In the autumn of 2016, I boarded a plane to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to intern for an organisation named Storehouse. Storehouse is a charity that provides food, clothing, and furniture to the most vulnerable in Belfast. It was then I got to know the homeless community. I found that many of them struggled with a severe addiction and like me faced trauma from growing up in a broken household. By the end of my short-term mission trip I had fallen in love with helping the homeless community find hope and strength to get out of active addiction.
Years later, Storehouse has grown a lot! Along with providing provisional needs such as food, they now also run a free breakfast drop-in once a week and many creative programs to cultivate community.
During the next year, I will be Interning under Belfast City Vineyard (BCV), the church that founded Storehouse. Through my internship, I hope to gain pastoral skills as I help people walk out of addiction into life. I will be helping run creative classes, drop-ins and church services. My goal is to help form an environment where all feel safe to explore the purpose and love that Jesus offers everyone.
Below I have broken down the areas I serve in through my internships at BCV, what my independent ministry looks like, and what my long-term goals and dreams are for the future.
- Breakfast drop-in: Here we serve a free breakfast to 60+ people in our city, whether they are seeking asylum, going through homelessness, or battling addiction. Our goal is not only to provide a meal but also for people to leave knowing that they are not alone in the tribulations of life.
- Creative classes: Through our classes, we aim to give people a safe place where they can freely express themselves through art. I help run three art classes per week, including Reflective Pottery, where people can come in to reflect on their week while playing with clay, to more skilled-based classes, where we explore different art mediums, learn how to make pieces on the potters’ wheel and how to market an art business.
- Outreach: Our team’s objective is to meet the homeless community where they are and to see if there are any resources we can guide them to. Through Storehouse we can offer food and clothes to those in immediate need. We also direct people to addiction and health resources provided by other local charities.
- Friday Church: This is a welcoming church community where people have a chance to grow in their relationship and knowledge of the love of Jesus. Here we sing worship songs, listen to a sermon, check in with people, pray, drink coffee, and eat buns! We hope that people leave knowing the life-changing love of Jesus.
When I am not interning I find it very important to follow up with those in crisis, whether it’s checking in with people going through mental health emergencies, visiting people in prison or on the streets. In my 5+ years of working with the homeless community, I found that the most powerful thing you can offer to those experiencing homelessness is friendship and hope through the ups and downs of life. Sometimes this looks like delivering a care package full of candy and teas, to help celebrate as they enter a new positive chapter of their life, other times it looks like accompanying them to doctor appointments or treating them to a day out on their birthday. I aim to keep the verse Matthew 25:36 at the heart of all I do.
“I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
My long-term goal is to open up an art centre for those going through homelessness to have a safe inspiring place to create and grow as artists. Moreover, in the next year, I hope to be able to run pottery workshops at local homeless shelters and childrens homes.