Sydney’s English language ministry, Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, has established two ongoing outreach and evangelism services aiming to draw people closer to Christ.
Parish priest at Ss. Peter and Paul, Rev. John Kushaba said he was pleased and encouraged to see both services come to fruition, having been conceptualised by the enthusiastic parish faithful.
“What we do unto others, we do unto Christ, both good and bad! The Christian fruits are not for us to indulge on, but rather for us to spiritually and physically feed others. It humbles me to see our Lord Jesus so actively working within His parish,” said Rev. John.
“The purpose of both services is simple: to show the love of Christ through actions, and to provide parish members with an outlet to put their faith to work.”
The outreach service has seen up to 50 male and female parish members step up to volunteer their time and effort to help people in need.
Working with Mission Australia, the first outreach ministry, on 3 September 2011, involved a designated group of male volunteers visiting a Sydney homeless shelter and tending to seven homeless men. At the same time, female volunteers spent their day with 23 women in need.
Ss. Peter and Paul Parish outreach organiser, Deacon Neil Makko, said volunteers had donated, prepared and served meals which they ate together with the needy.
“The volunteers spent time talking with the temporary residents, who really appreciated the home-cooked meals and company,” said Deacon Neil.
“The women shared stories about their lives and how they had ended up at the refuge. Some were intrigued by the volunteers and asked where we were from, which started a conversation about Christianity.
“It was very encouraging to see everyone interacting and opening up after a while. The men’s group even enjoyed some team sports during the day.”
The outreach service coincided with the commemoration of St. Shmoni and her sons, signifying an act of remembrance for the word of God (dukhrana).
The parish hopes to organise each once-a-month outreach service in remembrance of a specific saint, according to the Assyrian Church of the East calendar.
Meanwhile, Ss. Peter and Paul Parish’s evangelism ministry has been moving forward on a fortnightly basis, with up to 30 individuals now actively involved in spreading the word of God to the local area.
Group organiser Allan Sarkis said there is much work that the group can and will do in God’s timing.
“Our group meets up, prays and asks God to speak through us during anything we encounter. We then go for a walk around our local shopping centre, hand out educational pamphlets and try to engage in conversation,” said Allan.
The group commenced their activities in June with about four or five men hoping to share their personal testimonies, but has since grown rapidly and now includes women, which enables them to reach a wider demographic. Group members who do not feel ready to share their testimonies also have an important role – to pray for those who are evangelising.
“Evangelising and sharing our gratitude for God’s love is simply about availability, not ability. You don’t need any specialist knowledge to be able to share the light of God.”
One of the consistent challenges both groups have faced is the wide and varied misconceptions and misunderstandings about Christianity.
“In today’s society, love and acceptance is missing. Everyone is ready to point out people’s faults but nobody is ready and willing to simply offer love. However, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is perfect and through Him we are able to come together as one body of Christ and shine His light,” said Allan.
And this is only the beginning. Ss. Peter and Paul Parish hopes to build on its outreach and evangelism ministries as well as introduce more channels to spread the word of God. Faithful have initiated online evangelical discussions, and video testimonials may soon be in production.
“God is doing so much work in our lives. But much of that work remains the candle beneath the basket. Now, we’re going to remove that basket and broadcast the light – all for the purpose of glorifying God,” said Allan.
Are you available to help with Ss. Peter and Paul Parish’s outreach or evangelism services? Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.assyrianchurch.org.au for details of regular ministries.