MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, May 17th.You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are!
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
“Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount. “... for they shall be shown mercy.”
WORLD correspondent Amy Lewis met with an Australian woman who illustrates that truth.
AUDIO: [Packing fruits and vegetables]
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: Alexandra Mikelsons’ Wednesday mornings start with packing fruit and veggies into green plastic bags in the storage room of a warehouse.
AUDIO: So are you doing four in here? How many boxes do we have of these. 2 boxes of green. Beautiful.
It’s part thrift store, part church office, part food relief, part refugee assistance, part mercy ministry. And it’s all about listening to and loving people.
ALEX: Are you gonna see your daddy on Monday? Does she call him daddy?
ALEX: All right. Yes, so we can definitely help you with that.
The free market doesn’t start for 30 minutes. But already some regulars are waiting in the parking lot.
They walked or rode their bikes to this industrial section of Geelong’s suburbs. Here they pick up bags of plums and grapes, some locally-grown feijoas, mandarin oranges and bags of onions and potatoes. Mikelsons also puts together boxes of food for clients who will visit her office throughout the day.
SHAFIQA: I born in Afghanistan. And then we came to Pakistan…
It sounds like a typical mercy ministry, and maybe it is. After all, Alex grew up in the church. She ministers because she loves Jesus and she loves people. But her teen years were hard.
ALEX: When I was a teenager, I was a little bit of a difficult teenager. I was a very self-focused teenager, and, and I see that now. And then when I was 18, I fell pregnant.
And this is where her story diverges from so many others in her situation.
ALEX: and had amazing responses from my family and my church family and was really well supported through that which I know is not everyone's experience and have heard of a lot of hurt from people who have not had that same experience, particularly people in a church environment sometimes don't have that same experience.
She and her now-husband continued their family.
ALEX: And then when I was my third child was eight months old, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. And then through that, so having three young children under four, and then having treatment for cancer, and I was very well supported through that practically so with meals and childcare and that was from family and from friends and even from wider, wider communities.
After Mikelson’s cancer treatments, their church community rallied again with practical help and love when her paramedic husband’s hand got crushed. And again when her third daughter received a difficult diagnosis.
ALEX: She had been sick for a number of years as a teenager. And after, when she was 19 was diagnosed with the same lymphoma type of lymphoma that I had had when she was eight months old.
It was in the midst of these major life events that Mikelsons began to more deeply understand the basic human need of people needing people.
ALEX: But people are so important to each other. And I think that I've learned the importance of that for, for practical things, but also for mental health. And also for, I want to say, survival. It sounds dramatic, but God makes us to need people, you know, and makes us to need to connect with people. He's built us to be relational.
Her natural love for people and her first-hand experiences of need shape how she does her job at the ministry called 3216 Connect.
ALEX: So I'm a community care worker. And the role was set up, I believe, for showing God's love through, through the relief of poverty and vulnerability and disadvantage, and helplessness. It's to work within the community, the local community to show God's love in a practical way.
Australia’s social care system has gaps and blind spots. For example, refugees are allowed into the country but then left to their own resources. Volunteer organizations take up the slack. But this ministry and Mikelson’s job have a different flavor than most groups.
ALEX: Yeah, so it's a whole myriad of needs. And we are usually in a position to help with the need, or refer them to someone who's able to help them with their particular need. And a lot of people need to chat…and to be listened to and heard.
For some who come for food relief or help paying their bills, this might be the one interaction with people that they have all week.
ALEX: And I think that listening and being connected and building up more than an agency- and client-based relationship is really important so that people feel that they have a relationship, a friendship as well.
Mikelsons gets to see God work in other people’s lives. That itself is a gift.
ALEX: And I find a lot of joy in the interactions that we that I have with people out the front, that little community that meets in the car park and has their little fruit and veggie market stall and chat and tells you about you know, people tell me about their pets and their whatever. And also really sad things that happened. Someone came last week and said ‘My brother died this morning’ and felt that she could talk about it still while she was picking up her food and, and I love that God is making those relationships happen. And I find real joy in that.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis in Geelong, Australia.
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