Drive for Mission
Chester Hill Anglican Church is giving refugees a helping hand behind the wheel with mentoring for drivers.
The program, which also runs parallel to a job mentoring scheme at the church, started six months ago as a way to give practical assistance to local refugees as they settle into Australian society.
“We’d heard about a program being run in Wollongong by a non-Christian organisation that essentially was mentoring refugees on Australian road rules,” says the senior minister of Chester Hill, the Rev Paul Webb.
“We were finding a lot of people we were connecting with – many Syrians but people from other countries as well – who drove plenty back home but just needed to get hours up here, and didn’t really have the money to buy their own vehicle to do that. So we’ve started that and it’s opened up opportunities for further connection.”
There are about 20 trainee drivers on the books, with church members volunteering their time as mentors. Mr Webb says contacts have mostly been made through word of mouth.
“We connected with two Syrian families through the Anglicare Mobile Community Pantry and developed relationships with them,” he says. “We offered lessons to one of those families, and they have basically just referred us to people they know. That’s how it expanded it initially.
“Those two families connected with us, and they keep bringing more people to hook into our church. We’ve also developed connections with local community groups and social justice organisations who have also referred some people to us.”
The parish has put measures in place to ensure the ministry is sustainable long term. Trainees are asked to pay $15 for their lessons to cover petrol and other maintenance costs, and are expected to take on some professional lessons before coming to Chester Hill to ensure a baseline level of understanding.
The church is also exploring ways to financially support the co-ordinator of the ministry, Caroline Seaton, so she can devote more hours to it and ensure its sustainable growth.
“We’re putting a lot of effort into this, but we have a big emphasis on not just doing driver coaching, but also talking about Jesus with people we meet,” Mr Webb says. “That’s led us to start up a Syrian Arabic and Easy English discipleship group out of people in our mentoring programs, which is going well. We’ve also been able to connect people to our community events and to church services.
“It’s all grown quite rapidly, and there’s been great gospel fruit already.”
Photo: John (right), a mentor and member of Chester Hill Anglican, with trainee Alexander.