It's all about people at Blacktown Corps
It's all about people at Blacktown Corps
People, not program, is the mission ethos at Blacktown Corps.
“If someone’s already doing something, why spend the resources trying to do our own thing when we can say ‘how can we help? How can we come alongside you, how can we encourage you?’” says Corps Officer, Captain Bill Geracia.
Captains Bill and Susanne Geracia have been corps officers at Blacktown for the past five years. They and their two children were transferred from the American East Territory. (Bill is American and Susanne is Australian, her parents living in Sydney.)
Captain Bill laughs as he remembers their first few months of his ministry at the corps. “I’d be preaching and they [the corps folk] would translate my sermons. I would give an illustration about cookies and someone would yell out, ‘biscuits’ or I would say, ‘mall’ and they would yell, ‘shopping centre’, it was great!
“Any time cultures can come together we are just better for it,” he says. With Blacktown the fastest growing local government area in NSW, and so many people new arrivals from different cultures, the corps has focused on reaching out into their community over the past five years of the Geracia’s appointment.
Blacktown Corps could be described as a fairly “traditional” corps in a Salvation Army sense, which Captain Bill says is its strength: “Our more traditional soldiers know the mission and they know it back-to-front! They desire to see the Army in the community, not stuck in a building, that’s the desire of their hearts. Now some of them are getting a little bit older and that becomes a little bit more difficult for them to get out there, but what we are seeing is that they’re passing on that mission that they know back-to-front on to the young adults.”
The corps’ young adults group is passionate about mission and are making connections in the local community. Many attend a regular Thursday night youth event run by a different organisation to make friends and walk alongside others. Wanting to be involved in serving the city’s homeless, the young adults discovered that there was already a great ministry already being run, so they contacted the organisers and said, “We’d like to help, what do you need?”
The result is that two Friday nights a quarter the young adults group sets aside their evening to cook meals, package and freeze them so that they can be given out by the homeless ministry. “It’s about Kingdom thinking,” says Captain Bill. “If people come in on a Sunday, fantastic. But if they don’t, and we were able to have a conversation with them [about Jesus] then that’s great too, that’s fantastic as well.”
The corps hosts two other faith communities that meet during the week, a Filipino Seventh Day Adventist Church and an Indian Christian Fellowship. Individual members of the corps attend both groups, to build relationships and connections, and the corps is planning an inter-church event.
“We’re encouraging our corps members to get involved and to be a part of that,” says Captain Susanne. “Change can sometimes be difficult and that can be hard but people are really embracing it and doing what they can.”
The couple liken their ministry approach to Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus with the two men. “All Jesus did was walk with those two foreigners and then we ate with them,” says Captain Bill. “And that’s our ministry focus, that’s our mission mind, is just to walk with people (and to share some good food!)”
This approach has seen the corps grow organically with new families from different cultures attending and making Blacktown Corps home.
“We’ve seen an increase of different cultures attending the corps – we love that – it is what we see will be a representation of heaven,” says Captain Bill.
After five years at Blacktown, Captains Bill and Susanne, with their children, Elaina and Crosby, will transfer to Tuggerah Lakes on the NSW Central Coast in January 2018. “We’ve really enjoyed our time here in Blacktown and it is with sadness that we leave because we have met some amazing people and our kids are sad to leave. But we do feel very blessed and looking forward to the next part of our lives,” says Captain Susanne.
Please pray for Captains Bill and Susanne Geracia as they await a decision about Captain Bill’s visa to stay in Australia and fulfil God’s calling to them on the NSW Central Coast.