You don’t have to go far in Logan, Queensland, Australia, to find out what kind of impact the local Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Community Centre has on people in the area.
While shooting some footage at the Logan train station for a film about Signs of the Times magazine’s availability at the center, a curious social worker approached me. He claimed to often frequent the station to ensure troublesome youths didn’t get up to strife. With an air of curiosity and caution, he inquired why I was loitering on the platform with a camera.
“I’m filming some footage for ADRA Logan,” I told him. His face immediately lit up, and he began listing names and asking if I knew people who work at the center — most of whom I’d only met that morning. He spoke fondly about ADRA’s impact on the community.
An earlier chat with ADRA Logan manager Henk La Dru revealed why. “[ADRA] Logan is a phenomenal place when it comes to what’s needed for the community,” he said. “There’s a lot of housing issues where people are struggling to survive. There’s also a lot of issues with domestic violence and family discord.”
It’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. Statistics from the Queensland government show Logan has high rates of drug use, violence, and theft. In 2019, the area had the highest number of recorded crimes in the past two decades. The evening before we arrived, the ADRA Logan building was broken into by an unknown perpetrator. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, according to La Dru.
It’s in the darkest areas, however, that God’s light can shine the brightest. “Once I was at the supermarket at Marsden, and this lady came up to me and gave me a big hug, which sort of threw me,” Michelle Brown, ADRA Logan assistant manager, recalled. “She told me that her daughter had come in and spoken to me, and her daughter was contemplating suicide. Her daughter didn't commit suicide because she came in here and was speaking to us.”
Helping people is what ADRA Logan does, with both La Dru and Sam Luteru drawing my attention to Francis of Assisi’s famous words — “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” And those words often come in the form of Signs of the Times magazines in racks found throughout the site. Public interest in the magazine amongst the sometimes 600 weekly visitors is high due to its topical nature.
“This stuff is relevant to people. They see topics, and they say, ‘Oh, what is that about?’ ” La Dru said. “And I just pray every time I go and get a box of magazines: ‘Wherever they go, Lord, you send them to where they’re needed.’”
Sam Luteru, the center’s training coordinator, echoes these sentiments. “People just grab them off the shelf and take them every time they come through just to see what's in them,” he said. “As we’re relating to people, [we recommend,] ‘Here’s a story that might be of help to you.’ ”
A recent survey by Adventist Media found that church members are often reluctant to share their faith due to the fear of being seen as too pushy. Luteru said, however, that sponsoring Signs magazines to be supplied at community projects like ADRA Logan is a simple way of sharing Jesus.
“It’s really valuable here,” he said. “If you can’t get out there and rub shoulders with somebody, you can invest in a medium that does that for you. We would love to keep having it here. But obviously, as a charity, we have to find a way to fund it.”