This past weekend my husband and I had the truly humbling experience of taking part in the Hope Eastleigh event in his hometown. Eastleigh is the town in England where my husband grew up. It is a burrough of Southampton near the south coast. For this event many of the churches within Eastleigh banded together to bring their town various opportunities to encounter the gospel over a two week time period. This event is known as Hope Eastleigh. During this time period several activities are established for various groups of people. Members of the churches get involved by volunteering their time to get out and evangelize to the community.
On Friday they provided a tea tent in the town square for the elderly to get a cup of tea and chat with the volunteers. This provided a means for presenting the gospel to that group of people.
The majority of those who were reached through Hope Eastleigh were met during their Saturday Family Day. In the town square there were dozens of free bouncy castles, children’s games and crafts run by volunteers from the churches. My husband shared his basketball ministry and testimony on stage during this time. The entire day was meant to draw people to conversation so that they might come to know Christ as a result. It was truly inspiring the way that the churches came together in order to see life change in their community.
Sunday there was one church service held in a tent on the town square. Over ten congregations met together to worship God in an open location. The tent was overflowing with people and some who were in town became curious about the service and wandered in as well.
This next week we will be returning to America and will be unable to take part in the second week of Hope Eastleigh, but it is the follow-up week where Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday there will be evening services housed in different churches. Each service will present a different part of the salvation story with opportunities to meet Christ for the very first time.
What I find most inspiring about the Hope Eastleigh event is that there is no competition between the churches. All work together to see authentic change in Eastleigh. So often when churches resolve to work together their plans are thwarted by their differences. It is truly special the way that these churches focus on their similarities and work toward a common goal. It was so humbling to be in a place where Christianity and faith are in such decline, but to see people living out the gospel the way that God intended: with unity.
1 Peter 3:8: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.