08 August 2013
Cafe brings life to the Isle of Dogs
London City Mission at a Fun Day in St John's Park
Just a few years ago, St John's Park on the Isle of Dogs in East London felt like no-man's-land. Due to London City Mission's ministry through Café Forever it is now a vibrant hub of community where parents and children enjoy time together. Locals said the park was a place where "no one dared to enter" because of the gangs, drugs and crime but say now there is a completely different atmosphere.
Café Forever, an internet café, is a London City Mission centre set up to enable youth work and a place to interact with the local community. In 2006 organisers took a disused council building in the middle of the park and transformed it into a small shop to sell cold drinks and snacks. Café Forever began to take shape.
With a keen desire to get to know the community better, volunteers realised that few would come to the café of their own accord so they went out inviting people into the neutral space to enjoy time together. London City Mission are seeing how the gangs have been moving on, crime levels dropping and speak of how the park is used by all members of the diverse community.
Tom Carpenter, team leader at Café Forever, said: "Through simply caring for the park and the people that come into it we've seen this place completely change. We've had the opportunity to come alongside individuals and families and so have a direct impact on this community. By coming alongside people they get to know who Jesus is through what we are doing through this park."
Throughout the summer family fun days have been a particular highlight with one in June attracting 600 people with free crafts, games, food and competitions. Their summer programme continues until 17 August with activities including an under-fives' programme, football training and tournaments, kids' craft and day trips to the beach.
Tom continued: "What we've found here is that it doesn't matter how much police you have, or it doesn't matter how much money flows into this area, genuine transformation only comes when people come into a genuine life transforming relationship with Jesus."