Barking's own Ray Stokes is committed to proclaiming Jesus in his East London home town.
Ray is a part-time LCM Mission Associate based at St Elisabeth’s Church in next-door Dagenham. Barking remains the place he knows and loves. ‘People here know me too’, he says. ‘They know what I used to be like and what I used to get up to before I turned to Christ. My old friends sometimes tell me I talk about Jesus too much. I have to tell them that he’s saved me. I can’t help it.’
When he shared with his LCM team that he’d been praying for Barking for a long time, that helped to start a conversation between the Methodist Church in Barking and his church in Dagenham about doing something together.
Now every Thursday afternoon, a team of up to a dozen gathers outside Barking Methodist Church on the market square, preaching on the street, handing out little tracts and booklets, and starting conversations about Jesus.
The Methodists have been generous in opening their doors, and making their space available, Ray says. They all have a desire for people from the Methodist Church to come out on the streets too. They are keen to get involved but daunted by the challenge.
‘That’s what I’m like too,’ he confesses. ‘Honestly, every time I’m preparing to go out on the streets I’m thinking, “I’m hopeless at this,” and I have to bring my weakness to God. And each week I find God’s strength coursing through me and I can get out there and do it. It’s by the grace of God.’
The next stage is to run training for people who are interested in starting in street evangelism. Ray says: ‘I want to remind people that the disciples were ordinary men. First Jesus said “follow me”, and then he taught them, gave them training and power and healing in his name – ordinary individuals with the Spirit of life in them.
‘God uses us as his vessels to bring people into the kingdom. I can’t praise him enough for that!’