Sydney Refugee Team
God has been powerfully at work from the very beginning of the Sydney Refugee Team. We spoke to some of the people who have played a key role in this ministry since it began:
Former Directors of International Teams Australia, Andrew and Janice Collins, reflect on how the ministry came about 20 years ago
“In 1995 we received an email from an International Teams missionary in Austria. A young girl who had been in her Kid’s Club refugee ministry in Austria had written her a letter. The girl had written to say how much she missed the Kids Club,” says Janice.
“It turned out that the girl and her family had been received into Australia as part of the refugee program. So we followed up the girl, which lead to our first connection with Bosnian refugees in Australia. From that point on Andrew knew there was an opportunity for refugee ministry in Australia, and he began the search for an experienced worker who could pioneer the Sydney Refugee Team.”
“Canadian, Judy Dickinson arrived in May 1996 to start the team, and others joined her in 1998.”
Reuben and Sarah Singleton joined the team after the Olympics in November 2000
“We had heard that Villawood Detention Centre was where many asylum seekers were being sent. We made contact with a local church group that was running a Sunday service there and joined them for our first ever visit to a detention centre,” explains Sarah.
“We worked with a range of local churches of various denominations, who already had some refugees or asylum seekers in their church. We also created a volunteer training program. It was fantastic to see how the relationships grew and how God opened the right doors at the right time for our team.
“One moment I will never forget is standing with a refugee family on Mona Vale beach shortly after they had been released from Villawood Detention Centre. To walk along the sand and wander in and out of the waves, to see the horizon go on forever – these were all things that this family were not sure if they would ever get to see or experience,” recalls Sarah.
Sally and Brendan Jones led the team from 2010 to 2013
“The most encouraging thing is to see so many more churches actively engaging with refugees and asylum seekers now – in the early days it was harder for us as a team to get them involved,” adds Sally Jones. “I hope it continues to grow.”
Numerous lives have been touched through the passionate leaders and volunteers who served so willingly and practically; whether it was organising social activities, advocating, finding accommodation and furniture, helping people understand the processes in Australia or ensuring they could get to important appointments. In doing this they were able to demonstrate and share the message of God’s unconditional love for them.
God provides and came through for the team time and time again. His hand was in even the tiniest details, which began with a young girl’s letter.