What happens when God speaks to a teenager who listens, and says, “Yes”?

This is not an Old Testament quiz about Samuel or David. It’s not a reflection on the Gospel accounts of Mary. Nor is it a present day hypothetical. This is the story of a young man with a big plan for the Brisbane River Stage in October this year.

TURNING MISSION IMPOSSIBLE INTO MISSION POSSIBLE : James Hempenstall on the London Eye while in Britain recently as part of his mission to raise $100,000 for the Starlight Children's Foundation.


“I heard a voice”, says James. “It was Jesus. He said he had a mission for me and asked if I’d take it on.”

James Hempenstall is 14-years-old, often limited to his wheel chair and feeling the effects of an inoperable brain tumour. His eyesight is now impaired as a result of chemotherapy, but his hearing is sharp. Wheeling himself around school last year he felt God’s presence like a gentle pressure his chest.

“I heard a voice”, says James. “It was Jesus. He said he had a mission for me and asked if I’d take it on.”

Perhaps it’s significant that James said “Yes” before he asked what the task was. 

James’s mission is to support the Starlight Children’s Foundation in its work helping seriously ill and disabled children. 

James knows the organisation well. He is the only child in its history to give away his wish. On his tenth birthday, when the Starlight Children’s Foundation asked what wish would James want granted he only requested a party so he could present thankyou gifts to all the people who had nursed and cared for him during his prolonged illness and repeated operations!

James understands God’s goal for him is to raise $100 000: Mission Improbable.

James trusts his father and his dad. Peter Hempenstall is not a bloke to roll his eyes and say something can’t be done. When James shared the vision, Mr Hempenstall only said, “So long as we don’t have to sell chocolates.” 

That might have been simpler than the huge fund raising concert James is now organising. A big call needs a big vision and James' vision is for a concert in Brisbane with some of Australia’s leading performers, and hosted by national celebrities.

With a handful of faithful friends, including James’ Sunday-school teacher, Mr Hempenstall pulled together a project team, registered a charitable foundation and set about organising Beneath the Stars - Songs of Hope & Joy.

Like so many young people God has touched powerfully over the ages, James Hempenstall doesn’t fear giants, worry about bureaucracy, or try to second-guess God. He has no time to waste. 

In late 2006 he asked Olympic swimmer Susie O’Neill to be the patron of his foundation. Together they hosted a short promotional DVD. Copies of his Mission Impossible-style message went out far and wide, from a church family camp to Channel Seven’s Sunrise and beyond.

The responses have been nothing short of miraculous.

An encounter with Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman, was too good to waste. James asked him straight up for the River Stage. City Council donated the facility for 13th October.

MEETING THE STARS: James Hempenstall recently flew to London to meet Barbra Streisand who encouraged him never to give up in his mission.

While in Sydney, amongst the crowd in Martin Place, the Seven Sunrisecrew saw James and wheeled him in for some impromptu live television, opening their Advent calendar and taking the opportunity to speak about Songs of Hope & Joy.

Initial approaches to Sony BMG to contact some of James’s wish-list performers were encouraging. Now former Australian Idol stars Shannon Noll and Rickie Lee Coulter have offered to sing at Songs of Hope & Joy.

Perhaps his biggest surprise was waiting in London. Barbra Streisand had heard of James and he’s a great fan. Flown to London to meet Ms Streisand, James asked her to come to Australia and sing. She said it isn’t likely, although Australia has been on her wish list for quite a while. Nonetheless she encouraged James, telling him to persevere and never give up.

Among the people who have heard of James’s mission and responded, is the sales team of Toshiba Copiers, Brisbane. The Brisbane Electronic Imaging Division of Toshiba has become the major sponsor of the Beneath the Stars Foundation.

James is hoping the Church will respond as well as the secular community has. He needs prayer: for the project and his health. And he wants everyone within driving distance of Brisbane to book 13th October and come by the busload to the River Stage.

He would be thrilled to know Beneath the Stars was in the prayer list of every pew sheet throughout Australia.