by Emily Ferguson
Violet Waters prayed for 50 years for an indigenous youth ministry in the small town of Dareton on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. One year before she died, at the age of 99, she met Churches of Christ pastor John Saulo, who proceeded to establish a local youth centre. All they needed was someone to continue to run it.
Not long after that, John heard a Community Services graduation speech at the local sporting club. The speaker was Turkish-born, German-raised, Muslim-background Christian, Ilker Deli. John waited at the bottom of the steps as Ilker completed his speech, congratulated him on his graduation and invited him to visit the youth centre.
Ilker (pictured right) has now been running the youth centre for almost six years, providing a safe space for three hours every weekday afternoon for local kids to have fun and be nurtured.
“It’s been wonderful,” he reflects. “This place has become a vital place for our town because there’s nowhere for [the young people] to go if we’re not here. We do 7-17 age-wise, and when they finish school and come down here, it’s sort of like they’ve come home.
“We do lots of arts and crafts, we’ve got gardening, we have cooking, we do baking, we’ve got lots of video games, we’ve got pool, we’ve got table tennis, we’ve got darts, and we’ve got a wonderful lady called Chris Plumridge who’s been with us since day one who teaches them how to sew.
“But our biggest draw card is we cook every night. I try to instil that it’s very important to eat right and look after your body so you can live as long as possible. Whether they take that road or not is up to them; I never force them – I’m just trying to show them that there are better ways of doing things. And some of them are taking notice. I know I’m not going to change the world, but I feel like I’m making a difference.”
Over the past six years, God has brought Christian brothers and sisters alongside the youth centre to support its work.
Some examples are the Christian couple in Melbourne who donated the money to buy the building and then fit it out with a false ceiling and air conditioning, Southern Illawarra Church of Christ and NewDay Church of Christ who have visited and partnered in their ministry, and GMP (Global Mission Partners) Extend who are making it possible for donations to now be fully tax deductible.
Nick Wight, who oversees GMP’s indigenous ministry, shared that the centre is now moving towards financial independence as a result of changes within both GMP and the local church which started the centre. While this excitingly means being more easily positioned to apply for government grants, it also means the centre will need to do more of its own fundraising.
“The really presenting need for financial support is a second worker for the centre,” Nick said. “The ideal is an indigenous female support worker – that would really help.”
“The bottom line of financial support is that it would ensure we can set firm foundations to become a viable operating, self-sufficient youth centre. My ultimate goal is that I want one of these kids to take over from me one day to operate this place – that would be absolutely wonderful.”
To support the Dareton Youth and Community Centre, you can make a tax-deductible donation via GMP Extend HERE.
Read more stories from churches of Christ in NSW & ACT HERE