Holland Road Baptist Church

Sarah Ison

United International Cafe

By Sarah Ison

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!

Please contact the church office or see Tim or Sarah Ison if you want to know more, or are interested in coming along.

Topics: Local Mission
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