With child poverty, family breakdown, suicide and chronic health issues on the rise, Adventist churches have the potential to help families thrive across New Zealand. This belief is driving a strong partnership between the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the North and South New Zealand Conferences, and local churches. ADRA’s Community Transformation Partnerships (formerly Church Partnership Program) brings these groups together to creatively and sustainably transform communities. “It is the local church that has the presence and connections with the community,” said Denison Grellmann, CEO of ADRA New Zealand. “We are committed to empowering churches in New Zealand to transform their communities. Our vision is to be working with every Adventist church and entity across the country to bring life-changing programs to life.” Below are the stories of two families who have been helped through these programs.
Tania was seven months pregnant when she received the devastating news. A representative from Child, Youth and Family services (CYFs) contacted her in prison and told her that her twin daughters would be immediately taken into CYFs’ care upon their delivery into the world.
However, Tania’s story starts long before any of this happened. Born into a family entrenched in gang life, she has shared that it was the lifestyle she was surrounded by that later led to “a life in and out of jail”. This was not the life she wanted for her own children.
The same day Tania was told her twins would be taken into CYFs’ care, she was visited by two women from the Grace Foundation. The Grace Foundation houses men and women who are released from correctional facilities and have nowhere else to turn.
Knowing Tania’s situation, one of the leaders from the foundation contacted Papatoetoe Adventist Church to see if there was a place for Tania in ADRA’s Welcome Baby program. The day after the Welcome Baby team had been contacted, Tania went into labour.
The Welcome Baby team was excited to help Tania and her beautiful twin girls. Tania was given two Welcome Baby packs filled with clothes, booties, nappies and other utilities to support the babies in their first year of life.
Tania was incredibly grateful for all the support she received. “I was blessed . . . to know that at 3-6 months I can hand [the baby clothes] back and get bigger ones.”
Not only was Tania blessed through this experience but the Welcome Baby team was thankful for the opportunity to help. Karyn, from Papatoetoe church, says Welcome Baby is “an amazing way we get to connect; it’s there for our community”. Her dream is that of ADRA’s: “I just want to see us do that more. I want to see us work together because I think that as a body, our whole church together is so much stronger than when we are on our own.”
ADRA’s Solid Community
For 11 years, Jayson worked full-time selling drugs on the streets of South Auckland. He often turned to home invasions, extortion and violence to ensure his family had food on the table. Looking back, he acknowledges that this kind of lifestyle was “setting his family up for a life of failure”.
Five years ago, an ex-gang associate was invited into his house for the night. The following morning Jayson woke up to find many of his family’s possessions had been taken. He also woke up to the realisation that this was not the lifestyle he wanted for his family. His associate had left behind a poem written from the perspective of an unborn child to his parents; this poem forced Jayson to witness the broken legacy he was forging for his own family.
Jayson acknowledges this moment as a turning point in his life, where God broke his heart so that He would be able to fill it back up again with His love, goodness and blessings.
In 2012, Jayson was invited to join Solid Community, a program supported by ADRA that gave him a physical outlet and the support he needed to create a new legacy for his family. Through the project Jayson was connected with positive role models, took part in life-changing personal development classes and ultimately turned his life around.
Jayson now runs his own business and has mentored others with similar life stories who he has met through Solid Community.
Earlier this year he and his entire family made the decision to be baptised and wholeheartedly follow God. “Life now feels like it has a purpose and a brighter future. We have seriously felt and embraced the Lord’s grace,” he says.