From A Washing Machine To Friendship
It started with the offer of a free washing machine.
Baptist pastor and Baptist World Aid Church Relationship Manager, Steve Woods, had just moved with his family to Ottoway, an Adelaide suburb where Asian grocers rub shoulders with Halal butchers. The family decided to give away their unused washing machine on Facebook. This simple act connected him to a new community.
‘Five guys, refugees from Afghanistan, came to pick it up,’ he said. ‘That was three years ago; we’ve been good friends ever since.’
For refugees or asylum seekers, life in Australia isn’t easy. Often living on the margins of our communities, many have experienced trauma and uncertainty. Acts of love, like a free washing machine, can be hard to find.
But some churches are turning things around.
Building Bridges With Coffee
SoulSpace Community in Adelaide, which Steve pastors, runs Random Acts of Coffee: a free coffee cart in the local carpark. Every Saturday morning around 60 people, including refugees, chat over a cuppa.
The benefits flow both ways. ‘I’m amazed at the bravery and resilience of people who left their country to find somewhere safe for themselves and their family,’ Steve said. ‘My friend from a persecuted minority left Afghanistan years ago. and works six days a week, 12 hours a day. He sends most of what he earns to family in Afghanistan’.
Coffee carts aren’t the only way churches are building bridges with those far from home. When Riverton Baptist Community Church in Perth wanted to love those seeking refuge, God provided an opportunity.
One of their members, Kelvin, was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania after his parents fled Burundi during the civil war, along with over 300,000 displaced people from the troubled nation. Kelvin was eventually granted asylum in Australia but was financially unable to return home when the war ended or establish a life here.
After learning about Kelvin’s struggles Eric Martin, who leads Riverton’s Catalyst group—a justice program for Australian Baptists, said the church raised enough funds for Kelvin to study physiotherapy at university. ‘He’s now completed his course and has a job in Australia,’ said Eric. ‘We just had a desire to make a difference, and God provided a way to show compassion.’
Showing Love For Refugees In Lebanon
Another church with a vision for loving refugees is Mt Hawthorn Baptist, Perth. Through Baptist World Aid, Mt Hawthorn supports displaced people living in Lebanon, a city with roughly 1.5 million refugees.
Last Christmas, they set a target for $30,000 and exceeded it by $10,000. Missions Coordinator Rachel Edwards saw the impact of this giving when she visited our Christian Partners in Lebanon in 2019.
‘There’s something about walking in makeshift houses and shelters that moves you,’ Rachel said. ‘I heard stories of families and individuals who experienced God through people working on the ground–especially Christians going into the community.’
These followers of Jesus—and many like them—welcome those who are displaced, giving time, financial support, and sometimes a free washing machine.
As Steve said, ‘there’s plenty of opportunities to show love, if you just look for them.’