Sometimes small churches get overlooked, as if the number of people in a church is the all‑important measure. But even small churches’ reach and impact can be multiplied exponentially when they work in partnership with others. ‘The Village’ at Carterton Baptist Church is an example of this. Wayne Poutoa, Chris Dugdale and Andrew Procuta share the story of that project and the partnership behind it.

Wayne & Jennifer Poutoa—‘The visionaries’

Our first Sunday service as co-pastors at Carterton Baptist Church had just ended. After everyone had left for home, I locked the church doors. Sitting alone in the middle of the church, I started crying out to the Lord: “You’ve got to help me because I don’t know what I am doing here. I don’t know what to do.”

We had come from a big church and all that I knew to do was what I had been taught, which was working with young people. But Carterton Baptist had a tiny congregation of mainly elderly members.

What I have since learnt is that smaller churches can make an impact. It’s about not being entrenched in a mindset that says, “We are small; we can’t do great things.” We serve a God who is the Most High. If a boy’s lunch can feed 5,000 (John 6:9-13) then we should never believe that as a small church our contribution is insignificant. God makes it very significant.

The Village

We were called to Carterton Baptist in October 2016, after serving at Hosanna Porirua. Our work in Porirua had been community‑focused, mostly with youth gangs and whānau at risk. I was running Youth Guarantee programmes and opening satellites from New Plymouth to Invercargill.

Our life was full-on and great. And then God said, “Come to Carterton.” And I thought, “You’re kidding.” But we came.

Working with youth and whānau is always about addressing practical needs first. We became aware that there are a number of ‘at-risk’ youth in Carterton—specifically young people who are unable to live with their families and who are struggling to adjust to the norms of local society.

‘The Village’ is our vision to meet that need. Our plan is to house young people on church property, in individual accommodation. More than just short‑term housing, The Village is designed as a three-year mentoring programme with the goal of building young people’s self-esteem, growing their problem-solving skills, and developing a sense of responsibility that comes from living in a caring community.

There is a waiting list of more than 40 for this kind of programme, most of them referred by agencies, so the need for getting this up and running is great. However we lacked the finance to get the project off the ground and for this and other reasons, our plans stalled.

Warwick & Chris Dugdale—‘The resourcers’

Warwick and I are members of Maungaraki Baptist Church, a small church in Lower Hutt. In 2011 he and I established the Dugdale Charitable Trust to build houses as fundraisers. This led on to investing in small commercial properties to provide an annual surplus that could be donated.

We have supported charities such as Ronald McDonald House, Hospice and Life Flight, as well as projects where we could give of our time as well as funds. Our slogan is ‘Working Together to Make a Difference’. We are currently involved with building a school in Uganda and helping establish a new YWAM base in Nelson. We believe that God has led us to these projects, often through a series of ‘God-incidences’.

This was how we came across ‘The Village’ project in Carterton. Through friends, we heard of a pastor who was planning to build a container village and were immediately curious to find out more. It was several months before we met Wayne but then God’s timing was perfect.

Our first meeting with Wayne and Jennifer was brief. A few weeks went by and then Wayne and Jennifer felt prompted by God to come and see us and explain everything that had happened up to that time. Wayne felt his vision for The Village was at an all-time low as they had no funds. But he knew if God wanted it to go ahead, then God would have a solution.

Warwick and I felt we were meant to help. I’m a ‘let’s just do it’ kind of a person. I don’t have to have every little detail worked out before stepping out in faith. Wayne thinks in the same way and so after that meeting the four of us felt that ‘The Village’ would definitely go ahead.

Wayne and Jennifer are absolutely the right people to mentor those in need of help; their love for young people just burns in them but they lacked any building experience. I have a passion for building projects, especially where it brings people and resources together to turn a vision into a reality.

I did some research on Trade Me and came across cabins being built by Andrew Procuta and his company called The Village Cottage. Andrew is a Christian and this along with the name of his company provided confirmation we were on the right track!

We paid for the first cabin and then others stepped forward. I approached businesses for supply or discounts for things like insulation, painting, carpet tiles and installation, smoke alarms and beds. Four of the six cabins are now paid for and fundraising is continuing through a Givealittle page called ‘The Village at Carterton Baptist Church’ or by emailing me.

Andrew and Sharon Procuta—‘The builders’

I have been building these cabins for about five years and within that time have built almost 100 of them. Because they are 10mor smaller, they don’t require council consent. They are typically used as a small bedroom or as baches, but also as artist studios, music rooms, home offices, massage rooms, prayer rooms and hairdressing salons.

We are doing five cabins with The Village—six including the supervisor’s cabin. You kind of think, “Well is it worth it? There is such a big demand and we can only do five.” And then I remembered how Jesus talked about leaving the 99 to get the one.

I suppose that’s what it is about. If you can help five kids out of the 40 that are waiting, then that’s five who will have an opportunity to change their lives. And then from there it will just keep going. So we could see the benefit of it, not just from a Christian point of view, but from helping the young people out.

The whole way things have come together has been pretty cool. We are all quite different, from different walks of life, but we are joined together by our faith.

The Village programme at a glance

The first year—‘baggage handling’—focuses on working through the physical and emotional damage the young people have experienced. Issues of alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence or sexual abuse are handled, with the help of outside agencies.

In the second year, young people ‘set a destination’, looking at what moving forward looks like for them, and setting short-, mid- and long‑term goals. Each young person produces an individual life plan developed with the help of a life coach. During this time all residents are involved in education, courses or employment. They are also involved in community initiatives, as a way of contributing and giving back.

During the third and final year—‘the departure lounge’—the young people firm up their goals and start to take steps to full independence and self-determination. There is an emphasis on interaction with whānau members with whom they feel safe to share their victories as part of this initiative.

For more information about The Village, contact Wayne and Jennifer Poutoa at Carterton Baptist Ph 06 379 8675 or email them.

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