What a summer of HOPE! No, the capital letters are not a mistake. At the time of writing, we are gearing up for the third of five HOPE ’08 weekends this summer in Aston and Nechells. For those of you whose churches are not involved in this nationwide initiative, HOPE ’08 aims to bless those living around us (many of whom might never come into a church building) by different acts of generosity, and the Christians in this area have really responded enthusiastically to these opportunities.
The first weekend was held at the beginning of May. On the Saturday we picked up litter and tidied gardens; the photos which follow are of the community fun day on the Bank Holiday Monday, with over 800 people attending. As you will see, all of us were involved! Those who came did not just enjoy the free food, bouncy castles, and face-painting, but also heard about “the hope that is in us”. Many asked for prayer, and it was wonderful to see the Lord at work.
Another way in which I am in contact with our neighbours, more or less every day, is through my work as Office Manager at the St James Advice Centre, which has an office in the church where we worship. This has been running for almost 30 years, and nearly all our clients are Asians who live locally. We have three advisors, all Asian, who give advice and assistance on just about every subject, especially benefit and immigration matters.
In what sense is this an “outreach” project? You could argue that it isn’t; all the staff apart from myself are Asian and Muslim, so where is the Christian content? The answer, I believe, is the same as for HOPE ’08: because God has blessed us so richly, we are happy to bless our neighbours with this free service. “Freely, freely, you have received; freely, freely give….”
May God shower His blessings on you.