I have always loved Valence Park; it is the park where my daughter and son had their first time on a swing and where they took their new bikes on their birthdays. I found it painful to watch the play equipment break, get removed and not be replaced. The park became greyer and more desolate every time we visited. I would watch families playing with their children, teenagers on the broken basketball court and think ‘they deserve so much better than this!’
One Saturday evening, I had been meditating on Matthew 7:7 ‘ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,’ and thinking why shouldn’t I ‘just ask’ and expect to be given? The next morning, I heard from God that I should apply for funding to get new play equipment for Valence Park. God wanted to bless the park users by showing they had worth and were valuable.
I went to the Sunday morning meeting at Mayfield and John Singleton told us that God wanted to take us on a new adventure. In the car on the way home, I told my husband what God had said to me about applying for funding for Valence Park play area and he encouraged me to pursue it as a God given adventure.
That week I got in touch with the park ranger and told her I wanted to apply for funding on behalf of the council. She completely brushed me off and said it would be highly unlikely that I would be able to get funding. The following Sunday at Church, John asked if God had spoken to anyone about going on an adventure. I told the Church about my conversation with the park ranger and said, ‘if God has said I will get funding, then that is what is going to happen!’
Although I had complete faith that God would transform Valence Park and bless the park users, I didn’t have a clue about how it was going to happen. I asked for prayer support from my Bible study group and House group, and they were very faithful to pray and support me. When I got discouraged, they would bring me back to God’s word and help me get motivated again. The whole Church were excited about the adventure and people would often talk to me and say they were holding it in prayer.
I talked to Avril McIntyre, the director of LifeLine’s Community Resources, and she was able to set up meetings with the Head of Parks for Barking and Dagenham. They were very sceptical and kept shutting down our ideas. After several months, God caused Avril to meet with the Relationship Manager at London Sport, he was able to promote us to various sporting organisations and we were eventually able to convince the council that we could apply for funding. When the council gave us the green light, I heard from God again through my emotions: I felt so happy that I wanted to burst open and splatter Jesus all over the park.
With the help of a very committed ‘Doulie’(a member of ‘Doulos’ – a year that members of LifeLine can take to deepen their relationship with God), LifeLine Church organised a Fun Day at Valence Park to talk to local park users about what they would like to have in the play area and basketball courts. This event took place on Easter bank holiday Monday and involved everyone in the Church. Church members came home early from holidays, or did not go away at all, especially so they could help set up and run events. We used it as an opportunity to tell people about Jesus and how he wanted to bless them in the park. We had an evangelism team and prayer tent.
With the vital help of London Sport, Community Resources were able to apply for funding and we were granted £250,000 for Valence Park to have a brand-new play area, outdoor gym equipment, basketball and five-a-side football courts with games walls.
We had a grand opening event at Valence Park, again organised and run by LifeLine Church, with refreshments, face painting and games. One member of the Church offered to film the whole story of the park transformation and it has been a great resource to use when giving feed-back to funders. I have used the video in lots of different settings to share the testimony of God’s adventure and blessing at Valence Park. You can watch the film here: https://vimeo.com/331660096
Every time I go to Valence Park, I am thrilled to see what God has done. Countless families and young people have been blessed by the facilities; it is a place of joy. I am so thankful to be a member of LifeLine Church where people totally believed I that had heard from God, prayed continually, served tirelessly, and came along on the adventure with me!