Serving the poor has always been a fundamental part of who we are as Catalyst, and it’s a calling that’s more important now than ever. In our latest blog, David Lyall from City Church Newcastle shares how their work amongst refugees and asylum seekers has grown over the last ten years:
I love Jesus’ parables about seeds because they remind me that changing the world often starts with small and seemingly insignificant acts of obedience. Here at City Church Newcastle, as we look back with thankfulness on the 10th anniversary of our refugee charity, Action Foundation – now housing over 50 people and teaching language to hundreds from 50+ nations each week – it’s easy to forget how unobtrusively it all began.
It was nearly 20 years ago that the Government decided to disperse asylum seekers away from the South East, and at that time, we prayed that God would send them to us, and that we would have the honour of serving the nations on our doorstep. And so, they started to arrive.
Over the first few years we struggled at times to know how best to serve these new communities but gradually learned the remarkable power of simple things like friendliness and interest in others, not being put off by seemingly strange cultures, sharing food together, learning about one another, and opening up our homes for meals, bible studies and friendship.
And inevitably over time this led us to grapple with some very practical issues of homelessness and destitution, and we started to help by providing a room to stay or in other ways as we could.
Then, Julian Prior, a member of the church, gave up his marketing job in response to a call of God to give his life to serving the poor and began to research and pray about the form that this should take. He was greatly affected by one young man, M. from Iran who was struggling with mental health issues and spent some time living on the streets. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital in London and couldn’t be released because he had nowhere to go. Julian visited M. and was able to secure his release having found accommodation for him with a family in the church. Out of this and further research, Julian decided to create a charity that would provide housing for destitute asylum seekers.
A kind person in the church lent us a house where we could start to provide a stable base for M. and some other very vulnerable people, and from there, Action Housing came into being, and things began to grow. Another church member suggested that we should provide some simple English language classes one summer holiday, and we were amazed by the way that people from the church and the wider community stepped forward to serve on what is now our thriving Action Language school. We have also begun to partner with the Home Office to see women released from asylum detention and to be supported in the community.
More recently, during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis we have been providing support for practical needs and specific casework problems, as well as phone calls and messages for those feeling alone, and sharing latest advice and information in a variety of languages to ensure it’s accessible for all.
We have learned many lessons along the way, including the power of prayer, the grace of God, and the importance of simply encouraging one another to keep going in serving the poor. And we keep meeting Jesus in the faces and lives of some amazing individuals. It’s been particularly rewarding to see people who first came to us as clients now serving with us as staff, volunteers and partners.
Our vision for the future is to see churches everywhere empowered to work effectively amongst the nations on our doorstep and for wider change in society so that the whole nation can embrace the nations on our doorstep. And we would love to hear from you, to learn from you and to help you in any way. Find out more about us or get in touch via our website
Written by David Lyall from City Church Newcastle