Once Emma Jarvis was converted to Christ, the Lord gave her a great desire to share the gospel with others.
This led her to apply to spend a year with London City Mission (LCM), which she started last autumn after graduating from university. EN interviewed her about what it has been like so far.
en: What is your background and how did you become a Christian?
EJ: I grew up in Wiltshire with two brothers and my parents took us to church from the year dot.
Growing up, I was the kid that knew all the answers in Sunday school but knew that I wasn’t a Christian and was quite happy living the way I wanted to. I then went to university in Surrey and during my second year found myself going to (and enjoying) church and Bible studies more and more, and the Christians I got to know were a great influence. To make a long story short, I was stubborn and proud, but God was patient and kind. I realised what conversion was, the significance of Jesus’s life for me and what I needed to do about it and I became a Christian when I was 21.
en: What led you to spend a year with London City Mission?
EJ: I think as soon as I became a Christian I felt the desire to get other people to engage with God and realise that Jesus is important for them.
I did some beach missions during the summer, and got involved with evangelism on the university campus during my final year. I thoroughly enjoyed these and God gave me the confidence and willingness to do more. When it came to thinking about life after university, I wasn’t inspired to start on the job ladder but realised that my biggest passion was talking about Jesus, so I pursued mission opportunities and doing full-time Christian work.
I was half expecting to have to learn another language, but I heard about LCM because it was the focus of prayer at a church I was attending, so I investigated what I could do with them. I signed up to their gap year scheme called City Vision (CV) to start to test whether this was the kind of thing God wanted me to be doing.
en: Give us an overview of LCM’s work?
EJ: LCM is involved in a huge variety of ministries that all aim to help Londoners practically and spiritually, whether with local communities, workplaces, ethnic minorities, the marginalised and those being cared for.
Examples of some of the ministries include community centres, schools teams, cafés, workplace chaplains and a day centre for homeless people called Webber Street. There’s plenty more than that and it’s great to see so many different and creative ways to reach various communities and introduce them to Jesus.
en: Tell us about your work and what a ‘normal’ day involves?
EJ: I work in Vauxhall Christian Centre three days a week, with the schools team in Morden one day a week, and I attend Urban Mission training lectures on the other day.
Two days are rarely the same, which I really like. As an example, a typical Friday in Vauxhall may involve meeting with my team in the morning, then spending a couple of hours doing door-to-door visits around the local blocks of flats. I would come back and help serve at our lunch club and then join in with a short Bible study and prayer session. The afternoon is then spent chatting with members of the community who drop by and setting up for our after-school girls’ club. When the girls arrive we spend two hours enjoying things like baking, table tennis and jewellery-making over a drink of hot chocolate, as well as a short spiritual talk. After that I make my way back home to Tower Bridge Road, normally pretty tired.
en: What is different about sharing Christ in an urban context rather than with students?
EJ: There are several differences between urban mission and the evangelism I was used to on campus.
The people in the local housing estates are not all the same age as me, they often have mind-blowing stories to tell and are in unfavourable financial circumstances. It seems that people’s identity is in their upbringing and what they have experienced, rather than in their education or aspirations. Bringing the Christian message into people’s lives is therefore different; university students often have a number of their own thought-out objections and questions, but the people I’m meeting now are often uninterested in, and unfamiliar with, debating and apologetics. However, they do have their own underlying objections. While students often want to discuss evolution and homosexuality, the people I meet want to talk about their life stories and struggles.
I have been encouraged by the example of Jesus, as he spent time with social outcasts and often engaged people’s minds by just asking questions. In the urban context that I work in, it is important to take a relational approach; there are numbers of people who are only willing to open up once trust and friendship have been established. This is true in all contexts but particularly so with some people in the community environment. We operate from a community centre and sharing Christ with some people feels like slow-motion evangelism; it is a gradual process for some people to become comfortable with coming to the centre and then engage in deeper conversations.
There are, however, a number of similarities: everyone seems equally willing to chat when in their dressing gown at any hour of the day. Also, my approach still needs to be reliant on God’s help at every moment and inspired by love. In both contexts people are frustratingly apathetic to life’s big questions, but Jesus is intriguing.
en: How would you encourage others to think about spending time with LCM?
EJ: I would encourage them whole-hearted-ly! There are several opportunities to work with LCM because they have so many ministries. They also offer ways to get involved for varying periods of time; a list and description of the different opportunities can be found on their website (www.lcm.org.uk).
The Mission’s City Vision scheme is a good way to spend a year. Within just a few months I have learned a lot about evangelism and have been taught a lot about the Bible, mission and counselling. I’ve also been able to work alongside a number of different missionaries with a huge amount of experience and have met a wide diversity of people in communities that I would otherwise be unlikely to cross paths with. This has been great in broadening my perspective of society, God’s saving power and different ways that he can meet people’s needs.
Mission like this is not particularly easy and doesn’t always feel successful, but LCM’s work is definitely worthwhile, I’m well looked after, have great colleagues and housemates and it’s a privilege to be so openly working for God. My time here so far has deepened my trust in God’s control and, most importantly, I have got involved in sharing God’s love and his Word with people that are so often unreached. I would therefore encourage others to do the same.
This article was first published in the February 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057