Church@onetwosix is an experimental church plant supported by Baptists at the site of the former Pt Chevalier Baptist Church at 126 Pt Chevalier Road in Auckland. It has been going for almost two years.

The church is intentionally patterned on Alpha. Meeting Sunday evenings, the service integrates a potluck dinner with an informal family gathering that includes worship, prayer, gospel-sharing and group discussion time. The church’s tagline is ‘Come Hungry’ and it offers both food for the body and food for the soul. Its mission is primarily to the people of Pt Chevalier and perhaps half the regular attenders live within walking distance of the church.

One person this new church has touched is Craig Schaumkell.

Craig had a hip operation just over a year ago, which spelt trouble for his career as a scaffolder. His two subsequent scaffolding jobs didn’t work out because he wasn’t able to ‘get into top gear’, as Craig puts it.

Finding himself on the street on the benefit, he started to congregate with the local homeless people. One of these was Jayson, who attended church@onetwosix.

Craig recalls his first encounter with the church. "On the day it was getting to be late afternoon and I was very hungry. Jayson suggested we go to the church for a meal.

"The first thing I noticed was that there were people of all ages there and it was very welcoming.

"Sitting down with Jayson, some of the first people I met were Branson and Lois from Selwyn Village, the local retirement home. They asked me about my story and almost immediately prayed for me. I was deeply touched by this and became emotional – I found myself weeping. Looking to my left I saw Jayson looking at me. I said, 'Jayson, did you see that?' He was unfazed and continued eating his food. He said, 'That happens to me all the time Craig.'

"I was inspired by the experience. I began attending regularly and helped clear up and wash the dishes. After a quick excursion outside to have a cigarette with Jayson we would go back inside for the worship, sharing and message time in the auditorium.

"I found the services moving. They were relaxed and friendly and felt like family meeting together. The three guys who lead - Murray, Bruce and Howard – always shared the gospel. I was impressed by how it was run – the openness, trust and the interest shown in me by the leaders as well as their wives and family and all the friendly people who go there, regardless of age or ethnicity. This allowed me to be myself and to freely talk, regardless of whether it was quite on point or not!

"Still out of work, I continued to meet more of the less-fortunate people living in the Pt Chevalier area. I spent time with them and heard their stories. I feel great empathy for them. Having finally called it quits on my vocation I was keen to somehow be used as an instrument by God to help these people. I approached the church to ask if they had an opportunity for me to work for God alongside them. At the time I would have done it for nothing."

Church leader Bruce Edmonds shared a vision with Craig for how it might be possible to help the unemployed men in Craig’s orbit get back into work whilst blessing the community of Pt Chevalier at the same time. By partnering with WINZ and forming a work unit backed by daily mentoring and church family support it would be possible to turn lives around at every level. Craig with his past experience was the ideal candidate to manage this work unit. He agreed to this role and OneTwoSix Crew was born! The crew do work such as lawn mowing, house washing, site clearance and general cleaning.

Craig has also since undergone training by Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to run a Job Club in Pt Chevalier.

God has touched Craig’s life and he was one of three to be baptised by church@onetwosix in March. "This has been a long time coming," says Craig. "I have always had a sense that God was there but I have come to a time in my life when I want Him to direct and guide my steps and to use me to help grow his kingdom."

Story: Howard Webb

Howard is a trustee of Love Your Neighbour Trust, an interdenominational registered charitable trust whose mission is to help local churches engage their community for the sake of the gospel.

This story originally appeared on Love Your Neighbour's website and is used with permission.

Photo: Supplied (Craig on left at his baptism, with Bruce Edmonds)

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