The Friendship Centre is a community hub, based in a particularly diverse part of England. There are very few Jesus followers among the residents who hail from countries such as Bangladesh, Somalia and Pakistan.
John* and Riya* work alongside other Christian volunteers to run the centre, bringing practical support and a much-needed spiritual light to the community. Through friendships and training courses, they build connections with the community and take every opportunity they can to share about Jesus.
“We try to find out what the needs are in the community,” says John. “We survey door-to-door; it takes a long time actually, because they like talking to us. They all want to have a conversation.”
One of the ways the centre supports the neighbourhood is through training. A local Muslim lady teaches a sewing course, giving the women the skills to make their own salwar kameez (traditional Indian clothing). One lady, having completed the course, set up her own clothing business and is now able to make a living.
The centre also has computer facilities to host IT classes, and a comfortable seating area for English conversation classes. The volunteers incorporate a short Bible study and discussion into every lesson. Riya takes particular joy in introducing Bible stories that people may not have heard before, and is able to do that through the classes.
For cultural reasons, men and women meet in separate rooms. The team have found that while the women are sewing, their husbands are quite happy to sit with a cup of coffee and chat in an adjoining room.
“I’ve been having conversations and building friendships with the men,” shares John. “It can be difficult if they have limited English, but we just try to find links with people.”
The team have found that locals enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the centre, and some visit almost every day.
“As soon as I came to this place, I felt peace.” Ayesha* who came from an abusive home but found a safe place at the Friendship Centre.
A social worker volunteers monthly at the centre to provide as much support as possible for the community, but they are aware that there is still more work to be done. John explains that he’d love to see a sports facility in order to connect specifically with the teens.
“There’s no sports facility here for the early teens,” John explains. “We’d like to do something for them, but we’ll need more workers.”
The Friendship Centre is an investment into a community that needs to see the gospel lived out, and to experience the freedom and peace that only Jesus can bring.
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbour.” – Proverbs 12:26 (ESV)
Thank God that the Friendship Centre can be a neutral space for people from all backgrounds to meet, learn and have deep conversations! Please pray that the people who attend the Friendship Centre would encounter Jesus for themselves. Pray for someone willing to work with teenagers in the area.
*names changed for security