Rubbish opens doors into lives

Linda Grigg for the LYN Network

2 September 2009

Rubbish opens doors into lives
Photo_092108_001.jpgSome might look at the junk piling up outside their neighbours' houses and mutter darkly about declining property values. However, one Upper Hutt youth group has seen it for what it really is - an opportunity for ministry.
Timberlea is an economically low-decile community in Upper Hutt. Many living there struggle to take their rubbish to the dump as they have no vehicles, or access to trailers. That is why Upper Hutt Baptist Church thought a free rubbish collection service might be the answer to prayers, the residents' and their own.
“Our youth ministry came to the place a few years ago where we felt God saying we needed to do something in our community, and that it didn't really matter what, but that we needed to just step out and try something.  It was a journey of getting that heart for our community, and really started as an experiment, something to try and see what happened from it,” says the church's youth pastor, Paul Thompson.
They emailed their idea to the local council, which met with them and, understandably, has been very supportive of the project. The youth group is now systematically working through streets in Timberlea, sending flyers with a few days' advance notice before their army of 20-30 youth and several adult helpers arrives with trailers. 

“Primarily we collect rubbish, but the rubbish is a means to an end,” says Paul. “It opens a door into people's homes and lives. We have had many conversations, and further involvement with people as a result of the initial collecting rubbish.”
He relates the story of an older man he had a conversation with a few weeks after the group had first visited his house. A sickness beneficiary who spends all his day at home, when the man couldn't afford to renew his newspaper subscription he picked up the first book on his bookshelf. It was a Bible.

“He started reading it every day and mulling over what it said.  I had some really cool discussions with him over what he was reading,” says Paul.
21_09_08_1705.jpg“There are a number of people who we have developed relationships with, where previously they had no idea who we were.  Some now call us if they are going through issues, for example they can't mow their lawns, or they have run out of food.  People know that we care. And although we haven't seen any obvious 'conversions' as such, we are seeing people drawn closer to Jesus by us being Jesus with skin on. So many people ask why we do it, and can't believe that we're back again.”
Eventually the church wants to get beyond just collecting rubbish. It hopes to offer a regular community meal, to encourage development of relationships, and also to assist in providing healthy food, something many in the community miss out on.
They would also like to see a local expression of church develop out of what they're doing. However, for now, the rubbish collection is a start.
“Timberlea now knows who we are and that we do care about them,” says Paul.