Community Transformation is a phrase that has always left me a little cold. Maybe a brief flame of interest, but nothing that really catches light. It sounds great for another place, another world, a far-off, South American city with gang wars and drug culture being radically changed by the Holy Spirit. But not here. Not in my suburban street. Not in the ordinariness of middle-class, middle-England dullness.
In Uganda I saw lives, villages, a city, a nation, being transformed. Not from the outside, not from some big NGO or some innovative government scheme, but by the church. The needs are much more obvious: the ravages of war and AIDS, orphans, child soldiers. It's clear. Not so clear is what can be done or how, but God has given his people vision and resourced them and now they are getting on with it.
The challenge for me on returning has been that I don't know the needs of my community, I have no idea of the hurts, the problems, the issues confronting the people I live alongside. Tonight, for the second time, I will be meeting with a handful of other people who live in my road. We have committed ourselves to asking God to show us the needs and to open up for us opportunities to be his church and to do his work here in this place. In the last week I have made a point of smiling at my neighbours and of stopping to talk and I have learned of the possibility of a community garden. I don't know where this will lead, but I am sure that with God in charge it will be exciting and I have faith enough to say that I will keep you posted!