Around 18 months ago, after coming through the darkness of various addictions and life-dominating problems, we decided to start helping other people. We started a foodbank from our house and opened our home to people in a less fortunate position to ourselves. Very quickly we had several people living with us, two from a background of domestic violence and one from a local homeless shelter.
It was from that beginning that we started to look at how we could better serve people. As Christians we both read the New Testament and were confused as to why we wasn’t seeing more people helping others like we could easily see in the book of Acts. So, we started looking for answers.
It became clear to us that whilst a century ago the established church stood ‘in the gap’ and helped many people in need, the church of today could been accused of doing much less. Our faith had brought us this far on the road to full recovery but we found it was now going to take deeds as well as faith to make the sort of difference that was evident amongst the Christians of the 1st century AD.
A friend told us of a book called ‘The Restless Church’ by an organisation called The Fuel Project. The book describes the current state of churches and compares that with what is found in the New Testament and lays down a challenge for each of us to make a difference. (For more on The Fuel Project go to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheFuelProject?fref=ts).
The book really challenged us but we didn’t want it to be like a sermon we heard on the Sunday that we had forgotten by Monday…we wanted to put into practice what had challenged us.
About 12 months ago a former pizzeria came on the market and we were in a fortunate enough position to obtain the freehold for the ground floor commercial unit and the 3 bedroom flat above. The size of the premises meant that their would be no compromise on what we were able to do there.
We took possession in July and were immediately faced with all sorts of issues. The building was in a much worse state of repair than we had believed at first; getting planning permission was extremely difficult (we asked for Change of Use to a Coffee Shop, Christian Book Shop & Food Bank); Building Control objected to and opposed all our plans for alterations and so on. However, with prayer and much faith, we pursued our vision.
So far we have completely gutted the ground floor, re-plastered all the walls, replaced everything that had been ruined by decades of neglect. We have fitted a staircase from the ground floor to the first floor because the only access to the flat above was through a door on the first floor. And now we are getting very close to being able to open as a Coffee Shop.
The plan is that the Coffee Shop will finance some of the other services we plan to offer. We want to practice New Testament Christianity and that means practising extravagant kindness to anyone who wants our help. So, over the coming months we are planning to open The Pantry (foodbank) on a daily basis for the use of local people; run a clothing bank for anyone who needs clothing; start a job club which will enable people to sharpen their skills for interviews and producing CVs; start a ‘Helping Hands’ project by getting out into the community and helping those that need help with the gardening, odd jobs or even shopping; start classes in Debt Management, Adult Literacy & Numeracy, Good Parenting, Growing Your Own Vegetables; run courses on Christianity & what the Bible is all about; we are going to offer (free of charge) space to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, The Norfolk Recovery Partnership & the local MP so then can run their surgeries onsite…and that’s just the start.
I thank you for taking the time to read this. Please check back from time to time as the blog develops alongside the progress we are making on the ground. Bless you.