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Carissa on a mobile mission to reach youth and families

Carissa on a mobile mission to reach youth and families

Carissa on a mobile mission to reach youth and families

3 June 2020

Carissa Ainsworth (right), the Greater West Youth, Children and Families Ministry Coordinator, responded to a prompting from God and hit the streets during the COVID-19 restrictions to be a listening ear at the front door or front gate of families that she usually only sees during corps-based programs.

By Lauren Martin*

Carissa’s car has had a good workout during the COVID restrictions as the youth and children’s pastor zipped around the western suburbs of Sydney delivering gift packs and being a listening ear to youth and families.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Carissa Ainsworth’s role as a youth and kids pastor completely changed. The extroverted soldier from Greater West Corps in Sydney suddenly found herself working from home, without the tribe of kids and young people she was usually surrounded with while running different corps-based programs and activities.  

“It was extremely strange, a weird feeling, not being in my usual place – up the front leading programs and events,” she said. But Carissa wasn’t going to let the coronavirus restrictions impact her mission to share Jesus with her community. She started asking questions like, ‘How do we stay connected to families in our community?’ ‘How do we continue to show the love of Jesus and make a difference when feelings of panic and fear are weighing so heavily on so many people at the moment?’

“I thought the answer was to give out ‘Stay Connected’ gift packs,” she said. “So, I made up bags for our Jitterbugs Playgroup families, for our Belong Youth Groupers and also for kids that were a part of our children’s ministry programs.”

As she set out to drop off the bags to families, Carissa soon discovered that the need was far greater than just handing over a gift pack. “I needed to stop and be available and spend time listening and having conversations on the front doorstep of so many houses. Quite often, I would spend up to half an hour at a time with people. In some cases, I was able to refer people to other Salvation Army services and offer a prayer, but most of the time it was to simply lend a listening ear.”

This realisation of how God wanted her to minister to the families within her sphere of influence led to Carissa visiting about 100 families every three weeks during the pandemic. She has gotten to know the parents of her youth group and playgroup children on a much deeper level, hearing their stories and learning more about their struggles and joys.

“There have been tears as people have grieved family members who have passed away during this time, lost pregnancies and just the lack of connection where anxiety has taken over,” she said. “In a lot of cases, I was the first person that person had spoken to in weeks. Giving reassurance and comfort and having the opportunity to share that they are not alone and that God is there to comfort them and give them peace, has been a real privilege.”

While delivering care packs to members of her youth group, Carissa spent time listening and going deeper with young people like Madison.

Carissa said while ministering to others, God also ministered to her. “Normally I am a very organised and task-driven worker. Earlier this year, I prayed that I would have more opportunity to build relationships and get to know those in our community who attend our ministries. I never would have imagined that a global pandemic would allow God to make this happen!”

Carissa doesn’t know what her ministry will look like once restrictions are fully lifted, but she knows that the relationships formed during her mobile ministry will remain and continue to be strengthened.

I thank God that he is using me in this way.”

* Compiled by Lauren Martin, with written assistance from Carissa

Comments

  1. Carissa and Aneita were wonderful and supportive during the Covid 19 lock down. We, as a family looked forward to the visits and the bags of goodies. It made me happy and refreshed to feel connected and with someone just within that 15-30 minute conversation. My 2 youngest children, Chloe and DJ couldnt wait to get their suprise bags and absolutely adored the cool gifts they got. My eldest daughter loved the catch ups with Carissa and Aneita as she has missed being able to send time with them and her other friends at Salvos programs. This was a great program executed by a great leader. Thankyou, so very much.

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