“We value neighbors and long to extend our community more and more into the city of Dandenong. We want to share your joys and your heartaches, to lend a helping hand in your struggles, to celebrate with you in your successes and to offer a listening ear and caring words.”
Powerful words that are at the heart of Dandenong Baptist Church (DBC) hold prime position on the front page of the church website. Most importantly though, they are not just words on a page – these words are retold by people who are being touched and led to Jesus through the church and its relationship with Cornerstone Contact Centre.
Below are two stories shared by Naomi Paterson, (CEO of Conerstone Contact Centre and Pastor for Community Engagement at Dandenong Baptist Church) of beautiful outcomes for two community members who have felt the love of the community and, over time, have come to know the love of Jesus.
Cornerstone Contact Centre, a Christian not-for-profit organisation working with homeless and marginalised people in Dandenong since 1992, has been located at DBC since 2020. The Sunday evening service at Dandenong Baptist Church, Nourish Church, is designed for the community and Cornerstone clients in mind, and is intentionally followed by a hot meal to provide further time for connection and conversation.
*Cassie’s and Henry’s stories and photo have been shared with permission and names have been changed.
When Cassie* and her partner first attended Cornerstone Contact Centre, they were sleeping in their car, which leaked every time it rained. They came along to a Thursday evening meal, in tears, with all of their possessions soaking wet. They were unsure how they would get by until the following week when they could afford to pay the bond and rent for a cabin they had secured at a local caravan park. While our team helped the couple with some dry clothes and a hot meal, we called a local housing agency to help fast-track their housing. By the next morning, Cassie and her partner were in their cabin.
Cassie started coming along to Cornerstone meals regularly and came to enjoy the care and conversations shared with our team. We invited her along to Nourish Church, but Cassie was hesitant; she had grown up in a very religious family, who taught her about a harsh God, characterised by punishment and wrath. The God she had been taught about disapproved of tattoos, not to mention some of the other lifestyle choices in her past. We kept gently reassuring her of God’s love, and letting her know that she was loved and cared for by her friends at church too.
One day at the Cornerstone lunch program, Cassie asked one of our volunteers to pray with her about some challenges she was facing that week. That Sunday, Cassie came along to Nourish Church for the first time, and during the Nourish sharing time she talked about the incredible peace she experienced after being prayed for earlier that week. Cassie now attends Nourish Church regularly and is coming to trust that God loves and cares for her.
Henry* has been part of the Cornerstone meal community for many years. When Cornerstone moved to Dandenong Baptist Church, we invited Henry along to Nourish Church.
Henry has been coming along regularly to Nourish Church for three years. Over the years, he has shared often about his desire to trust God more, and to experience a personal relationship with God.
Earlier this year, Henry had an experience of God’s Spirit, and he committed his life to Christ. He continues to grow in his faith and understanding and enjoys being a part of a caring and supportive faith community. Henry will be baptised next month.
Cornerstone Contact Centre, provides a place of hospitality, belonging and engagement and helps people address issues such as family violence, drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, mental health and social isolation. For many who come from challenging backgrounds it is a source of dignity and hope, a place where people can feel safe, valued and important. Cornerstone Contact Centre is based on the Christian principles of inclusiveness, support, service, individual worth and social justice and provides:
– Free nutritious, home-cooked community meals throughout the week.
– Material aid and crisis assistance.
– A safe, supportive environment for people to connect with others.
– Pastoral support.
– Referral to other agencies.
– A meaningful way for people, including students, to volunteer in the life of our local community