Who says ministry can’t be fun?
The Greater Sydney Conference Ski Ministry combines fun and faith for Sydney-area Adventist youth.
In the 1990s, Bob Saunders bought a jet ski and invited young people to join him for days on the water. That went over so well, he bought a boat and asked Leon Beyers to join him as a volunteer ski ministry staff member. When Saunders moved on to a youth director position in the United States, Leon took on the ministry leadership role.
During his tenure the ski team grew, hosting summer camps, Pathfinder ski camps, ski days for visually impaired individuals, youth ski days, Year 7 bonding camp, and Year 11 PDHPE. They also assisted the youth department with water-based activities and ski events.
In 2008, Leon passed the leadership role to Ronald and Rodney Saunders, founder Bob Saunders’ twin sons. They headed the ministry until 2016. During that time, with the help of their father, the ministry made deals with Moomba and Axis boats, increasing access for more participants. From 2017 to 2020, Jessica Laws was the group leader. Then, in 2021, Ethan and Shane Beyers, Leon’s son and brother, respectively, accepted the leadership roles.
Now, the Greater Sydney Conference Ski Ministry Team runs through the warmer part of the year, from October to early May. Ski days are run by volunteers who donate their time, skills and passion for the ministry. Most booking slots are Sundays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and groups can request other days and times as volunteers are able to help.
“The best part of this ministry is that we are able to show God through a different lens,” says Ethan Beyers, who currently fronts the group alongside his uncle, Shane Beyers. “When most people think of church, they imagine a service with a worship team and a preacher talking to them. Ski Ministry allows people to see God outside of a church building setting and allows people to see God is a fun God and wants you to enjoy the blessings he provides.”
Throughout the years, hundreds of youth and sponsors have made memories alongside ski team volunteers and leaders. Standout moments include the time a platypus swam by the boat during a summer camp ski outing. When the kids saw it, it allowed leader Bob Saunders a chance to share with them a moment of awe in one of God’s many creations. During Saunders’ stint, Portuguese church youth also regularly brought along non-Adventist friends on church ski days. “These ski days sparked the love for Jesus in them and caused [some of] them to get baptised into the Adventist church,” Ethan Beyers shares. That connection with the Portuguese church still exists today.
Leon Beyers shared that some of the best memories from his time as ski ministry leader are showing young people God’s nature and bringing them closer to God, and watching kids come out of their comfort zones and learn new skills on the water. Particularly rewarding to him was seeing visually impaired participants conquering their fears and achieving a skill they weren’t sure was possible.
Ethan Beyers’ favourite memory is when the entire summer camp visited Cliftonville to ski. “During lunchtime,” he shares, “some of the ski team members would put on a lunchtime show for the kids to watch as they eat their lunch. They would have jet ski races and synchronised jet ski driving.”
Ethan says he’s thankful for Ski Ministry and all its volunteers have accomplished for Sydney youth. “Over the 31 years that this ministry has run, there have been many volunteers that have used their time and talents to help continue this ministry and show God through a different lens,” he says. “There are too many volunteers to name individually, but we would like to take this chance to recognise those people and thank them for everything they have contributed to the team.”
To learn more about the ski ministry or book a ski day for your Pathfinder, youth or church group, visit www.sydneyadventistyouth.com/ski-ministry, or contact the Youth Ministries Department by phone at 9868 6522 or email [email protected].