Jylan Wynne, one of the young Australians helping to build a new evangelism project, talks about the group's struggles during the pandemic, how they missed out on buying the property they had their eyes on, and how tree-felling has turned into a successful enterprise.
What is Madison Missions Australia?
A ministry that is focused on Christian education and mission service.
Our team combines new tech — apps, website platforms, and video production — with old: Magabook publishing, youth camps and events, and personal, door-to-door evangelism.
Our aim is to train and inspire young people for a life of financially independent service to God. We’re working toward a permanent college to teach scripture, business industry, health ministry, evangelism, and more.
This is essentially our vision:
“With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come — the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” —Education page 271
You are working to attract young people to study with Madison Missions Australia as opposed to a more traditional, accredited university experience. Do you think this will serve the young people well in the long run, when they don't have a university degree?
We believe there is a place (and a large gap!) for our training alongside university training. Christian education is centered around the true purpose of life. Worldly education is not.
Young people who complete our courses may well take up a university education later. Or like members of the Madison Mission team, they might have completed a degree and still desire education of a different sort:
“To restore in man the image of his Maker ... to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized — this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life.” —Education page 16
Our training will help young people know God and think intelligently and independently. They will leave with work skills and business knowledge that can be put to use just about anywhere to make a living. There are so many profitable types of business that don’t require accreditation, and those are the areas we are focusing on.
This kind of education will prepare you really well for the longest run, eternity. In that respect a secular university education doesn’t compete.
How is Madison Missions related to Eastward?
Eastward Missions began as a missionary school in 2003 and ran health and evangelism courses until 2014. Many current team members were first involved with Eastward Missions. A group of these members formed Madison Missions in late 2019 to enter into a purchase contract for a special 100-acre property near Melbourne, Victoria.
In 2020, the Eastward Missions board resolved to transfer assets and the trading name to Madison Missions so they could be more actively used.
Did you buy the property? What happened?
Madison Missions had the awesome opportunity to purchase an established 100-acre health retreat for AUD $3.6MM. In early 2020 we entered a 12-month lease of the property and business. (The lease period was designed to allow us to generate funds for a 10%, or $360,000, deposit as entry into a five-year purchase contract.)
We ran the health retreat for just over one month last year before COVID-19 government restrictions forced us to close.
The team quickly pivoted into different businesses to meet lease payments and running costs. God is good. He kept us afloat.
But toward the end of 2020 we saw that our fledgling business income wasn’t going to support a deposit. Madison Missions began fundraising for AUD $1,000,000 (enough to cover the deposit plus a few years of repayments). Generous donors gave $60,000 over a couple of months.
Unfortunately, an expected lease extension to April 2021 didn’t come through, and in January 2021, at the end of our 12-month lease period, we didn’t have the necessary funds for a purchase deposit.
We’re disappointed but not discouraged with the inability to enter a purchase contract. Our faith has been enlarged and we’ve gained valuable experience. Madison Missions is continuing with ministry plans for 2021 and eagerly anticipating the next chapter in God’s will!
Now, the property owners are speaking with other Adventist buyers interested in the property.
Who owns the property?
Lay Adventists Colin and Cherryl Martens originally purchased the land in 1988. It is pristine country, nestled in the Yarra Ranges just one-and-a-half hours from the center of Melbourne. The Martens built a health center, dormitory, and staff housing. These facilities operated as a lifestyle health retreat with attached training school.
The property was passed between various ministries over the years as it struggled to maintain profitability. In 2011, it was given to US-based ministry Keep the Faith. Keep the Faith completed a rebrand of the property to Abide Wellness Retreat in 2018.
Keep the Faith decided to exit Australian operations in 2019 and recoup the AUD $3.6 million they had loaned to improve and operate Abide Wellness Retreat. Madison Missions then negotiated a five-year purchase contract with Keep the Faith based on that figure.
Abide Wellness Retreat
Can you tell us about some of the businesses that Madison Missions started last year? Have they all been successful? What has worked the best?
Firewood was actually our first quick-response, profitable business last year when the health retreat shut down. This was leading into winter. We found cheap logs, and everyone pitched in to chainsaw, split, and deliver. Facebook advertising pointing to an online ordering system worked so well that we struggled to meet the demand. This is a fantastic seasonal industry with growth potential.
Beehive Food Services began as a home-delivered, prepared-meal business. Emmanuel built the online ordering system. Kayla Reay and Jessica Granger headed up the meal creation and delivery components. We used Facebook advertising again to kickstart orders and clients. Keeping customers was the main challenge — it’s a competitive industry. At the end of 2020 we suspended the meal business so that Jess and Kayla could focus on other ministry projects. This business gave us decent revenue overall, but growing profits needed more time and resources than we could give. Abide Farm continues to use the online ordering system.
Beehive Tree Services started when Madison Missions member Harry Cole brought his arboriculture clients and projects under the ministry banner to financially support the mission. We invested in a chipper and tipper truck to take on bigger jobs. Tim and Andy work with Harry in this business along with another trainee climber. I think this team is usually the first non-smoking/drinking/swearing contractors most Aussies have met!
This has been our most successful business due to the reputation head start and existing skills in the area. If you’ve ever gotten quotes for tree care or removal, you’ll realize the large potential for earning and expanding here.
Beehive Tree Services
The Abide Farm took advantage of the property’s garden facilities (three large greenhouses, orchard, great water supply, and more). Missions volunteers Beau Farrawell, Ester Harmse, and Ian Mot wholeheartedly embraced the challenge and have put in thousands of hours weeding, germinating, planting, harvesting, and selling. We’ve seen wonderful community support for local, organic produce and the farm is starting to see a return on investment.
What other projects are you working on?
Madison Missions is heavily involved in Australian Magabook literature evangelism work. We’ve hosted many student literature programs selling tens of thousands of books — including two self-published titles — across the country. Several titles are coming through the production pipeline, including The Desire of Ages and Steps to Christ.
Books can't be taken down. They’re censorship-resistant by design.
We’re designing these books to be as attractive as possible to a secular Australian audience. Longer term we aim to publish a full Magabook Spirit of Prophecy range.
Student literature evangelists 2019
The team also runs youth camps and other special events. Our yearly Music Camp grew to 110-plus staff and participants in 2019. Campers learn four or five choir pieces during the first week which are then professionally filmed in scenic locations for YouTube and DVD release. The entire choir and orchestra present live in multiple concerts during the final Sabbath of camp.
The top aim for Music Camp is really spiritual growth for each camper. We look for influential speakers with skills to make the Gospel come alive. They host daily Bible study classes and hard-hitting, big-thought-provoking evening meetings. Ten campers asked for baptism at the 2019 Music Camp, and another four campers who were baptized in 2020 said that Music Camp directly influenced their decision. Right now, we’re planning for Music Camp 2021 and finishing work on a media production incorporating the last few camps’ worth of music videos.
Music Camp 2019
Oh — and The Maker Heals app!
Yes, please tell us about the app you have developed.
First, I’ll explain the The Maker Heals program so you can understand how the app fits in.
The 10-day live-in Maker Heals program changes people for the better. We’ve seen it consistently — first-hand and in every session. First and best, participants gain a love for Christ and greater faith in God. They realize that healing begins with being in harmony with Him. The Maker Heals exalts Christ through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship.
The program mixes this essential spirituality with a practical implementation of the healthiest lifestyle available: A temperate, whole food plant-based diet, combined with exercise and rest in a beautiful country setting. Participants are in capable hands with team member and teacher Joy Cho — she’s had extensive experience running The Maker Heals in Korea and India.
Ten days is long enough for participants to take home increased physical health. We often see weight loss, better skin, clearer thoughts, stabilized blood pressure, and other benefits.
COVID-19 travel restrictions got us wondering: How could we bring The Maker Healers experience to more people?
Our facilities here in Victoria are only an option for a tiny percentage of people. We wanted something accessible to anyone with a phone or tablet.
The in-development app aims to bring The Maker Heals to your home, featuring:
• Personal support from trained program facilitators
• Flexible integration of The Maker Heals into your daily routine
• Hours of professional video content especially created for the app
• Handy recording for health observations and new habit creation
• Progress markers and in-app achievements
• Fellowship with a small participant group experiencing the program alongside you
So, what is your role in Madison Missions?
I’m responsible for financial accounting and reconciliations. But like the rest of the team, I aim to help wherever and whenever needed. Doing this interview, for instance!
How did you first get involved?
My background is in digital media/web development, which is what I was doing full-time when Emmanuel Higgins and twin brothers Tim and Andy Hopkins travelled through my Queensland hometown in 2015.
They camped out at church for a week or two and canvassed every day (selling books door to door). I was pretty curious about the whole book business... I don’t think I knew anything about literature evangelism.
Looking back, I was at a junction point in my life. I think those points are more frequent than we imagine. God never stops calling us higher: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 3:14. I had a desire to work for God and use whatever skills He’d given me in a more direct, for-the-Gospel way. I just wasn’t sure how.
They were kind enough to take me out on the doors for a few hours one afternoon. I loved it. This, I remember thinking, was straight front-line missionary work! In the 2015 summer holidays (December for you folks in the States!), I took two weeks off work and joined a canvassing program running out of Tweed Valley Adventist College in New South Wales. That experience sealed the deal for me and changed the course of my life.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Madison team, your colleagues?
For sure — this is a fun question!
We come from three states of Australia (Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland) and five continents (North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia). So, there is multilingual talent and diverse cooking styles around! We’re a mixed bag of skills and professions too: teaching, nursing, musical performance and conducting, soil science, counseling, digital media, arboriculture, and more.
Emmanuel met Tim and Andy about ten years ago. That was through mutual involvement in literature evangelism and other ministry work. They learned about Madison College in the United States, which Ellen G. White helped to form as a school in 1904 to train self-supporting missionaries and teachers, and decided to give their best efforts to start a similar place in Australia.
Many in the team found a connection with the three of them through their early literature evangelism road trips and programs. A passion for literature evangelism brought most of us together.
We’ve driven thousands of miles together, hauling trailers full of books across Australia for literature evangelism programs and youth camps. We have camped under the stars in places like the Nullarbor Plain, a 1,000 km (684 mile) stretch of desert highway across South and Western Australia. So many memories...
Do most of you work with Madison full-time?
Roughly half the Madison team contribute full-time hours to the ministry. Some serve as volunteers on ministry projects (like media production and The Maker Heals app development) and others in ministry businesses like Beehive Tree Services. The other half work in jobs unrelated to Madison Missions and contribute time and talent where possible.
What are Madison's top goals for 2021?
• Run Music Camp and a student literature evangelism program (suspended last year due to COVID-19)
• Launch The Maker Heals app, train facilitators, and grow in-person programs
• Prepare for a training school: Save money, search for property, develop curriculum, etc.
• Expand Beehive Tree Services
Alita Byrd is interviews editor for Spectrum.
Photos courtesy of Jylan Wynne and Madison Missions.
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