As Jesus walked among the people, he carried little but the Holy Spirit’s power and the message of the cross. London City Missionary Neil Gillespie walks the streets of King’s Cross. He too carries little, and his heart and head are full of the same Spirit and the same message of his king’s cross.
Though many know the name of the area due to its transport links, few are familiar with the people who reside there, whether in homes or not. Neil and others on the team walk up roads like Eversholt Street (pictured) and form relationships with people in the street community surrounding the busy railway station. Like Jesus, they seek to love those lost in life, unable to find a way out of complex issues, or unable to find their way into a hope-filled future.
Homelessness has increased for three consecutive years. People may 'see' fewer homeless people in London but there is more to homelessness than sleeping rough. One must take into account the 'hidden homeless' eg those people sleeping in hostels, squatting, 'sofa-surfing' and living in overcrowded rooms.
Neil helps serve at projects like KXC Brunch, King’s Cross Baptist Drop-in, and lunch at the Chinese Methodist Church. He also liaises with the local service providers who help deal with many of the needs of this community: violence, prostitution, drugs, mental illness and homelessness.
Offering lasting hope
But Neil believes it is only through Christ and walking alongside someone in friendship that can help bring lasting change. One of the guys he’s befriended during the last year stopped smoking cannabis and now takes his psychiatric medication regularly. He is intrigued by the faith in Jesus the team have and has been along to church twice. Another contact recently told Neil that the way he takes the time to listen and hear him ‘eases his depression’.
Neil has been working with vulnerable and marginalised people for the last seven years, but he knows that although this experience is valuable, the one who walks with him is really the only true experience he needs. He understands that had Jesus not died on the cross for him he would be hopeless and lost too. Because Jesus extended friendship to him, he can be friends with anyone, no matter how difficult or hopeless their situation may seem.
I would encourage people just to get to know someone from the street population as opposed to trying to ‘fix' them. More often than not, a long term entrenched rough sleeper will be well known to the authorities and service providers and they themselves will know the system much better than your average church-goer. I feel what is often lacking is a simple and genuine friendship, even if it's basic. This leads to the kind of long term relationship through which you can challenge, inspire and provoke change.
Please give generously of your finances and prayers as Neil and the team walk alongside those who struggle to find their way.