Every Thursday night, in the heart of East London, members of a small church plant gather to host a café for people who are displaced and recently arrived in the UK. Once they’re all set up, they walk down the road to a hotel where people who fled conflict and persecution are now here in London. More than the games, activities and food on offer, the church aims to be a welcoming, compassionate, and friendly support to every single attendee.
At the café, google translate is well-used as people of different ages and places interact in a cacophony of conversation, connecting over food and games, as well as deeply personal challenges and stories.
I spoke to one LCM Mission Associate who has been working with this church for the last 6 months. She told me about the hotels that the families and individuals are living in right now. “People are grateful but even good hotel rooms have their limits. They are made for temporary stays,” she said.
And waiting is certainly a reality for many – whether it be for a visa or to find out which part of the country they might be moved to next – each person or family living at the hotel and coming down to the café on a Thursday is waiting for something. The café offers fellowship and friendship to those on the threshold of a new life in the UK.
In Newham, tucked away from the main road, people are waiting in a queue outside a modest church hall. Inside, volunteers from a local church have been setting up food and beverages for their bi-weekly food bank for over an hour. Most of the people arriving on this day are seeking refuge in the UK and have been housed at a nearby hotel temporarily. When they walk into the hall, they are greeted with friendly faces. Following training from LCM missionaries, the volunteers confidently offer to talk and pray with each person that walks through the doors.
One volunteer said, “It’s doing church. Part of living out the gospel means being there for people in their good times and their bad times.”
Last week 10 families who came to the food bank also decided to visit the service at the church. At another church service, 15 individuals were baptised.
These are people that have made the sometimes dangerous move to this country and found themselves searching for stability, love, and community. They have gone through things I cannot imagine, and yet God met them on their journeys.
They may still be waiting to cross the threshold of their new home in the UK or find themselves waiting for an undefined point in the future when they feel settled in this new country. But there is opportunity in the waiting.
In Christ, each of us has a home, both now and into eternity – as we’re welcomed into God’s family receiving a community, offered healing, and love. It is a home so many people new to the UK are searching for without even realising it. As Christians, we are also called to care for our neighbours, each becoming a reflection of God’s heart for the lost, the displaced, and the waiting. The parable of the good Samaritan breaks through all political, cultural, religious, and racial barriers. Not everyone is our brother or sister in Christ, but everyone is our neighbour. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus said. It was a command to us Christians to cross cultures and care for those in need.
The good news is this: No-one has to wait for relationship, for belonging and for community. No-one has to wait for hope, encouragement, and the love of the Father. As Christians, we are well-equipped to invite others to encounter God and point those waiting for a home to the ultimate destination – to the love and grace demonstrated in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross!
Can we each trust God to lead us towards these opportunities? The gospel message changes lives – will we be bold enough to share it and to fellowship with the people around us that need hope while they wait for a new home?
Even in the waiting periods there are opportunities for encounter – to encounter God, to encounter the fellowship of faith-filled people and to be encouraged.
We’ve put together a free guide to help your church engage with those who have been displaced who may be living unseen in our communities. Download it here: lcm.org.uk/displaced
London City Mission Field Director for North London and Diaspora Ministry. Moving from Postdoctoral research in Cancer Therapeutics, Charlotte joined LCM in 2014 feeling called to reach the nations in London. Charlotte worked for a number of years alongside Muslim communities in London, particularly the Somali and South Asian diaspora communities and now coordinates LCM’s Diaspora strategy.