We were used to being able to enjoy the short walk from our previous home to Becontree Primary School. We would always be greeted by the lollipop person who would ensure everybody crossed the busy Becontree Avenue junction with School Way safely.
With funds being cut across the borough, Becontree Primary School could no longer afford to pay for a lollipop person to work a couple of hours a day. This was more than just a service in getting the children (and parents!) across the road safely: it was also beneficial to the community. Everybody was given a greeting and so had a chance to respond and start a conversation. How surprising a simple ‘Good Morning’ can make a difference to someone’s day! I wanted my eldest son to be able to walk to school by himself when he reached Year 6, so I was not happy to think that there would no longer be a safe means of crossing this busy junction.
(It wasn’t only the children of Becontree Primary School who used this crossing, but also children who attended The Vibe and the nursery opposite. It really proved to be a very busy junction, especially during term times).
It saddened me to learn that this lollipop person would no longer continue this vital role. God laid this on my heart, but what could I do? I was only one of hundreds of adults using this crossing. I felt powerless to do anything about it myself, but with God’s nudge I knew that it was something I had to do – and I should get on and do something about it!
God often speaks to us in different ways: sometimes by giving us that gentle nudge that is all that is needed! It is usually when we are in a close relationship with Him that we can catch what is on His heart. By being obedient to this nudge, I knew that God would make something happen.
God often speaks to us through others too. Lisa, another lady from our church, had recently had the experience of journeying with the council to revamp Valence Park had inspired me and given me faith. (Read Lisa’s story here) By sharing our experiences and giving testimony, it energises others. We are nudged as we pray, ‘do it again Lord!’ I realised that He was wanting to use me as his vessel, to be a means of channelling his love for our community!
We can naturally feel scared when confronted with the unknown, but I can confirm that He does give us that sense of dove-like peace as we venture along with Him. I even considered whether to volunteer for 2 days a week myself, with a rota of other parents to cover the weekdays, but then there would be a lot of paperwork involved and long term this wasn’t really sustainable. So, what should happen next?
I then thought, “What if the Council could install a crossing of some description, that would solve the problem forever?” Well, with the funding cuts I was sure that London Borough of Barking and Dagenham would say that they had more important things to spend their money on. But, sure that God was in this and had spoken to me about it, I continued to explore all possibilities. I started by speaking to the school – but they were busy with other things and seemingly did not have the resources to assist with any campaigning. It was a shame not to have them on board, as with their influence they might help bring pressure to bear on the council. I was not going to give up at the first hurdle. Eventually I contacted the local councillors to see if they could offer any help and support.
I arranged a meeting with the local councillors at a mutually convenient time (end of the school day!) so they could see first-hand the volume of traffic together with the potential dangers to those in crossing over this busy junction without any assistance. This seemed to have the desired effect on them! They knew the relevant persons within the council to approach. I eventually managed to get the necessary contact details of the councillor in charge of such decision-making and, over some time, gently nudged them to take action (just as God had done to me).
To be honest, I did not fully expect anything to happen: there were sure to be many other suggestions and ideas from all interested parties thrown at the council, thus causing unnecessary delays. Sadly, there are often just not enough resources and funding for all such projects.
Even though my faith in this project was fading a little, God had other ideas. He used that mustard seed of faith that I had at the outset and then guided me through the process, speaking to the right people at the right time and giving me a spirit of perseverance so as not to give up.
Amazingly, I did receive an e-mail from the council confirming they had commissioned the installation of a zebra crossing! Not too long afterwards the works were carried out! Praise the Lord!
Now many local residents can cross the road in safety. It may not be quite the same as having a “live” person to greet everybody, but conversations can still take place whilst waiting to cross. I am humbled to have been used by God to bring this opportunity for us to experience that sense of community spirit once again, and for His gentle nudge that started the process!