Olly Sherwood started as an LCM Pioneer, and three years on he’s now a full-time missionary based at Holy Trinity Hounslow (HTH). He runs a free cafe open to the community every Monday, and does one-to-ones, training, youth clubs and street outreach the rest of the time.
The cafe has been running for a long time but it seemed few people knew about it when I started helping out in June 2016. It was open from 10 till 12 and mainly visited by a small group of elderly people. One night, I was praying about what ministry I should pioneer in Hounslow and I felt the Lord say to me, ‘Leave it to me’.
The following Monday, my plans for the afternoon felt through and I felt the Lord tell me to keep the cafe open until five...and that’s what I’ve done ever since. It began filling up more and more - what started with twenty or so people coming through the doors is now around eighty - some are homeless, some are elderly, some are on a break from work, some are mothers with kids. Volunteers from the church help out and Greggs bakery are kindly supporting us by giving us fruit, sandwiches, doughnuts and all sorts! We see this as an initial contact to welcome people, listen to them and serve them with excellence and Christ-like love. God’s been teaching me to shine with the love of Jesus, to serve with patience – it’s like customer service for the kingdom! I’m also learning how to lead a team and manage volunteers.
Many struggle with homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. Some want to be free of addiction but it’s hard to break free especially with friends who are addicts – it becomes a vicious circle. We do a lot of listening and befriending. We link them to organisations that can address housing and benefit needs like the Civic Centre, St Mungo’s and Street Link. But their biggest need is for Jesus, and ultimately we want to share the gospel with them.
We’ve seen people from the cafe join the HTH Alpha group and respond to the gospel in faith. One guy, who’d just come out of prison, gave his life to Christ here in the cafe. He’s part of the church now with his dad, attending Sunday meetings and a home group. He’s also doing street outreach with us on Friday and helping serve here at the cafe.
My background as a drug taker without any GCSEs and raised in a non-Christian family helps me to relate to people here, but they’re sometimes shocked by what I used to do! I guess that's how much God has changed me!
It's such a privilege to develop friendships with people who are marginalised. It's a joy to be here – we have lots of fun! But I've learnt that I’m no different, struggling with sin just as much as they do, even though it might be a different kind of sin. Jesus’s heart for the poor is a centrepiece of the gospel. Loving these people is so satisfying. I want to thank the supporters who make it possible for us to do the work of the Lord full-time. Praise be to God.
This article first appeared in Changing London.