A unique outreach event on 14 February, 2023, brought scores of people from the community to the Willesden Seventh-day Adventist church. Under the caption Love In Action – Touching Lives, Changing Communities, as the world focused on Valentine's Day, the church's outreach was demonstrable of God's love, reflected in practical acts of love and service to its community. Departmental church leaders and volunteers from the church's Centre of Help and Hope and Community Kitchen served each attendee with professionalism, care and compassion.
Supporting the event were British Union Conference (BUC) Directors – Pastor Sam Davies and Kofi Osei-Owusu from the Communication and Media team, along with Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Director for Health, Women's Ministries, Adventist Community Services. Departmental Secretary Shirley Harper also attended and greeted each visitor with a love gift from the BUC.
Attending on the day were several external agencies and community individuals leading in diverse interventions such as mental wellbeing, activism, counselling, and advisory services. We interviewed representatives from these agencies on their work and affiliation to the Willesden church, along with the church's departmental leaders and volunteers.
Along with a wide variety of foods and essential household items, clientele received a beautiful red rose and a mini booklet on God's love from the BUC Adventist Community Services department.
Sharon Platt-McDonald interviewed the pastor of the church – Dr Mario Phillip, on the series of outreach ministries the church is undertaking.
SPM – Your church is currently involved in many community initiatives. Please tell us about them.
MP – Every day of the week, something is happening at the Willesden Adventist church for the community. Our schedule looks like this:
- Sunday – We have the Drop-in Centre. Additionally, the Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Monday – Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Tuesday – Food and clothes banks operate & Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Wednesday – Steps Up empowerment and skills training and Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Thursday – Food and clothes banks operate & Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Friday – Community Kitchen serves hot meals
- Saturday – We run the Winter Night Shelter
SPM – Please tell us a little more about each of these initiatives.
MP – Some of the initiatives we have embarked on include:
- A food and clothes bank that serves over 100 people weekly from the Community Kitchen twice a week. We also feed our members on Sabbaths through our Centre of Help and Hope.
- We have empowerment initiatives through our Steps Up Education and Empowerment programme. Here we teach community members employability skills, ESOL, and various vocational and practical skills.
- A daily Community Kitchen which provides hot meals to the community from Sunday-Friday.
- A weekly Golden Age Club that caters for the holistic wellbeing of our senior citizens. It comprises both members and individuals from the community.
- A bi-weekly United Drop-in Centre that brings all the services of our community within access to the residents and the most vulnerable. The centre provides a warm space, clinical health checks, mental health counselling, hot meals, a warm shower, and clothes, among other services.
- A weekly winter night shelter that caters for the homeless. Every Saturday night, we open our doors to the homeless and provide them with a warm space, shower, fellowship, meals, and a place to sleep.
- A local Community Action Team comprised of persons from the church and the local community. Together with the community, we sent containers of relief items to parts of the world affected by natural disasters, namely, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Grenada, St Kitts, and Pakistan.
SPM – Do you involve external agencies in your ministry work, and how do they support what you do?
MP – We have partnered with several agencies in our local community because we recognise we need help to do the work. We are aware that some community organisations are doing great work that aligns with our values and objectives. So we have partnered with them in our community outreach. Some of these agencies include:
- Brent Council – provides funding and technical support to all our initiatives.
- Brent Health Matters – provides us with clinical professionals and links to the local GP for our service users.
- Brent Health Inequalities – provides mental health counselling and advice.
- Brent Volunteer Sector – provides funding and training.
- Catalyst – supports us with resources and their space for use when needed.
- Learie Constantine Centre – has provided their area (a brand new building) for our service.
- Brent Multi-faith Forum – provides a platform for collaborating with other faith communities.
- Brahma Kumari – provides us with raw materials for humanitarian work.
- Conway – they give human resources when needed to embark on our community work.
- Community Action Team – galvanise the community in coming together when needed for particular initiatives.
SPM – How many volunteers do you have, and how are they organised?
MP – We have over 50 volunteers among the various initiatives we do.
SPM –What is the inspiration behind your outreach to the community?
MP – We have seen the needs of our community, and as Christians, we owe it to others to reflect the love of Jesus. Our passion for people drives us to do what we do. Furthermore, we see the community as our family; hence, serving them brings us joy and fulfilment.
SM– Tell us a little about your clientele and any testimonials they have shared about your services.
MP – We serve a broad cross-section of people from all different ethnic groups. Our service users are homeless, low-income, unemployed, and seniors. They have mainly come from Eastern Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. We have single mothers, homeless individuals, senior citizens etc.
SM –What advice would you give for churches considering outreach to their communities?
MP – The advice I would give is as follows:
- Recognise that God is already at work in your community.
- Be intentional about getting to know your community.
- Get to know the civic leaders in your local borough.
- Please get to know the local community champions in your community, and let them introduce you to their circle of influence.
- Get to know the local clergy in your areas, and if they have meetings attend.
- Please get to know the groups in your society already doing great work and collaborate with them.
- Find out when there are neighbourhood forums in the local community and attend, listen, and participate.
SMP – Thank you, Pastor Phillip, for the exemplary work you and your teams are undertaking as you reflect God's heart of love to your community.
The church's unique outreach ministry to its community has captured the attention of the local borough. Subsequently, from various funding streams and community grants, the Willesden Seventh-day Adventist church has received over £80,000 to enhance its outreach services. May God's abundant favour enrich their ministry and transform lives to the glory of His name.