Thrive Shepparton began in February 2018 as a potential outreach with the Shepparton Baptist Church providing conversational English classes. Lacey Lengel, who has worked in communities around the world teaching ESL primarily to asylum seekers, undertook the oversight of these classes after moving to Shepparton, primarily because it has the highest number of refugees and asylum seekers outside of Melbourne. She has worked collaboratively with Rev Richard Horton (Shepparton Baptist Church) in transitioning the language classes to a “story house” program which utilises story telling as the major way for new arrivals to learn English. Lacey personally authored the program and hopes that it can be utilised by other organisations working with LOTE people in the future.
Recently, Lacey married Pastor Matt Holloway from Benalla Baptist Church. The newlyweds are passionate about engaging their church with the community around them even through the coronavirus pandemic.
To continue her classes, Lacey quickly developed online classes and programs. She uses WhatsApp chat to upload photos, documents, videos and links., so that her classes can still continue and relationships can still be maintained. Lacey has chosen WhatsApp as it is very popular with communities that have access to limited Wi-Fi and technical support.
Lacey and Matt both attended the BUV Parish Collective Training earlier in the year with Paul Sparks and Tim Soerens and found the teaching and collective gathering inspiring. Lacey said, “Inspired by our walk during the Parish Collective training, before the shutdown Richard encouraged the church leadership to create a community picnic and garden area in some spare land next to the church, which we hope will eventually be part of the Story House and a future community coffee shop. While we were unable to begin building this space yet, we are still dreaming and planning to do so once the pandemic is over.”