You are currently viewing Aussie teens spend Xmas in Thames
The teens visiting Thames learned their individual pepeha and a Māori waiata. Photo: SUPPLIED

Aussie teens spend Xmas in Thames

A group of teens from Australia have opted to spend their Christmas and New Years in Thames, refurbishing the inside of the Salvation Army and getting amongst the community.
Salvation Army pastors Ben and Jesse Willis, both 25, have hosted the nine-strong group since December 21, and told The Profile the mostly-teen team had not only painted the interior of the church on Pollen St, but also provided the town with other acts of goodwill.
“A friend of ours who runs Teen Missions in Australia sent us a message earlier [in 2022], and asked, out of the blue, if we would like a team to come to Thames and we said ‘absolutely’.
“Certainly none of them have been to Thames before,” Ben said, “and it’s quite an incredible sacrifice to give up their Christmas with family to go to a place they’ve never been and to bless that community.”
Teen Missions is an interdenominational Christian mission organisation specialising in running short-term mission trips for youth, teenager, and adult participants.
It was started in 1970 in the United States.
For Ben, who hails from Australia, and Jesse, who comes from Hawke’s Bay, Teen Missions holds a special place in their hearts – they met on a trip around seven years ago.
“Teen Missions was something my older siblings did, and when I turned 16, it was my turn to go, so I went four times to various countries, and it was on my trip to Nepal when I met Jesse,” Ben said.
“We were friends, but once we got back, I realised I certainly missed this girl who was living in New Zealand, and so about 18 months later, I moved over to the Upper Hutt where Jesse was living at the time.
“We wouldn’t be here in Thames today if it wasn’t for Teen Missions in our lives.”
This is the pair’s first year as Salvation Army pastors, and they moved to Thames at the start of 2022. They married in 2019 and have a three-month-old daughter named Madison.
They said that alongside the Teen Missions trip to Thames, there was also another group visiting an orphanage in Thailand and another helping out at a remote indigenous community in North Queensland, Australia.
Ben said that showed how there were different forms of need in the world.
“There is always going to be human need, but sometimes it just looks different,” he said. “There are definitely people in need in Thames who benefit from [the mission’s] hard mahi here.”
Teen Missions usually take place over the Christmas holidays, and with the youngest Thames visitor being 14-years-old, Ben and Jesse said it was a privilege to host the group for the summer.
“I remember one Christmas, we started the day in Bangkok and ended the day in Kathmandu,” Ben said. “So, our Christmas Day went for 25 and a half hours.”
“For me, Christmas has always been massive in my family,” Jesse added, “I was the first one in my family to miss one, so certainly we can relate to what [our teens] are feeling, and it’s quite a privilege to be on this side of it and hosting them.”
The teens also learned their individual pepeha [introduction] and a Māori waiata. They left New Zealand on January 16.