This article was originally published in The Melbourne Anglican
Julie Blinco grew up disillusioned with the church, because people did not appear to live up to its teachings. However, although she did not consider herself to be a Christian for a long time, she did cling to one word from her grade eight confirmation at a North Queensland Anglican high school – the word “shepherd”.
In her gap year she went to Thailand as a Rotary exchange student, lived with a Buddhist family and at one stage spent three days in a Buddhist temple as a lay person.
“Buddhist culture exposed me to people taking their faith seriously,” she said. “It opened my mind to people living their faith and allowing it to permeate through their everyday life.
While she studied for her business/arts degree Julie did a lot of open-minded exploration, “trying out all the ‘isms”, including socialism and communism, as well as “smorgasboard spirituality”. Then, at 21, she was part of a scholarship group of ten which went to study Chinese history in Shanghai. Among the group was a born-again Christian family.
At first she felt “very resistant” to them, but the love in their family life was so apparent that she was intrigued and impressed.
“I thought they were very naive,” she said, “because they prayed about whatever came up. But I wanted to have what they had. They prayed about family health issues, and when I had a headache they prayed about that too – and it got better rapidly. So one night I prayed to God and said, “If you are real and Jesus is the way, I want to know and follow you all my life. But you need to help my cynical mind.”
A series of “miraculous things” followed.
“My Shepherd was calling me,” Julie said. “My faith really started with the Shepherd Prayer at Confirmation, and all those years He had been pulling me back to Him.”
Denise (the wife and mother in the family) had become her particular mentor, and, following her in prayer, Julie became a Christian.
Back in Australia, the family continued to mentor her and to model lives based on love for Jesus.
After finishing her degree Julie worked in aid and development for five years, focussed on education in the Pacific Islands. She also took an active part in church life. Then Student Life offered her a position as a campus missionary. She prayed about it and it became clear to her that she was being called to full-time ministry.
“I really liked my aid job, so I cried a lot,” she admitted, but she went to work as a campus missionary in Queensland and was ordained at the end of ten years. Currently she is Associate Minister at St John’s, Diamond Creek, with a particular focus on outreach, community engagement and hospitality.
“I don’t want to push people, but to journey with them,” she said. “I’ll see what opportunities arise to disciple and equip them to reach others, using their own particular gifts.”