Mission in the City: Hopes and Dreams – My Story
Powerful stories of Christian social service.
Journey with deacon Shirley-Joy Barrow as she shares her inspiring story of being City Missioner in Whanganui from 2004 to 2011.
Working together, her team found that they could achieve much more than their individual skills and capabilities led them to expect. They developed effective ways to respond to the people on the margins of society. More
Read these powerful stories of Christian social service in Whanganui, New Zealand.
Journey with servant minister Shirley-Joy Barrow as she shares her inspiring story of being City Missioner in Whanganui from 2004 to 2011.
Working together, her team found that they could achieve much more than their individual skills and capabilities led them to expect. They developed effective ways to respond to the people on the margins of society that they served.
This social history also includes many personal stories of the people served by the Mission and those who worked for it.
Importantly, Shirley-Joy reflects on the lessons she learned during the conflict with the governing board that brought her tenure as missioner to an end. Some of her key learnings are:
• There must be clear governance and management policies, and effective lines of authority and communication.
• Finance and fund-raising responsibilities need to be clearly delineated with accountability accepted by all parties.
• Faith is not the same for everyone.
• A Christian based social service should be based on biblical principles.
• Always engage with the local council, key stake holders and people in the community
• Corporate business models do not work for social service agencies.
• Believe in yourself.
As Prime Minister and attending the Ratana annual celebrations, I met Shirley-Joy again and we chatted over a cup of tea. She was now the City Missioner in Wanganui. I was impressed with her tenacity and her sense of hope for the city and its people. As City Missioner, Shirley-Joy hoped to bring to people in need of the basics of life: shelter, food, hope, and love.
As the book reveals, with a team of caring people Shirley-Joy sought to establish safe accommodation, and to continue to provide food for those who needed it through the foodbank, including through Friendship meals and the Christmas Lunch. She spent time with homeless people in the bamboo by the Whanganui river and in the sand dunes, listening to the dreams and concerns of those who lived in those rough conditions. Shirley-Joy worked with those seeking freedom from crippling debt, helped sort out access issues with the courts, and assisted with many other complex issues facing people who were ill equipped to deal with them – the stories of the people she worked with in Whanganui, some shared in this book, make her dedication to them and meeting their needs abundantly clear.
I warmly recommend this book. It opens a window on what life is like for New Zealand’s most vulnerable people. From the safety of our warm, secure, and well stocked homes, it can be hard to imagine the lives some of our fellow citizens are living. In Whanganui itself, there is significant distance between the wealthy and the middle-income earners and the truly homeless.
Mission in the City writes about times when the City Mission was helping unprecedented numbers of people by providing emergency and permanent housing, by feeding individuals and whole whanau, by providing drop-in centres for those in need of a friendly and safe space, and by offering budgeting services – all under Shirley-Joy’s protective and fostering eye.
The book tells of how under a corporate model, the Mission’s focus began to shift. The humanitarian model which had been established began to erode. It ultimately disintegrated, culminating in Shirley-Joy’s dismissal at Christmas 2011. This is the story of that journey.
Rt Hon Helen Clark,
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1999-2008
Available ebook formats: