Crowds of young people gather for a three day City Lights Festival of celebration and service at the Mangere Baptist parish. Singing and worship are tempered with the realities of practical service comes to life in the local community. Activities are geared for neighbours who are isolated or marginalized. (Dean Clarkson with City Lights leader, Tina Gille, pictured right)
Inspirational leaders did not mince matters that a whole-hearted response to the time-honoured call to ‘love our neighbour’ would bring challenge, sacrifice, hardship and fulfilment.
A guest speaker, who is on the Council of Christian Social Services and Director of a Social Service organization in the area, told of her family living in a Philippines slum for ten years as a missionary. She drew a picture of families living beside a toxic stream bed that was a sewer and a playground for the children. Baby and childhood deaths from minor illnesses such as measles were an every day experience. When she met a mother whose baby way dying Ruby asked of herself, ‘what would it be like to be in your shoes?’This question was a focus for the young people to think about the needs they might see as they went into their community.
The following day Alan Va’a, leader of ‘274 Core- Youth Mentoring Trust’ spoke of being brought up ‘not wanted’ and abused, and having many years of addiction. Becoming Christian led to his mission of bringing positive experiences to young people and mentoring them towards healthy life pathways. See some live excerpts on the attached YouTube video.
Activities for service in the community for the City Lights programme are picked up through links with social services in the area and via referrals through the many church networks. As one team for the Spring 09 City Lights was delivering pamphlets for the Saturday festival they came across a family who had just moved house. Realizing the family would need a meal they went to the supermarket and prepared dinner for the family that night.
Another small team visited a woman with six children who has just come to Mangere as a refugee from an African country. She had little English and her family are in the early days of finding their way in New Zealand. Although she was very cautious about the visit at first, the visitors focussed on playing with her children. Later in the day the Mother’s caution thawed and soon some help with English was welcomed. A team with a young builder visited a family of teenage boys to repair damage inside their house. At first the boys parried that they would make more holes in the walls. The team invited the boys to learn how to make repairs and, somewhat surprised, the teenagers warmed to their visitors and in the end a deal was struck for the team to continue teaching the boys how to do repairs and small building projects . The teenage boys turned up at the City Lights festival the next day.
City Lights is about stepping outside of the confines of churches into communities. It is supporting people to be involved in social change by reaching out with practical support to people who are more marginal or excluded from local communities. Creating these links means that a network with social service agencies is growing and activities can be sustained throughout the year. A City Lights team from an earlier festival is keeping up social service in their spare time in weekends.
Watch a video of a City Lights meeting on YouTube [view video]
Mangere Parish Pastor Dean Clarkson
Phone: 09 275 5769
For information on parish initiatives visited for the NZCCSS Manaaki Hapori project, contact:
Phone: 04 473 2627 / 021-388-337