The view from a back deck can be inspirational, as Aitkenvale Uniting Church Deck Dwellers convener Scott Heron and minister Mark Dewar told Dianne Jensen.
When Aitkenvale Uniting Church members felt called to connect with a Christian congregation overseas, they sat out on a back deck and talked and prayed about it. The new group, the Deck Dwellers, was formed in June 2011.
The North Queensland church had recently undertaken the Just Faith series, designed by TEAR Australia to explore faith and action.
After a period of discernment, and with guidance from UnitingWorld, the group sensed God's call to build a relationship with the Kiribati Protestant Church (KPC) congregation in Bairiki on Tarawa, Kiribati.
Aitkenvale minister, Rev Mark Dewar, was one of four members who made an initial visit to Kiribati on a UnitingWorld InSolidarity trip in March 2012.
"We wanted a partnership, where we would learn from their culture and grow in Christ through them," he says.
"We asked them what we could do as their partner church, and listened.
"At this stage we're growing friendships through email and letters, and supporting their pre-school and church office with resources."
The Deck Dwellers are currently pursuing possibilities with the federal Seasonal Worker Program as well as planning their next visit to Bairiki to up-skill pre-school teachers and lead diabetes training workshops.
Aitkenvale Uniting Church recently hosted the minister and the secretary of the Bairiki church for a two-week stay.
The partnership journey has helped to unite the three different worship communities at Aitkenvale in a common focus, says Deck Dwellers convener Scott Heron.
It has also brought an understanding that priorities are different when viewed through the lens of a small island in the South Pacific.
"At the beginning, we thought that it would be about issues of climate change and the possibility of re-location with projected sea-level rise, but these were too long-term for most people in Bairiki.
"Day-to-day living is an issue for many folks (today's food, job needs, water, sanitation)."
Bairiki is a place where the church is at the heart of everyday life, adds Mr Dewar.
"Faith development and igniting faith are important priorities for the Bairiki church.
"We've been reminded of the importance of family, and the notion that it takes a village to raise a child."
"Social justice issues such as aid agreements and international human rights now have a human face for members of this Queensland congregation.
"We're called to look after our neighbours; more than that, we're called to love," says Mr Heron.
"The fullness of love means that we need to listen to God and to follow where he is leading—with him, no issue is too big or too small!"
Photo : Kiribati. Photo: Aitkenvale Uniting Church