In country towns like Bourke in north-west New South Wales, unemployment sits at around 25 per cent. Lower incomes, droughts and a lack of resources mean it’s difficult for many people to make ends meet. Twelve months ago, Pastor Shaun Hepworth from Bourke and Coonamble churches teamed up with Bible worker Albert Peter and both of their wives to make a difference. Out the back o’ Bourke, they opened a Treasure Trove.
Located in the main street, The Treasure Trove was officially opened by Bourke mayor Barry Holman on Monday morning, July 27. After cutting the ribbon, he encouraged the crowd to go and spend their money at Bourke’s new second-hand furniture store as they queued for the free barbecue breakfast.
“We’ve spent the past 12 months renovating the shop and café,” explained Pastor Hepworth. “We ripped out the old industrial cookers and transformed it into a second-hand shop. There’s a little café and ministry area out the back where we held five Bible studies—mostly with contacts that Albert has made—in just the opening week.”
Open every weekday from 9am until 3:30pm, the shop is filled with a wide range of second-hand items: Fridges, freezers, electrical appliances, beds, bedroom furniture, TV units, linen, pictures. And it is becoming a very popular place to shop.
“In the first week, we sold more than $A6000 worth of stock and have orders for just as much. We thought we’d have enough stock for a few weeks!” exclaimed Pastor Hepworth.
“We want to be a centre of influence and a useful presence in town. We want to provide a service that isn’t being done by anyone else, not just second-hand clothes like Vinnies. It’s hard to get furniture in town, so it fits the bill in that regard,” he explained.
The dedicated team of four are amazed at the way God has provided and directed their ministry to the community.
“The Adventist church is on the outskirts of town and hasn’t really been working. We decided we needed a ‘front door’ for the community, so we assessed the need and I made an application to the Conference. They accepted it and bought two shops in the main street,” said Pastor Hepworth.
“We did the renovations and about a month from opening we still didn’t have any stock. I knew someone from Coonamble who owned a gift shop and had recently retired. He donated $A20,000 worth of new stuff from the gift shop and some second-hand furniture. All I had to do was hire a truck and take it back to Bourke. The Lord has just provided, and now two more people from Coonamble have heard about us and want to volunteer all next year,” he added.
For Pastor Hepworth and his wife, who made the decision to do ministry in remote New South Wales more than seven years ago, they saw God working before The Treasure Trove project was even on the horizon.
“We were looking for ministry work to do, and thinking about going overseas,” said Pastor Hepworth. “I’d gone through Coonamble in 2012 and done some colporteur work, so decided to move there and start a kids’ club. It grew into a regular Sabbath school and church service every week. On a good week we’d get 20 people.
“At the time I wasn’t employed by the Conference, but I knew [the then Conference general secretary] and told him I was going to go to Coonamble for 12 months. He said, ‘You’re kidding!’. They’d had a meeting two days earlier and on the agenda was what they were going to do with Coonamble church. He said it was an answer to prayer and gave me a job. And now we’ve been here seven years.”
In Coonamble, Pastor Hepworth and his team have also been running a food bank and op-shop for nearly three years, which are both going well.
“The motivation at the end of the day is to share Christ and the hope that we have. There are not many people out here, and little Adventist presence. God wants to have an Adventist presence in these places. He does the hard work and we’ve just stepped out,” he said.