George* and Peter*

North Belfast centre of mission

This year has felt a lot like wading through treacle. Our world has changed. This disruption has taken its toll – it is physically and mentally draining and of course there are many who have have experienced the loss of a loved one during this time.

What if there was always such uncertainty and disruption in life? What if you or your family were constantly at risk of harm, had no permanent home, or no idea where our next meal was coming from? What would it be like to be alone and lonely in a world of seven billion people, or to constantly struggle with mental health? This is the reality of many of the people that we work alongside.

Whilst many activities have been put on pause due to the pandemic, the work on the new community garden, emerging from a piece of derelict land in Glencairn, has continued. Through this, our North Belfast Centre of Mission are able to keep connecting with local people like George and Peter.

Stephen Whitten (Pioneer Evangelist) shares George’s story:

“I was at our community garden unloading flag stones for our soon to be built shelter. George, a guy from the estate who I have got to know over the last few months, came down for a chat. He has been struggling with lockdown isolation and shared how he was seriously considering suicide and had the rope ready in his garage.

He wasn’t emotional or dramatic at all just very matter of fact about it, two of his nephews died by suicide a few years ago and it is tragic just how normal a thing it can seem for people in this area.

After chatting I was able to pray for him and he brightened and said he felt a peace and a warmth as we prayed.”

Peter is another man Stephen knows through our North Belfast Centre of Mission:

“Peter is a widower who lives alone but loves to have lots of social contact. He has had struggles with his mental health in the past and would be vulnerable to depression. When lockdown started in March it was a real struggle.

After a few weeks of lockdown Karen (Lead Evangelist) and I were able to open our Base and Peter started to call in each day and has been down virtually every day since and has said on numerous occasions that he doesn’t think he would have survived without having his visits to look forward to. He says it’s the highlight of his day!”

Of course, Stephen and Karen’s support for George and Peter includes signposting them to receive additional professional support, where appropriate.

Imagine a world where everyone knows they are loved and have value. Imagine a world where as one person reaches out for help another hand is outstretched to meet the need. Imagine a world where people want to live because they have found out the very reason why they are alive in the first place; where they have found meaning and hope and a reason to put that rope away for good.

Stephen’s hope for the community garden where he met George is for it to be a place where people come to know Jesus:

“Whether they have poor mental health, a sense of isolation or old religion, this is about creating a beautiful space – reclaiming an area that was a drinking den and claiming it as spiritual ground. That’s the heart of it, people coming together in the context of nature and discovering Jesus – the Creator of it all – and a lifelong faith journey.”

*names changed

Help us to continue and expand our work through more centres of mission like our North Belfast Centre of Mission by donating online now.

You can read more about the Community Garden in this article.

Watch the COVID-19 Diaries to hear more about how our frontline staff, like Stephen, have adapted their activities and support for their communities during the pandemic.

Read more stories of transformation in other areas of our work here.