There’s a tiny village of 2,000 people in deepest Sierra Leone that is seamlessly joined to a community in Dagenham. Of which I am a part. And that excites me beyond words – there is a bond that unites us even though some of us will never meet.
Here’s a little glimpse of what it looks like:
LifeLine Church in London recently took a deeper dive into the story of Punduru, Kenema, to understand how the connection was birthed.
And what I discovered is that they are working from the same blueprint as we are.
More than just a funding opportunity, the integration of the LifeLine family from Freetown (LifeLine Nehemiah Projects – LNP) with the villagers in Punduru became personal. They moved home to be with them. That’s not unlike my friends in LifeLine Church, who, sensing the move of God in a part of Barking (east London), took their whole family and relocated to be where a community was in need of the Kingdom of God.
The funding offered literacy and numeracy classes to every adult in the village, to relieve them of exploitation by those who could cheat them, and to give them access to services they never knew they were entitled to. Watch the joy on the face of Chief Lassie as he announces he can now write his name (he’s maybe 80?). Just like the provision made by LifeLine when we offer English classes to the diverse communities around us who don’t have English as their first language and can’t access the most basic of services such as doctors and schools. This has developed into our hugely successful Creative English programme, which equips to build communities and a sense of belonging to very isolated people.
One thing leads to another, doesn’t it, and because of poor understanding or lack of education, many villagers in Punduru didn’t know that there are better ways to farm; that there are better ways to support your girls than early marriage (giving them a secondary school education, for instance); that secret societies promoting child marriage and FGM (female genital mutilation) were promoting fear, shame and pain. So the LNP team and the village have been working in partnership to learn about bringing change, encouragement, justice and release into new ways of living.
Not so different from the work of the Hub at Castle Point (LifeLine’s community centre) or the work of LifeLine Projects. We believe passionately in making a difference in the places where we live and work, operating out of our core values of loving, serving and bringing peace.
As our MC for the programme, Anthony, developed the story, I noticed that he kept using the word ‘negotiate’ to describe many of the activities that the LNP family were grappling with. Prince Tommy Williams and Mohamed have indeed had to spend many hours ‘talking’ at all different levels of society to bring justice and righteousness for Punduru. Not so very different from situations for us in the UK, where we have done just the same – ‘negotiating’ or ‘advocating’ for individuals who are marginalised, standing in the gap where authorities and organisations would trample on the disempowered. Bringing the cases of faith groups before the top politicians in the land, via our network of FaithAction.
More than this, we are seeing the supernatural work of God operating in Punduru and here: the amazing story of Chief Pa Lassie encountering Jesus via the radio echoes similar encounters of people here who have met with Jesus in recent months.
Back when LNP was born through Richard Cole, (a Sierra Leonean national) he taught us some principles that have become part of our joint DNA. His love for those who are different meant he bought prayer mats for his Muslim friends. His ability and passion to bring peace and community change meant he set up tailoring shops to train and equip people for a better life, to support the whole community and to show the love of God in practical ways.
In LifeLine in London we learn from these examples and, like our brothers and sisters in Freetown and Punduru, seek to show God’s love, to serve generously and to do all we can to seek the peace of the communities we live in.
We share the same blueprint. And because it comes from God Himself, it can be replicated, no matter what the environment/nation looks like. It works because He gave it, and with it the power to see it happen.