Partners in the Race

by Derek and Claire, UK Church Partners

“We can go out, build relationships, and as a result, share our faith with people. We don’t need to be ‘trained missionaries’… We can do this as a church.”

Derek and Claire* are active members of a church in an inner-city housing estate in the UK in an area known as the Midlands. The church has been partnering with Borderless for several years. Here, they share a little about how their church reaches out to the diverse community on their doorstep.

Our church has sought to meet and reach out to the community ever since it was founded in the early 1800s. The demographics of the estate have spanned a huge variety of nationalities, with about 70 languages being spoken at the local primary school.

Many of us are retired, and we have seen a lot of change in our area over the years. Retirement has given us the chance to help our local church meet several needs and opportunities in the community. Supporting people seeking to get into employment, teaching English to parents and children, helping with legislation or paperwork, schooling problems, and preparing for British citizenship tests.

 

Outside Our Comfort Zone

It’s easy to feel fearful stepping out of your comfort zone to reach out. For the last several years, we ran a community outreach week, in partnership with Borderless, to make contacts and build relationships with the community and strengthen the relationships that we already had.

One of the benefits of having a Borderless team with us was that it gave us confidence to go into places and talk to people when previously we felt unable to do this. As soon as we got over that barrier, we found that people were friendly and willing to talk to us. People soon got to know our faces, and we were no longer seen as strangers.

 

Right Place, Right Time

We saw God work in many ways during our outreach week. There were times when God placed us in the right place at the right time to meet people. On one of our prayer walks around the estate, we got to a point where there was a path I’d never been down before, and I didn’t know where it led to. We stopped and decided to take the unknown path. On the path we met a man. We told him about the outreach week, and he opened up to us about problems he had with his son at school. We were able to arrange for his wife, who didn’t speak English, to meet up with a teacher and someone who spoke her language to talk through some of the problems.

These “right place at the right time” moments just kept happening over and over again during the week. Such God-given opportunities to engage and talk with people were amazing. People in the community are beginning to trust us, to know that they can call us when they need help.

 

We Can Do This

The community outreach week enabled the church to think: “We can do this.” As Christians, we can go out, build friendships and relationships, and as a result, share our faith with people. We don’t need to be ‘trained missionaries’ who have been to Bible College. We can do this as a church.

Recently, Borderless helped us to recruit a church community worker for a year. He and his wife helped us build on the progress we made during the community outreach week. One of the things they encouraged us to do was to visit local cafes and chat to people. It’s been a great way to make new friends and try some different types of food for the first time. We have also started a weekly “Craft and Chatter” group for ladies.

 

Partners in the Race

In his letters, the apostle Paul often challenged his readers to ‘run the race’. Over the years, we’ve seen that cross-cultural ministry can be more of a marathon than a sprint. Working alongside Borderless has not changed this, but running the race has been easier and more enjoyable since they started to partner with us.

*Names have been changed