In September I started an internship with the Unreached Network – with the aim to learn more about cross cultural mission, on my doorstep and across the nations.
As part of the internship I had some dedicated hours to use on placement at The Oak Church. I had no idea where God would lead but trusted that His plans were greater than mine.
After the crisis in Afghanistan in August, I knew I wanted to help this people group, but had no idea how. One night myself and my husband heard of 288 Afghan refugees arriving at a hotel nearby – This. Is. It. I knew we could do something to help these families.
‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ Matthew 25:35
The church jumped to action, and gave money, bought toiletries and colouring books to pack up and send to these precious families, we then purchased hanging rails and hangers so families didn’t need to live out of their cases. It was beautiful. We supported the council, including surprising them with Christmas gifts for all the children and staff in the hotel in December, and slowly built trust – trust that gained us favour.
In January, we were able to start going into the hotel to deliver play sessions for pre-schoolers, this has been such an incredible privilege, to come alongside families, to learn their names, to learn how to say hello, goodbye and of course 1 – 5 in Farsi, to laugh when we can’t communicate, to cry when we can.
Through an incredible friend – originally from Iran – translating, we got to understand how difficult it has been for the women, who spent their whole lives mainly in the kitchen to suddenly be unable to cook for their families. Missing the joy and pleasure of communal cooking and the practicalities of their kids not enjoying western food – We even met ladies whose 2-year old had refused to eat and would only drink milk since they have been in the UK.
After making a few calls, we got the green light to host 4 x Come and Cook sessions for the women we have built relationships with. I am delighted that we are able to provide a space for these ladies to be empowered in this area again. You should’ve seen their faces and heard their voices while they were gathered round the table making a list of ingredients and planning together. A scent of hope and joy rising.
We have also formed relationships with many families from the hotel who have now been housed around Leeds, and it has been a joy to be able to turn up at their door (with the whole family in tow) box of goodies in hand – leaving 5 hours later with full tummies and happy hearts after spending time together. To show a family you are willing to just be with them, with no agenda and no time limits is so counter cultural but so worthwhile!
This is just the beginning guys, we have more people arriving very shortly from Afghanistan, Syria and other countries where people are leaving their homes due to violence, oppression and many other reasons. We also need to prepare to welcome Ukrainians when the time comes for that too. The nations are coming to us – Praise the Lord – Let’s be a church who is willing to welcome the stranger.
There are so many ways you could get involved:
– Pray, pray for families who have left their homes to adjust to a new way of life, to overcome trauma, to meet Jesus in the chaos.
– Give, maybe you could bake for families, maybe you could write cards to welcome families to their new home, maybe you could engage your children in collecting some toys and making a child a new toy box, maybe you want to give financially to help families get toiletries or essentials for their home?
– Come and join the team – If you want to join the cross-cultural team we would love to welcome you in, to share upcoming events and to keep you updated on future events, this could include welcoming families, dropping people off at events, serving in the cooking events, visiting hotels, walking families round their local communities and who knows what else? This isn’t for everyone, but if you have a heart for refugees we would love to have you on the team.
‘I will make you as a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’ Isaiah 49:6
Lucy is based at the Oak Church in Leeds. You can find out more about the Oak Church or contact Lucy Here.
Find out more about how the Internship Programme can kick start your international work both as a church and as an individual, Here