As the first lockdown eased in the summer we began to prepare for services that would allow us to meet people in the Sunday setting. Once those services were established we asked ourselves how we could meet the community at large, and so “Oasis” was born.
The initial thought was that there will be a lot of people out there who are struggling with the current crisis, so we need to get out there and we could offer to help them, pray both for them and with them, and introduce them to the Lord Jesus. We are not in a High Street location, but we do have quite a lot of passing foot traffic, so we thought setting up an encounter point in our car park would be a start. We have a large event shelter (pictured) which we can put up in about 20 minutes, under which we put a few chairs and a table with literature. There is a variety of information, from local helplines and crisis information, to Christian outreach leaflets, and we even offer tea and biscuits (although, at the moment, we don’t get takers for that).
So we are there at the same time each week (Tuesdays, 2.00-4.00pm to catch those leaving the schools), greeting passers-by. Some know us already, while some stop because they are curious about what is
going on. One member of our team knows a lot of locals and is very adept at getting into conversation. And dog walkers are usually friendly! We call it Oasis because that is what we want it to be: a meeting place of refreshment, friendship and hope. With renewed lockdown restrictions in place as I write, we not able to be out there in November in the same way. And we are also a bit limited when the weather is bad – we have a smaller gazebo that comes down more quickly and easily for those occasions, but people tend not to stop if it is raining heavily. But over the long term we hope to build up relationships with people as they become aware that we are going to be around each week. We have had a couple of interesting conversations already, and met a Christian woman who is very lonely and has come along to church on a couple of occasions. It’s just a start, and we feel that 2021 will reveal more needs than this year, so we realise we are in this for the long haul. Please join with us as we pray for significant encounters at the Oasis!
Ian Rees – Pastor, Salway Evangelical Church, Woodford