For the final episode of our Everywhere to Everywhere podcast series, we bring the conversation home and hear from Pastors Paul Rai and Dan Evenhuis from Citywide Baptist Church in Hobart.
The church has a thriving Nepali congregation that is fully integrated into the heart and leadership of the church community. And with this intercultural emergence of the past 10 years, the church’s local and global mission has grown richly.
In the conversation, Geoff Maddock talks with Paul who is the Nepali congregation Pastor and Dan who is the church's Executive Pastor. Their journey is an excellent case study and example of how this ‘everywhere to everywhere’ model of mission can take shape at a local Australian church level. They also share some of the simple yet highly relevant ways they are sharing God's love through practically responding to the needs of the wider migrant and refugee community in Hobart.
Listen for insightful reflections and practical ideas for your own church's local missional engagement as you seek to love and serve your community.
This the final episode in our series, but it is by no means the end our collective journey in this emerging space! So please get in touch with our team if you want to keep exploring these ideas.
Scott Pilgrim 0:05
This is Missionary. Baptist Mission Australia’s podcast and a space to explore mission, faith, life, call and everything in between. Welcome.
Jodie MacCartney 0:19
We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations as the traditional owners of this land on which we record this podcast today. We pay respect to their elders past, present and emerging.
Geoff Maddock 0:34
Well, welcome to missioning. My name is Geoff Maddock and I'm the State Leader for Tasmania and Victoria, with Baptist Mission Australia. And I'm the host of this Everywhere to Everywhere podcast series. The podcast series really is an exploration of what we're calling polycentric mission, the idea that mission is moving from being kind of its centre of gravity in western theology and mission history, to recognizing that God is at work in all places at all times.
And there are many, many centres and arenas for God's work that perhaps doesn't align with some of our mission history, which is very Western European centric. We want to celebrate that and we actually want to be part of that kind of mission future at Baptist mission Australia.
So we're really excited and, and I can say, with even a greater level of excitement, we’ve got two wonderful people here today for this podcast, Paul Rai and Dan… I’m not gonna get your name right mate…
Dan Evenhuis 1:33
In Australia, it's Even-house, but it's a Dutch name. Evenhuis.
Excellent. Well, thank you, Paul, and Dan, for joining us. We are really, really excited about this conversation. We're talking with lots of different people through this podcast series, really identifying different voices. Another way of talking about polycentric mission is polyvocal mission, that there are lots of different voices in mission past, present and future and hearing different voices is a really enriching part of this mission journey for us.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, just share a little bit about who you are and how you come to be with us today?
Yeah, great. Yeah. So Dan, I've, I grew up in Northwest Tasmania. I also spent a bunch of time in Melbourne for all my primary school years. When I became a secondary school teacher at the end of university and taught math and science for seven years. And then my wife and I felt called to be missionaries in the UK. So we moved over there. We thought we were going for two years and stayed for 18. We've got four British born kids who speak very eloquently for Australians.
But we just moved back to Australia in January this year. So, Australia is pretty new to us. I worked for open doors in the UK. I was head of IT for four years there as well, but also at a national charity for helping churches get beyond their walls and love and serve their communities. So that was called Fusion Youth and Community.
That's wonderful. And what's your current your current role? You’re with Citywide?
Yes, I'm Executive Pastor for Citywide Baptist Church. We have three different congregations. One is the Nepalese congregation that we'll be hearing a lot of today. And then a couple of others. Yeah. So my job here is to keep things running smoothly and well. And yeah, so finding my feet still, I keep saying, I think it takes six months to find your feet and two years to be running. I think that sounds about right at the moment.
And just in terms of where your office and your churches is. East Hobart? Is that right across the river?
Yeah. Yeah, we call Eastern shores of Hobart. Yeah. So we're just over the bridge.
Wonderful. Good deal. And Paul, Pastor Paul Rai, thank you so much for joining us. Tell us about your current role. And a little bit of your journey, just give us a sense for who you are and what your weeks look like at the moment.
Thank you Geoff for giving me this time. First of all, I apologise for my English. My English is not that much good. So I'll try my best.
Oh it's very good! It's very good. We're grateful. Thank you.
My name is Paul Rai. I was born in Bhutan. Bhutan is a small country. And when I was five years old, I came in Nepal in 1992. In Nepal with my parents as a refugee, and I live in 16 years in the refugee camp. So when I was living and growing up in the refugee camp, or when I was 17 years old, we all family accepted Jesus Christ as a personal Savior. From Hindu and a Buddhist background.
So when I was seventeen years old, so God called me for His ministry, and I went in 2004 to India, North India and South India for study and the Bible training, for theology, and I completed my theology study. For my bachelor degree I was doing as a missionary work in India, in North India and South India, in the different part of the India. And a few years later I went back to the refugee camp in Nepal. And I established the church in there, in the refugee camp in 2008 - 2010. And I established church and I was doing it as a pastoral ministry.
And 2010 I came to Australia in Hobart, Tasmania, Hobart and I established church and we started doing as a pastoral ministry. Our Government has a vision for visa for the international here and since 2010 we from Hobart Nepalese Church, we support our community, Nepalese community, migrant people from the refugee background and for the overseas student.
That's really, really helpful. And I can say that one of the most wonderful experiences in my life was to come and worship with your community. It was such a gift to sing and to listen. And even though my English is okay, my Nepalese is terrible! So, it was still just a joy, though, to worship alongside you and be welcomed so warmly by your community already. So thank you so much. I have great memories. And I would encourage anyone who's in Hobart to get along and worship with the community there.
Will as we move into a conversation about Citywide Baptist Church, we really want to celebrate not just our relationship as Baptist Mission Australia that to come alongside, and see what you will doing and learn from you - but we noticed too, as we work with churches that there are church internal partnerships in intercultural churches that really show us that intercultural sensitivity and mission is not just for overseas, but it's actually happening in our local church. And I see it in Victoria and Tasmania. So could you tell us a little bit about the history of Citywide Baptist Church and the Nepali Baptist congregation, and how that emerged?
One thing we really celebrate in our church is the way that our Nepalese and Australian congregations interact. For us, we don't just have an international church using our premises, hiring our building. It's not like that at all. We're quite integrated. We are one church with three congregations. So the way that works is, our eldership is made up of the three different congregations. And we all have equal value there.
Once a month, the Nepalese church joins for a Sunday service. And then for the other three, they get to do it in their own language. We're working on how to integrate the worship band so that it's a bit of a merge of the two. So that's the current thing that we're working on, not just to have our own song, like one song that we sing in two languages, but how do we actually get musicians working together and collaborating? Yeah, so that's, that's been quite exciting for us. Paul do you want to say how the church started and how it came to be part of Citywide?
Well, we started our Hobart Nepalese Church established in 2010. And in 2010, we started from the church which started from the house, with one family. It started with one family and there was not any Nepalese church in Hobart. So, we started and prayed and he started the church in the home sitting room, and then after just one year we started church gathering together for the next three years.
Three years we started, we connected with the Citywide church. In 2013 we connected with the Citywide Church and we use the buildings. So in 2018, we became officially as a Citywide Church member. So yeah, now we are as the three congregations. So we are Nepalese. Yeah.
It's been a real joy for me coming in, watching Matt Garvin, the senior pastor. He just really prized, values these relationships that we have. We're all stronger because we work together. And so it's not a one way thing but integrated.
That's beautiful. Yeah. As you gather together, obviously friendships and relationships form across the different congregations. Is there a real sense of understanding growing to understand each other? I'm sure there's stories of miscommunication as well as real synergy around that. Can you think of any stories that have been, anything that's been fun or funny or or enlightening?
There’s plenty of things, plenty of things we have to work through. I can start with a quick funny one. We're doing a mission trip to Nepal. And just the presence ministry, encouragement of those who are there that we have a relationship with. And so we thought we'll raise some money, so Nepal's a mountainous country. So we'll actually climb to the top of our main mountain here in Hobart as a fundraiser.
For the Nepalese guys, being sponsored to do a fundraiser is a really foreign thing. If you need money, you’re just given it, it's out of need. But for us in the West, sponsorship is a bit of a fun exercise to do. Paul and Jiwon, were having a little chuckle because Paul said to Jiwon, “Do you know, if you if we walk up barefoot, they'll pay us even more!” For them it’s just like, what? These Australians are crazy.
So that's yeah, he had like different levels of difficulty. That's great.
Yeah, we're not going barefoot. It’s a 1000 metre climb, wo we'll walk in our shoes. But yeah, but it was funny thing.
But even like, in two weeks, we had our church camp coming up. And we all come together, how do we do food? In the Nepalese culture, you don't expect to pay to go to a conference. It's the conference that invites you and they host. And so even just the thing of, you know, how do we do the invoicing and billing, which is very Western, whereas these guys just pass around a hat and say, “this is how much it costs”. And everyone passes around the hat, you know. So, there are cultural differences, and we have to we keep learning, you know, when's it right to encourage the Nepalese to do it in Aussie way? And when is it right for us to adjust? And the camp's been a really good example of that.
Yeah, that's good. And that's part of the journey, isn't it? In growing your cultural intelligence is - no matter where you are, culturally, to even observe your own habits and tendencies and realize that these customs are actually a bit different. And they're not the normal one, and everyone's a bit different from normal. But actually, we're all a bit different. And there’s no centre of gravity, there's no normal. And again, there's a polycentric approach to that. Honoring the other.
I had the privilege of eating at the Namaste Cafe, when I was at Citywide and it was a delicious butter chicken, I do believe, hard to forget something as delicious as that! Tell us about the café, is that a project that that's emerged out of this relationship?
Yeah from the cafe, we just had this vision for to God to be a community people. Just open a cafe, we build a community with the Nepalese people, and also the community here, the surrounding. So that's the main thing, and to support our mission work to the cafe.
And one thing that's important for the Nepalese community is, how can they make sure that for those who want to stay in Australia, they have a way of having employment and having enough skilled work, to be able to be able to stay. The Australian government keeps changing the rules. It's just gotten harder for them to stay again in the last couple of months. And so helping them with employment and encouraging them with work is really important.
I think the saddest thing for me that I'm finding in our city, is that we were getting these skilled migrants who are well trained who end up getting really low paid entry level jobs. And it becomes a trap that they find it really hard to escape out of. They're so busy doing two jobs to earn enough money to stay that they can't get into that. There are plenty of them who've got accountant qualifications, who are cleaning the fish tanks at the fish factory, you know. And it's really hard for them to escape it. So for us to provide a few opportunities where some of the new people coming in can actually find a business to run is really valuable. So Namaste Cafe is one of those businesses.
That's so good. And that's part of the challenge, isn't it, as you become a welcoming church, just as from the kind of Aussie Baptist Church, local Baptist Church perspective, what does it mean to be an advocate as well as very tangible help? And to welcome and to offer help, right when it's needed, crucial and timely help, but also think about the longer term sustainable care, which is around social enterprise or a small business. There's really incredible. Yeah, incredible opportunities, aren't they for the local church?
And just in terms of helping people understand a little about the demographics. Tassie has an arrangement in terms of international visas that's a little bit different to perhaps other parts of the country?
Yeah, so Hobart is the only capital of a state that is classed as rural in Australia. And visas at the moment, they're requiring people to get jobs outside of cities. And so Hobart is the only city that is classed as rural. So our international migrant and student population that's growing here is growing really fast. In the last five years, the Nepalese population has grown from just over 800 people to 6000.
I'm a bit worried about the registered training organisations that are popping up everywhere. It feels like some of them are a bit of a facade, just getting people on. I’m a bit worried about the level of training they get sometimes because Hobart is welcoming students, international students in and it's a very profitable enterprise. That's something we're keeping an eye on a little bit. Need to keep watching.
Yeah, that's really back to that advocacy and justice piece, like, how can you as a local church, with eyes on the community, see if people are being taken advantage of? It's one thing to help people when they need it. And it's another thing to say, why are these people needing so much help all the time? What mechanisms are not operating properly in terms of a welcoming generous society?
Paul, you talked about your experience as a refugee. Are a large number of refugees in the Nepali church community that you're part of, or are they mainly migrants or a mix?
No, yeah, mix. We have a half of the believer from refugee background and half from migrant. There's student coming, they moved from mainline here. So yeah, that half of the half. Yeah, we have the different churches, from different denomination. And that's
And that’s been an opportunity for outreach into the community too. Is that right? And because of your language, your ability to kind of liaise between English speaking community, including the church, and a community who I guess would arrive and not have much English proficiency. That's a great gift of welcome, isn't it? Yeah, bringing people in.
One of the joys that I watch in seeing migrants coming to Hobart City like this, is that the distance of separation between different groupings that would have happened in Nepal are so much less clear. So, and we see it in this church, you've got refugees, migrants, you have Christians, who were before become a Christian from all different classes, who wouldn't associate together in Nepal, but here, they actually work together.
And especially with Christians in a Christian environment, they become equal under Christ. And so it's this beautiful integration of different groupings of people. Within the Christian group, but also the degrees of separation with people of other religions is also a lot smaller. So the integrating, the chance to meet and hang out with people of other faiths is quite strong. So these guys have a driver mentor program that's attracting quite a few of the Hindu population who we can love and serve and actually get to know a bit more, and I don't think you would have the luxury of that interaction in Nepal.
Oh, that's great. So people learn how to drive and get their license?
We have a driving program. We started driving program from 2018. We support all the migrants, and refugee and those from migrant students. So every year we have more than 100 people, 100 student or 100 learners. Through the driver mentor program, we share the gospel, we share our story and we have good connection and relationship with the community. So in Hobart I think most of the people that know the Hobart Nepalese Church is doing a Driver Mentor Program in here. And we invited every year, so we have a Christmas party in the December 21. We invite all the learners and all the community people. So every year we have 250 to 300 people. So this year also, we connect with the Nepalese Society of Tasmania, so they are also joining with us in our Christmas program.
So this year, the Christmas program in December 21 I think more than 300 people together for the Christmas program. And we share the Gospel, and we share what is the meaning of Christmas, why we celebrated Christmas and who is Jesus Christ. And that time is a great privilege to share the Gospel with our Hindu and the Buddhist and the Muslim Nepalese people.
So that's Wow, what a great vision.
So we have a dinner, that Christmas dinner as a free food. So people are very excited and very happy to you know, to join in the Nepalese. The food.
Yeah, great food. That's amazing. What a beautiful story what an amazing convergence of welcome and care, practical help and sharing the good news too. That's a fantastic kind of matrix of all those things happening. Just out of a really simple gesture of let's help you get settled in this new place.
Especially watching the Nepalese and sub-continental women as they often come across, they get a student visa in Sydney or Melbourne and they do a bit of study, but then they want to stay in Australia, so they have to move to a regional area. In the big cities they survive on public transport and doesn't hold them back much. But when they come to Hobart, we're not that well equipped. And you watch these women, particularly these young women who have been supported to get their license. They've already been to dozens of job interviews, but because they don't have a car or a license, they don't get the job.
And so you watch how empowered they are, as they finally get their license and then find a way to a car. So these guys are training, I think, between 90 and 100 people each year. To get their P plates in Tassie, you have to do 80 hours of driving, which these guys cannot afford, right? But this Driver Mentor program is, I mean, we talk about relevantly loving and serving our community around us. And this is a real need. And these guys do a beautiful job with nine different driver mentors.
Wow, do you use your own cars? Or do you own a car for the program?
Yeah, in 2018 - really how to reach the Gospel to our community, because if we just give our tracks they don't receive them. And so we pray, how to reach the Gospel to our community, how to support our community, Nepalese community here. And we have many options and we pray. We take the decision to support through our Driver Mentor Program, driving program. Dan already told that the those who are coming from mainline to here, there's no good transportation in Tasmania, in Hobart, especially Tasmania. So people are struggling about driving licence. If the student they apply for the job, they ask about the driving license. They don't ask about car, but they ask about license and they struggle.
We call some people, some are believer, they give about $20, $50 and we collect it nearly $4,000 and we brought the old car Toyota echo. Old car with $4,000. And from that car, we serve our learners, community people, for nearly three years, three and a half years. And we prayed to God. Lord, just we all continue to pray for the new car. But we never expect that we're going to buy a new car, but we just expecting around $8,000 - $9,000 one, a second hand car. We prayed nearly one year for the car, and God has done a great miracle. So got answer and we got support from Trust Christian Fund. We apply for that grant and got approve. At the end of the 2021, we brought the new car, Toyota Yaris. From 2022 we use that car. Now we have a new car, and change supervisors and many learners.
So good. What an inspiration. And not out of the reach of any local Baptist Church. Right? And especially as we look around Australia, increasingly growing in our multicultural profile, people coming from all over the world to study, settling as refugees or asylum seekers. There’s every opportunity to be involved across faith and across culture and across difference.
So Dan and Paul, as you think about your journey so far together as one church, three congregations, local and global, interfaith and cross-cultural right there in Hobart, what is next for you? What are you envisioning over the next few years and what can we be praying for you about?
We're starting on a bit more of a push over the next few years for this community service to the refugee, migrant and international student population. We're looking at putting some more admin time, organisational time, to really build a workforce of volunteers that can love and serve their community. We already have pretty good networks with the Tasmanian university student body. There's a group for subcontinental and Nepalese students there. And it's just great to be integrating with them.
So we'd love to do more of that, of reaching these 1000s of people who have come to our city and are trying to create a new home. They will probably head off, a lot of them won't stay in Hobart, but they'll get their permanency here and then then they will go to parts of Australia. We'd love to see this as a sending, you know, help them to experience Christ and then taking Him with them where they go.
So to do this we’ll, you know we're looking at getting a minibus help people moving house. Accommodation is a big issue in Hobart. Prices have doubled in three years for our houses. So how do we help these guys find low-cost housing and be able to find their feet in that way as well? Yeah, so really, really trying to work on this community initiative. Do you want to share anything in the next few years?
Oh, yeah. I did not really share about our mission work locally here in Hobart. We are praying to support our community for the transportation. In here it's very hard for the people to move house or to go to the airport somewhere because some people are struggling financial. So we are praying that through the Driver Mentor program we support, so we are praying and planning and our vision is to start more support to our community.
And to help our community people, like people here, those from migrant, for the study, they are coming and they are calling a parent here and they feel lonely. I met two or three old people, they are those that are not from the refugee, they are coming to see their children. And the parents are living all the time at home, the children are going to walk and they feel lonely. So we are planning to help support our people, the old people, once a week to take the old people somewhere - the park and somewhere, shopping centre and somewhere, like a tourist tour. So that's our planning.
And for globally, we already started to support two pastors in Nepal, in western part of Nepal. And we support our vulnerable children, they are from that tribal people. And their parents, they're living, they're still in the forest. One tribe, tribal people they live in the forest, and they don't want to live in city. They don't want to study and they're not qualified. So there are only few I think 40 to 50,000 people, they’re tribal people and from tribal people, children we are supporting now.
So my prayer and my reason is to start church plant in the different state in Nepal, there's 75 state. Most of the Pastors are doing as a volunteer work, even my father-in-law is a Pastor and established nearly 10 to 15 churches in the western part of the Nepal, what he is doing is as a volunteer work. So without salary. So sometimes it's very hard. My prayer is to support the Pastor because they're doing is as a volunteer war. That's my prayer and plan.
And the other spot that we're noticing, is we really want to support our Nepalese community with their second generation migrants. So they maybe native born in Australia, but still strong part of the Nepalese culture, how do we help their kids grow in the Christian faith. Because their kids will grow and actually start to define themselves as Australian and try and be as ‘normal Australian’ as possible. Because they're at school, and they're interacting with that. And what's fairly normal with second generation migrants is that they're associating their parents Christianity, their foreign Christianity, with their foreign nationalities. So their saying, “well I am not that, I'm not that culture”.
And so they're actually turning away, both from Nepalese culture, but also from Christianity, which they've grown up in, to try and become ‘normal’ in our society. And so how do we actually integrate these kids to see Christianity is not just their parent’s religion, but it belongs to different cultures across the globe. And they can find their way to becoming Australian and stick with Christ. So that's also a mission field that will be coming up over here.
Yeah, that's really wise reflections from both of you and I hear those same things from Languages Other Than English congregations. LOTE is kind of the term used here in Victoria. And that’s really wise. And I'm particularly sensitive Paul Rai, it was beautiful you talking about the older members of the community who obviously come from quite integrated communal settings, and then find themselves sitting home all day alone. And how, yeah, just how horrible that must be. And that that's, again, an opportunity for welcome and care. Mobilizing our church resources, basically people who might have an opportunity to sit with people and run errands with them. That's beautiful. That's all really powerful stuff.
And as you look forward, you know, that’s kind of the immediate and short term - but in terms of the future of mission, both of you have experienced mission, you've worked in those spaces. What are things going to be like in 30 and 40 and 50 years?
Well that’s a big question! You'll have much more qualified people to answer that question!
I think in Australia, we can no longer make assumptions that people want Christian values as the bedrock of our society, so that I think, that you know, possibly a third of our society will believe strongly that we will be better off without religion. So this, the secular population, will grow. I also think that we will have nations becoming more, defining themselves by their religion, their politics and closing their hatches down in the future. So how do we actually work in that environment? I’ve got more questions than answers.
But I think one of the big things that we need to work on is that we don't do evangelism as a trades person. As a salesman. We don't sell our, we don't sell our services, so that we can have then have the right to preach at them. We don't trade goodness for hearing the Gospel. And I think that becomes more important, the more we get into our secular society. We absolutely should love and serve those around us relevantly, we should be finding ways to really bring resource and need and mash them together in mutually beneficial ways. But we don't have the right to preach Christianity. But we do have the calling to love and serve.
And I think as from my experience - we planted a church in the UK, and did youth and kids work for 18 years there - and as we love and serve with no strings attached, the love of Christ, the love of Christ really shines brightly in that environment. We lift the spiritual climate, it's okay to talk about God, you're not going to get pounced on. And people can actually, there's a freedom in conversation that comes as we've earnt their trust and been worthy of their trust. Yeah, so for me, if I was to step back into my community in the UK, in Oxfordshire, it's okay for me to just ask people how they're going with God, or what do they think of God stuff and it's normal conversation. But it's taken a long time to enter their lives to a point where they actually felt they wanted to hear what we would say. That doesn't really answer your question!
No that’s really well said. Well it does. I am really grateful for both of you, what both of you shared. One, I heard you say that the future is not like the past. That the world has perhaps gone from a place where mission witness comes from a place of power, or authority, maybe given through institutions. In the future, in a way we are returning to a minority voice, to an edge voice, that perhaps we should be afraid of because that’s been a good part of Christian history and the Gospel has flourished in those places.
But from that position of marginality or from the edge, we don’t have the authority to speak down to people, and we don’t also, perhaps we shouldn’t say to people, my friendship with you has a price to pay, and it’s your conversion. No the price has already been paid. God’s love is already poured out on the planet, so there is no exchange, there is no transaction here. Love for the world is just who I am because I am following that first century Palestinian man named Jesus. And that’s quite freeing!
I’m really encouraged by both of you and for your vision for mission. And part of my answer to the question of what is the future of mission… is very much what you are all doing there. Across cultures, across difference. Refusing to allow difference to build walls but actually continuing to do the work to meet together in services of God’s Kingdom coming in Earth as it is in Heaven. So thank you so much for that.
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