Ivanhoe community cherished at farewell service
Ivanhoe community cherished at farewell service
26 February 2018
Residents and friends of The Salvation Army’s No.47 Ivanhoe Place mission in the Sydney suburb of Ryde have gathered to remember the 17-year ministry and its widespread impact.
The Salvation Army has been active in Ivanhoe Estate, the largest area of public housing in the city, since 2001 when it was given permission to lease a townhouse (number 47) from Housing NSW with the express purpose of operating a live-in mission.
Last year the NSW Government announced plans to transform the eight hectares of prime real estate into thousands of apartments, which means the existing 259 dwellings, including Number 47 Ivanhoe Place, will soon be demolished.
The founding residents, Envoys Craig and Danni Stephens, lived at 47 Ivanhoe Place for 12 years, opening up their home in love and running various programs like a coffee morning and homework club.
“The most potent moment I experienced at Ivanhoe was one afternoon when I walked out the front door and every person I saw out on the street that day was saved by Jesus,” remembered Envoy Craig. “The young people playing street basketball, the lady watering her plants on the balcony opposite, the people walking the dog, the family driving up the street in their car, those sitting on the bench, everyone I saw was saved.
“The sense of excitement at ‘His Kingdom Come’ was breathtaking.”
One of those impacted by the ministry of Ivanhoe Place was Jason Poutawa, who with his wife now heads up The Salvation Army’s work in Moree, north-west NSW.
“From the age of 10, I grew up in Ivanhoe Place with my mum and brother. Mum was working when she could and doing as much as she could to provide for us,” he said. “It changed my life forever. People from The Salvation Army guided me through the toughest years of my life and loved me as their own brother or son. Craig and Danni Stephens inspired me to live out my God-given potential.
His, and other stories of life-change were a key part of a celebration service on Sunday 25 February, held at Ryde Salvation Army. A luncheon was held before past and present residents and Ivanhoe Place friends visited the home for the last time.
Nathan Moulds, who lived at 47 Ivanhoe Place with his family for the last five years and ran the mission, says the experience has forever changed him.
“I have learnt that to truly build community you have to love people, just as they are, and right where they are, and from that place of generosity, authenticity and radical hospitality is where Jesus does amazing things.”
He believes the longevity of 17 years of ministry with only one change of leadership was key to the level of impact Number 47 had. Over the years the community experienced all aspects of life together –births, deaths and marriages, so to speak!
Envoy Craig remembers the time he went flying over the handlebars of his mountain bike while riding at the local skate park, trying to fit in with the local youth (“seriously uncool,” he remembered!). He also remembered his thrill when the Ivanhoe Place worshipping community outgrew the local hall they were meeting in, and a new tradition started of meeting in the local park every Sunday – rain, hail or shine every. (His successor, Nathan, recalled a Sunday that the wind was so strong it picked up the marquee and blew it 15 metres away!)
“The saddest moments have always been having to say goodbye to beloved neighbours and volunteers when they died, especially suddenly and unexpectedly,” said Nathan. “You experience your own pain and sorrow, but that is magnified by the outpouring of grief from the rest of the community and neighbourhood. Despite this, though, these were some of the most powerful times, being able to call people to hope, and to be comforted by Christ.”
Team Leader at Ryde Salvos, Greigory Whittaker, says the corps is a richer, healthier Jesus community because of its connections with the community of Ivanhoe Place.
“We continue to now explore new opportunities for mission as we plant several new life-giving Communities of Hope and Kingdom Tables,” he said. “The closure of one ministry opportunity has forced us to develop new places and modalities of engagement. We are excited about the future as we seek to create intimacy with local churches and to understand how we can pastor the city together to flourish in the Kingdom of God.”
Nathan, who organised the farewell event, said a quote by German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, sums up the essence of the Ivanhoe Place mission for him: “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”