Sandhurst Baptist Church is a small Church with a big heart for the Community of Sandhurst. We are outward looking and Missional and look to link with the outside community whenever possible.
In early 2015, a couple of us were praying in Chapel when a lady from the local council called round to ask us if we would be interested in hosting a volunteer-led group teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). She indicated that in the Government-funded classes, which were shortly to end, there was a high involvement of the local Nepalese community.
We were excited by this as involvement with the Nepalese community had featured in our thinking and was something we had been praying about for many years. We had no idea of how we could connect but just knew that is was an area of Mission God was calling us to.
Many Nepalese have settled in Sandhurst around the Royal Military Academy, since veterans of Gurkha regiments within the British Army won entitlement to reside in the UK.
Having said ‘YES!’ we started the classes with a few inexperienced volunteers and around 30 students, mostly Nepalese. The educational challenges were much bigger than we expected. Most students are towards or beyond retirement age. Those early classes felt chaotic and we wondered what we’d got ourselves into.
From the beginning, we welcomed volunteer help from the community as well as from the congregation. Several had considerably more experience in teaching than we did and were able to give time to preparation. Now with around 13 community volunteers and 3 from our congregation, the classes have settled into a productive rhythm. It’s great to look around the Hall and Chapel and see everyone engaged with learning, smiling and happy.
We have now changed the name of the teaching classes to SOL (speakers of other languages) as this has allowed us to, alongside the traditional ways of teaching, use a more creative style through singing, creative activities, art and games as well. We run on a Thursday in term time between 10 and 11.30 am in 6 groups. There are around 60 on our register now with an average of 30+ per week.
We have been able to give those who would accept, Nepalese Bibles and we have watched the “Jesus” film in the Nepali language as well as giving out Nepali Christian literature during the year and celebrating our Christian festivals.
Our Nepalese friends have now become an active part of our local community attending Community Health Walks, marching with the veterans in the annual Remembrance Day Parade and helping at the annual Donkey Derby. Some of us have had the privilege of being guest of honour at their cultural and faith events.
There are Nepalese Christians amongst our community who are now linked with a local Nepalese Church. They are regulars at our monthly coffee morning and join the congregation for our summer BBQ. We have expanded the activities with our Nepalese friends in the last year and have started a monthly Monday “Activities” morning which includes gardening, cooking, craft, art, sewing and knitting.
Also, a monthly Monday morning of dancing and exercise to live or taped music; this is a popular event. The ladies in particular love to dance as they get little other opportunity for physical activity. We do both seated and standing forms of dance to all types of music. We occasionally are able to have professional dancers help with this. We also use scarves, hoops and sticks as tools to promote movement and we have been taught some complex Nepalese dances which involve intricate hand movements! We have around 20 or so come along to these mornings.
Our desire is to continue to build lasting, deep and real relationships with our friends and to show them Jesus’ love in action for their whole physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
We have a lot of fun crossing the language barrier using hand signals and basic phrases. We have become able to converse sometimes in very simple sentences!
Long may our friendship continue. It is a privilege to be a trusted part of their lives. It is so encouraging to see how persistent prayer and a desire to join in with” God” in his mission can grow. We look forward to seeing how this Ministry grows in the future.
A note about Forge Missional Training
Although the Nepalese ministry was already in its infancy, when I began, being part of Forge was immensely helpful for me. During the course I had a coach who journeyed with me, which was invaluable especially when the going got tough. Being able to bounce and share ideas within peer groups of like-minded people who were also in ministries (or trying to start new ones) that were a little different was incredible and we still meet to support each other and we continue to pray for each other today. New ideas, ways of doing things, encouragement and putting sustainable ministry practices in place, sharing of ideas, praying, fellowship, teaching, visiting new and up and coming projects are all part of the course. Forge has helped to give me courage and confidence to join God in his mission…. awesome!