“Volunteering at the Jesus Centre has been very beneficial to my personal life.” says Edmund Kannu, “It has helped me to become more humble by serving others. In Africa, if you are a church leader you are to be served rather than to serve. At the Jesus Centre we learn to serve and reach out to others with a humble heart.”
Edmund, 45, has been a volunteer in the Bridge drop-in at Coventry Jesus Centre since 2010. Here destitute, homeless and often lonely people can come inside for some warmth, a shower and a free breakfast. There is also an on-site clothing bank, used much in cold weather, and a weekly food distribution point.
Born and brought up in Sierra Leone, Edmund was the son of a Muslim mother and a Catholic father. The death of his father drew Edmund, at the age of 25, to read the Bible for the first time. In a local Pentecostal church, he committed his life to Jesus.
Edmund was commissioned as a church leader a few years later and in 2005 was sponsored by some local missionaries to enrol on a six-month Bible course in the UK. In 2007 he travelled to the UK where he has stayed ever since.
Commenting on his experience of volunteering, Edmund said: “In the secular world the bosses are being served, but the kingdom of God, where Jesus reigns, is so different. Jesus said if you are humble you will be lifted up and the way to be the greatest in His kingdom is to be a lowly servant (Matthew 23: 11).
“In God’s kingdom, we are loved and accepted irrespective of who we are; it is not what we have that ensures we are loved; we are loved just for being the person we are. We are of value to Him. This is the heart we want to share with the Bridge visitors.
“In my life I have experienced the father-heart of God and volunteering at the Centre gives a great opportunity to express that father-heart to others.
“The people we serve in the Bridge have a chance to share their sufferings and challenges with us. We have time to listen to them, to pray, to give them advice and share our love with them. We sometimes bump into them on the street but it isn’t the same – there isn’t the opportunity to really talk together as there is in the Bridge.
“I sometimes pray with Bridge visitors if they want me to, but I am never forceful. Sometimes they say, ‘Remember me when you pray’ and I pray for them at home.
“I have seen changes in some of these men. Some have looked so hopeless and discouraged but their outward appearance has begun to improve over time.
“I’m greatly shocked to see homeless people without enough food in the UK. If people in my own country had told me this happened in the UK, I wouldn’t have believed them. We are used to seeing poverty in our country as there aren’t any benefits.
“These days we serve free baked beans for breakfast. I love cooking and serving in the kitchen. I can talk to everyone as they come to collect their breakfast.
“I really enjoy leading ‘Jesus times’ in the Bridge; I get very inspired. I love it when I share about Jesus with the visitors.
“Recently I went to see some friends in Preston. Their house was untidy and I just set about cleaning up and washing the dishes. My friends were so surprised. ‘Why are you doing this?’ they asked.
“Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and give his life for us all.” (paraphrase: Matthew 20: 28).