Friday, 13 January 2012

London Traffic: Girls for sale

Last night I took a trip to our local newsagent for some needed milk.  Gabriel had been in the house all day so I decided he could come along with me.  I wrapped him up warm and put him on his trike and we went on the ten minute round trip.

As we were leaving the shop I was struggling to get my shopping, Gabriel and his trike back through the door.  As I turned to pull Gabriel out backwards I saw this notice in the shop window.


A number of things started to shoot through my mind. 

I remembered the recent “Stop the Traffik Road show” we held at our church, where a Vice Police Officer told us “massage” always means "sex". 

I thought it might as well say “Girls for sale!”

Are these girls willing or are have they been trafficked?

Have these girls been trafficked into London for the upcoming Olympics?

How “young” are these poor girls?

How did they ever get roped into this horror?

Has is always been so obvious in and around the streets where I live? Or have I just been naive?

With all this whirring round my mind I continued to push Gabriel home and took the wrong turn.  It was a longer route.  I noticed two young girls -maybe 17 or so- walking towards us.  They were dressed up and holding each other’s hands.  They were giggling but looked nervous.  Then I noticed a rather big guy walking 3 or 4 steps behind them, looking very serious while smoking a cigarette.  I got this sinking feeling in my stomach.  Could they be prostitutes?  Could he be there pimp?  Could they be... trafficked girls?

As we moved past Gabriel was singing happily.  He was innocently oblivious (like I was two minutes before) to what was might be going on.

Now, I may never be sure if they were trafficked girls.  But I do know that there are girls in Newham who are being forced to sell themselves by sick and greedy men.  Maybe God just wanted to open my eyes again to the realities around me I do not want to see. 

Please pray for East Ham, especially with the Olympics coming later this year.  With it’s millions of tourists comes the lure of money for traffickers.

Pray that our eyes may be opened to what may be going on around us!

Pray the church can make a difference and see women set free!
"O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."
Psalm 10:17-18
If you would like to find out more about this subject visit: STOP the TRAFFIK

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

UK Riots: God opened a wound

The steadfast love of the Lord

Jeremiah in the book of lamentations wrote these words after seeing Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases!  His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.  Great is your faithfulness.  "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." Lamentations 3:22-24
I must admit after seeing the devastation of London burning on Monday night... Tuesday morning I did not naturally think of these words.  But I found them as I read through the whole book.  You may be thinking “Why chose Lamentations to read?”  Well I felt like lamenting on Tuesaday morning!  London, the city I love had been hurt!  East Ham the community I live in and love had been attacked by it’s own youth!  Lamenting seemed like the only appropriate response!

The last thing I expected to find were words of hope.  I completely forgot they were in there.  This time they stuck in my mind like glue.  I couldn’t shake them.  How could Jeremiah hope in a time like that?  When everyone else would be cursing God, Jeremiah was hoping in Him?  Wow, what faith!!

You see Jeremiah knew God had a purpose for the suffering.  After all just a few verses later he wrote, “for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”  God wasn't revelling in the suffering caused, He allowed it for a reason.  To start the process of drawing them back to Himself.  You see how ever horrible that Babylonian attack was, being separated from God forever is far worse!  Eventually a remnant of His people came back, this lead the way for Jesus and salvation for the whole world!

We may not know why bad thing happen but in faith we can trust that God has a reason for all of it.  And we know we can trust Him because He sacrificed Himself for us on the cross.   We may not know why bad things happen but because of the cross we know it isn’t because God hates us, or has abandoned us.  He loves us, wants what is best for His people. He alone knows the best way to bring it about.

An opened wound!

After thinking all this through I came to my next question.  What is God wanting to say to His church to say through the present situation in London?

Over the past week many people have come up with reasons for the riots.  Poverty, unemployment, EMA cuts, materialism, racism, class distinctions, godlessness, lack of respect for authority, hopelessness, judgment to name just a few.  Most of these ‘causes’ have there grounding in facts in one way or another.  However, I can’t see how any one of any of them can cause the violence that has just swept across our nation.  The real answer I am sure is very complex and involves most of, if not all of these suggestions.  The fact remains that right now in the UK we have a youth sub-culture, that is living in a society that provides all the rights social ingredients for them to erupt into anarchy and violence.

As I prayed over what I was seeing on the news I felt God had momentarily removed His common grace from our society.  So we could see the real state of our country.  It was like He let a deep painful wound open up so we could look into it and see just how deep and dangerous it is!  We saw that the wound was deeper and more serious than we could possible imagine!  After all it wasn’t an outside enemy coming into attack us... It was our children!
I believe through the riots God was crying out for this lost generation!  And He wants the church to hear His call to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus!

Poverty, unemployment, EMA cuts, materialism, racism, class distinctions, godlessness, lack of respect for authority, hopelessness, judgment... These are just some of the issues facing our current generation.  As the Church we have the Gospel of Jesus, a message of hope and reconciliation that speaks into all these situations!

Please pray we will be able to relevantly share this amazing Gospel with this generation!


One last thing.  I think it is really important to point out that it wasn't all young people who got involved in this violence.  Here are three quick great things I saw on the same weeks as the riot.
  1. On the days surrounding the riots I was working with a team of young Christians to run Gospel fun days to reach children in East Ham.  There were 9 young volunteers who gave up three weeks of their summer to share Jesus.  As a result many children across London, heard about Jesus in a relevant way for the first time.  Hope!!
  2. At the same time other members of our church were involved in another summer scheme to work with Children for three whole weeks.  They ran three weeks, had over 190 children attend and was run by 25 amazing young leaders.  Hope!!
  3. On the same night that thousands of young people were rioting on the streets of London, 12,000 young people were praising Jesus at Soul Survivor.  And 191 young people gave their lives to Jesus!  Hope!!
Let’s treasure the young people we have in and on the fringes of our churches.  They are amazing!!  If we want to reach this generation it has to start with them!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Two pictures of East End Islam

The best way to get to know a community is to spend time experiencing it.  Living it.  Breathing it.  Enjoying it.  Dreaming the best for it.  At City to City last year in New York they called these experiences “cultural moments”.  A cultural moment is any time you spend getting to know and understand the community you are hoping to church plant in.  They told us to try to have thousands of those moments, by meeting people, going to shows, walking the streets, before you try plant a church that you hope will be relevant for the area.  I would just like to share two of my moments this past week in Newham, London. Both specifically about Islam.

Open but very closed!

The building right next to where our church plant meets is a community centre called the Flanders Centre.  Every Friday lunchtime as I am nipping out for a bite, the Flanders centre is flooded with hundreds of Muslim men for prayers.  It’s always a  fun experience walking past, having the occasional brief chat with them as they go in or are handing out leaflets.  This week though was a little different.

In London at the moment we are experiencing fantastically hot weather.  So as I left last Friday to go home the fire escape doors were open to the Flanders Centre to let fresh air in.  So I could see what was going on in the hall.  More than just see, I could hear.  I could hear a man singing.  Well I soon realised he wasn't just  singing.  He was actually preaching.  His singing was interspersed with talking, in what I assume was Arabic.  You see, the singing was him actually quoting the Quran.  I stood there and watched for a few minutes not understand a word of what was spoken but at the same time learning plenty about this culture on my doorstep.

I was amazed by the level of Quran knowledge the preacher had (he could probably recite the whole book).  I was impressed by the number of men in the congregation.  Yes, I know women are not allowed but still how many churches do I know in Newham with more than 50 men? The Islam this guy was preaching was obviously attractive to them.  However, I think the overwhelming feeling I came away with was how closed this meeting was, even with open doors. 

I couldn't understand what was being taught.  I have never been invited in.  Never even greeted with a smile I walk by.  For a faith that is supposed to reach outsiders it didn't seem that interested in anyone who isn’t like them.

As I started to walk away I thought, “They may not be interested in stepping closer to me to share Islam  but I need to take steps closer to them in order to share Jesus.”
"To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law." 1Corinthians 9:20 
Closed but very open!

Yesterday we dedicated a little boy into our church family and afterwards we went to the park for a picnic.  I had to take my son home for a quick nap before we went to the park.  When he and I finally got there, none of the people were where we said we would meet.  I knew they would still be around but because it was so hot I decided to take a break in the shade before I started looking for them.  So I sat down with Gabriel.

About 20 meters away was a group of young Muslim girls aged around twentyish.  All but one of them ran off to look at the fountain.  To my surprise the last one walked right up to me dressed in a full hijab.  Covering everything but her face.  She had a very warm smile. The first thing she said to me was, “Hello, you have a really cute son.  Do you mind if I sit with you both for a while?” 

You have to pause and understand the enormity of this question.  Muslim women usually are not allowed to talk to men, especially one their own, even in a public park.  What was I going to say? “No at all, please do” I replied.

She sat down and glowing with smiles at my son, who was looking grumpy but cute as ever.  It didn’t take long for her to break him down and eventually her smile caused him to beam back.  She openly talked about her new found interest in babies.  She is getting married in a month and was fascinated by marriage and children.  We talked about the joys of marriage, parenthood and in laws.  Waiting to have children or having them straight away. 

I congratulated her on the coming marriage and said “Marriage and children are a wonderful blessing from God!”  So that started her asking about my faith.  We must have talked for about 10 minutes before her friends and mine both turned up around the same time.  So we said goodbye. 

As I was walking away she shouted back.  “Don’t forget you sons football!”  As I turned around she had pulled up her hijab to even cover her smile.  But I could still see that she was smiling.

A very different experience from the first.  The face of Islam we often see in the west is closed and distant but that doesn't mean all Muslims are cold and distant.  This girl was born and grew up in the Newham.  She is a second generation British Muslim.  She grew up without fear of British people or Christians.  If the first experience left me feeling pushed away this one was the exact opposite.  

It was a helpful reminder to me not to judge a person by their hijab.  In many ways we were exact opposites.  She a Muslim girl, me a western Christian man.  But behind that veil was a person who was interested in similar things to me, who was scared of the same things as me, we may be different... but maybe not as much as first appears. 

As I walked away I thought, “I can relate to Muslims for Jesus.  Because behind every hijab there is a person not too different to me.” 

Final thought
"Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility!" Ephesians 2:13-14  
Remember as Christians we do not need to be afraid of other cultures no matter how different they seem.  We have a perfect Saviour who stepped into our fallen human world.  No matter how far away any culture any appear from your own it is no comparison to how different Jesus was to this world.

Jesus didn't worry about being effected by us...

Jesus loved us and sacrificed the comforts of His home in Heaven to step into our shoes to bring us a Gospel of reconciliation... 

Reconciliation that not only bridges the gap between us and others but bridges the impossible gap between us and God! 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Vision of our Church family!

Over the past few years Bonny Downs Church has grown into a small but passionate family of churches.  A few months ago we started a journey of re-discovering our vision by looking at what God is doing among us and through us.  Both Richard (the lead pastor) and I have been working towards preaching through our core vision.  Below is a brief summary of that vision.

We want to see Jesus changing lives, transforming our communities and our world!

1) We want to see JESUS
“Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent.” John 17:3  
As a church our primary aim is to see Jesus.  To see who Jesus is, to recognise him as our Saviour, to learn from Him, be inspired, challenged and encouraged by Him.  Together we want our church to be shaped by Jesus as He has revealed Himself in the pages of the Bible.
Who He Is
We want to gaze at Jesus who –although He is God- became man for us.  We want to be moved by Jesus love for us, as proved as He poured out His life on the  cross.  We want to marvel and worship our risen and alive Lord Jesus!

What He’s Doing
We want to see Jesus working now to draw all kinds of people to Himself by His grace.  We want to experience a real relationship with Jesus.  We want to witness the restoration that only Jesus can bring.

Seeing Jesus is the aim of all our meetings and messages.  Because knowing and enjoying Jesus is what we were made for. 

2) changing LIVES
“Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.” Ephesians 4:23-24
Changing Us 
Jesus didn’t live, die and rise again so we could remain the same.  He did it so we can be changed into the people that He made us to be!  Through repenting to God and each other and resting in what Jesus has done for us, we will start to live lives filled with real purpose.

Changing Others 
We believe that the change Jesus brings should be contagious both to people inside and outside the church!  As we serve, welcome and offer the hope Jesus brings we want to see people around us changed too!

3) transforming our COMMUNITIES
“All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had…  Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.” Act 2:44-47
Loving the Church
One vital gift that Jesus gave us to keep our faith alive is our church family.  We experience our church family through corporate worship on Sundays, smaller home groups during the week and one to one every day.  We love our church because it enables us to know Jesus better, know each other better and be more in number.

Loving our streets 
We believe in being local.  We want to always see the best in our communities and be contagiously positive about the places where we live.  We want to build strong friendships with our neighbors and always be looking for opportunities to meet any local needs to improve local living conditions.

4) and our WORLD
“But the Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power. Then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world."” Acts 1:8
When Jesus made humankind he gave us responsibility to care for our world and the people in it.  Therefore we need to be active in caring for Jesus creation and seeking to stop human injustices in all its forms.  Especially when it involves our wider church family suffering persecution.

We want to do all things as if we are serving Jesus.  We have great opportunities to serve Jesus and help renew our world by being salt and light in our workplaces.  Not by preaching at our colleagues but by living out Jesus values.

We want to continue to establish many community focused congregations all committed to knowing and sharing Jesus and loving their own communities.  Although we will have very different mission focuses we want to keep our family connections!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Chatting with the "ends of the earth"

You might already know but this year is our Year of Breakthrough at Bonny Downs Church.  We are praying into six areas that are specific challenges for our church at the moment to seek God's action and guidance.  One f those areas is building relationships for sharing Jesus across Newham's diverse cultures.

Bonny Downs has a good history of sharing Jesus and seeing lives changed from people within the white East End community.  They can be tough, direct and are generally suspicious of religion (unless they are devout Catholics). None the less Jesus as been drawing them to our church.  However, if we truly want to represent Jesus and His kingdom we need to be reaching out and winning more that just those who are like us! We need to be sharing Jesus with people from every nation, tribe and tongue! And we are in the ideal place for it!
(The Lord) says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6
Newham is the most ethnically diverse borough in the UK. A massive 70% is made up of ethnic minorities from all over the world. India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Guiana, Iran, Egypt and the Congo to name a few. All of these nations and more can be found within a few hundred metres or so from my front door! Regardless of what the government might say about the Multicultural Experiment these different cultures do not easily mix. Although we are not split into ghettos (whole communities of just one ethnic group), building real friendships across cultural boundaries is very difficult. And if you can't build real relationships you can't share Jesus in a personal and relevant way.

So we are praying and God is answering!

Let's Get Chatting

At the start of the year some of the women in our church had the idea of a group to help local people practice conversational English. We don't have the skills to teach ESOL but we do love to chat with people.

As the women we're meeting other mums from different backgrounds small talk would begin. It wouldn't last for long because even if they could speak English their confidence wasn't very high. Especially in general conversation. There is a difference between formal English that you need to know to get by and the type of English you need to actually talk about the weather, or your family or your feelings.

So we started a 6 week course called "Let's Get Chatting". It's a simple format. Come eat lunch together (Halal of course) and chat about a simple set topic with someone who is comfortable with their English. The topics would vary from week to week vary from holidays, family, food to weddings.  The first week we were packed out with 27 people and it has been well attended right thought the course!

One of the highlight was on the topic of "food". Every one brought a dish from their home country and shared traditions and recipes. Not only have we been able to get to know more people from our community, but we've also been able to help them build up their confidence.
"It's was so wonderful to hear them laugh and tell stories about their weddings and families! We are really starting to become friends." A volunteer from our church
Please pray!

Tomorrow is the last of the 6 sessions of Let's Get Chatting. We are hoping to run it again in the future but more than that we are hoping to build on the relationships already made for Jesus sake!

Please pray with us!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Breaking through!

Wow, it's been a crazy couple of months since my last post.  Sorry about that...

In our church this year has been named "the year of Breakthrough!"  There have been a number of things seeming to hold us back for a long time now and we decided that this year as a church we are going to pray like we've never prayed before to seek God to change our situation.  We realize that only Jesus makes the difference, not how clever we are or how experienced we are!  Only by trusting in Jesus will any of our mountains move.

Our verse for the year is:
"Show me your paths, Lord, and teach me to follow" Psalm 25:4
So we have been praying and God has already been moving...  This may sound a bit odd but one result of our praying is more prayer.  As we have turned to pray under the inspiration of Breakthrough people are really starting a hunger for prayer.

People are meeting to pray and fast together (before we've even preached on fasting, that is this week!!)...
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16  
People are confessing their sins together and praying for healing.  I used to think James 5:16 meant find a righteous guy and get him to pray for you because his prayers will be effective.  Now I realize that when you confess your sins to each other you are made righteous (1John 1:9) and then YOUR prayers are effective.  Our hunger for prayer, created a hunger for righteousness and confession and this has created a dynamic powerful prayer life among us already!

And a bunch of us are meeting every Sunday evening after church to pray together for the community around Cafe Church.  Those prayer meetings have been passionate and powerful!  I feel like as a church we are learning to pray all over again!

These are exciting days for our church plant and wider church family... Even if nothing else starts to happen (and I believe it will) this year is already amazing!  Breakthrough has already happened in the most important place it can... Our prayer lives!

And the secret... being desperate for Jesus!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Here is the run down of the Five-A-Side tournament I took some guys to the other day.  It's early days hoping to take twice as many next time!

City Gate Church Retain the Newham 5s Title
In a competitive Newham Community 5s on Monday December 13th, City Gate Church won the last match of the tournament to clinch the Cup for a second time. A close 2-1 victory over early favourites Cliff Walk Church brought the trophy home.

The 5-a-side games were very high scoring at the Academy in Loughton with some tremendous goals being scored. The football followed a talk given by local footballer and West Ham Physio Seyi Oni. Seyi shared how his love of football is entwined with his Christian faith and how he had walked away from Church during his teenage years, but is so much happier now he is back with God first and then football in his life.

The Newham Community Sports Team is a branch of World Sport Ministries and stage regular sporting events in Newham, usually played with Christian Spirit and values! For more details please contact . Sports quizzes and golf days are other events regularly staged.

1st. City Gate Church 12 points (scored 19, against 12)
2nd. Cliff Walk Baptist Church 10 points (scored 19, against 9)
3rd. Bonny Downs Green 10 points (scored 20, against 16)
4th. Bonny Downs Orange 3 points (scored 13, against 34)