by Liz Goodacre – BCA Field Staff, Launceston, Tasmania
Andy, the girls and I have been in Tasmania for six years now. We believe God has called our church community to be His missionary people in the northern suburbs of Launceston. We really encourage people to think about who they are called to bless and serve in the community and to recognise that Christianity is not just about us meeting and having a nice time together, but about going out and serving.
An English language café was the first of our missional communities to be established. The café is coordinated by a couple in our church who have a real heart for international people. For years they have welcomed overseas students into their home through the university’s homestay program. When we asked the question “Who are you called to bless and serve?” they very quickly said “international people”.
The English language café is an informal place where non-native speakers of English can come and practice their listening and speaking skills. We set up the church in a café style and make coffee using the church’s coffee machine. People sit around the tables and someone provides a topic each week to talk about. It can be anything from public transport, places to visit, Australian wildlife or shopping.
The thing we found out very quickly (the café is going into its fifth year now), was that what people really valued was a place to belong and a community to connect with. Launceston has a lot of international PhD students who often come with their spouses. These spouses are often professional people but they are not able to work in Australia, which can be very isolating. People just love somewhere where they can come and meet others.
The English language café also hosts social events – at least once a term. They might go to the beach for the day, go fishing, attend an event in Launceston (eg the Carols by Candlelight event in the City Park) or tour the Christmas lights. They try and do stuff that helps the students engage with Tasmania and the places where they are staying. It is a lovely little community and the social stuff is really the glue that binds it. Some people from the café have come along to church because they already feel part of the place and when they come on a Sunday they see people that they recognise.
We at Barney’s believe very strongly that twisting people’s arms, or setting up programs and then looking for volunteers, is not the best way to see mission happen. When people are encouraged to listen to God about who He is calling them to bless and serve, and who they are called to do that with, we get communities of passionate people who are simply being who God has called them to be.