Doing life different like you believe that Jesus really cares

Carey graduates Francois and Nicole don’t live in the nicest part of Auckland. In fact this young couple have intentionally chosen to buy their house and live in Randwick Park, one of the lowest socio-economic areas in South Auckland. But why? “We’re really passionate about living life differently, away from the norm.”

Both have recently completed their Pastoral Leadership training at Carey but rather than getting traditional pastoral jobs their passion lies in community led transformation and intentional living. “How do you take a place like a suburb and transform it so that Jesus is seen more?; that’s what fuels us. It’s not just a job but it encroaches every single part of your life.”

Their love for living life differently was sparked by their intentional living placement in Mangere while studying at Carey, and then a conversation with Dave Tims at UNOH who also chooses to reside in Randwick Park with his wife Denise. Together this team are slowly changing the narrative of their neighbourhood.

So what does intentional living look like? “It’s simple things like buying our milk from the local dairy. We intentionally try and engage in opportunities to talk about what we’re doing in the neighbourhood. We visit our neighbours. We know everyone on this street! Our home is open and every day we have youth coming over after school. We run youth clubs. The park has been transformed and people go there all the time.”

Francois also manages Stepping Stones, a lawn mowing and grounds keeping business. The social enterprise employs people from the neighbourhood giving them much needed employment.

“We never want to work 40 hour weeks because we want to have time to do other things in our neighbourhood. There’s no transformation without relationship, and relationship building takes time.”

But this is just the beginning. The team have audacious dreams of building complexes where people can get into the housing market, but also design the houses where the architecture promotes well-being, promotes community, and incorporates ti kanga Māori in the design.

The other part of the vision is to have people like them come and ‘catch the vibe’ and actually shape their life like they believe that Jesus really cares.

Nicole says “once you realise that things don’t have to be a certain way you can start to question other things. We just want to allow other people to start to think critically ‘do I want this life because that’s what I always expected I’d have?’ because my parents have had that or people have had that or the world tells me that’s the way  to do it: get a degree, get a job, get a better job, buy a house, get married, have kids. That’s the norm.”

“What if it looked different. What if buying a house wasn’t in the rich neighbourhood and you were stoked about that? It wasn’t just because. What if having kids looked different?”

“One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is servant leadership”, says Francois. “Once you take that step and come live here you find those misconceptions just totally break away as Jesus shows you ‘I’ve put you here. They’re going to teach you love.’ Come and join me in what I’m doing! It’s outrageous and has got me fired up!”

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Even Jesus didn’t try to transform the world from outside. In the incarnation he entered into our human life so that we could see and experience the reality of his kingdom. By gifting and training, Francois and Nicole could function very well in more conventional ministry roles. They have chosen instead to follow Jesus within a community that they have come to love, entering fully into its life so that they can work and pray as part of that community for God’s kingdom to come in justice and peace. At Carey we are very grateful for Mangere Baptist Church, UNOH and others who are helping to form pastoral leaders and youth specialists like Francois and Nicole for incarnational life and ministry beyond the walls of the church.

Dr George Wieland  (Director of the Carey Centre for Mission Research and Training)