The northern end of the NSW Central Coast is a low socioeconomic area with an increasing amount of homelessness. Rev. Mike Jones, Senior Pastor of Lakes Baptist Church, has been aware of the needs in his local neighbourhood for years. “I contacted BaptistCare with a vision for getting more involved in reaching the needs of our community,” he explains. “BaptistCare sent someone to meet with me and pray for the area and how we might be able to connect.” Lakes Baptist were already doing a weekly local caravan park ministry (where most people there can’t afford housing, or have been kicked out of their rentals, and now have nowhere else to go), and wanted to expand it. They also wanted help developing a community centre so they could have a space that they could really love the community in. Eventually, the idea of a community chaplain came along, with BaptistCare able to offer one part-time: Donna Knee. Nowadays, Donna serves in the caravan park alongside church members, forming relationships with the people living there and offering food packs, as well as offering a chaplaincy service, talking to individuals, liaising with the oasis management, and networking with different agencies.

Donna has also been instrumental in helping Lakes Baptist develop their vision of a community centre where people can feel safe and accepted and have their needs met. Hope Cottage is a house, open twice a week, with a view of the water, a fully-fenced outdoor playground area, and a separate room where Donna can see people more privately. There’s also a food pantry (with food coming from BaptistCare’s ‘HopeStreet’ centre at Windale*), art classes where people feel open to share their emotions, and a proper coffee machine offering top-notch coffees! “Someone from the church donated a beautiful wooden kitchen table, and there’s a lounge room – which probably doesn’t sound like much, but for some people who are homeless, it’s the only time they get to sit down comfortably,” Donna shares. “People will come in for one thing, and then by the end of the month they’re hanging here all day and helping us with stuff and really owning it! This is their space where they feel really empowered.”

“People will come in for one thing, and then by the end of the month they’re hanging here all day and helping us with stuff and really owning it! This is their space where they feel really empowered.”





The ministry also does special events on holidays to put a smile on people’s faces. “For Valentine’s Day I made cupcakes and took them around to different caravans (along with a gift of food and candles and things like that),” Donna shares. “I knocked on this one guy’s door and he said it was his birthday and that he never usually got anything (and no one ever did anything) for it, and he gave me a beautiful plant as a thank you. You could just see that it really impacted him!” Recently, both Mike and Donna formed a relationship with a guy who passed away. “His family wanted his wake to be at Hope Cottage because they knew this was his space – this was his home. So the church all put in and made beautiful handmade food for it,” Donna says. In fact, the man’s sister asked to meet Mike a few days after his death. “She said she didn’t know why she was here, she just knew that her brother was really loved here and she wanted to see who he connected with and where he went and where he sat,” Mike says. “It was beautiful to get to share that part of his life with her. The family have even come to church twice since.”

Of Lakes Baptist church, Donna says: “It’s an incredibly beautiful church family that are all totally on board – giving generously their time, love of people, and all sorts of necessary practical donations.” Of BaptistCare, Mike says: “They’ve been instrumental in releasing us to just go for things and sharing how they can support us practically. To know that we’re all on the same team has been amazing. It’s never felt like it’s ever been just a Lakes Baptist thing or just a BaptistCare thing – it has been together from the very beginning.” Praise God for a collaboration that has turned into something quite powerful!

P R A Y //

● Pray that Donna’s networking with other agencies would be fluid and uniting.

● Thank God for the local churches who have offered to partner with Lakes Baptist. Pray that the team would be open to working alongside them in order to better serve the community’s growing needs/demands.

● In all that they do, pray that Donna and Lakes Baptist would remember to love with a purpose: To shine the light of Jesus and share the hope we have in Him!

* HopeStreet is the Community Services division of BaptistCare, offering services to disadvantaged communities and people living on the margins


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