By giving away free plant-based ice cream to people in their community, members of Gateway Seventh-day Adventist Church in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, have attracted more than 300 new contacts in first four months of 2021.
According to volunteer Bible worker Bao Nguyen and church elder Johnny Wong, the project is designed to fit into the “sowing stage” of the evangelism cycle, to connect Gateway members with their community and help them identify people’s needs.
Handmade by the team, the ice cream was distributed during January and February 2021 at the church’s “weExplore” outreach center, located in the suburb of Clayton. Recipients were asked to fill in a community survey before receiving their ice cream, which gave church members the opportunity to get to know the person and introduce them to the different programs running at the center.
The church offers activities like nature walks, cooking classes, a “CEO Future Project,” and a mental resilience program.
“We had around 40 folks come to the mental resilience program,” church pastor Chris Guo explained. “It was held online over Zoom, and we recently held a graduation for them.”
In addition to these initiatives, the church ran an Easter camp attended by three new contacts and held care groups that more than 11 new contacts have joined. Five are now having Bible studies.
Thanks to the ice-cream project, a student from Monash University joined the CEO Future Project and attended the mental resilience program. After several sessions of the latter, his interest in knowing more about the Bible increased, and he started asking more spiritual questions. He is currently having personal Bible studies.
The church company, which began as a university campus ministry, now has between 60 and 80 regular attendees at Sabbath worship services and continues to grow rapidly thanks to their creative initiatives and intentional harvest cycle model.
“Gateway used to be a campus-based church where we did everything on [university] campus,” Gao said. “That’s how I came myself into the faith; as an international student I was baptized, became a Bible worker, went to Andrews University [in the United States], then came here to serve. Now the church is in a transition phase, and we’re exploring how to reach out to communities by trying different things.”