Janet White is a volunteer with London City Mission’s Communications team. She attended the London City Mission Summer School in Urban Mission this year, and wrote it up for us. This is part 2.
Wednesday: Outsiders and Alongsiders
LCM’s Rob Prendergast preached enthusiastically from Ruth 2. He shouted ‘Moabitess!’ every time the narrator of the story used this description of Ruth – emphasising how acutely aware she was that she was the foreigner, the outsider, from a ‘cursed’ and (apparently) ‘God-forsaken’ country. Ruth shows a beautiful character and great humility. She has no expectation of anything beyond being able to glean the leftovers from the harvest to enable Naomi and herself to survive. The kindness that God shows her through Boaz overwhelms her. By the end of the chapter she is described as ‘Naomi’s daughter-in-law’ – now accepted into the family of God’s people. Her faith – and faithfulness – have been rewarded (Hebrews 11:6).
LCM’s Helen Thorne and Martin Street led a session on the issue of addiction. Helen said that when standing alongside people with addictions we need a Bible, a phone and a hippo! The secular world views addiction as a sickness, with the addict a powerless victim. The Bible, however, goes to the root of the problem, which for all of us is sin. The message of God’s love and grace brings hope, and God’s word, applied to our hearts, transforms lives. The phone is because in our 'standing alongside' we need to do this as part of a team. The ‘hippo’ is from Job 40:15 (some translations), and is a reminder to us that we aren’t God – only he can change someone’s life.
To stand alongside those who struggle with addiction, we learnt that we need to Love, Know, Speak and Do. Martin Street, working with The Bridge church in Battersea, shared a real-life example of how standing alongside someone with an addiction can work in practice.
In the afternoon there was a visit to the British Museum, led by Clive Anderson of Day One Christian Ministries, to see some of its fascinating exhibits from Bible times.
Thursday: Crossing cultures
LCM’s Efrem Buckle spoke about Ruth 3, which begins with Naomi giving advice to her daughter-in-law which would seem to make her vulnerable and risk her reputation. But as Ruth asks Boaz to cover her with his garment, the words used echo Ruth 2:12, where Boaz says that Ruth has taken refuge under God’s wings. Efrem pointed us towards Ezekiel 16:1-14, where God uses this same image – the covering with a garment – to show how he brings us into a covenant relationship with him.
David Baldwin, of Oak Hill College, spoke about urban cross-cultural mission, and presented us with the significant date of Wednesday 23 May 2007. It turns out that this was the day when the graphs showed that the world flipped from having the majority of its population living in rural areas to living in urban areas. Four million people are moving into cities each month. The populations are generally younger, with ‘culture-shapers’; there tend to be lots of migrants, as well as some of the poorest people. David explained that mission organisations have traditionally focused on rural areas; he suggested we should rethink our church planting strategies. Paul was actually ahead of us in this: he set out to share the gospel in the major cities of the time.
David led us in an interesting discussion about culture, posing the question ‘What’s the point of Christians studying culture when we have the all-sufficient good news about Jesus?’ We thought about what ‘culture’ means; put very simply, it could be seen as ‘the way we do things around here’. A particularly interesting exercise was trying to place ourselves between the two extremes on the ‘cultural scale’ devised by Brooks Peterson. There were also interesting discussions around whether people are task- or relationship-focused, and around attitudes to timekeeping. Understanding different cultural perspectives can help us connect with people and communicate the gospel – as well as show love to our Christian brothers and sisters.
In the afternoon we were taken for a walk through the Tower Hamlets area by Henk, an LCM missionary working in the area. We eventually found ourselves on the Mile End Road, where the shops and the market stalls reflected the large Bangladeshi community in the area – migrants in the 1970s, who followed the Jews, Irish and Huguenots before them into the poorer areas of the East End of London. Our walk took us into the main prayer room at the East London Mosque. It was my first visit to a mosque – certainly worth doing to get a better understanding of the religious life of Muslims.
Visit our Training page for more information on the training we offer.