This story is from 2012. New stories coming soon!
Franklin Baptist Church is situated near Pukekohe North, an area of high deprivation in NZ. A team of seven experienced Police Officers is dedicated to this small area. Few homes have not been affected by either alcohol, drugs, gambling or violence and many families have gang affiliations.
And then there's Sheena.
Sheena is passionate about turning things around for this community and has a particular heart for the children. With the backing of Senior Pastor Maurice she has initiated the project under the Franklin Baptist Community Trust.
The Trust runs CYF approved OSCAR ('Out of School Care and Recreation') After-school and Holiday Programmes, and has consequently won a contract from the Ministry of Social Development which partly funds the programme. A small daily koha of $1 is suggested, but no-one is turned away.
“I chose to go with a CYF approved OSCAR programme because there are strict guidelines for staff and volunteers; and there are also expectations placed on parents who register their kids in the programme,” says Sheena. “Dealing with issues is made much easier because we have policy to fall back on. CYF approval gives assurance to the school Board of Trustees, the community and my Community Trust that we have excellent policies in place for the safety of children and for the training and vetting of staff. Becoming CYF approved also gives us access to another level of funding that would not otherwise be available.”
The October holiday programme, which attracted around 50 kids, had the theme 'Treasure Island'.
“We treated the children like sailors. Kids sat in a boat-shaped structure for some activities and were placed in teams named after NZ islands . We also weaved in the story of Noah.
“We arranged a visit from a Maritime Navy Warrant Officer who has responsibility for safety of Navy War Ships and Weaponry – very exciting! And because we were planning to take this challenging bunch of kids on a day trip to Devonport later in the week, we worked with Counties Manukau Sport to teach water safety and we linked this to rules and following instructions. The trip ended up going off without a hitch!” laughs Sheena.
“Here's something I've learned,” says Sheena. “When we pray for more workers for the harvest field we keep looking at our church members to get in there with us and often wonder why they don't come.
“But in fact when you get the courage and venture out (in God's timing), there you will find the other workers that God has sent. You can recognise them because they are the best and they are passionate about what they do. Some of them are Christians, and some of them are not! It is interesting and so exciting to work in this way!”
Sheena had 14 people assist her with the holiday programme, from within the community, from church and from Counties Manukau Sports. “My biggest challenge is making sure everyone coming each day knows what the expectations are for the day, and the rules we have in place for the kids. I also insist on Police Vets for regular volunteers. We can do these on-line overnight. We prioritize providing a good lunch for workers and volunteers, as well as lunches for all the kids,” says Sheena.
After being involved in kids ministry in the area for 8 years, Sheena has seen a number of kids make the 'hop' from coming to the programmes to coming to church and several have given their heart to the Lord.
She recounts the story of Cody, whom she met when he was 5 who got baptised this year at age 14. Cody comes from a family that struggled with alcohol and drugs, but because of his persistence his mother and step-father ended up coming to church, going on the Alpha course two years ago and getting saved – something that has transformed the family and completely changed the home dynamic. “I can feed on a story like that for a long time!” laughs Sheena.
What motivates her to do what she does day after day? “It's seeing the kids of your neighbourhood in need and being able to do something about it. And it's working with passionate people in the community on many different levels – Central Government, Local Government, the school Board of Trustees and I am also a member of our Community Steering Committee. We support one another's initiatives, and stretch to support upcoming events and activities where needed. Our sights are set on the families, with the children as our first focus. And with God's help I have a deep settled conviction that we can make a real difference for the Kingdom.”