Zac's Place - update Oct12

Monday, 15 October, 2012

Sean Stillman updates the story of Zac's Place, Church for Ragamuffins in Swansea - discussing brokenness, boundaries and baptisms.

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Transcript

Sean Stillman: I quite often explain to people Zac's Place is glorious in its chaos. Sometimes when you look through the door you're wondering if there is anything spiritual going on at all, such is the nature of what goes on here. But it's good to be able to report there's been a lot of progress. I think significantly the most encouraging over recent... the last year or two has been being able to baptise several of our folk in the ocean which is just a short walk away from here. And it's a mark of progress in as much as we've seen genuine discipleship happening amongst some of our folk. And these are folk that haven't necessarily been involved in other church contexts at all. So through the bible study that we do which continues to be the core element of what Zac's Place is about in terms of our expression of church community together, people are growing, they're learning together, they're sharing stories together, their faith is being tested and stretched, but people are maturing in their faith. So that will be the biggest encouragement that there's been.

Obviously it continues to be a struggle, as with any mission endeavour on the margins the low points continue to be... there's an immense amount of brokenness. And that's hard. We're surrounded by a lot of tragic circumstances, broken lives, people's lives caught in, you know, serious traps of addiction and other life-controlling issues. And when we try to sit alongside these folk there's a cost. It's exhausting and draining. So although I say it is a low point, it's often at these low points where the significant milestones happen as well. And the significant signs of God's grace and mercy take place. So you have to take that on balance. So there's progress in all kinds of ways and often in unexpected places.

Whatever the boundary is, whether it be a personal one, just having to come to terms with the fact that you feel you need to love somebody you find very difficult to love, whether that be someone on the church council or whether it be the guy that's just thrown up all over your shoulder giving you a hug because he wants some food, whatever the circumstances I think that the way boundaries are broken down is actually through relationship. And actually taking the time to get to know the people who are the other side of the divide. Whatever that divide is and whoever that person is, by taking the time to build the relationship is crucial in bringing the division down. So within the context of Zac's Place we've put a lot of effort into building relationships up with anybody who walks through the doors here. So whether they're coming through the door for bible study or whether they're coming through the door for breakfast in the mornings having slept outside in the rain all night or whether they're turning up for the soup kitchen in the evenings, it's all about relationship, it's all about interaction with people and taking people seriously. So it's giving them a welcome, not just because of what we've got to offer them but because we genuinely care for them, whether they take on board what we believe or not. That is important to us, but that isn't the key element of why we show interest in them and why we want to build the relationship with them. And that is what actually breaks the barriers down.

Key challenges, looking ahead continues to be developing leadership. Zac's Place is an initiative where you can't just parachute leaders in and so we have to develop leadership from within the group with people we have and that's not easy so that involves a lot of me being prepared to let go, which is a good thing, but for us to move on to develop something new and another aspect of what we're involved in I need to be prepared to let go of something else I've started. So there's a lot of trust involved in that. But developing leadership is important and I don't think there's any easy solutions or there's no easy models to that, there's not a textbook on the shelf that can tell us how to do that, but we continue to try and use the model of Christ and his disciples spending time together on the road over those three years as a good example and model of leadership. So that's what we try and do here. And to a certain extent that leads into what a high point would be, being able to see people genuinely discipled in their faith, looking forward to the sacraments of communion, requesting baptism, you know which is wonderful to have seen, genuinely seen people's lives turned around with a desire to keep, not just developing in their faith and walking with Jesus but actually wanting to serve others as part of the process. And that being seen as a natural progression.

Male voice 1: It attracted me and it was raining and a light was shining out and I walked straight in and I was welcomed to this place. I didn't know why I came in here really, Sean just said sit down, you know welcome down here, and I think I sat here for a couple of months and I didn't even know I was in a bible study group. But I do know one thing, is that it's all about Jesus Christ. And the gentleness of Jesus Christ, that's what I find in this place.

Sean Stillman: Many of the things that happen at Zac's Place can often seem a little unpredictable and a little chaotic and during our bible study just not too long ago, we thought we were getting somewhere and then the door flew open as so often it does and there were two people standing there, two people that we know very well, stood there in one-piece jumpsuits, with no shoes on their feet and announced to those of us inside the room that they'd just been released from police custody, all their clothes had been kept for forensic evidence and did we have any spare pants and a cup of coffee. And so naturally we invited them in - knew them, they were good friends - and they sat down and we offered them a coffee and suggested we'll get them some clean underwear shortly, and they took part in the rest of the bible study. But it struck me, on the one hand that can seem like a very unwelcome interruption at a very poignant part of the bible study, but then I realised actually for two people to throw the door open in the middle of our meeting and to announce some fairly difficult charges that they were faced with and reveal something about their own personal crisis to a room full of people meant that they actually trusted the environment hugely that they were walking into. And for me that says a lot. It says a lot about the relationships that we've fostered here but it says a lot about how I think church should be. That they'd just seemed quite comfortable in their - I was going to say, if they had shoes, in their own shoes but they were in bare feet - to turn up as they were and announce their problems and expecting that we'd be able to help them which we were happy to do of course.

So that's I guess another little window as to some of the glorious in its chaos approach that we have here. But as with many aspects of mission on the margins, pioneering's costly and it takes its toll when you're surrounded by broken people with very open wounds and it's important that we take time to look after ourselves, guard our own spiritual walk with Christ, guard our own relationships our own families so that we can serve the most needy members of our community that we interact with on a regular basis.

This story is an update to:

Comments

What a wonderful work you are involved with for the Lord and I have been so inspired by what I have read. In Newport we are doing very similar work with the destitute, homeless and ex-offenders and I would very much like to bring my team (3) to meet you and share experiences and learn from you if that would be possible, please?
It has not been easy to find people doing the same work and I am sure your experience will be very helpful to us and perhaps their might be something from our situation that could help you.
Together in His service and wishing you continued blessings.
Ron

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