Growth from Transatlantic Partnership
A church on a deprived housing estate is increasing its community impact with the help of American missionaries. Mississippi graduate Daphney Byrd explains.
I first got involved with Earlesfield Community Church, Grantham, in 2015 through the Baptist Student Union at Mississippi State University, where I was studying.
There had been a link between the university and the church for several years through an initiative, Connect for Growth (formerly Churches in Partnership), facilitated by FIEC and the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
Each year, a group of students visited the Earlesfield estate to help with mission projects for a fortnight early in the summer.
While the Grantham area as a whole is relatively affluent, it’s estimated that 30% of children in Earlesfield are living in poverty (that’s more than twice the national average).
For me, joining in with the visits to Earlesfield seemed like a brilliant opportunity, and I have since been blessed to see how that partnership has really impacted people from Mississippi as well as people here in Grantham.
After taking part in the visits, I moved to the UK in 2018 and now serve as the church’s Community Outreach Worker. This longer-term placement fits perfectly with the continuing short visits to Earlesfield by the American students.
It means that I can help to maintain the momentum of our community work throughout the year, and carry forward the boost that the short-term student visits bring.
In May, a group from Mississippi came to help us run several projects, including children’s clubs and neighbourhood barbecues. They also gave talks in local schools.
What stood out to me, during their visit, was how they got alongside people in the community. They talked openly, built relationships, and spoke about who Jesus is. They were able to point people to the Bible’s messages in ways that we, as a church, may not have otherwise done.
‘Seeds’ were planted that are already beginning to grow, and we are very excited about continuing to watch that growth.
Being part of both the American and British side of things has really opened my eyes to different aspects of ministry.
My eyes have also been opened to our cultural differences! I believe I am finally over the mistake of saying ‘pants’ when I mean ‘trousers’, but of course I still say things in a way that my British friends find amusing.
Being on the American team allowed me to see how beneficial short-term mission work can be, while living in England longer-term is showing me that Christian work is often about being God’s light in the daily grind.
It’s about talking to someone in line (in Britain you call this a queue) at the school gate, or taking someone to a doctor’s appointment. It’s listening to people who are hurting, and visiting elderly people who feel lonely.
It’s through these everyday moments that God opens-up conversations and circumstances to allow the team and I to share his hope with people in Grantham.
There are days when life as a foreign missionary can be lonely. I don’t know many people here in Grantham who are my age, and sometimes I find it hard to relate to my friends back home because our worlds are now so different.
But through these difficult times, God is showing all of us here at Earlesfield Community Church what a huge difference we can make to our community when we work together.
Please would you pray for me and the team as we continue to work here on the estate? Pray that the Lord would really open the hearts and eyes of the locals so that they come to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Daniel Howson, Team leader at Earlesfield Community Church, said: “Our annual Mississippi team visits have made a massive impact on our church and wider community.
"One of the many positives is the return to us by some of the students, including Daphney, to minister for a longer period.
"We enjoy a lasting, warm and treasured relationship with the Mississippi State University’s Baptist Student Union, which prepares the students in prayer and guidance before they arrive.
"I would recommend other FIEC churches that are looking to grow to get involved with these kinds of partnerships.”
More information about Connect for Growth is available from FIEC’s office team. Contact them if you’re interested.