SPOILER ALERT: JESUS WINS!
What a phenomenal year we’ve had in Berkeley – culminating in two major events in the life of our church, but the greatest highlight is seeing many souls coming to know the saving grace of Jesus.
The Community Carols and the week long Summer Missions team visit coincided and the impact has been encouraging and motivating us to keep the waves of compassion and the love of Jesus flowing into our community from here at BLC.
Here’s a recap of the Carols from one of our crew:
8th of December 2018
On this typical Saturday afternoon, the day started like any other normal day in Berkeley, except on this day, it carried a hope, that rustled in the trees of the community park, right in the central heart of the suburb. There in the middle of the Park stood a motionless, Curtainside Truck trailer. The green grass would soon feel the pitter patter of unfamiliar feet, that would be drawn to it, strangers at first, into a crowd that would experience something that had been forgotten, and even missed -the feel of Christmas cheer.
A fence was erected, and inside of it were placed, placid rabbits, goats, lambs, and an inquisitive piglet. Children were drawn to it accompanied by their parents, who forgot the joy of the simple pleasures in life, where it didn’t matter where u were from, what you went through, or who you knew.
All that mattered was the experience of first stroking soft fluffy wool, patting a rabbit, as you saw his ears submit to another pat, and a tiny piglet who didn’t care who you were, but was just excited to see you, with a playful look in his eyes, without a care in the world of tomorrow.
To the side of the animal enclosure was one of those simple rides you went on as a young toddler, where u first experienced the thrill of spinning, and rushing ear whistling in your ears, with that spontaneous thrill of excitement into the unknown, as you gaze into your parents’ eyes looking for reassurance that there was nothing to be afraid of.
As the crowd grew, more families involved themselves in the atmosphere that was building, with food stalls setting up on the other side, with the smell of Gozleme, and the savory smell of sausages sizzling, with the aroma of onions caramelizing.
There was the presence of the Council, along with the hidden support of the Neighbourhood Centre, and Care South. The Crowd grew even more, along with conversations. By this time a small carol choir had gathered on the drawn back curtainsider, which had turned into a stage, along with enormous speakers to bellow out the Christmas cheer, with a golden banner below, to bring home what Christmaswas really all about. On it were the words Berkeley Life Centre.
Later on, upon that stage, Pastor Wayne Pickford would bring home the meaning of Christmas, and the miracle birth of Christ Jesus, but in such a way, it celebrated how Christ can bring people together, how love can conquer differences, without the pressure that makes people feel that they need to be somebody they are not, and still feel welcome as a group of strangers that were involved in something that knew nothing about discrimination. The crowd consisted of believers, non-believers and even those that believed in something entirely different altogether. No one felt left out as the mood of the gathering mellowed out as a peaceful, family get-together.
The Event drew such attention, that it even caught the attention of a local Radio station, as they stood on the sidelines bewildered about all the fuss, when it didn’t even seem like any one person was running it. The Radio Station hadn’t advertised about the event, nor came to promote it. From a distance it appeared they were cashing in on the moment and were taking full advantage of the crowd to promote their station, but really it just added to the gathering, and made it appear the event was important enough for the radio station to attend. I quickly ushered Wayne over to the Radio Station as an opportunity to plug our event, and further the ripple that this event was having and bringing strangers together and create bonds that will one day make a difference in the community.
I said to Wayne, “Did you ever think it was possible, to be able to one day see one man make a stand here in such a broken suburb, where there was nothing but pain and suffering, to serve the broken, backed by The Almighty God, spreading the love of Jesus, that would make such an impact, that you could stand amongst this crowd, and say you were a part of it in the beginning?”
Now if you know anything about Wayne, you would know he has plenty to say, but in this instance, he was speechless. Nothing needed to be said, the fruit was the proof it was all worth it!
The night ended with a film projected on an inflatable screen provided by the council, screening ‘The Grinch’, to echo home the miracle in giving and sharing. That unforgettable celebration of Christ’s birth, that would one day be a salvation to us all, heaven sent, approved by God Himself.
Secondly, the team from Sydney Uni Evangelical Union swept into Berkeley with passion, enthusiasm and energy and gave us a much needed boost to bring home the year. Here is a recap by one of the team:
JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING
From the 5-9 December a group of 20 students and staff workers from Sydney Uni’s Evangelical Union visited Berkeley and worked alongside Berkeley Life Centre. We had an awesome time and were so encouraged to see the work that the church is doing in this community. We spent our week door knocking as a part of the church’s ‘Adopt a Block’ program, preparing and helping to run a Christmas Carols event and Sunday service, visiting the community centre and the Church’s Op Shop and enjoying getting to know people in the church.
A lot of us were quite nervous about going door knocking for the first time and were unsure what to expect. But we learnt that God is able to work through us no matter how brave or prepared we are feeling, and the door knocking resulted in lots of great conversations. Many people we spoke to were feeling quite lonely and isolated, and so appreciated the chance to chat to someone. We were also able to have many conversations, asking them how they were going and what their plans for Christmas were, as well as discussing their experiences of religion and any spiritual beliefs they held. I was surprised by people’s willingness to open up and share their stories. One particularly good conversation I had was with a woman had had some negative experiences with Christians in the past. But she asked us several questions about Christianity and seemed genuinely interested to know more. We were able to tell her the gospel, which she responded very positively to, and she was keen to come along to carols!
The Christmas Carols event on the Saturday was an awesome opportunity to have more chats with people in the community about faith and the real meaning of Christmas. We had a board where people could write their answer to the question: “What would you ask God?”. Some of us also went around and chatted to people about other questions, such as “Does anything last forever?” and “Are there multiple ways to get to heaven?” which prompted some good discussions. Wayne gave a talk calling people’s attention to the real focus of the Christmas season: Jesus. The day was also filled with carols, face painting, hair spray, bauble decoration, balloon animals, kids’ games and was finished off by watching The Grinch.
I was particularly struck by the loving community at the church in Berkeley, and the Sunday service was a highlight for me. Everyone in the church is really invested in each other’s lives, and they obviously care a lot about each other. They also so clearly love Jesus and are gripped by his simple gospel: Jesus + nothing = everything. I loved getting to join in with their joyful singing and openness in sharing prayer points. The eagerness the church members have to evangelise by reaching out into the community of Berkeley, rather than waiting for the lost and needy to come to them, was also super encouraging to see. They are all committed to practically loving their neighbours in the long term, and some have been visiting the same houses through ‘Adopt a Block’ for several years.
Overall, on this trip we were challenged to think seriously about evangelism. We were reminded of the importance to meet people where they’re at, finding out their needs and practically loving them, but remembering that their greatest need is for Jesus.
I was also reminded of what the real point of a church is. It’s not about having a big building or a massive congregation, it’s all about a group of God’s children who have been saved by Jesus, and completely transformed by him to love God, love each other, and reach out into their community to love the lost. That is something we definitely saw in Berkeley!
Please thank God for the way he did work through us, the many challenging and encouraging conversations we were able to have through door knocking and at carols, and the hundreds of people who were exposed to the true message of Christmas through the carols event!
And for those we were able to chat to, please pray that they would keep considering our conversations and be motivated to come along to church to find out more. Pray that God would soften their hearts and bring many to know and trust him. Also, keep praying for the regular door knocking the church does, that they’d be able to reach people who are struggling and isolated, and those who are far from God.
From the whole team, we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at Berkeley Life Centre, for welcoming us into your homes, your church and your lives, and we’ll continue praying for the awesome work you’re doing!
Our Op Shop has opened on Saturdays and is growing in volume and volunteers, with some days having so much to sort through out back there is no room to move! A great problem to have, which means lots of prayer for the potential of expanding this year.
The volunteer staff are incredible and are the backbone of this major fundraising ministry, dedicating their lives to giving to us and others whilst facing significant personal and family upheaval. They inspire us daily.
The quality of merchandise we are getting from Kiama, Menai and Pymble Anglican churches is fantastic, and the reviews on social media have been great, which has resulted in more visits and repeat custom!
If you haven’t liked our op shop page on Facebook, head over and give it a LIKE and then share it with your circle. It will help get our name out there as a viable place to get great bargains and bring people to Berkeley that might otherwise never drive into the suburb.
We are expectant to see what God is going to do in and through His people here in Berkeley, and the wider region this year and are humbled and honoured that you continue to partner with us in serving our Saviour in Berkeley.