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Bridging Cultures: Discovering Jesus at the Asian Friendship Centre

Stories

Bridging Cultures: Discovering Jesus at the Asian Friendship Centre

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In the heart of Upton Park, the Asian Friendship Centre – a small but thriving London City Mission church partner – transforms every Wednesday morning into a bustling hub of community support. Its doors open to welcome migrants from diverse backgrounds, many of whom are navigating modern British life with little to no English.

It isn’t hard to believe that this modest space used to be a small furniture shop. The walls are partly covered with rugs, and chairs are placed around the edge of the small room. Right at the front, at the entrance to the space, is a large table with Bibles and gospel tracts in Urdu and other languages.

Pastor Mike

This safe haven, while small, radiates welcome and dedication to service, much of which is driven by the tireless efforts of Pastor Mike, LCM Missionary Ilyas Ayoub, and devoted volunteers from different churches from around the local area.

The day's activities commence with a hum of conversation as newcomers and regulars alike file into the centre for assistance. Whether it’s help with a housing issue or an application to the council, Ilyas and Pastor Mike are there to help them navigate the bureaucracy of the British system.

The atmosphere at the Centre is one of mutual respect and genuine hospitality. There is a sense of openness and trust, making it more than just a place of assistance but a true community.

One of the people at the heart of this community is Londoner, Steve, whose journey of faith and service is intrinsically linked with the centre. Steve, known to the guests and volunteers alike for his kind welcome and earnest conversations, provides friendship to those who frequent the place.

Steve’s connection to the Asian Friendship Centre began some years ago when his curiosity about sharing Jesus with people of different faiths led him to engage with Ilyas during a visit to his church. Since then, his understanding and confidence have grown.

“I suppose I have become more confident since volunteering at the Asian Fellowship Centre. I've certainly come out of my own Christian bubble. I now see the bigger picture," he muses. “I've been blessed by being here as much as I've been able to try and bless other people.”

For Steve, the journey into deeper faith and service has been profoundly shaped by Ilyas.

Ilyas, a cornerstone of the Centre for over two decades, is described by Pastor Mike as indispensable.

“This ministry wouldn't work without Ilyas,” Pastor Mike asserts, his voice rising above the noise of the small space. “Because he lives in the area and has been at this centre for 22 years, he knows not only multiple languages but also the people and their history.”

“This ministry wouldn't work without Ilyas."

Then there's Nafees, a young law student from Pakistan.

Nafees, who had worked as a solicitor in Pakistan for two years before moving to London for further studies, found himself drawn to the Asian Friendship Centre quite unexpectedly. On one of his regular runs, he noticed the book table through the window, displaying texts in his native language. Curiosity piqued, he stopped and was promptly invited inside for a chat.

This small moment marked the beginning of a transformative journey for Nafees.

"My thirst for knowledge led me to the Asian Friendship Centre," says Nafees, who is from a Muslim background.

Now a regular at the Wednesday Bible study sessions, Nafees is eager to learn more about Jesus and explore the parallels and differences between the Bible and the Qur’an.

Despite facing racism and verbal abuse in the city, where he was once told to sit elsewhere because of his ethnicity, Nafees has also found a beautiful side to London through the kindness of people like Steve and Pastor Mike.

"When I get my qualification, I want to volunteer here."

At the centre, Nafees discovered not just a place of learning but a community that embraced him wholly.

His journey from a curious passerby to an integral member of the Bible study group highlights the centre's vision to help migrants discover the love of Jesus by fostering understanding among people of different backgrounds.

Nafees now dreams of using his legal expertise to give back by volunteering his services once he qualifies as a solicitor in the UK.

As the morning community support session winds down, the centre transitions into its next phase of ministry. Later in the day, the space will host a Bible study led by Pastor Mike. Here, the teachings of the Bible will be discussed and explored in an inclusive setting, welcoming to all who wish to attend.

In this small church in Upton Park, service and community weave a tapestry of hope. With the support of London City Mission, they are bridging cultural divides and fostering deeper understanding to share the love of Jesus so that all who believe and repent will not perish but have eternal life.

If your church is interested in working with London City Mission for the gospel, we’d love to hear from you! Please visit lcm.org.uk/yourchurch or call 020 7234 3570.

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