St John’s Church in Rowland’s Castle is working in partnership with Hampshire County Council, Havant Borough Council, the Rural Refugee Network and Hope into Action to support a family of refugees. Here, Terry Monahan describes the tremendous impact this has had on the church:

Terry Monahan of St John’s Church, Rowland’s Castle explains: When the refugee crisis was at its height, the vicar and I attended the Diocesan Conference, where we felt increasingly challenged to do something practical about it. We were also powerfully challenged to change the way we effectively ‘outsource’ most of our mission, by paying others to do it on our behalf.

Working at the local Food Bank, we saw an increase in the number of people who need basic food. In the face of the seemingly insurmountable issues of poverty and homelessness, we felt totally helpless as a church and found ourselves asking each other ‘what can we do about this?’. Ed Walker’s talk about Hope into Action at Spring Harvest set us off on an amazing journey.

To cut a long (sometimes whiteknuckle!) story short, we attracted contributions from 12 investors, ranging between £4,000 – £70,000 and embarked on our adventure together. You’d be surprised at the assets that become available in even the most modest of congregations. Rather than blowing their pension lump sums on sports cars and/ or fancy holidays, ordinary people came forward to contribute various sums in order to build up God’s Kingdom here on earth,
and storing up treasures in Heaven.

Initially, there were some interesting reactions from some members of the congregation, who seemed convinced that any refugees coming to this country were either terrorists, so-called ‘health tourists’ or just here to bleed the benefits system dry. These negative responses softened over the course of a sermon series exploring what the Bible says about refugees – looking at Jesus, Joseph, The Exodus etc.

A church member’s daughter-in-law then returned from Greece, where she’d been working with children and families directly affected by the crisis. As she spoke of her time in Greece, showing us photos and recounting harrowing stories of escape, the ‘tabloid headline fodder’ suddenly became personal. The church responded with a unanimous conviction that ‘these are real people and they need our help’ and even one of the most vociferous opponents actually became one
of the investors in the Hope into Action house for refugees.

Within a few weeks, we’d attracted investments of £240,000 and 35 people had signed up to be ‘Friends With a Purpose’ - volunteering as befrienders, investors, refurbishers, furnishers, househunters and more. Quite apart from the difference made to the lives of the family who moved into our Hope into Action house (which is obviously hugely important) one of the most significant outcomes has been the complete transformation of the church and the relationships within it. I’ve lived opposite Chris, who’s been in charge of the maintenance team for years. When we bought the Hope into Action
house, Chris took on the responsibility for planning the refurbishment and we worked on it together every weekday. As a result, our relationship has completely changed; it’s much deeper than it was before. My friendship with Chris is just one of many which are blossoming through our involvement with the Hope into Action house, through teamwork, mutual support, spiritual conversation and a much deeper level of intimacy.

It’s bound us together as a church and caused an amazing transformation. When our former vicar retired, we entered
a long interregnum; the relationships forged since collaborating on the Hope into Action house made the interregnum much easier than it could have been, because people had enjoyed working together so much. As well as improving the culture within the church, our corporate prayer life has also changed significantly. We’ve had lots to pray about!’

Contact us  if you would like to discover more about how to offer a home to refugees.