London City Mission's way of working has always been centred on going to people – especially the poorest – where they are, sharing the gospel face to face with practical support and friendship.
In the middle of March, when the scale of the coronavirus pandemic became apparent, we had to switch to new ways of working, developing conversations and friendships exclusively by phone and the internet, and providing practical support without contact.
Some of our ministries – those that work with people who are homeless and with distribution of food – are considered essential services. Other ministries have been suspended.
At a time of great uncertainty, when many of our workers had to self-isolate and others had to close down some of their core activities, here are some of the ways missionaries seized the moment and created opportunities to share the love of Christ in the first week of the lockdown.
A Real Challenge – Simon Knightly
Door-to-door ministry, personal visits and street evangelism form the bulk of our ministry, so this first week has been a real challenge to our team.
We leafleted our districts before the lockdown though and this has provided us the opportunity to respond to local people who get in touch with us, which is great.
We’ve been in phone contact with our close contacts to check in regularly with them. We’re keeping up the spiritual input where possible, as well as of course responding to practical needs where we can.
Dealing With Anger – Kevin Croft
There’s anger and frustration for some people in Vauxhall where I’m working. I saw some of this on Saturday morning at food bank. A lady we have known for a number of years didn’t have a voucher to be eligible for a food parcel. She wouldn’t calm down enough to listen to us, even though we were trying to help.
Eventually we managed to get though to her that we would provide her with a parcel. She brought up the idea of where God was in the middle of all this, and we had a good but brief conversation about God not being absent or out of control of the situation.
I shared with her a reminder from Psalm 23 that even in the midst of self-isolation the God we trust in and know as a Father is with us: I will fear no evil. Why? For you Lord are with me.
When the lady left with her food she was certainly calmer. I trust this was a mixture of practical help and being able to share some hope in the situation.
Busier Than Ever – Jeff Potter
We’ve had to close all the clubs down and are concentrating on our Food bank and night shelter. Our food bank is four times busier now than it was before the pandemic, and many of the referrals are coming from local agencies such as the Vulnerable Families Unit.
The building is closed, so when a person comes to the centre for food we’re meeting them outside, offering coffee and a hotdog and giving them a Christian paper to read while they wait.
Most of the full-time staff are off self-isolating because family members are suffering symptoms.
We’re keeping in contact with the vulnerable contacts that attend the centre by phone, taking supplies where needed and picking up food bank donations from church members while staying at a safe distance.
Home Schooling – Laurah Gordon
In our schools ministry we are working out some ways in which we can help since all the schools have closed to pupils.
So far I have been helping some parents by sending them lesson plans to do with their children at home, pointing them in the direction of free online resources for home schooling and have just sent a link to my schools that enables the children to watch the Miracle Maker film at home so that they can finish the story of Jesus that we began in our Easter unit. Our team is also planning to do some assemblies for the children we work with while they're at home via video chat too.
Online Services – Paul Cherico
I have been reading the Bible with residents and leading twice-weekly services at the Elms Residential Care Home for years,
The management team here has been very very concerned that the services continue in order to maintain a sense of hope, encouragement and consistency meeting together in communal worship.
So I conducted my Bible Reading Aloud Fellowship Group at the Elms first via FaceTime. I was able to see each person individually and ask how they were and about their families and church friends.
The next day I conducted the Wednesday Afternoon Service. We had singing, praying, Bible reading, a message from me and blessings to close.
On Call – Olly Sherwood
I’ve been holding digital Bible Studies every evening at 6pm, which has people I minister to joining in and also people who have heard about it from others, and other Christians who need encouragement in this time.
Yesterday I went to the food bank to pick up some food for a guy who is high risk and collected his medication for him at the same time. While at the food bank, I gave them my number seeing if there are ways to support one another’s work in these times.
So far I am enjoying the opportunity to seek God and share the love of Christ by simply being on call with people which is a great ministry of compassion in these times.
Learning Curve – Tim Spring
I am making short video sermons relevant to our situation and then posting them on our Facebook page for our Turkish church and for a much wider audience around the Turkish speaking world which follows our page.
I planned to go to my colleague and have him film me using the high quality equipment we use on Sundays, but of course government restrictions prevented this. So I’ve been through a steep technical learning curve, joining Facebook, videoing myself on my phone and posting the videos myself.
London City Mission is partnering with yourneighbour.org, a government supported website for churches looking to come together to reach out to the vulnerable in church's work during this uncertain time.