Alastair McLay was recently farewelled as CAP Centre Manager at Northcote Baptist Church after 10 years in the role. It had been a job that brought together his life’s work within the wider Baptist church and his personal vision for the local church. 

When Christians Against Poverty (CAP) arrived in New Zealand in 2007, Alastair and others in the Northcote Baptist leadership team jumped at the opportunity they saw to bridge the gap between church and community. 

Consequently, Northcote was one of the first CAP Centres to be established in New Zealand. Today it is a thriving organisation employing three part-time staff and scores of church volunteers. Hundreds of homes have been visited and lives transformed, not only by the alleviation of debt and poverty, but also in many cases by a relationship with God. 

As CAP Centre manager, Alastair focused his energies equally between home visits, promoting CAP involvement in the church, and establishing Monday Muffins. The latter is a kind of halfway house support group where clients can receive unconditional support and a sense of belonging while growing their relationship with God. 

Alastair credits his lower socio-economic upbringing and a disability as a result of contracting polio at the age of two as two key formative experiences. They motivated him to develop keen financial acumen and to use his skills to help the underprivileged in whatever way he could. 

Earlier this year, Alastair decided it was time to step back from the management role. At his farewell, Northcote Baptist Community Trust chairperson Reg Lewthwaite said, “When people see you hobbling towards their broken homes on your broken legs, you quickly establish a rapport with them. They soon get to know you are on their side. They open up their innermost secrets and ask you to help.”

Alastair is totally convinced of the vital link between social concern and evangelism. Of the hundreds of homes he visited as CAP Centre manager, almost none refused the offer of prayer, and all appreciated the shared testimony of those who visited with him.  

“I am also convinced that there is nothing special in our approach or attitude that results in God touching our clients with his unfailing love. It is not some special gift of evangelism but a simple act of putting ourselves in the hand of God and then putting ourselves out there where people are hurting and encouraging them to come to him (Jesus) and to join with us,” says Alastair. 

Contributor: Janice Norton