‘You can’t pay back love, you can only... PAY IT FORWARD’
Have you ever had God nudge you into something you would never have thought of on your own? This is what has happened in the Pay It Forward community development project just beginning to take shape in Mairehau, Christchurch.
Manager of Neighbourhood Trust (the community arm of St Albans Baptist Church), Ginny Larsen says, ‘God is so persistent when he has something to say, but it can sometimes take time for the vision to become clear. I guess I’m a bit of a slow learner, but once the message to buy a shop sunk in, it was then a matter of, ‘Okay, so if God had a shop what would it look like?’’
And so began a journey of talking with others like Bruce MacFarlane at Addington Coffee Co-op, major funders, our Trust Chair and our senior pastor, along with potential partners. What emerged was a community hub of life-long learning and creativity. A place to donate into; a place to receive; a place to pass on to others. It will become an outlet for local crafts and produce; a place where people can come for personal advocacy; training in basic skills, retail skills and customer service; it will provide a pathway for starting a small business or to upskill for further study or employment; a work-space for crafts people; free wi-fi (and assistance to navigate Work & Income and IRD websites); mail drop box, laundry for people in transitional accommodation.
Ginny says, ‘All the way along I’ve told people, whether they’re from our church, from Council, or Government, that I believe it is a God-inspired vision.
It means that when miracles happen – and we’ve seen a few, including a grant from Council for $130,000 toward purchase of a venue for the project – God gets the glory. It’s been a step up in faith for me – I’m well aware that in stating my belief in this being God’s vision, I stand to look a fool if it falls flat. I’m prepared to take that risk.’
It’s exciting to try something different and the rewards are in the response from our community. We have letters of support from four different local groups, phone calls and emails from individuals wanting to be part of the project, as well as 20 crafts people who want to form a co-op under Neighbourhood Trust umbrella. At our first meeting of the artisans, one of them said, ‘We’ve been struggling along on our own, and now someone’s invited us to be part of something bigger – and I’ve found a neighbour who lives in the same street!’ It carries the St Albans Baptist mantra of ‘No-one walks alone’ out into our neighbourhood.