Excerpt from Bethany Van Eps personal blog “An Australian Adventure(r)” Bethany is a Spring 2017 student from Dordt College. Reproduced with permission.
(a fitting song related to this post is Follow You by Leeland. Put it on for mood music if you’d like 🙂 )
Today marks a week since serving my last shift at an organization that has quickly become a huge part of my life and I have a lot of feelings about it. This semester I had the honor to spend every Tuesday morning from 9:30 until 12 serving with some of the most kind hearted generous people I’ve ever met and I’d love to tell you about it.
When I was assigned to Gateway Baptist Care Centre when I first arrived in Australia I had no idea what to expect. At orientation I learned that I would be working with the ‘On Track’ Program. This program was a branch of the Care Centre which admitted a set number of clients every six months and provided these clients with food parcels and listening ears every 3 weeks. The goal of this program is to support families and individuals in the midst of troubled times while also helping them regain their footing and encouraging them to break cycles of reliance on welfare programs. It was such a beautiful ministry. My fellow ASC students, Marissa and Alyssa, as well as myself were told it was our job to set up for community tea and that we would be taking turns interviewing clients and working in the shed. I was excited.
On our first Tuesday we got a taste for how impactful our relationship with our fellow volunteers would be. We started the morning by praying together, and in between meeting with clients we were asked about how our experience was so far, what America was like, etc. Genuine interest was expressed in us, which was touching. One of the sweetest gestures though, was when all of our fellow volunteers banded together to find out where we lived and who could give who rides to placement every week. This small gesture of kindness was huge to us three Americans (who were already getting a little sick of public transport 😂).
As the weeks passed we all had a chance to interview clients, which really just meant sitting with them, asking how they’re doing, and listening and showing genuine care for their situations. If you weren’t assigned to interview you were working in the shed assembling food parcels to be given to these families and individuals who were down on their luck. At the start we rotated two interviewing and one in the shed. As the semester progressed however, and the supervisor Robyn began to know our personalities and strengths a bit better we found a permanent role that was perfect. Marissa, as a psychology major interested in counseling was assigned the task of interviewing every week (which she LOVED) while Alyssa and I, as business majors who like systems and organizing, got to work in the shed. Again, this reassignment was an itty bitty gesture that communicated a large amount of care and concern that we should all be comfortable and utilizing our skills.
At the start of the semester I had a feeling this placement was God’s vehicle for blessing me but I had thought it would be through the clients I worked with or perhaps in the warm-fuzzy “I helped someone” feeling. While those were both true and present I found my self blessed immeasurably by the staff of volunteers I had the pleasure of working with week after week. Our little team grew so close and saying goodbye last week was more difficult than I had ever thought it would be.
This semester I witnessed first hand what actively loving your neighbor looks like, as well as the power of recognition of suffering as well as the recognition of common humanity. Sitting and talking to people (a pass time I greatly enjoy anyway) offered them an outlet to share their troubles and feel validated amid their suffering. For some, this program is their first glimpse of God’s love. Being able to show God’s hospitality to refugees and his love for strangers was an honor and to be honest it’s mind boggling to me that God chose me to be a vessel in this way. This semester I also had the joy to feel the rewarding power of generosity both in being able to give generously in food and compassion to those who need it as well as in receiving more from this volunteer crew than I could ever repay.
After all of our clients were taken care of last week our little team came together and gifted us cards, along with parcels of Australian goodies to bring home with us. We were speechless and so so thankful. Then, as if they hadn’t given us enough, they drove us up to the Mount Gravatt lookout, bought us coffee and we had one last hour of fellowship. I teared up as we hugged goodbye then and am getting misty eyes writing this now.
I will never forget my time at Gateway Baptist Care Centre, nor do I want to. I pray God continues to bless this spectacular ministry and that people continue to be blessed through it.
Blessings from Brisbane