Armed with mowers and whipper snippers, Adventists in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, have started a “backyard blitz” in their local community.
Wearing their distinctive orange shirts emblazoned with “Adventist Community Services,” the volunteers not only tame wild gardens but also lend their hands to property repairs, painting, and cleaning. And it’s creating a buzz in the community, with locals curious to discover more about these kind helpers who are providing a much-needed hand to those who need it.
The activities have sparked conversations about faith and spirituality with community members. Some of the locals have started Bible studies. One woman is soon to be baptized — a spiritual journey ignited by the simple act of tidying up and painting her home.
The initiative kicked off six months ago and is a collaborative project of Bray Park, Tumbulgum, Kingscliff, and Murwillumbah churches, with support from students from the Arise Bible school. The churches already operate a thrift shop in the area and wanted to extend their community outreach. Funds generated from thrift shop sales have helped to purchase gardening equipment and two trailers for the project.
“Many people in the region are experiencing financial struggles, so we wanted to follow Jesus’ example by meeting their needs,” Bray Park pastor Steven Teale, who also leads a church plant at Pottsville, said.
“What’s really cool is that when we’re helping people, their neighbors are coming out and asking, ‘What’s going on, who are these guys?’ They can’t understand why people would do what we’re doing for nothing. And they want to know more.
“And what we’ve discovered is that as soon as you meet people’s immediate needs, they begin asking questions about our faith. We leave books like Steps to Christ at the places we’ve worked on, and these are being shared around the neighborhood. Bible studies are now starting to happen. It’s a simple project, but it’s working.”
Along with the “backyard blitz” initiative, the local churches are extending their support in various other ways, such as distributing food hampers, providing tents for the homeless, operating soup kitchens, and organizing cooking workshops. They offer car washes and oil changes. And if you don’t have a car and need transport, they even have a few vehicles available to loan.
Earlier this year, the group helped the Pottsville and District Returned and Services League sub-branch by cleaning the local cenotaph and tidying up the gardens ahead of Anzac Day, the National Day of Remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.
Sub-branch honorary secretary Wendy Bower expressed “gratitude and appreciation for the wonderful work” in a heartfelt letter to the group. “The support you gave us was fantastic and certainly contributed to our Anzac Day success,” she said.
The activities are helping to create awareness and a positive feeling about Adventists. “We’re hoping that as more and more locals see our orange shirts and the Adventist logo, they’ll come to recognize us,” Teale said. “They’ll know that we’re from Adventist Community Services and we’re here to help.”