Hope on the Streets - Church Army - April 2012
As part of Church Army’s Hope on the Streets campaign, HANNAH GRAY takes a look at a Derbyshire bus project reaching more than 60 homeless people each week
Homelessness. Unemployment. Addiction. Low self-esteem. A life lived without purpose.
These are just some of the struggles which thousands of people on the margins of our society are facing each day.
Our streets are places devoid of true hope, where fear and sadness reign. As last year’s riots clearly showed, the Good News of Jesus is desperately needed so that true freedom can be found and people released from spiritual poverty.
Yet, up and down the country, Church Army evangelists are working with those on the edge, sharing the Gospel through words and action.
Church on the Bus was set up in 2004 by Evangelist Alan Park, and has grown to become a Christian community which meets each week in Chesterfield, Matlock and Clay Cross.
Alan and his team of 45 trained volunteers use a bus as a drop-in for those who are vulnerable and homeless, where they provide friendship and prayer alongside food, hot drinks, clothes and toiletries.
The bus stops in the same places each week at the same times, so that people always know where to find it.
Before becoming a Christian, Alan was homeless himself for seven years, living on the streets of Doncaster and London. He describes this period of his life as “very lonely” and felt completely excluded from society.
He said: “Homelessness can happen with the break-up of families, debt, alcohol or drugs. Nobody is exempt from being on the streets – it can happen to anyone.
“Therefore, as a team we believe it is important to help people feel valued. We know everybody’s name and we welcome them onto the bus.
“When we share the Gospel we keep it simple – we say: ‘God loves you,’ or ‘We’re praying for you’ and that does something to these people – it shows them that we care.”
Since the project began, many people have come to a living faith including Jonny, who has struggled with drug addiction since the age of 15.
He said: “I spent a lot of time in jail, and when I came out I was living on the streets. I started coming to Church on the Bus because I found out they ran a soup kitchen.
“I’m clear of drugs now. If it hadn’t been for this bus I don’t think I’d be here now, to be honest. It has absolutely saved me.”
Over the coming years, Alan is looking to expand the work of Church on the Bus and is hoping to begin visiting an estate in Matlock ministering to single parents. He also would like to recruit more volunteers so that more people can be trained and equipped for mission.
He said: “I’m really excited about how God is working through Church on the Bus and am so thankful that people are coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
“I also hope that other people will be inspired by the project and will want to reach out beyond their church building.
“There is nothing more exciting than raw evangelism – each day is different and I never know who I’m going to meet!”
• For more information and to donate to Hope on the Streets, please visit www.churcharmy.org.uk/hopeonthestreets