This Bible Education Centre in Morisset (Australia) has been open to the public since the 18th February and has been a great success! It is located on the second floor of the main shopping centre with a balcony view overlooking the car park. Although we don’t get passing traffic, plenty of people come up to check us out and the hairdressers next door always put in a good word for us.
There are different aspects to the BEC, there is the ‘subtle’ preaching of the cafe and the bookstore and the more obvious preaching of the seminars and one-on-one discussion. The cafe is attracting a variety of customers; those who just come for the good coffee, nice cakes and the friendly atmosphere and nothing else, those who ask who we are and what makes us different, and those who want an argument! All three are very broad categories but are examples of the potential when it comes to preaching the gospel. Those with hold their own beliefs provide hours (!) of discussion, in particular a gentleman from the Revivalist church who is adamant that I will receive the Holy Spirit gift of tongues if he prays over me (he did and I didn’t), and a couple of elderly ladies from the Seventh Day Adventists who have been trying to persuade me of the literal existence of Satan by telling me that a Satanist cult in America have been able to photographs him! Although the discussions can get quite intense they are carried out with Christian respect, by both sides and we always leave on good terms. If nothing else, it has been good to be challenged on the basics of our belief and to have to research some solid arguments against us.
As well as this we have had lots of people taking our leaflets (especially our ‘Who Are the Christadelphians?’ booklet) and wanting to find out about The Christadelphians. We have had two visitors to Bible Class, one of whom is a Malaysian lady who has started to have lessons with a couple from the Watagans Ecclesia. At our first contact with her she had stated that she was going back to Malaysia to get baptised by any Christian church but after a couple of lessons and other discussions with us she has decided that her knowledge is lacking and that she wants to ‘become Christian’ and not just say she is Christian. On her return from Malaysia she will dedicate her time to learning more, getting lessons and then she really wants to get baptised. Very exciting stuff for a relatively conservative ecclesia who were unsure as to whether this project was a good idea! A funny wake up call was when she brought her unruly child to Bible Class. He promptly ran to the play area and started making a racket. His mother had obviously grown oblivious to such noise and didn’t pay much attention. It just so happened that the nearest seat to the play area was occupied by an elderly brother! Giggles were stifled as the child proceeded to throw every piece of chalk he could find at him! Thankfully, a helpful sister could see the potential danger to the child as the brother was about to mete out revenge by throwing a piece back, and managed to entertain for the rest of the talk.
We are starting our first Seminar series on the 26th April, which will be a good early indicator to how much of an impact we have made with the general populace and whether we need to shake things up a little.
As for those who just come in for a coffee and don’t seem interested, we never know what seeds have been planted and God’s timing for His Word to sprout in their hearts. At the very least, they are paying for the coffee! We are running the BEC with the understanding that its success may not be immediate, but that each person needs different catalysts in their lives, or to be affected by the events of the last days, to start having questions about their lives. Our job will have been successful if those people remember The Christadelphians at the Eden Cafe as the ones who will be able to help.
We have also been pleasantly surprised by the amount of books we have sold. Our shelves are made up of a mixture of mainstream Christian and Christadelphian authors, and children’s books. The area we are in is strongly made up of Seventh Day Adventists and, whilst they avoid the coffee, they enjoy using us as a resource. There are also quite a few from the local Salvation Army who enjoy the range we have on offer. It is always exciting when a Christadelphian book is sold!
So far, we have had approx. 800 people through the doors in the 8 or so weeks we’ve been open, including regulars. We have steadily increasing in business and our record has been 37 people in one day (admittedly bolstered by a nearby Bible School) which was set April 11th. On average we get approx 20 people a day, for a cafe at the end of its second month of trading, that’s not bad. For a Christadelphian preaching project, that’s amazing!
Next week, we start our Vacation Care project where Hannah, our trained teacher volunteer, will provide a Bible Story, crafts and games for the kids for free while the parents relax with a coffee for an hour and a half. The week after we will also start our weekly Mother’s Group again aimed at parents with young children. Other projects in the planning stages are a Fitness Group, piano lessons, after school tutoring and separate boy’s & girl’s classes.
The BEC has risen over and above the expectations of all those involved in the project from the Committee to the backing ecclesia of Watagans. It has been a really positive thing for the Ecclesia to dedicate it’s time and resources to and it has been a real pleasure for me to have been (and, God willing, carry on being) the full time volunteer there.