“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:35-40
This Bible passage is the heartbeat of Padstow Baptist who love and serve the vulnerable through ‘Community Care’. ‘Community Care’ offers emergency relief, financial counselling, in-home support for people with mobility issues, affordable clothing, and everyday food and life products for people on government income. “All of these things are us trying to be on that pointy end of being there for people in need,” says Grant Heslop, who manages Community Care alongside 6 counsellors, a board, about 70-80 volunteers, and 5 other staff – including a woman who actually came through the whole system herself (as a single mother escaping an unhealthy relationship who found love and support at Community Care, starting coming to church services, came to Christ, starting volunteering in ministry and was recently employed – now “engaging in the very service that blessed her”).
The team also offered additional support when the pandemic hit. “Bankstown was in that hard lockdown and the local Woolies and Coles had a 7-12 day wait for deliveries, so we decided to deliver to people who were in isolation,” Grant explains. “I think the credibility of what we’re prepared to do to help people just really rose during that 2-year period of Covid. We’re not driven by profits, or by what we get from it; we’re driven by wanting to help vulnerable people.”
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed in the community, as they were recently awarded “Organisation of the Year” (in the Bankstown/Canterbury LGA) and “Best Specialised Retail Shop” (at the Bankstown Business Awards) for their community bargain store called ‘Renew’. “It’s not something we went to seek out, but that affirmation has reminded us of what God is up to through the community-focused services and ministries that we’re providing,” Grant says. “I want church-related activity to be the best in the community – not just, ‘oh well we got a couple of people to try and help out, but we don’t have policies/procedures or good support structures around it’. I want our services to be the best so the community can say, ‘if you need help, go to Community Care’. So, getting these awards has encouraged our volunteers and staff…It’s God-honouring for us, and we thank him that we can be part of something that has such credibility in the community.”
And aside from this credibility, Grant says that some of the greatest fruit to come from Community Care has been growth in the volunteer group. “We’ve got volunteers from church who never thought they’d have the confidence to meet people, share their faith, or pray with someone. Now they’re on the frontline, being friendly and building relationships. I’ve seen their boldness, and their love and care growing. I’ve seen people follow-up conversations. I’ve seen them standing there praying with someone from the community. They’re showing people that we value them, and they’re establishing stepping-stones to help people take a positive step towards the gospel message and Christ,” Grant says. “That to me is just gold…And if this is the vehicle of ministry that builds that for people, then I’m thankful.”
P R A Y / /
- Thank God that Community Care has gained traction by building relationships with council members, state members and federal members, and that there is now a lot of goodwill towards the organisation in the community
- Praise God for recent state funding which will allow Community Care to build an awning over the forecourt, and pray for continued favour with funding
- Pray that hearts would be softened and that Community Care would see more fruit on the salvation-front
- “The harvest is plentiful”, so pray that the many workers would be present – and pray for wisdom for Grant as he leads
T A K E A C T I O N / /
Community Care @ Padstow would love to help other Baptist churches establish a community presence. “Because of the different streams we have, there are so many different ways we can add knowledge to a church: if you want to start a counselling service, open a shop, target government funding or build a well-balanced volunteer base – we’ve done those things, and would love to partner with you,” Grant says. “If you’ve got a heart for it, getting as much info possible, some encouragement, an opportunity for debriefing with someone, and a chance to learn from the mistakes we’ve already made, is the best approach. Take a risk!”
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9772 2299 if you’re interested.