HAVING completed our first year since opening on April 30 2002 we have first of all met a lot of people! Almost exactly 1000 of the 'poor' of Coventry came to the Bridge drop-in in the year, making 13,500 visits, enjoying 6900 subsidised breakfasts and using the shower, laundry, clothing store, computer, phone, information files and making friends.
The last is what we're best at and we have created a good atmosphere by working at it. Respect is the keynote and by insisting on it – no swearing, no 'dissing', no drug talk, some manners etc – we have set a standard that people appreciate.
The number of reportable incidents, such as abusive behaviour or suspicion of drug use, have dropped dramatically in recent months despite record numbers, so we must be doing something right!
Apart from that we have baptised five visitors and prayed with many more (but only if they want us to). It's excellent making so many friends – they are great people. Friends from the Bridge often come to church meetings which are in the same building, or to community houses on Sundays. Some also join in with activities like the cookery class or outings. We never know who is going to turn up next. It may be a Christian from a local church bringing clothes for the drop-in or police 'making enquiries' (we protect the confidentiality of our visitors).
The Upper Well cafe is here too – being upgraded at the moment, and other people come in to hire rooms or to join the parents & tots group or other activities. Some just come for a chat because they are distressed, and we can use the little Chapel to listen and pray with them.
As a church we have befriended a lot of asylum seekers, especially Iranians. A number have been baptised and are an active part of the church here. Several have been trained as volunteers to do cooking for the Bridge or cleaning and maintenance. One lady comes and cleans just because we helped her when she came to the UK, though she does not come to the church.
We have over 70 active volunteers and still keep taking on more (some drop out too) – they are 95% from the local congregation, so this venture has got half of all our members involved! It's another big way to see the body of Christ functioning.
We are busy planning for the future – ESOL teaching, IT training, partnership working with local agencies (some already happens), starting a mentoring service, and so on. It all takes a lot of background work and fundraising but we are pressing on.
It's only a small Jesus Centre but it's a big adventure for us and we are seeing lives affected by the grace of God.