Handing out evangelical tracts to strangers on the street may be an approach to the Gospel that reaches some, but church communities are beginning to recognise that 'no strings attached' relational acts of service can speak much louder to a greater range of people in the community.
Wellington South Baptist Church recently drew the attention of local papers, including the Dominion Post, when it hosted a free Computer Fixit Day in March. Fred Alvrez, the man behind the event, and four other tech-savvy men from the church volunteered to spend a full day knee-deep in repairs for anyone whose computers were not up to par. The free event was open to everyone regardless of faith and economic standing.
When they began advertising the services, a radio station picked up the story. The reporter asked repeatedly of the event, "Is it really free?”
"We're always trying to think of ways that we can reach out to the community," says Fred. "I'm a relatively new Christian - and I know what it's like to be on the other side, so to speak. You don't want people handing you tracts and things, it's very off-putting. I'm always looking at ways that we can touch people without them feeling uncomfortable, or feeling like we're trying to push something down their throats. That probably doesn't sit well with some churches but as a recent convert I just know what would have worked and not worked for me."
The thought of saving hundreds of dollars brought eager patrons to the door. The night before the event people were already arriving at the church asking to drop off their computers. The next day the team worked tirelessly and non-stop from 9-4 diagnosing problems, installing antivirus and repairing hardware. When people offered to donate toward the effort, they were declined. "That's not what we were about. We were just doing something to show God's love — and we just wanted to show that in whatever way we could," says Fred.
The idea was sparked a while back when Fred, who has over 20 years experience in computers, was living further north and noticed local repair shops were over-charging customers and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge in computers. That's when he initiated an event through a nonprofit to offer free repairs in those rural communities. For this event he was able to partner with the Visual Group of Kaiwharawhara, who provided the many monitors, keyboards and mice necessary for the day. Due to the day's success, the church plans to make it an annual event.
"There were some people who made comments about bad press about churches and were stoked somebody was doing something positive," Fred says of the event. "Churches sometimes get bad press, but we can still do good things. It's even better that newspapers and radio stations were happy to publish good news about a church that was doing something for the whole community."
Wellington South Baptist Church community hopes this initiative inspires other churches to take a deeper look at what they can offer their neighbors and pursue their own creative outreaches.