[Photo Courtesy of Adventist Record]
Australia | Ashley Stanton

Darryl Groves is the pastor of the Gatton Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the heart of South Queensland’s Lockyer Valley. He is also the project manager for the ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Community Care Centre in Gatton.

“About seven or eight years ago, the church started a soup kitchen,” Pastor Groves says. “Two years ago, we started a food pantry. We saw a need in our community.… people are struggling.”

The ADRA food pantry, run by Gatton Church members, kicked off at the beginning of 2020. Initially, the pantry was run by eight volunteers who were providing the community with twenty emergency food hampers per week. And then, the pandemic hit.

“Through the middle of COVID, we were doing about 300 hampers,” Groves says. “On the books, we were getting up to 60 to 70 volunteers coming in and helping.”

Debbie is one of the volunteers who has been regularly helping out. For the past 18 months, she has been volunteering on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and it has helped change her life.

“I was a drug addict for 48 years,” Debbie says. “I was always rejected from society, being a heroin addict, bikie, gangster, whatever you wanted to label me.”

Debbie tried many times to break her addiction. Finally, two years ago, she was successful. However, being newly clean didn’t fit with her previous social circles. She began looking for purpose and productive ways to spend her time, but most of all, she was looking to surround herself with the right support network.

“[Previously,] I always ended up at churches in the soup kitchens for food,” Debbie says, “and that stuck with me.”

Debbie came across the ADRA food pantry and began to volunteer. Initially, she was apprehensive. Surrounded by new people, she didn’t know what to expect. However, she found her place helping those who were seeking assistance, as she could relate to them and their stories. And by making them feel at home, soon she began to feel at home as well.

“I stayed out the back with the fruit and veggies, for I was comfortable [there], and I really resonated with the hungry people coming in,” Debbie says. “I knew a lot of them because of the scene I was in—a lot of people who are homeless and hungry.”

Volunteering with ADRA gave Debbie a sense of purpose and the community she craved.

“It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in a community,” Debbie says, “and I get respect from people.”

It also helped Debbie reconcile her broken relationship with her son Lincoln. And now, thanks to the connections he has made, Lincoln is attending the Gatton Church. 

“Debbie and Lincoln are such an asset to our project, and yeah, people like that, we wouldn’t be able to operate without them,” Groves says.

The Gatton Seventh-day Adventist Church has experienced what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

“ADRA is ministry,” says Groves. “You can’t separate community service from spiritual ministry because the two work hand-in-hand.

“When you have the love of God, God just moves. God’s not stationary; He’s always moving, and He creates movement within us that compels us to have compassion and empathy and sympathy. And you know, a desire to improve the lives of others is probably about the best way to try and explain it.”

The ADRA Appeal is the main source of funding for ADRA community projects in Australia. “Let Love Shine” through this ADRA Appeal and help give people the support they need to heal and rebuild their lives. 

This article was originally published on the website of Adventist Record