CCCNZ Communications Manager Sophia Sinclair caught up with Matt Cameron and Alistair Pike from Church Street Chapel in Timaru to learn more about how a local hostel for international students became a connection point for multi-cultural ministry.
Tell me a bit about the history of the hostel and how it all runs: how many students, and how long has there been a connection with the church?
The hostel was bought in about 1995 by a member of the local fellowship, Mr David Bruce, who then sold it a few years later, however he continued to manage the hostel. He encouraged many students to attend our church and ran a mid-week Bible study at the hostel. Mr Bruce is still there today and continues to manage the affairs of the hostel – called “North Haven”.
In what ways has this ministry changed in the past years—as God has brought different students from different backgrounds and countries across your path?
The cultures have changed over time – many Japanese people came at the start, then Pacific island cultures and other Asian nationalities... there has been a mix of cultures.
Several students have married Kiwi people and either gone back to their home country or stayed in New Zealand. As our church has welcomed students from different cultures we have found that non-students from different cultural backgrounds have also felt comfortable coming along.
We started to host an international dinner, where people of many different cultures shared a meal, and it became a kind of annual smorgasbord attracting non-Christians from the community. At our international dinner we have a guest speaker to present a simple gospel message.
How has this ministry challenged and encouraged members of your congregation?
We have had different times when the church members have shared a greeting in their language. Some of the preaching team type out their notes for those who have English as their second language, so they can follow along, and visual prompts like a slide show. We have used the Good News Bible in the pews to assist with easy reading.
Are there any stories you’d like to share of how this experience as students has changed lives and hearts for the Kingdom?
We can think of a number who have become Christians and been baptised and gone back to their country of origin and continued to serve and follow Jesus. One older man who did a “Discover the Way” course (an introduction to Christianity, see www.discoverthebible.co.nz) sent a gift of $1000 back from Korea to be used for Kingdom work.
If there was another church out there interested in practically caring for international students, what tips or encouragement would you give them?
Well, buy a hostel… ha ha!
A big part of making connections and reaching out to international people is their desire to learn English and so having the gospel presented in easy-to-understand ways is a key part of our work. We use pictures in the notes to present our messages. We have offered Christianity courses and English language classes.
We’ve noticed that cultures welcome cultures. There have been times when a Japanese lady in our fellowship has recognised another Japanese person in town and ‘cold-turkey’ greeted them and invited them to our Sunday morning service.