Small is Beautiful
Posted on February 23rd, 2016 at 6:06PM
When I first arranged to meet with Acts 435 Advocate Dave Key, he suggested somewhere in town, apologising for not having a church building. Yet I wanted to see where church activity was happening and meet those helped by Acts 435. "We have a drop in centre/community shop where we meet people through coffee mornings, foodbank, CAP etc." he said: "I could pick you up from the station and we could have a coffee at our centre. It's quite small but you could see how it works?"
Ahh - that sounded more like it ... and it was an absolute privilege to see this amazing church in operation and their ingenious use of their small building.
It made a lovely cafe with about 5 tables - friendly, welcoming and delicious cake - and then at noon once the cafe closed, it was swiftly turned into a food distribution centre as they awaited their weekly delivery from the Peterborough Foodbank warehouse. I was astonished to see the tiny size of the cupboard that all this food was carefully packed into awaiting Thursday when they would give it out to those in need.
This was not all. Look round the sides of the room and suddenly you were transported to a second hand charity shop with clothes and bric-a-brac. Apparently a lot more is stored away and wheeled in for Friday - which is the day they have a community shop. Many of the people who have wandered into the centre have become volunteers to support these ministries. It was a buzzing hive of activity and such a great atmosphere.
Up on the second floor of this terrace house I found the Christians Against Poverty debt centre manager of the year (2015) - clearly CAP too had sensed what wonderful things were happening through this church. Ken, also an Acts 435 advocate, spoke of those helped in the community and initiatives he had started at local primary schools and the local prison to help in budgeting.
All this is supported by a congregation of just 55 people, many from very deprived backgrounds, and finances are tight. This is a prime example of a church that does not have extra cash to help individuals with their specific needs. Cue Acts 435!
I met Phil at the cafe - he was living in absolute squalor when he first approached Open Door. It was when he said he couldn't use his kettle on receiving cup-a-soups from the Foodbank because he had no electricity that alarm bells started to ring for Dave. "We discovered he had been living without electricity and gas for months, in a desperate situation. It was so empowering to be able to say "We can help you" and get money through Acts 435 to turn his gas and electricity back on."
Phil is a regular now at the centre, and also a committed member of the church (which meets in a local school). Acts 435 enabled Dave to build a deeper relationship with Phil and show how much they cared.
I also watched as our third Open Door advocate, Maggie, explained to another gentleman a letter he had received from the Benefits Office. She explained he had been sanctioned because his post had been misappropriated and so he didn't know about an appointment. They now ensure all his post comes to the centre. After years homeless and an alcoholic (he used to sleep in the phone box just across from the centre), he needed support as he moved on from that dark period in his life. Acts 435 helped with the cost of recycled white goods once in a flat.
The stories went on - Mark, helped with a cooker, and a lady from their church helped with the cost of car tax after she had been denied a medical benefit and couldn't meet the bill herself. With health problems, she was dependent on her car. So many examples of lives changed - and such confirmation of Acts 435's usefulness to churches as they minister to those in need.
Small is beautiful and I personally think that small building is helping to foster a very special sense of community indeed. Hats off to the team there - and so glad we can be of service to them.