Picture the scene: a teenager checks into a Saturday night mission meeting in the city-centre of Edinburgh and realises that he needs Jesus.  He goes to the front at the end of the meeting to get advice on how to commit his life to God.  After the counsellor carefully explains the gospel, to make sure that the teenager has understood it properly, he offers to pray with him.  The teenager refuses because it doesn’t feel right.  But that evening, he goes home and quietly bows his head in his kitchen and makes the most important decision of his life: to follow Jesus.  

Picture the scene: a young man in his mid-20s standing on Arthur’s Seat looking over Edinburgh and dreaming of God doing something significant, something amazing, something powerful, something lasting in his home city, particularly in the poorer parts of the city.  And so off he goes, into West Pilton to volunteer with Edinburgh City Mission, to befriend local people and help out at a little community centre that is run by a City Missionary, Bill McGillivray, on the housing estate in North-West Edinburgh. Life moves on, it twists and turns, and eventually he ends up working with London City Mission for 12 years before coming across an advert for a new CEO for Edinburgh City Mission…

In July 2017 I returned to Edinburgh with the daunting but hugely exciting opportunity of being able to take what I’d learnt in London City Mission and apply it to Edinburgh City Mission, together with regularly praying that old favourite prayer that many of us often send heavenwards: “Help me, Lord!”

The aim of Edinburgh City Mission is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in words and action by engaging in poverty relief in Edinburgh, particularly amongst people who live in housing estates.  We seek to “stimulate and strengthen the church’s mission in Edinburgh’s most deprived communities.”

When I started we had four part-time missionaries. We quickly grew our team and now have an extra full-time and three part-time “Mission Strengtheners” whose role is to fulfil our mission statement, expressing God’s love by strengthening the church’s mission rather than building our own projects. This is a crucial distinctive of Edinburgh City Mission: we are a team of Christians from different churches across Edinburgh who pray with, advise, encourage and get actively involved in the mission work of other churches across the city.  The word “strengthen” means: to build up, make healthy, nourish, support, fortify, reinforce… we want to inspire the church to love our neighbours, to engage with those who live in our local communities and to reach out a helping hand, particularly to those who are most in need of help to overcome life’s challenges. 

In practice, this involves supporting eight church-based “Basics Banks” foodbanks and providing follow-up meetings for guests who need support to deal with the difficult situation that has created their need for the foodbank, or are interested in learning about Jesus.  The referrals to our Basics Banks have sky-rocketed over the past five years: we did 693 in 2015 and 1099 already in 2019.  We also provide debt support through Community Money Advice (two of our team are CMA-qualified debt advisors) in partnership with the Salvation Army, and partner with local churches to help with new initiatives like Soul Food, which we are launching in October.  We love the church and we want to see God’s kingdom come in the city of Edinburgh, as it is in heaven.

In early 2018 we held our first “Restless for Mission” conference.  In 2019 we expanded this conference with a keynote talk on “Stepping into Mission” and seminars to help people think about how to engage with refugees, engage with their local community, reflect on God’s heart for the poor and learn how to have confident conversations about Jesus.  Later this year, on 21st September, we are going to hold our first “Encounter” conference which will be all about encountering Jesus.  At the conference we will launch Edinburgh City Mission’s latest project: a weekly Soul Food meal for people who are needing community; and we will launch City Vision, a new prayer initiative for the city.  

Our vision is to help to create a mission movement across Edinburgh by growing our team of Mission Strengtheners to more than 30 so that we can have teams working on each housing estate across the city, “stimulating and strengthening the church’s mission in Edinburgh’s most deprived communities.”  In order to grow our team, we are enlisting the support of more financial supporters called “Mission Enablers” – people who commit to giving a small or a large sum every month to enable us to continue to grow our team of Mission Strengtheners. This will enable us to have a greater impact on local churches, keeping prayer and mission at the top of the agenda.    

Picture the scene: a vibrant family of different kinds of churches serving their communities and sharing their hope in Jesus, a loving movement sweeping everyone up in joyful excitement about the good things of God.  I believe that it is the Lord’s vision to grow Edinburgh City Mission so that we can help to create such a mission movement across the city.  He has given me the responsibility of carrying this vision and sharing it.  After Jesus rose from the dead, He told us that we need to go into the world (Matt. 28: 19).  He promised that He would build His church (Matt. 16: 18) and He would be with us until the end of the age (Matt. 28: 20).  In Edinburgh City Mission, our desire is to align ourselves with His great purposes for the church and the city, and our strength is in Him.
If you would like to find out more about how you could support us, please see our Get Involved leaflet here: https://bit.ly/2KzHtdP, visit our website: www.edinburghcitymission.org.uk or phone us on 0131-225-9445.  We would love if you would consider praying for us, become a Mission Enabler or invite us to meet you and speak at a midweek meeting or Sunday service at your church.

By Duncan Cuthill

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