Bringing God's grace and healing love
to people with life-disrupting problems
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name;
Worship the Lord in the splendour of his holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
Over the past year, worship has become far more significant in our ministry and life together. As we are faced each day with people who have problems you cannot solve and pain you can barely imagine, we constantly need to go back to God - not just praying for these people, or praying that we will be able to help them, but acknowledging that the Lord is worthy of all praise even when life is dreadful and He doesn't appear to be solving problems the way we want Him to.
We describe the work as 'bringing God's grace and healing love to people with life-disrupting problems.' Of course, this is not something we can do on our own, but we can pray that it happens, and we can open the door and put ourselves in a position where God can choose to work through us - or despite us! - to touch the poorest and most needy in our society. And we are constantly amazed at the ways in which He does work.
We use the description 'life-disrupting' to refer to homelessness, addictions, mental health problems, and the like. We used to describe them as 'life-controlling' because these problems appear to dominate and control so many lives - but the truth is, no matter how big the problem, God is bigger. And as the staff and volunteers grow closer to Him, so his life can flow through us and touch others.
Last year, we were looking at the possibility of recruiting a new person to work in the Coffee Shop, and are delighted to report that Sam Colgan was appointed to the post of Pastoral Care Coordinator in November. She is doing a tremendous job, but as always, the more people you help, the more needs you come across. More people come in to the Coffee Shop, asking for help with a wide variety of problems - please pray that Sam has wisdom to discern what to do with and for each individual, and pray that she is able to draw in more of the volunteers to help in this way.
Sam joins Jayne Griffiths, who is responsible for food in the Coffee Shop, Andy Luxford who runs the LITE Course, Trudie Lane who manages the office, and Paul Hazelden, who as General Manager gets to do all the jobs nobody else wants. There are now five of us, but as the work continues to grow, we find we are each putting in more hours, not less. We would dearly love to see another person recruited to work in the Coffee Shop, and an assistant to help Andy with the LITE Course.
The Missing Peace Coffee Shop continues to operate in St Pauls as a drop-in and place of refuge, with the help of a tremendous team of willing volunteers.
Thanks to Jayne, we have enjoyed our most stable year in the Coffee Shop for a long time. We are recruiting more volunteers to help in the evenings, and have been able to start opening on Friday evenings. The down side is that we are now desperate for more volunteers to help keep the shop open during the days - please pray that we find people to help in the daytime, and that we can train and encourage all the volunteers the way we should.
The LITE Course helps people who have been unemployed for a long time gain the skills and confidence they need to move on to some form of employment or further training.
Andy completed his review of the LITE Course in the Summer. After collecting feedback and ideas from former students, helpers, and related organisations, we discovered that most people felt that the course addresses the needs of vulnerable people in an accessible and enjoyable way. We found a few aspects that could do with updating, and a revised course started operating early in the Autumn. The first 'new-format' course was completed by four students, and each one saw significant improvements to their lives - partly thanks to the course contents, and partly due to the social and informal contacts the course makes possible.
'Bridgehead' is the name for the explicitly Christian part of our work. It is often called 'Bridgehead Church,' but we don't normally use the word 'church.' For many people, the word doesn't make them want to join in and discover for themselves what is going on. And we certainly are not a church in the 'we meet on Sundays' and 'you have to leave your church to join ours' sense.
The Bridgehead meetings have gone through several changes over this last year. We are currently blessed with a strong 'core' group meeting each Wednesday lunchtime. We share lunch together, then spend some time in worship, prayer, and looking at issues relating to discipleship and Christian growth. An 'away-day' to a conference in Dudley was very successful, and we plan to follow that up with a few more visits later in the year. We balance the discipleship emphasis of the Wednesday meeting with a more evangelistic emphasis for the occasional event on a Friday evening.
We at the Crisis Centre can't begin to meet all the needs of our customers. We operate as part of a network of groups within Bristol, bringing hope and providing practical help in a wide variety of ways. Over the past year, we have been instrumental in establishing the BCAN Homeless Forum, which is providing support and encouragement to a wide number of Christian groups in and around Bristol.
We are learning, along with many of these other groups, how to work together. The challenge is that the work we do brings us into contact with almost every other social care agency in Bristol, from physical and mental health to the social services, various parts of the council, alcohol and drug services, training and housing. They all want us to be a part of their network, helping to set standards and discover ways of working more effectively.
It is important work, but we struggle to find the time and resources to participate fully in all the significant groups, both Christian and secular. We cannot cut back on our direct, practical support for homeless people in order to spend time in meetings - but unless we help those who develop the city-wide strategies to make plans that will really address the needs of homeless people, we will be failing those we aim to serve. Please pray that we are able to respond to this challenge and opportunity.
It is not just the council and the secular policy makers that need to improve their understanding of the needs of homeless people. In many churches, there is a serious lack of understanding, both of the nature and the scale of the problems our customers face. In fact, many of these problems are also faced by the friends and families of people in our churches. By discovering how to reach out to help others, we also learn how to meet God at our own point of need.
We strongly believe that society will not be able to solve problems such as homelessness, drugs and social exclusion until the Church begins to demonstrate the power of the gospel to mend broken lives. Jesus wants His Church to be in the forefront of society's efforts to seek for justice and for peace.
We welcome invitations from churches - to speak at services, homegroups and other events: to inspire, to inform, or just answer questions. We can offer anything from a five-minute spot to a full day's programme. You can contact us at the office, 12 City Road, or via the web site at www.crisis-centre.org.uk.