By giving away free, plant-based ice-cream to people in their community, members of Gateway Adventist Church in Melbourne (Victoria) have attracted more than 300 new contacts in the past four months.
According to volunteer Bible worker Bao Nguyen and church elder Johnny Wong (who co-wrote an original article in IntraVic), the project is designed to fit into the “sowing stage” of the evangelism cycle, to connect Gateway members with their community and help them identify people’s needs.
Handmade by the team, the ice-cream was distributed during January and February this year at the church’s “weExplore Centre of Influence”, located in the suburb of Clayton. Recipients were asked to fill in a community survey before receiving their ice-cream, which gave church members the opportunity to get to know the person and introduce them to the different programs running at the centre.
The church offers activities like nature walks, cooking classes, a “CEO Future Project” and their “mental resilience program” (a different version of Neil Nedley’s Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program).
“We had around 40 folks come to the mental resilience program,” explained church pastor Chris Guo. “It was held online over Zoom and we had a graduation just last week for them.”
In addition to this, the church ran an Easter camp that was attended by three new contacts, hold care groups that more than 11 new contacts have now joined, and five are now having Bible studies.
Thanks to the ice-cream project, a Hindu student from Monash University joined the CEO Future Project and attended the mental resilience program. After several sessions of the latter, his interest in knowing more about the Bible increased and he started asking more spiritual questions. He is currently having personal Bible studies.
The church company, which began as a university campus ministry, now has between 60 and 80 regular attendees at Sabbath worship services, and is continuing to grow rapidly thanks to their creative initiatives and intentional harvest cycle model.
“Gateway used to be a campus-based church where we did everything on [university] campus,” explains Pastor Gao. “That’s how I came myself into the faith, as an international student I was baptised, became a Bible worker, went to Andrews University [USA], then came here to serve. Now the church is in a transition phase and we’re exploring how to reach out to communities by trying different things.”
The weExplore Centre of influence is modelled after counsel by Ellen White, to “establish centres of influence in places where is need of work being done” (Mission To The Cities, page 49).
If you’re in Melbourne, you can drop by the weExplore Centre any weekday Monday-Friday 12pm-5pm or contact them via their website www.weExplore.org.au.