In parts of the UK, there is a kind of poverty more profound than in Uganda. This is the view of Rev Jenny Green, a mission partner working with Church Mission Society on the Faxfleet estate in Bradford.
Prior to taking up her current role as community chaplain in Bradford, Jenny spent 20 years with CMS in Kisoro, south west Uganda, where she set up Potter’s Village, a children’s crisis and medical centre.
While one third of the population of Uganda subsists on less than $2 a day, Jenny said, “In Kisoro, almost everyone has someone. Although many are struggling, there is help from extended family networks and the local community. But in Faxfleet, as in many other parts of the UK, community and even primary family structures are so broken that many find themselves destitute.”
She told the story of Shirley [name changed], a mother of three. For several months Shirley has lived in a tent in the woods, with no income or benefits, surviving on food from her local food bank. This past Christmas, Jenny helped Shirley source some Christmas presents for her children, inviting Shirley to her home to wrap the gifts donated by the local cathedral.
Shirley’s story is one of many Jenny can tell of people facing physical and spiritual poverty in her current location:
“Vandalism, arson and fly-tipping are rife, and people are frightened and lonely. A few frail elderly people find themselves unable to sell the homes they bought years ago, as their value has been so eroded. They’ve been joined by people from a mix of nationalities, unfamiliar with each other’s cultures and languages, and struggling in isolation with their own issues.”
In her role as a community chaplain, Jenny helps bridge the gap between church and community, supporting those whose lives have been torn apart by poverty, unemployment and family breakdown. As well as befriending people and welcoming families into her home, Jenny has worked with a community Christians Against Poverty group, organised a children’s mission and works among asylum seekers and immigrants to integrate them into the community.
Jenny is one of 15 UK-based missionaries that CMS supports. Like her, several of them are using skills gained from previously working with CMS overseas.
Naomi Steinberg, CMS head of communications, said, “People don’t realise how much work CMS does in the UK. Unfortunately, this vital UK mission can be harder to raise support for. We will never waver in our commitment to overseas mission. But the whole world is now in the UK, and we cannot ignore the real needs here.”
Jenny concluded: “The UK is a wealthy country, and many are clearly thriving. But the reality is that so many others in our nation feel utterly abandoned and without hope or help. They matter so dearly to God, and what breaks my heart is that they just don’t know it.”
Aside from supporting 15 mission partners who are working with refugees, asylum seekers, creation care, evangelism, combatting FGM and a whole host of life-changing activities, CMS runs a Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course, through which it has trained more than 100 people for cutting-edge UK mission contexts. CMS also helps churches discover and live out their mission call through Partnership for Missional Church.