I came across the following story at work. A church located somewhere in Sydney’s sprawling western suburbs was doing their best to love their community. I wrote their story for our donor newsletter and the local press.
I’m sharing the essence of it here because I want to remember it. I want to keep it for those times when the world seems too broken and our help seems insignificant.
It’s a story of a small church right in the middle of housing commission flats with a park across the road. But it has a big heart for the people who live in the neighbourhood.
The minister, M., came to live in the area more than ten years ago and started serving at that church about five years later. He knows about the strength and resilience that can be found in what is deemed “difficult” neighbourhoods.
He grew up in a similar suburb and was the only person in his family to graduate with a degree. He also did his training at a church in another part of Sydney known for high levels of need and found he had a heart for ministry in hard places.
This neighbourhood has its fair share of challenges. It’s known for its housing commission flats and people struggling on the edge of poverty. The once high crime rates have been going down, but that doesn’t mean that it is now non-existent.
The suburb is far from harbour views and posh people sipping tea in comfortable surroundings, but M. wouldn’t be anywhere else.
“I love being here,” he says.
“I love the down to earth nature of the people who live here. There is no putting on airs and graces. I also serve a lovely bunch of people at church and am encouraged by the people in this community who are trying to make things better.
“Mind you there is a fair bit of heart ache in the area too. A lot of people are facing many challenges and difficult choices.”
With a desire to share God’s love with the community in a practical way, M. has set up a community hub that gathers relevant service providers in the church hall once a month.
It is a one stop shop that helps people save time when they need some extra support. From hearing tests to settlement support, from affordable housing to Centrelink benefits, the gathering on a certain Wednesday of each month is designed to give people as much help as they need.
Every week, a food and financial assistance team from a local charity also sets up at the church. They are there to help people living in and around the neighbourhood with any material aid they need including paying various utility bills, sorting issues with rent or housing or finding affordable food.
“My dad didn’t finish primary school,” M. explains. “But he instilled within me a real sense of caring for people who may be going through a hard time.
“You look after the little guy and the big end of town can take care of themselves.”