“Our desire is to see everyone love their neighbour and sometimes there can be a hesitancy to start a conversation with someone from another faith living next door”, says Simon Clinton, senior pastor at Highway Vineyard Church in Stratford.
“This is where London City Mission coming alongside us will enable us to grow in confidence to start conversations and equip our volunteers in our ministries where more specific expertise is needed.”
LCM Mission Associate Scott Gentry has been helping the church reach the youth in the local area.
Many of the young people coming to the church’s Friday night youth group are refugees who are living in a hotel less than five minutes’ walk from the church.
“One encouraging moment was listening to a young person from a refugee background who recently got baptised. He couldn’t stop telling me about Jesus. All the while, his friend was listening in the background.
“I asked his friend what he thought and he said that he’s not too sure at the moment, but that he was interested. It is my hope that their friendship will lead to him know more about Jesus and ultimately faith in him.”
On Thursdays, LCM Missionary Ilyas Ayoub, has been supporting the church’s food bank in Manor Park. Most of the guests come from nearby. Many of them are hoping to seeking asylum and surviving on very little money.
Ilyas has been equipping volunteers to speak with the guests and gently shift the conversation to Jesus and to perhaps invite them to church. Church volunteers are also being trained by LCM missionaries in engaging with people from Muslim backgrounds.
“I have seen volunteers who I’ve been training now doing the work by themselves. They have grown in confidence and talk with guests while looking for opportunities to share the love of Jesus,” says Ilyas.
“It’s encouraging because our vision is to equip the church and mobilise them for mission. And I pray there will be more people who will take the good news to the hurting and needy world.”
David is one of the volunteers.
“One of the ladies said to me last week that she wasn’t doing too well. I said, let’s just pray. So, we just prayed as we were picking food off the shelves for her dad.”
Interactions like these are leading proving fruitful. Over a third of the connections which church members are making with local community members are leading to intentional gospel conversations. One week, three families who came to the food bank also decided to visit Highway Vineyard church.
Seventeen people were baptised last Easter, including 14 Farsi speakers.
They are people like Amir, who made a dangerous trip to London with his son and niece, found the love of Jesus through a Farsi evangelistic course run by the church, and now can’t stop singing Jesus’ praises.