By -, Mar 22 2019 11:26AM
I usually write about something from my personal experience and relate it back to a theme or verses from the Bible. This week, I thought I’d write on some of my experiences with the Hope Frome Coffee Van. I know I haven’t included absolutely everything and I’m sure I have probably included more information than some would prefer. Having said that, I would rather speak transparently about what we do.
This Friday is another HOPE Frome Coffee Van night. Every fortnight, a crew of 6-10 hi-viz orange-vested volunteers tow a caravan and gazebo tent into the middle of Frome. Armed with camping chairs and cups of coffee, volunteers readily speak to every passerby, saying, “Evening! Would you like a hot drink?”, an invitation to join those under the heat lamp and coloured lights.
Hope Frome was originally launched in 2008 as a part of HOPE08, a national campaign to organise churches on a national scale for the purpose of urban renewal. The Frome group was initially devised as a collaboration between the Christian communities in the area, various community governing bodies and other community groups, to bring hope into what was then a town challenged with societal concerns, to improve the lives of those they served in the community and to communicate the love of Jesus Christ in every action. The Coffee van is one of several continuing legacies of this campaign and has become an established part of the Friday evening festivities.
Guests are initially introduced to Hope Frome by a large sign lashed to the side of the caravan saying “HOPE Frome: Frome’s Christian Communities sharing the love of God to the people of Frome through practical action.” Even with the sign, the question asked almost every week is “Why are you doing this?” The reply that often leaves my lips is, “We’re here to share the Hope we have in Jesus Christ and the love of God through serving the community in practical ways” This honest answer has been the most honest and speaks volumes to nearly everyone I’ve met while out with the team. When asked what we do, we explain that we care for whoever passes through by giving out hot drinks and a safe space to hang out and chat. Often, the people we chat with are up for a night out and therefore a chance to chat is welcome, even in cold weather. The recent addition of a heat lamp in the tent has been very welcome and has helped to keep the space comfortable.
What shape does one of these nights take? It begins well before 9:30, when the initial group of volunteers arrive, closer to 9 o’clock. The caravan, filled with the tent, chairs and supplies, is towed from it’s storage space to the forecourt of St. John’s church, the big church nearest to the centre of town. This location, while being on the property of a church, is fairly neutral and has the added benefit of being almost central between 3 well visited pub and on the walking route for many returning home after a night out.
After the caravan is parked, the group gather for prayer. As these prayers take the form, we ask God to establish His Kingdom in the hearts of the volunteers and the visitors, for God’s hand of protection over the town, for the Good News of Jesus Christ to be meaningfully communicated, for our eyes to be opened to how God is communicating His love to those we meet in their own language, and so much more. Once the prayers conclude, the setup process begins: A power cable is run from one of the church outlets back to the caravan to power the kettle, lights and heat-lamp, the Gazebo tent is set up and the ten camping chairs are placed in a circle around a small table bearing a tin of biscuits, the drink preparation area is set up while several large jugs of water are collected after which the first kettle of the night is switched on to boil water for the two or so dozen hot drinks we’re about to serve.
Once the site is set up, orange vests are donned and soon people start filtering past and invitations begin to be offered. For some of the volunteers, the orange vests are a form of protection. For others, it is something that separates, divides the volunteers from the visitors. Those who choose not to wear the vests have found that conversations flow more freely. People don’t feel they’re performing or speaking to a foreigner, but that they’re talking with someone on an even playing field, a fellow enjoyer of the evening’s events. I, personally, don’t like the vests. Having said that, I happily throw one on when issues occur, or when it is necessary to distinguish me and my purpose from those who are drunk or involved. The vests come from the days when fights were more common in town. At that time, it was crucial to wear something that would distinguish the Hope volunteers from those who were fighting. However, since the closure of the towns two clubs several years ago, the fights have become the exception rather than the rule. It is in these circumstances that I have to unfold my pocketed vest and velcro it over my top.
In an area that was once notorious for fights and rough characters, Frome has been transformed over the last ten years. The town is now described as “trendy” and “hipster”, with a nearly palpable community spirit active in many corners. When the Hope Coffee van first was established, it was a joint project between the churches and the police. The police once were at the site throughout the night. While we may have the odd opposition to our purpose or presence, these oppositions are rare and challenging behaviour is minimal. As the rough behaviours have generally died down, the police have no longer needed to maintain a presence at the van. We have a radio with a direct line of communication to the bouncers and the police, but this is very rarely used.
While we regularly meet new people, those who regularly visit now know what to expect and past conversations are continued. Some nights are very quiet and we only have a handful of visitors. Other nights are very busy and we see 30 to 50 visitors, a majority of whom are substantially inebriated, many of whom are open to chat. Often the conversation turns to personal beliefs and deeply felt convictions about life. It is these times that I find the most meaningful, the most insightful, the reason why I left the house at 9pm, to stay out till sometimes well after 2am. I may have only had the chance to speak with that one person for the whole night, but that one person was the reason I was there.
These nights are wrapped up around 1:30am, at which point the setup process is done in reverse. Once everything is put away, the volunteers conclude whatever lingering discussions may have been drawn out and they come together in the hall of a church property. The evening concludes with a debrief time. Prayer requests are offered and volunteers are given space to say anything they need to get off their chest, after which the group spends some time in prayer. These precious times are spend giving thanks for the events evening and bringing the concerns of the visitors before God. During this time, everyone is very tired and, while the prayer time is appreciated and isn’t rushed, volunteers are eager to get home to their own beds.
I have loved the last 4 years that I’ve been involved with Hope Frome and totally look forward to continuing to be a part of developing a visionary culture, seeking God’s inspiration for serving the greater communities of Frome.
25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
This week, I’ll be in Frome College. As ever, I’ll be mentoring my group of boys and spending the lunch break with them and other young people. PRAY FOR THESE TIMES! Many young people in Frome College are really struggling with things. The staff find it challenging to find ways to draw these young people back to a place where they actually want to learn. While I’m mentoring, I often reflect with the boys on the need for them to be in the race and stay in the race in order to finish well. Pray that God would communicate His love to these young people through me.
Town Missions Work, Hope Frome
As is hopefully clear from the above reflection, this week, the HOPE COFFEE VAN will be in the forecourt of St John’s church, from 10pm-1:30am, giving out hot drinks and offering a chance to chat with passers by.
PRAY that God would establish His Kingship in our hearts, that we would be able to speak and act with authority in Him, and that people's lives would be transformed by the love of God during these times.
Church Youth Work
This Sunday night in Trinity Hall, SUNDAY CAFE is happening! We’ll be there from 6:30-8:30, playing games, eating snacks and having fun. This week, we’ll be in the second week of our series leading up to the events of Jesus death and resurrection! Totally exciting! Please pray!
We’re developing a new CULTURE of Vision for future ministry to Youth in Frome from Holy Trinity. PLEASE PRAY FOR THIS! GET INVOLVED!
If you’re interested in having a hand in working with teens/tweens, please get in touch!
Here’s the latest:
H o l y T r i n i t y F r o m e Y o u t h M i n i s t r y
HTFYM: Prayer, Culture and Vision Night
When & Where?: Thursday 28th March, 7:30pm @ Holy Trinity
Who?: Parents, Supporters, Facilitators, Future Volunteers, Prayer Partners, etc!
What?: Pray! Renewed Vision for Youth Ministry Culture!
We are seeking God’s direction as we renew our vision for ministering to/with young people (teens and young adults) in Holy Trinity.
If you do or don’t have experience in Youth Ministry, that’s fine.
No matter who you are, no matter your age or ability, if you are interested in being involved in one way or another, or you have a burning desire to see the younger generation fostered in a relationship with Jesus Christ,
PLEASE come along!
As many of you know, I’m studying at Church Mission Society for a diploma in Pioneer Mission Leadership. I’m doing an extended training time to allow me to pursue Pioneer Missions in the context of Frome.
At the moment, I’m in the middle of a series of essays for a portfolio for the current module. A couple of these essays are meant to be done slightly more creatively than a typical essay. One of these essays is meant to be written in the form of a blog or journal post. And I’ll let you into a secret, the above reflection is one of my writings. It may be a little rough in places and I’m sure I’ve missed out a word, or misspelled something or (as I’ve been known to do in the past) completely forgotten to finish a sentence. But, as it is all done electronically, I will be able to correct and revise this writing until it’s final completion date.
Thank you ALL for your prayers, support and encouragement! I really appreciate it! I KNOW God has called me to His purpose. It’s in this season of learning that I get to focus more intensely on seeking His heart and vision for my life and where He is calling me to serve, to whom and how! Please continue to pray for me through this time.
ALSO, Pray for the vision I’ve been given for the Climbing Centre. I’ve been in contact with a few interested parties and am looking forward to facilitating a collaborative effort centering around indoor climbing. PLEASE PRAY that God would shape the hearts of all those who will become involved to be favourable to the Vision God has laid out to serve the greater community. PRAY that it isn’t overtaken by those who can’t see a broad vision beyond their own benefit. Pray that my eyes would remain open to ways that I can be collaborative and open to change and at the same time remain solid in the places where compromise is not an option.
Thanks again for all of your continued support and prayer!
Lay Pioneer Minister & Youth Leader in Frome
Holy Trinity Church Youth Group * FACT (Frome Area Christians Together)
m: 07730589559 * firstname.lastname@example.org
* http://silentplanetphilosopher.blogspot.com *