We thank the Lord God Almighty for giving us the Multicultural Response Ministry and sustaining us in the past eight years.

The multicultural event, Evening of Praise and Worship, on 20th April 2013 marked the launching of the ministry.

Looking back, we had started the Multicultural Response Ministry weeks before by establishing the website and the first blog post on 9th April 2013, which advertised the 20th April multicultural event.

Why multicultural response?

It is a ministry focusing on stimulating the Christian community’s responses to the multicultural situation and trend in South Canterbury.

The multicultural response is the host’s (New Zealand-based Christians) response to the migrants who have come from other countries to work and live in Timaru and regions beyond.

It is an opportunity to get to know people coming from different places, fellowship with them in the spirit of Christian love.

The multicultural response programmes through the years

From organising quarterly multicultural events showcasing the Christian worship of the different ethnic groups in South Canterbury, we have developed solid multicultural response programmes.

  • Between 2013 to 2016, we held weekly home Bible studies in Clandeboye and Otaio. The concept of ‘meals-on-wheels’ inspired us to bring the word of God to families that are isolated on the farm. We also started the Multicultural Believers Fellowship.
  • When we started the Food Haven Cafe in October 2015, the multicultural response ministry became cafe-based. The busy work schedules of running a cafe business limited our time to visit.
  • Nevertheless, we have met and ministered with more Filipinos and other migrants through the Food Haven Cafe. When the visa scam crisis erupted in 2016, we counselled and prayed for many who were affected. Food Haven Cafe wasn’t just another cafe. It became a gathering place and a haven for many.
  • Our advocacy for migrants’ rights heightened because many migrants came to the cafe and shared their struggles and hardships. One day, a kind Kiwi came to the cafe and shared his vision of helping the poor, so the Kind Kiwi Feeding Program started.
  • When the Baptist Hui was held in Dunedin in November 2016, I got the opportunity to share about the multicultural ministry that we are doing in South Canterbury. This marked the beginning of my ministry networking with the Baptist Union.
  • In early 2017, I started writing the Ministry Appreciation and Participation Toolkit, pastoral ministry tools that pastors and ministry leaders can use.
  • Inspired by the Heart-Worship workshop that Bethany Waugh conducted in 2017, we learned that there is more to holding multicultural worship events.
  • In July 2018, the Aoraki Settling-in Collective in Timaru invited me to join. The Collective, which meets bi-monthly provides a flexible opportunity for migrants and agencies to work together to improve the wellbeing of newcomers and migrants in South Canterbury.
  • In November 2019, we held the Theological Education by Extension Facilitators Training through TEE Aotearoa trainers, Anneta Vysotskaya and Ann Borquist. The TEE and MAP Toolkit are components of the Ministry Resource Centre that we are establishing.
  • Since the start of the Multicultural Response Ministry, the Hopevale Trust has been our ministry partner. We have coordinated and implemented the Hopevale Trust’s programmes, locally and internationally.
  • The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic moved the Hopevale Trust to respond to some communities in the Philippines. We helped coordinate and facilitate the Hopevale Trust’s COVID response.
  • The New Zealand Baptist Multicultural Inclusion Ministry (MIM) Team included the MAP Toolkit in their ministry toolbox in 2020. I started attending the Multicultural Inclusion Ministry Team monthly meeting in the last quarter of 2020.
  • Then in the December 2020 MIM Team meeting, the Baptist Union National Leader, Charles Hewlett, invited the MIM Team to be his Advisory Group. This has provided me with an avenue to share the Multicultural Response vision to the national leadership and the members of the MIM Team.

Challenges in the multicultural response ministry

Like with any other ministry programmes, we have encountered many challenges, and there would be more as we progress in the years to follow.

We are not discouraged. We pray, and we wait patiently for the Lord’s direction. We are thankful for those who are praying for the ministry and us.

Meanwhile, we will continue with the ministry programmes that we have started and planned to do for the glory of God. Click here to know more about the programmes we are doing.

This article was originally published on Multicultural Response and re-published with permission. 

Contributor: Jonan Castillon

Jonan is a bi-vocational pastor, working as a civil engineer while doing the Multicultural Response Ministry that he started with his wife Jewel in 2013. Jonan and his family are members of Gleniti Baptist Church in Timaru. He is a member of the Baptist Multicultural Inclusion Ministries team and part of the Baptist multicultural advisory group. Before migrating to New Zealand in 2011, Jonan worked with churches and institutions under the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches for 14 years.