When you hear a homeless Nepalese man trying to encourage his homeless Polish friend ahead of a job interview later that day, it’s difficult not to stop in your tracks and take stock for a moment. Any argument that ‘the poor’ were not on our doorstep would just be foolish.
The Night Shelter is an amazing initiative that provides meals and lodgings for the homeless in Merton, during the winter months. On Sundays throughout December and January, Everyday Church’s Wimbledon venue has been/will be home for these dozen (or so) people who have nowhere else to sleep, eat, wash and keep warm. They travel to other centres throughout the week, which guarantees that they have somewhere to go every night, during the coldest months.
When the weather outside plummets and families across South-West London gather inside to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, to their hearts’ content, it’s quite sobering to help these men and women in their own situations – so far removed from the comfort and security that most of us experience.
I have been spending an unusual amount of time recently considering a line from the Lord’s Prayer: Give us today our daily bread. As I shared a meal with a homeless guy named Chris, I can’t help but start praying more and more: ‘Give him today his daily bread.’ To put a face to the need in our local area was very important for me – it helped me to realise that there is a real need, affecting real people, right on my doorstep. There is a further weight added to my prayer because Chris was actually in the year below me at school. This isn’t someone else’s problem to take responsibility for – we have the resources to provide practical support but we also have the promise that our God is the God who ‘…raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap’ (Psalm 113 v7).
Helping on these two occasions has made me realise that if I claim to follow Jesus, I should be compelled at the very least to pray for Chris but also to offer help/support where possible – and initiatives like the Night Shelter make that very easy and practical and leave me with no excuse not to act.
At the start of this new year, we may come before our Father in Heaven with expectations and requests – petitions for how we’d like to see Him provide for us in 2015. Please don’t forget about the Chris’, Marek’s or Barbara’s – they too need to see their Father in Heaven provide for them in 2015 and we have a responsibility as a church not just to join with initiatives like Night Shelter, but also to pray for them personally as well, all year round.
The number of people sleeping rough has almost doubled in the last four years – it is estimated that 6,400 people are currently homeless in London. Many of those who are benefiting from the Merton Winter Night Shelter have been referred through Faith in Action ( in association with the YMCA). Everyday Church will be continuing to provide two meals and accommodation for those on the program every Sunday night until the end of January. For more information or ways in which you can support this work, please contact us.
Please also pray: that awareness would grow for the issues surrounding homelessness; that those specifically on the Merton Winter Night Shelter programme would find permanent accommodation; that churches in South-West London would increasingly choose to offer practical support but opening up their facilities and partnership with initiatives such as this; that the number of volunteers would increase so that the scale of the programme can continue to grow.