Adventist Journal Online | How Students Help Connect Their Church To Its Community
In Australia, three young men are building Adventists’ reputation for community spirit.
TThey are the unofficial basketball chaplains in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. Three ministry and theology students from Avondale University help pastor and hoop fan Raymon Paletua create safe places for children. In doing so, they build the reputation of Seventh-day Adventists as a community spirit.
When not in COVID-19 containment, Paletua and Cedric Peniata practically live in the city’s indoor sports stadium. Paletua coaches the best women’s under-14 team in the Western League and Peniata the under-12 team. The church also hosts monthly basketball nights. âThe kids know we’re Adventists, they know we’re pastors, so they often ask questions about God,â Paletua said. The four train with Sports Chaplaincy Australia. The accreditation “will strengthen our relationship with the basketball families in our community.”
Many of those who play basketball or hang out with the guys at the skate park for an activity that the Bathurst Regional Council has asked the church to do are students from the public elementary schools where Roger Afele, Abel Afele and Peniata are chaplains. . The three are changing the perception of teachers who saw chaplains as “tired pastors who couldn’t connect with the children.” Darren Denmead, Principal of Bathurst West School, introduced Abel Afele to the school community:
Abel Afele joined Roger Afele in West Bathurst earlier this year; Peniata is in Lyndhurst and East Orange schools. As part of their ministry, they donate Central Tablelands Food Pantry packages to students, building confidence and opening up opportunities to address mental health and wellness issues. âWe respond to needs until students ask why,â Roger Afele said. His relationship with West Bathurst is good enough that the school is funding overtime so he can work full time this year.
âMy role is to be present, to help the students feel at home. I still have principals from other schools calling and saying, âI heard your chaplains in West Bathurst and Lyndhurst do a good job, so how do you get one? Said Paletua.
The Bathurst team had a boost in June, welcoming four other ministry and theological students from Avondale who were completing an internship. One of their jobs: helping Lions and Rotary club members and the local neighborhood centre’s Men’s Connect group pack more than 100 food packages. Community groups told Paletua it was ârefreshingâ to see young adults wanting to serve unconditionally. The students then worked with the team to distribute the packages to families in the Kelso suburb. âPeople in the community are very willing to come on board with good ideas,â said external Jesse Duperouzel. His experience with his classmates Ben Cowley, Jesse Curnuck and Gabbrielle Shaw broadened his perspective on what the ministry could be like, he said. âI’ve learned to take what I already have to do something more with it, to always be open to the next opportunity, no matter how small. “
Duperouzel cited, as an example, the principal of a school in Paletua and the team had not yet met who went to the pantry to pick up parcels. âAnother connection, another community.
Paletua, Roger Afele, Abel Afele and Peniata represent only about fifty Adventists in the Center-West region. âEven though there are only a few of us,â Paletua said, âwe are hitting way above our weight.â
The original version of this story was published by Adventist dossier.