Before I became a Christian I worked in my community. I was a volunteer in neighbourhood watch, civil defence, library, youth drama and in the school that my children attended. I did not know the Lord but I did know that you have to be part of where you live.
When I became a Christian I waited for the church I belonged to 'release me' into my community. For a dozen years I attended 3 different churches in my community and I felt frustrated that despite how wonderful the churches were there was not a connection with the community.
Seven years ago I was contacted by a lady who ran a craft group and they were looking for an art teacher. She explained that some of the teachers and some of the students were believers but most were not.
At that time a group had been active in the community for more than two decades and followed a simple formula love + craft = community outreach. Each Tuesday at ten in the morning between 50 and 100 women from the community came to Orewa Community Church.
I came clutching my pencils and paper to find 10 students all waiting to learn art. It was like coming home. We would come at ten have a hot drink and chat and the ladies of the church would have a thought for the day, a thought that was inspirational and encouraging and often talked about by the groups as they enjoyed their craft.
It was a church full of women sitting at tables doing hand crafts - like patchwork, ribbon embroidery, lacemaking, ceramics, mosaics, scrapbooking and jewellery making, floral arrangement and often just ladies chatting. A creche was provided so young women could join in as well. Sometimes this was the only time they had in the week for themselves.
I loved Tuesdays and my group expanded and went from drawing to painting. I felt fulfilled and I watched how this church loved their community. I left the church I had attended since coming to Orewa to go to where I was working and feeling fulfilled.
The Art Group had an exhibition one Easter where over a thousand came to our church.
Over the years 'art' has become quite large and has moved to the afternoons, sharing the church with the indoor bowls group on Tuesday.
This year we had an opportunity to help the church with their annual outreach to Fiji. Even though more than half of the art group are not Christians, as a group it was unanimous that we wanted to help.
It started with fund raising for the Coral Coast Christian Camp. We put our weekly donation of $2.00 per person towards some art supplies for Fijian children. A few months later we were asked by the church if any one wanted to be part of a team and go to Fiji to teach at the camp. Two ladies agreed to go and teach and I offered to write a program for the planned 100 children.
Pacific Harbour Multi-cultural School and Rampur School in Fiji heard what was happening and invited the team (now 5) to teach at their schools. We now have 700 students waiting for the arrival of the 'art team' at the end of September!
I have written the visual presentation, the teachers book and the students exercises with the help of Graham Braddock and Helen Pearson (top artist and top curriculum writer) and it is about the 6 days of creation. It is named 'It is Good!' I can't help but agree. It is amazing how God who gives us our talents and desires can guide us into a situation where we can both love HIm and love our neighbour.