United Cafe meets in the church hall every Wednesday throughout the year. Our mission is to welcome international students into a Jesus-centred community where they hear of and encounter the love of God.
Every year we welcome hundreds of language school students, au pairs and other international visitors, providing a friendly and relaxed environment for them to make friends, practice their speaking skills and to meet English people (us – the team!). It is an honour to serve in this way, perhaps being the first Christians some students have encountered, and to share the Good News of Jesus through the welcome talks, church building tour, presentations, and invitations to Alpha.
“We are privileged to be able to freely share our faith with people from Islamic and other religious backgrounds”
United is more than a social night, it is an opportunity to get alongside internationals who are often at a junction in their lives between study and work, or exploring what direction their life may go in. We are privileged to be able to freely share our faith with people from Islamic and other religious backgrounds and countries where their likelihood of meeting Christians may be very limited or unlikely.
Many regular students who come every week are from Islamic countries; they choose to come to a welcoming Christian environment, where they can socialise as well as hear about the Good News in a non confrontational and natural way through friendship evangelism and informal presentations and discussions.
“You never know who you are going to meet”
Team members enjoy being part of United for various reasons, one member said they love coming because they never know who they are going to meet and to have this mission field on our doorstep is such a great opportunity to practice open ended conversations and friendship. Strong and lasting friendships have been made, as well as fleeting ones when we sometimes wonder what happened to that student from Kuwait, for example, and if we remember them perhaps they also remember their time with us!
We never cease to be amazed who God brings along to United, especially those from Turkey and the Middle East and it is such a good opportunity to get to know these young people and hear something of their lives and share something of ours with them. It has been wonderful welcoming students again who have returned to the city a few years on and return to United to say hi! It is such an encouragement to the team that we see students come week after week, inviting their friends, and even some who come along after a long day at work to keep in touch with everyone.
“We give all departing students a personally inscribed New Testament”
It is humbling to see how genuinely appreciative students have been on their last night with us before returning home, thanking the team for the Cafe and accepting the personally inscribed New Testament that we give to all departing students. It is energising and encouraging to have conversations with people from around the world, using opportunities to share God’s love with the nations without leaving our city.
The team welcomes you to see United in action for yourself and explore whether it may be somewhere you may wish to serve on a regular basis (e.g. weekly/fortnightly/monthly) through coming on a Wednesday evening.
We also welcome additional regular support through prayer or by providing homemade cake for Wednesdays!
Hello, I’m Neil Avard, one of our CAP Debt Coaches. The following is a testimony from one of our CAP clients who we have journeyed with. We’ve changed her name to provide her with a degree of anonymity:
Hi my name is Ruth.
I was brought up in Buckinghamshire, and in my teens started attending a Baptist church in Bedford where I was baptised aged 15. However, I stopped attending church aged 17, choosing instead to live as a Buddhist.
I moved to Brighton seven years ago, where I worked as an area manager for a large retail company.
Sadly due to long term medical issues I lost my well paid position and started to get into financial difficulties. The downward spiral of debt had massive implications on my mental health, and the more I got into debt the more I couldn’t cope.
Eventually I became very desperate with my financial situation and decided I could no longer juggle my debts, as even the minimal payments became crippling. It dawned on me that I may never be out of debt and I sought professional help.
So I did the modern thing and Googled ‘Money Advice’. I came across an organisation called Step for Change, who gave me some very brief telephone advice and told me to sort the rest out myself, which at that time I felt unable to do.
I then looked a little further and finally had the courage to ring the CAP Freephone number. Little did I know that my life was about to change beyond anything that I could imagine.
On the first home visit of many, I met Neil and his lovely mum, Pat, who set me at ease, talked me through my debts, gave me hope, and eased my fear.
Over the following several months I was really touched by offers of prayer and gifts of food. CAP took the weight and worries off my shoulders. My regular hospital visits to London offset the budget they prepared for me so CAP helped further by sending me supermarket vouchers.
At one of my lowest points in December I had a beautiful Christmas hamper delivered, which was a really wonderful surprise.
Recently I had a birthday, and CAP were the first to send me a birthday card! I couldn’t believe that somebody had taken the effort to find out my birthday. It made feel so loved and valued.
During my time with CAP, and the meetings with Neil and Pat, I began to gain a growing interest in returning to be part of a church family. I found a new desire to surround myself with Christians, so I could experience more about the love of God. I was encouraged to join an Alpha Course at my local church, St Peters, and I started attending the weekly sessions.
From there I started attending Church services, and I was amazed at their passion for serving the poor, hungry, and vulnerable.
On February 11th this year at 10.29 AM I was officially declared ‘Debt Free’. My self-belief, self-esteem and confidence is BACK! My struggle with anxiety has greatly improved, I feel free again, and able now to help others as they have helped me. (Yes I still have my bad days but it’s a reminder I need God’s grace, as I can’t solve my problems alone).
Recently I have joined a Home Group and whilst studying I realized that even I can be of service to God. At Easter I became part of the welcome team, and will soon be helping at the Women’s Haven.
My faith and the support from CAP, Holland Road, and St Peters helped me through the darkness and reminded me that I can live in hope for the future. God is definitely at work through CAP. They leave a lasting impression and reminded me again of the Love of God which we all know is priceless.
I now look forward with hope. This is the beginning of my new life as an active Christian who is debt free and living in Christ.
Having children is one of the most rewarding, and yet one of the most challenging and demanding, things we can do with our lives. When there are toddlers or teenagers around, both seeking independence in different ways, it can feel like there is a lot of conflict and misunderstanding between us and our children. Can parents of teenagers really know what’s going on for them, or what it’s like to be a teenager today?
I asked some teenagers, from a variety of family backgrounds, 2 questions and these are their responses.
What’s it like being a teenager in 2015?
It’s confusing – sometimes people treat me like I’m a child and sometimes they expect me to behave like an adult. But I don’t feel like a child and I don’t feel like an adult – I don’t know what I am.
There’s always a secret to keep.
There’s always pressure to do really well in exams, and that being the only way you can go.
It feels like I’m never good enough.
No-one takes me seriously.
I feel different.
Everyone expects you to be grumpy because you’re a teenager.
Some people can be quite patronising.
If you do something good in the community people think you’re being paid or forced to do it – not that you are just being kind.
It’s better than it was in the olden days because we have more technology.
There’s always a fear of missing out on what’s happening – that’s why we need to keep checking social media – to make sure we don’t miss anything.
I struggle with comparison.
What do you as a teenager need from your parents?
Money, food and shelter. (Most frequent answer)
To listen to me. My mum never listens – she makes her mind up about something before I’ve said anything.
I want them to back off sometimes but still be there if I need them.
I need them to care but not interfere.
They need to lighten up a bit.
Let me be me.
To trust me.
To accept what I want to choose to do.
I need them to talk to if things go wrong.
I just want them to stop arguing and get on better with each other.
You can see more about the activities we offer for young people here.
Did you know that every 20 minutes a property is repossessed?
Today there are people in our city whose lives are being devastated as a result of debt – often leaving them struggling to feed their families, feeling suicidal, depressed and alone.
This year our CAP (Christians Against Poverty) team have seen all of the above. We currently have over 50 clients who we are helping on their journey out of debt, and this year we have shared the joy of becoming debt-free with 7 of our clients. We have a great opportunity to show God’s love, invite them to Alpha, special services, or clubs and meetings run at church.
We have also run 6 CAP Money courses this year for students and adults – these teach basic budgeting and money management skills that enable people to budget, spend and save better. They have also been fun!
I would like to thank everyone at Holland Road Baptist Church for being such a generous church. Our clients loved the hampers the church provided last year, and they were so touched by the Easter eggs given. The food donated in our CAP box (at the connections point) has literally been a life saver as so many of our clients have desperately needed emergency food. Thank you for all your gifts of money to the B.L.T Trust that allow us to buy bus tickets, fresh food, send out birthday cards, and many other things that show God’s love to our clients.
Also thanks to everyone who volunteers to come out with us on visits, help with our Drop In sessions on Thursdays, hand out leaflets, make up hampers, and many other things that help Brighton and Hove CAP Centre reach those in need.
This past year, the movement of refugees has often been in the news, whether because of the many lives of migrants lost on boats sinking in the Mediterranean, the debates in Europe about numbers of refugees, or the fears following the terrible Paris attacks.
The Christmas story is full of the movement of people, sometimes greeted with rejection, sometimes with compassion, sometimes with suspicion and fear. In the background wicked forces are at work, such as King Herod killing many children in Bethlehem as he seeks to destroy Jesus. And so Mary, Joseph, and Jesus flee as refugees to Egypt.
But the greatest movement of the Christmas Story is that of God himself, who left heaven to come into our world as a baby, in the person of Jesus Christ. Referring to Jesus’ birth, the angel said to Joseph,”they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matt 1:23). So God comes into our world, into our darkness – to bring us His light, to give us hope, peace and joy, all of which are found in him.
But this Christmas each of us has to decide how to respond as God, in Christ, moves towards us. Will we treat him with indifference, have no room for him in our busy lives? Will we respond like Herod, fearful that He poses a threat to our way of life. Or will we welcome Him, even worship Him as the Wise Men and the Shepherds did.
It is fitting that at Christmas we make time not only to buy and give gifts, and to celebrate and have Christmas parties, but to also make time to welcome and worship Christ. You can do that quietly on your own at any point, but our Candlelight Carol services (at 6:30pm on 13th and 20th December), Kids’ Carol service (12th December at 3:30pm), and our Christmas morning Service (10:30am Christmas day) are great times to do that with others. You are welcome to join us at any or all of these times.
Christ says that when we welcome others – neighbours, refugees, or those in need, it is as if we are welcoming Him. So at this Christmas time, particularly look out for your neighbours, for those who may be isolated or new to the area, and for those in need. As a church, one of the ways we do that is by joining with many other churches in the city to put on a night shelter for the homeless in Brighton through the winter months. If you would like to join us in welcoming and serving the homeless, Holland Road Baptist Church’s part will be on Sunday nights from the end of January to March. Note: applications to take part are now closed.
If you are reading this while waiting for one of our carol services to start, thanks for coming to celebrate with us. Wherever you are reading this, I pray that you may know God’s blessing, peace and presence this Christmas, and as we start a new Year.
We watch the news we can often feel useless. But, what can we do to influence the situation for good? Surely we must be compelled to pray for those in positions of power around the world. But does it stop there? Do you ever wonder how things might be different if those people had encountered the love of Jesus?
Amazingly, one in ten current world leaders studied at a UK university, including the presidents of Iran and Syria. I wonder whether they had any contact with the UK church, and what was their experience of Christians? Of course, it’s not just future heads of state that come here to study. Others in future positions of national influence are currently students: lawyers, teachers, politicians, civil servants, doctors, business chiefs. And as well as attending university, thousands also come here to study English, maybe even just for a few weeks or months.
These are the people that the United team are seeking to welcome. Through the café every Wednesday evening we want to provide a place that can be ‘home’ for international students whilst they are here in Brighton & Hove. A place to relax, to make and meet friends, to chat, ask questions, and share life. We welcome students from all over the world to share in our extended family, providing them with an opportunity to hear of Jesus and to encounter the love of God. As we talk, some express an interest to know more. Some may come to a Sunday service or to Alpha, or may simply meet one-to-one over coffee with a team member. Whatever their interest, we want to serve all the students by giving simple hospitality and seeking to reflect the love of God to them.
Living in a foreign country shapes a person, especially as a student. Their experiences here could help influence not only their own lives, but, through them, the lives of thousands of others, and even national policies. Whether they come to know Jesus for themselves, or simply leave with a more positive view of Jesus and His followers, Wednesday night in the back room of Holland Road Baptist Church could be shaping the world of tomorrow….
We trust you are praying as you listen to the news – keep doing that!
But if you’d like to do more, please get in touch with us. Perhaps you could:
Bake some cakes or cookies once a month – or just occasionally.
Host a student for Sunday lunch – regularly or as a one-off.
Be part of a new prayer team committed to pray for the students (you could do this from home).
Join the café team.
We’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch via the United web page, or chat to Tim Ison or Jenny Brown.
We are halfway through November now and while here in England everyone is already preparing for the Christmas season, at home in Georgia, people are getting ready for Thanksgiving. Plump turkeys are being bought, plane tickets are being purchased, and calls are being placed in anticipation of coming home for the feast that will be served the fourth Thursday in November.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays. First, it falls near my birthday, and second, it has all the benefits of Christmas (family, fun, food) without the pressure of giving and receiving gifts. Christmas is often a stressful time for families. Many cannot afford to buy a lot of presents for their children, or the recent loss of a loved-one can make the day a hard one. However, in the States, Thanksgiving is usually a happy, carefree time without the financial worries that can often plague Christmas.
Two years ago, my grandmother died the week before Thanksgiving. Her funeral was held the Monday before and we buried her the following day. Two days later, we were able to sit as a family around a table of good food and give thanks for every thing and blessing that we still had. My grandmother’s passing, in a way, made the day that much sweeter. We were able to celebrate her life and legacy while being thankful for each other.
While the holiday may have been started by the pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in Europe, today it is even more. As Christians, we are able to look back on the past year and see the ways that God has specifically blessed us. It is often traditional to go around the table, saying at least one thing that each person is most grateful for. These sweet traditions are nice, but it is important to remember that God deserves our thanksgiving all of the time. I like to think of Thanksgiving as a fun but specific reminder that God has blessed us and we are to give Him thanks always.
This year’s Thanksgiving is going to be a little more unusual for me, but I am sure that it will be no less sweet. I may be without the family I was born into, but I will be with the family that I have chosen. I have planned a wonderful and delicious feast with my Community, and am lucky to get to tell the kids at Hub about the first Thanksgiving.
The Lord has blessed me in more ways than I can ever imagine, and for that I am truly thankful.
Friendship Centre is a community; centred on meeting on Fridays in our church hall for a low-priced, wholesome, cooked lunch. We aim to seek a relaxed environment where mainly, but not exclusively, older men and women can enjoy friendship and a sense of family, as well as have the opportunity for conversation about matters of faith, if they wish.
The Friendship Centre is served by a team of folk from Holland Road Baptist Church who have a heart for encouraging people, building relationships, and providing a friendly, safe environment in which to share experiences, challenges and good times with others. The team, all volunteers, includes some members who come early on Friday mornings to prepare food or set up the hall, and others whose main role is to welcome and mingle with our visitors.
Our visitors, currently numbering about 30-50, come from streets nearby on foot or by bus from across the city. Some have been coming for years, but there is also a steady inflow of new folk week by week. Visitors often belong to Holland Road or other churches in the city, but many have no particular faith commitment. Just a very short talk or testimony between main and dessert courses is the only formality, but opportunities are available for follow-up should that be what a visitor wishes.
As one visitor comments on social media: “No one in attendance should ever feel in isolation… it is clear that the time is not just aimed at church folk… the short talk is someone talking of the source of their faith or giving insight into a certain scripture… folk are sometimes given the opportunity to talk further but no one is compelled to do so… a highlight of the church putting its faith into practice.”
The main course is served between 11.45am and 12.15pm, and this is the best time for people to arrive; the short talk is from 12.30pm and after this desserts and tea/coffee are served. This two-course meal plus free drinks typically costs £3.30, and the church hall is open to all Friendship Centre visitors between 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Our Friendship Centre team continually welcomes those who can give time on a Friday to help with any aspect of preparation in the kitchen, mingling with visitors in the hall, or a mixture of both. Please do get in touch with Sean Avard, Maria Nwanwene, Pauline Lawrence, Mike Baldwin, Debbie Varney, or any member of our team you know if you feel you could help us, for however long or short an amount of time you can give.