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Working together for God’s glory in Wagga Wagga


An interdenominational partnership between the Wagga Fellowship church and The Salvation Army in Wagga has enriched both congregations.

 BY LAUREN MARTIN

 

An influx of Pacific Islander workers into south-west NSW rural townships has led to an inter-denominational partnership between The Salvation Army and the Wagga Fellowship.

 

The Federal Government’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme allows eligible Australian businesses to hire workers from nine Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste when not enough local workers are available. This has led to an increase in Pacific Islanders living and working in rural and regional Australia.

 

In Wagga Wagga, south-west NSW, The Salvation Army was approached by the Wagga Fellowship (a church made up of many Pacific Islanders) about three years ago, requesting to use the Army hall for a Wagga Fellowship event. This led to a partnership between the two churches, with regular combined services and missional events.


A Wagga Fellowship service in progress at Wagga Wagga Corps.

“We could not have come this far if it hadn’t been for The Salvation Army,” said Wagga Fellowship Pastor Tom Rokoqica. “We believe we all come under the same banner and serve the same purpose to save the lost.”

 

Pastor Tom, who has been in Australia for the past four years from Fiji, said the Wagga Fellowship started due to the Australian Government’s PALM scheme enticing more islanders to work in Australia. “A lot of us are coming from the islands, and when they are here, they are idle,” he said. “We started this fellowship to keep the fire for Christ burning. And it has grown now.”

 

The Wagga Fellowship often uses The Salvation Army’s building for meetings, as well as other halls in the rural city. Pastor Tom said the connection with The Salvation Army also provides valuable support for new Pacific Islander families moving to the area. “Most of them when it comes to the first time coming into Australia, they have their lodging, but the house stuff, The Salvation Army has helped a lot with them. Blankets and things like that.”

 

Wagga Wagga Corps Officer Auxiliary-Lieutenant Val Hopewell said partnering with the Wagga Fellowship has been enriching for parishioners of both churches.

 

“It’s been a great opportunity for our corps to see how people worship differently, but we all have the same common love of God,” she said.

 

“One of the services we did with them last year, we welcomed them, and they had a ‘lovo’ (a traditional islander barbeque) onsite to bless us, and they led us in our Mother’s Day service.”

 

Cultural exchange

As relationships strengthened between the churches, an idea was born to develop a cultural exchange for young Fijians. Pastor Tom said The Salvation Army’s support helped to enable the Nausori Interdenominational Youth Group to travel to Australia and perform a cultural youth tour throughout the Riverina.


Wagga Corps Officers Aux-Lieut Val (left of group) and Aux-Lieut  David (right of group) stand with the Nausori Interdenominational Youth Group after their performance at Wagga Salvos Store.

The group used The Salvation Army Leeton Corps bus to travel to different schools and locations to perform, including at The Salvation Army Wagga, The Salvation Army Leeton and Salvos Store in Wagga.


“There was singing, dancing and outreach,” said Pastor Tom. “With testimonies in between featuring real experiences from the young kids.”

 

One of the highlights was performing at the Riverina Youth Justice Centre, where Pastor Tom said the response from the young people was very enthusiastic. “They would like us to come back next year,” he said. “We are so grateful for The Salvation Army’s support in helping us to create this youth cultural exchange.”


A partnership between Wagga Salvation Army and Wagga Fellowship led to an intercultural youth tour featuring Fiji students performing at various NSW Riverina locations – including Wagga Salvos Store!

The Wagga Fellowship is now looking to partner with The Salvation Army in Albury (90 minutes south), hoping its church will expand as more Pacific Islander workers move to the city.

 

“We have done five Sundays already going to them and having fellowship with them, and we are trying to locate a hall in the area, and it might be a possibility to come and use The Salvation Army in Albury to have church there.”

 

Wagga Corps Officer, Auxiliary-Lieutenant David Hopewell mans the BBQ after a performance of the Nausori Interdenominational Youth Group.

 


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