For over ten years now on Friday evenings, students, teachers and alumni have headed to Fortitude Valley and the city to cook up a barbecue dinner for lonely or less fortunate locals. At the heart of the Valley Outreach - a ministry run by a small group of volunteers - is a desire to serve and spread some love in the lives of people who are doing it hard.
Over the years, Northside staff and students have come to know the folks through chats over a meal and prayer time. Many of the people who come have difficult lives, very different to those of our students. They may be experiencing homelessness or difficulties with addiction or mental illness.
A Two-Way Street
While our students cook, serve and chat, their eyes are opened to the hard realities experienced by some of society's most vulnerable people. This glimpse into a diverse reality develops compassion, respect and empathy. The students' ideas and opinions are often challenged in a healthy way.
Missions Captain Joel Hunter explains: "Having the opportunity to serve and bless the homeless in our city is an absolute privilege. Being able to put a smile on someone's face or to be their friend for even a few seconds is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had."
"As a student, the Valley ministry is a unique opportunity to give the love that I have received in Christ to those who need it most. It's so thrilling to be following Jesus' example, which he showed when he was here on earth through his heart for the poor."
But it's not only the students who benefit. The local people who visit each week enjoy a good feed, some welcome company, and, if they so desire, prayer. We seek to provide ongoing support in many ways. For example, we are helping a young man with accommodation so that he can begin a certificate course as a path to employment. As well, we maintain continuing emotional support to some of our folk as they face quite serious challenges in their lives.
Some of our staff - Mrs Joan Malan, Mr Peter McCleneghan, Mr Chris Rose, Miss Yasmin Henry, Mr Bruce and Mrs Lyn Smith-Cottrell have been a part of this ministry over the past ten years.
Mrs Smith Cottrell says: “Our goal is to share faith and welcome, as well as a good meal and warm clothing with others, as a practical way of showing people God’s deep love for them. This comes from every part of our community. The families in our school have been unfailingly generous over the years in donating a continuous supply of practical help to the precious folk we serve."
The Valley Outreach is also supported by Oz Harvest who give us extra food every week and have since 2014. Mrs Smith-Cottrell explains: "We still take in our usual barbecue, but it now has a rich extra dimension, thanks to the kindness and generosity of Oz Harvest. Often we are able to send people away with extra food.”
The Collier Charitable Fund has given a grant of $25,000 to the Valley Outreach Ministry to fund future projects. The College is grateful for this generous support.
The money will be used to purchase new equipment, buy a quantity of blankets and swags, and finance at least two retreats where we will take small groups of men or women away for a few days to provide extra support and help in their lives.
Northside Christian College is proud of the staff and students who commit time, energy and love to this valuable outreach.