Yesterday we went to an event organised by Community Organisers in Birkenhead. Local people with a heart for the community met together to share ideas and to find out what it meant to be a Community Organiser.
It was great to see more than 40 people gathered from different organisations or as individuals who all want to see improvements in the community and to help those around them. It was a good place to meet up with other people with similar ideas or who were already running projects like our "Ageing well in Seacombe" idea to have a day centre for the elderly at the church. Hopefully we can learn some good tips from them and get our project off the ground more smoothly, we certainly met some inspiring people and made some good connections.
"Together we can make a difference."
While we were at this event we did an interesting exercise which it would be well worth repeating at a local level here in Wallasey. We were asked to draw a tree and then to think about the different parts, the root, the trunk, the leaves, the fruit and the potential thorns and then to work through those parts, and what they represented, in order to get a better insight into our community. Once we have a better understanding of our community, we are in a better position to offer help in the right areas where it will really make an impact on people's lives.
So we thought about the roots of our area, the history of the community, what it was built on and where the community came from then we moved up to the trunk and thought about what was strong about our community and what holds it together. The leaves were about what brings energy and life to our community and the fruit represented the successes in the community. Of course there are always thorns, the difficulties and the challenges facing the community. We also had the opportunity to think more about our dreams for the community, where we would like the community to be.
So this is what our group came up with for the Wirral as a whole (not just our area of the Wirral)...
We didn't totally finish the exercise because we ran out of time but it was really interesting to do and also to find out about other people's thoughts and impressions of the area. There were so many positives, especially about the community and people helping each other. There was very much a feeling that underneath everything there was a sense of community inbuilt into people and although it has been lost to some extent, it is still there. We really need to tap into that and help people to help each other and to help themselves.
"Community and helping others is inbuilt"
The area isn't without problems and we had an interesting discussion as part of the feedback from the exercise with the tree where it became quite clear that people were quite passionate about some issues and why certain problems existed. However, I rather liked a comment by one lady when talking about the problems of drug dealers on her estate. She commented that if we could tap into their entrepreneurship and business skills and use that for something good rather than something negative then that would really make a difference not just to the individuals concerned but to the community as a whole. It's really about seeing and working on those positives in what looks quite negative that will transform our society.
"See the positive in every negative"
It was clear that many problems exist because people don't feel valued, they don't know love and they don't take pride in themselves or the area around them. Through the work of volunteers like those who attended this event, people's lives can and will be improved but my feeling is that the transformation is never going to be complete without Jesus in their lives. Knowing that you are loved by God, the creator of the universe, can totally change your perspective and you know that no matter what other people think, you are important and you can make a difference. If you know that truth then it totally changes things, it changes how you interact with one another and it changes how you feel about yourself and those things are going to make a difference not just to you but to your community as a whole.
"Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life" Colossians 2:7
We'd really love to do this tree exercise with our local community to find out more about what people feel about the area and how we can best pray into situations in our local community and how we can best support people. If you have any comments or ideas then we'd love to hear from you.
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers." Psalm 1: 1-2