The Weston Lighthouse Project, run by Evangelist TIM HYDE, is bringing hope to those living on a Southampton housing estate. As part of Church Army’s latest appeal, he explains how practical outreach is transforming lives …
What do you get when you cross a Church Army Evangelist with a deprived council estate?
A chance to live again!
Three-and-a-half years ago my family and I became a part of the community of Weston, a housing estate on the outskirts of Southampton which is well-known for its extreme levels of deprivation. Many of its residents struggle with unemployment, family breakdown, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness and loneliness.
The task was immense: to build community through faith, words and action and to help the people of Weston live life to the full.
As a team, the Weston Lighthouse Project has tried to address the most desperate practical needs of the residents. All the while this has been underpinned with a demonstration of God’s love for any and every individual.
Therefore, we have established a variety of outreach projects which include: a fortnightly lunch club for the elderly, the lonely, and the semi-housebound; a renovations project which provides a basic decorating service for those who move into sub-standard accommodation; a domestic rubbish collection service; an allotment project designed to give people “green therapy”; and a service providing the most needy with furniture and white goods which have been donated to us.
By equipping people practically and spiritually through these servant-hearted expressions of love, we enable them to trust in God’s provision for their own lives. We are not selling them a quick fix like the rest of the world, but instead offering them faith in an eternal saviour – Jesus Christ.
We are also committed to the people of Weston for the long-term. That is why we have chosen to live among them and walk alongside them through life’s ups and downs.
Centre of Mission
In the summer of last year we were delighted the project was expanded to become a Church Army Centre of Mission with the arrival of a second Evangelist, Trevor Clarke, and Evangelist-in-Training, Maria Hembrow. This is a gritty, hands-on type of job and it has been brilliant to have the extra support.
We are also constantly working towards the vision of creating a separate worshipping community on the estate. We have already begun to experiment with different styles of worship in the parish hall, seeking to find the most culturally relevant forms for the area. So far, we have been blessed by good numbers and encouraging comments.
Hope for residents
As a team, it has been a real privilege to see members of our community grow in their understanding of faith and to see their everyday lives improved.
One individual was brought to our attention when he moved to Weston having lost everything in a flat fire. Over a period of two weeks we were able to help him and his daughter by providing them with much-needed furniture and kitchen appliances, all given freely. Afterwards, he said to us: “I’m extremely grateful to the project for offering me hope for a new start.”
Another Weston resident, Karen, said: “My family was in desperate need of a fresh start and it would have been a lot harder to achieve without your help. You have restored my faith in human kindness, which had been destroyed many years ago. God bless you.”
We thank God daily that he has given us the task of reaching out to the people of Weston. We hope and pray that our experiences will encourage others to take the plunge and share their faith in hard to reach places, so that God may be glorified and his Kingdom grown.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Will you partner with us prayerfully and financially as we reach out to forgotten communities across the United Kingdom and Ireland? To make a one-off donation or to set up a direct debit for Church Army’s latest appeal, please visit www.churcharmy.org.uk/appeal or telephone 0300 123 2113. Alternatively, please send a cheque to Wilson Carlile Centre, 50 Cavendish Street, Sheffield, S3 7RZ.
To watch a film about The Weston Lighthouse Project please visit www.churcharmy.org.uk/appeal
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