.
Jakin: There you go, six hundy! So we took those out and I think a big part of it was we had leaders go with maybe three kids, and then we just went around and just whoever we met, we just talk with them. Not everyone wanted a backpack, but that was part of it, we just really encouraged people: 'okay, even if they don't want anything let's just spend some time with these people'. That's sometimes the biggest thing you can give someone is just give them time and listen to their story. So we did that, we made sure that it was more about the person rather than what we could give them or rather than just ticking this off our list, we wanted to make sure that we were actually making time for the person. And so we had a lot of conversations with people and then we got rid of all of the bags in one afternoon so yeah. It was really cool, the kids loved it!
Jessie: What learnings came out of that for the young people? When you say they loved it, were there any highlights for them?
Jakin: Yeah I think some of them were surprised at how happy some of these people were even though they had nothing. Some of them were really encouraged, there was this one lady that was just so blessed, she was crying, the girls wrote her a letter, we wrote some letters ahead of time. Just with: 'this is what God says and we love you and think you're awesome' so we handed those out with the bags and she was just weeping as she read that and I remember those girls were all crying with this lady on the side of the road while all these random people were just walking past. I think it was just a really moving moment where they realised man, so often we walk past these people and pretend that they're invisible or that we don't see them because it's easier for us, but to realise man, all these people have stories and all these people are real people who are actually lovely.
Jessie: That's epic. Mate, massive shout out to Restore Youth if you're listening in, so good seeing you guys get amongst it, do things practically and just the generous spirit, just giving things away, blessing people with random acts of kindness and even the finances that have been raised time and time again. I feel like you guys do almost one of these initiatives every term.
Jessie: That's at least four a year which is brilliant, and we've been really blessed at Embody having you guys participate and raise funds with Safe Water September and some of those young people and unpack and debrief that and learn heaps around how they can bless people overseas. I loved that, I feel like it was a week, the first week of September one year, I remember two years ago you guys raised like $3000 dollars within ten seconds and there was like [Jakin laughs] forty people involved and I was like: 'what the heck are they doing out there, these guys', it's unreal. So good to see.
Jakin: It was probably like two of our kids who have rich parents [Jessie laughs] it was great.
Jessie: Yeah it was two donations, we won't go into that, no.
Jessie: No, I love it. And I love, I really love that story and I just want to encourage you, your heart man, and for everyone even just listening out to this, like one young person came up with an idea and Jakin you didn't shut it down. You know one saw something and was bothered by it and went: 'can we make a difference or could we do something about it?' and you just empowered that and ran with it and got your whole youth group involved. And to hear about that is a real blessing for me to see young people inspired and challenged but empowered to have a go and come up with ideas so good on you bro.
Jakin: Yeah, well I think that's just part of my story. That's what happened to me, I was given opportunity before I was ready. I was never shut down in things I wanted to do in my church. And so I really appreciated that opportunity so I always want to give that away as well. And I mean, I can't keep up with these kids! They have so many more ideas than I'd got and they have even bigger hearts than I've got and so I just want to keep giving them opportunity to do what they want to do. I definitely don't have all the ideas, not at all. I'm just thankful to be a part of it, thankful for these young people.
Jessie: If you knew you were chatting right now to a young person who's got a creative idea, or a youth leader or a youth pastor, what advice would you give them around actually helping people engage missionally in their local community?
Jakin: Yeah I think bring that idea to your church, don't try and just try and do something yourself. I think sometimes we can create these splits because we try and: 'I've got this idea and I want to make it my idea and I want to run with it.' But I think that humility of bringing it to whoever's your leader and saying: 'hey, this is my idea, what do you think'. I think if they're a good leader they're going to listen and be like: 'hey this is a great idea, let's run with it'. I don't know many youth pastors personally who wouldn't hear a great idea like that from a young person and be like: 'Yeah, great idea, no we're not doing it.' I think everyone that I know would be like: 'that's brilliant!' I think you just have to have the courage to speak up and say: 'hey this is something that's on my heart and I would love it to it. What would you think if it looked like this, is this something that we could do together?' And I think that's really important to do it with each other, with the community, not to split off from that.
Jessie: Good man, nah dude thanks so much for hanging out with us hey, been super fun. I've loved just bro-ing out with you, chewing the fat, just hanging out. It's so good!
Jakin: Yeah, it's good man, appreciate it. Thanks for your time.
Jessie: No worries. Just as we finish up, is there any last thoughts or advice, and also how can we connect with you, how do we follow you on socials? I really believe that Restore Church and particularly their youth are doing a killer job online engaging people in light of COVID-19 so all hats off to you. But how do we find out about who you are and what you guys do?
Jakin: Definitely check out Restore Youth or Restore Church Hills on Instagram or whatever, I think Instagram is probably our biggest, I don't know, that's where we push the most content. For myself personally, probably just Instagram again hey, that's what everyone's on so you can probably find me there. A closing though, I'd just really encourage any young person listening to this - or older person - to not be afraid of exposing yourself to more than what you're currently exposed to. I think that's one of the biggest things that's helped me in my journey and in my world, is I've had so many exposures to so many different cultures in Australia and outside of Australia. So I think if you can be not afraid to do that but to step outside your comfort zone if you have to, maybe you have to sign up for a soccer team or something in a part of Western Sydney that you would be terrified to go to normally [Jessie laughs] I don't know, just do something to get outside of your world, that's going to help you so much long term in yourself. Not only is it going to be a blessing to those you're around, but God's going to teach you so much about yourself and he's just going to blow your mind with how big he is and how much he can do through you.