While most of the rest of us were preparing to celebrate Easter at home and church – or taking the opportunity for a few days’ away – a group from Figtree Anglican joined members of a mission partner, The Village Church in Jindabyne, to help run a kids’ Easter camp for enthusiastic primary schoolers.
Trent McGrath, who leads the Bush Church Aid-supported church plant in the Snowy Mountains town with his wife Alice, says “it’s just huge” to have the extra support.
"We have lots of kids that need to be discipled"
“Some of the people in our community have been Christians for a long time but have not had regular discipleship training – that just hasn’t been available to them,” he explains. “So having a mission-minded team come from a church like Figtree to help shape our culture of mission with their experience and energy is massive.
“Sharing their resources and their experience running kids’ camps helps empower our people to think, ‘We can do this more regularly’, and ‘I can do this on my own’. I’m hoping it creates more enthusiasm for kids’ ministry at The Village, because we have lots of kids that need to be discipled!”
The McGraths, who had been regular visitors to Jindabyne and had family living locally, joined BCA from St Faith’s, Narrabeen in early 2020 after hearing about the opportunity to start new Anglican ministry through church planting.
Keen locals initially met in the McGraths’ living room before they officially launched The Village Church in October 2020. Despite COVID issues elsewhere in NSW, the Jindabyne church built momentum over Christmas and into the following year.
“Easter  was a real high point,” Mr McGrath says. “By then we had a growing community of about 55 people, I had the privilege of preaching the gospel to 230 people at the combined churches’ Easter service on the Sunday, and then basically Delta came through and halted everything.
“This year we’ve worked hard to reset our ministry priorities to simply reconnect in solidarity. With our Kids Village Easter camp, we have a bunch of registrations and more than half of them don’t come to our church... people are entrusting their kids into our community space, which I think is a positive step forward. Our presence in the community is starting to be accepted, and that’s encouraging.”
When Figtree came on board as a mission partner last year, its leadership wanted to support the work in Jindabyne prayerfully and financially but also in a hands-on way.
The children’s worker at Figtree, Jenny Horsley, had been keen for the parish’s younger members to have their own mission connection – one that offered opportunities for the kids to take part in mission themselves.
Fellow congregation member Rachel Dirks, who works for Bush Church Aid, suggested making this connection with Jindabyne and potentially helping with kids’ ministry in the partner church.
Says Mrs Horsley: “We took two families with us to Jindabyne and the kids were involved in the camp. The Village Church did the administration, and we brought a lot of resources such as craft... and Rachel in her role at BCA wrote the [camp] program.
“During COVID last year we also made some videos and got The Village Church to do some content to start building a connection. And then earlier this year we had a cake stall and raised money for the mission, which was very successful – we had it at all three services, and everyone was really into it!”
Making local connections
Because Jindabyne sits on the shores of a lake, the camp used water as its theme and Jesus’ interactions with people around the water. It was made clear to the community that the 2½ day camp was a Christian event, but locals were very willing to send their kids.
“It’s exactly what we wanted,” Mr McGrath says. “I was up at school dropping something off to my daughter and a teacher I came across said, ‘I know you – I see you on YouTube every week!’ She doesn’t come to church but watches our livestream, and she sent her kids.
“What we’ve found is that there’s not a lot on for primary aged kids in the school holidays, but there still a need for somewhere to send your kids. There’s a [local] wariness of the ‘new thing’ so longevity is important, consistency is important... If this grows, and we trust it will, hopefully our public witness will help overcome the wariness people have so that, in the future, more will come and meet Jesus through Easter Camp.”
Both Figtree and Jindabyne want their mission partnership to be for the long term, and Mr McGrath is also grateful for the active support of parishes such as Narrabeen, St Marys and Gungahlin in Canberra.
He is thankful that Jindabyne’s church building is starting to feel full, but the congregation has no hall and that makes any growth plans tricky. There are hopes that one day there will be enough funds to build a multipurpose centre next door to the church building that can bless the congregation and wider community, “but in the meantime, we all squeeze in!” he says.
“We are seeing God at work, people are responding to the gospel and are growing in their love for the community and the church, and it’s absolutely sweet to see the Holy Spirit changing people’s lives that way. We’d love to hear from other people who care that the mission of Jesus is going out in Jindabyne. If you want to know about us, come and visit us!”
To keep in touch with the McGraths’ ministry in Jindabyne, visit the Bush Church Aid website.