Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes.
One of the services we run is ‘Listening Ear’. This service is open to anyone who walks in regardless of faith or non-faith who needs someone to talk to.
It’s amazing that in this social networking, media obsessed society, with many ways to communicate with the outside world that people still feel there is no one who will really listen to them or who they can talk to about the things that are really worrying them.
Your Space, our Women’s only drop in session on a Thursday afternoon also operates as a listening service. The women who’ve come to talk recently shared concerns about their lack of meaningful relationships, abusive pasts, struggles with depression, anxiety, mental illness and their health. Some of them struggle with faith and their relationship with God, seeing Him as an angry authority figure, who they can never please, rather than as a loving heavenly Father who loves and accepts them and wants a relationship with them. This may well be a reflection of their relationships with their fathers, step fathers or partners.
It is always an immense privilege and often very humbling when someone shares their story with you. Often where they start isn’t where they finish and you have to listen right to the end to uncover the real issues they want to talk about.
Sam (not her real name) came in very agitated and concerned about her mental health, feeling very depressed and anxious and on the surface concerned about a doctors’ appointment. But by the end of our conversation she opened up about her loneliness, which had led her into pornography and masturbation and the feelings of guilt this left her with that kept her from coming to God to ask Him to help her. We were able to share together and pray for God to deal with her emotional needs that were at the root of her habit.
Do you have to have been through the same experience as the person? No, you just have to be willing to give up some time to listen.
Do you have to have an answer to their situation? No, most people just need to talk. Sometimes they find the answer within themselves; others are keen to receive prayer.
Does God come and wave a magic wand and sort all their problems out? If He did we’d have people queuing around the building to get prayed for! Prayer does sometimes work like that. But essentially what we ask the person to do is to invite God into the situation and ask Him to bring wisdom, peace, healing, or whatever the person feels they need. Then we hand the situation over to God for Him to work.
And He does.
Our Listening Ear service is available Mon- Fri 10-4pm
Your Space women’s only drop in is available every Thursday afternoon 1.30-3pm in the Step Up lounge
This is part two of a series of posts on the range of English speaking and writing classes and groups that meet regularly at the Jesus Centre.
English for Speakers of Other Languages is a fifteen week course for those whose first language is not English.
It all started with occasional one-to-one sessions in our small Jesus Centre Pilot Project and has since ballooned to the over-subscribed classes we hold now. This has been largely down to the word-of-mouth recommendations of our students to others in their communities and friendship groups, who are often from similar ethnic backgrounds to themselves.
The Jesus Centre’s ESOL teaching follows a formal routine allowing us to provide fully accredited City & Guilds exams to all students. There are roughly 30 – 50 people that attend our ESOL classes each year with over 250 people estimated to have been through the course since it first started. In the last four years we put 25 students through City & Guilds exams with all but one passing all the units.
Our biggest problem now is how to meet capacity.
It’s amazing to think of the mobility afforded when people start to pick up confidence in speaking the national language. It all helps finding a job, asking questions, shopping, and getting help from agencies. Several students have been very grateful for receiving citizenships, made possible by their grasp of English. Last year an outside tutor who helped us to teach English in the past, a Hindu herself, referred one of her Hindu English students to us as she wanted to become a Christian.
The Jesus Centre has helped other Churches to set up free ESOL classes, who have then gone on to help other Churches in the same way.
Jenny Berisford, one of the ESOL tutors who runs our ‘Talk English’ class shares her experience:
I really enjoy working as a volunteer at the Jesus Centre.
Since we started the’ Talk English’ group I have met many people from other countries and made lots of friends. I’ve also learned some new skills myself. Its great to see the visitors to the group gaining confidence and learning how to speak ‘everyday’ English, such as what to say when going shopping, catching a train, ordering food in a café etc.
There’s quite a family atmosphere among the group and we sometimes cook together or share some food that’s typical of our country or culture. Visitors sometimes also receive prayer and join in weekend events.
We have a lot of fun, and there’s sometimes tears when someone tells their personal story.
ESOL classes meet twice on Thursdays:10:15 – 12:12 and 1:30 – 2:30
Fully accredited City & Guilds qualifications are available
There are two levels, with sixteen people in each group, now led by Bill, Elaine and their helpers
The ESOL course runs for up to two years with twelve week terms to reach pre- O Level grade
A special post from Steve Jones, the Northampton Jesus Centre manager.
Everyone has a story.
Rob first heard of the Jesus Centre when he was hitch-hiking to work, having got a job out of necessity twelve miles from where he was living and being without money.
The driver, Simon, invited him to Church and to the Jesus Centre. Since then Rob has been coming to the Step Up virtually every day before work. He says there’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the Jesus Centre and it helps him to use his time constructively, and now he has his own place life is a bit less stressful and he’s also started attending Jesus Fellowship groups at Cornhill (one of our Jesus Army Church houses) as well as the Northampton Jesus Centre.
The beauty of the Jesus Centre for me is the way it nudges us into the path of so many visitors who come for any number of reasons. To me each person is a gift and it is a privilege to show love in some way to each one. The other day I was thinking of some of the reasons people come here:
A meal or a drink in the Circle Café
Help finding accommodation
A cup of tea or coffee
To collect their mail or giro
To check emails
For someone to talk to
Just to get warm and dry
To drop off dirty washing or to pick it up again clean
To learn or improve their English speaking and writing
To receive prayer or to pray in the prayer room themselves
To make new friends in a Jesus Centre group or activity
To pick up some warm socks or other clothing
To browse an exhibition or art installation
Jesus Centres are a great way of showing off God’s love to 21st century Britain : Compassion in Action.
Main photo courtesy of ngould.
English Classes in their various forms have been the most popular groups we’ve ever run at the Northampton Jesus Centre. Along with our maths class they’ve been running ever since we opened our tiny pilot project in July 2002, and only beaten in longevity by the free sandwiches we hand out to homeless visitors.
This post introduces a four part series on these classes.
People who speak little or no English can find great barriers to social integration. Routine and apparently simple tasks such as visiting a doctor, buying milk, helping children with homework or talking to teachers can be a daunting prospect.
Immigrating non-English speakers tend to concentrate into homogeneous communities for the support and familiarity of their native culture. However, lack of understanding of the national language can only exacerbate alienation and harm social cohesion between communities.
A few stats:
- The 2001 National Census reports that in 13 Northamptonshire Wards between 10% – 30% of the total population belong to ethnic minorities
- Northampton has one of the highest concentrations of Polish residents in the UK outside of London (source)
The vision is simple. As the Jesus Centres Strategy Document states the first aim of the national Jesus Centres project is to “show the heart of Jesus”. This vision has led us to make the love of Jesus practical by nailing it down into specific aims, which (among others) includes the following:
To reduce the personal suffering associated with economic or social deprivation
Build capacity on a non prejudiced holistic basis to help individuals make significant progress in their lives
We understand that most immigrant communities will not be Christian in nature but the Jesus Centre’s ethos is to serve every kind of person regardless or race, faith (or lack of it), sexuality or disability. Like Jesus we’re called to the margins.
The next three posts in this series will explore where this vision has taken us, introducing the classes that have grown by word of mouth among communities and helped hundreds of people to find jobs, receive citizenships and have led some to faith in Jesus.
I’ve personally tasted a Thai meal made in thanks for the tutoring that our English tutors provide. Well worthwhile!