'Penguins' help build a more connected community

Howard Webb

4 March 2012

'Penguins' help build a more connected community

Jacqui Caetano is an evangelist at heart and the prayer coordinator for Windsor Park Baptist Church, where “getting involved in community is very much what we are about.” 

Some time ago Love Your Neighbour told her story here, but it is time for an update. Jacqui recalls again how it all began:
 
  “Two years ago, after I had stopped teaching, I decided to walk to keep fit instead of going to the gym. After a few days of walking I thought, why not invite others to go walking with me? So I did a letterbox drop. Numbers grew each day, until now a large number are involved, even though everyone doesn't walk every day,” says Jacqui. The morning walk is known as 'The March of the Penguins' because it starts on Penguin Drive on the North Shore and they walk to the beach.
 
penguin_baptism.JPG
A 'Penguin' Jacqui used as a Thai interpreter
came to faith and got baptised
After two years the whole spirit of the neighbourhood has changed. “People are actually talking to one another and there is a growing sense we that know each other. Even if we don't know everyone on our street, we know far more than we did!”
 
This simple but regular routine has resulted not only great neighbourhood bonding, but has proven to be a wonderful platform for the gospel.
 
“Christians from 3 churches now walk together with other residents from the area, and we intentionally take the time to chat on the walks. We share the stories of our lives, we tell of answered prayer, and we pray out loud for each other. The ladies who are not Christians are welcomed and included, but the Christians openly live out their faith,” explains Jacqui.
 
Jacqui tells the story of Ann (not her real name), an Asian lady who had to walk slowly because of a sore leg. Jacqui would hang back to chat with her. Ann eventually confided that her husband was beating her. Jacqui prayerfully recommended the book Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas. Ann read the book with the help of a dictionary, put the principles into practice and her husband stopped beating her. “It is so exciting when you see healing happening!” enthuses Jacqui.
 
That the not-yet-Christians enjoy being part of this group is evidenced by the fact that they wish to remain in the group even after moving away! Others who have moved away are now starting up walking clubs with their new neighbours.
 
But it's not just about the walking, it's about becoming friends and getting into each other's homes. These walking friends have attended baby showers, watched movies together in the home theatre of a member of their group, and even gone round to celebrate the purchase of a new coffee machine.
 
With earthquakes locally and floods happening overseas, there has been a lot of opportunity to support each other in concern for families and loved ones in dangerous places. As these ladies have become best friends, their husbands have been getting to know each other too.
 
Penguin_coffee.jpg
Penguins over coffee after a member’s
chemo treatment
Last May this group took part in Neighbours Day (happening again 24-25th March! Click to learn more –ed.)
 
“We set up a tea urn with paper cups in the reserve. We had tea, the dogs had a wonderful time, and we got to meet so many people we didn't know. We met a lot of folk of Asian origin with only little English, but it's amazing what a cup of tea can do!” laughs Jacqui.
 
Discipleship is happening too. During the Rugby World Cup last year Jacqui took along a fellow walker who had become a Christian to hand out Christmas decorations and offer gospel tracts outside The Cloud and on the Fan Trail. And Asian ladies who have come to faith are sharing the gospel when they travel back home overseas to see their families.
 
But Jacqui also sees the importance of the little things that happen every day, which are not big in themselves but which add up to something significant. She mentions the school children that they meet and greet who are walking to school. “Each day you gather a little information, today their name, tomorrow what year they are in, if they are writing exams -- and now we can say 'Have a good day at school Jun, or Anthony' and let them know we are praying for them.”
 
We need to be intentional about stopping and talking to people, says Jacqui. “If you have the courage to initiate, folk are happy to talk and share about their lives!”