St John’s Park is a small green space on the Isle of Dogs, East London. Just a few years ago, it was a place no one dared to enter, because of the gangs, drugs and high levels of crime. Now it is a vibrant community hub, where parents and children gather to enjoy time together.
This change has been brought about through the long-term ministry of Café Forever, a cafe run by London City Mission. In 2006 they transformed a disused council building in the middle of the park into a small shop selling cold drinks and snacks.
Over time the gangs moved on and the crime levels dropped. Now the park is used by all members of this diverse community. The café offers services such as internet access and youth work. Family Fun Days are the highlight of their summer — offering crafts, games and competitions, all free of charge.
600 people attended a Family Fun Day in June; and the summer programme included football training and tournaments, crafts and an under-fives programme, and even a couple of day-trips to the beach.
Tom Carpenter, team leader at Café Forever said, ‘We wanted to do something that would interact with the community around us. St John’s Park provided us with an opportunity to invite members of our community into a neutral space’.
Showing care for the park and the people who use it has led to seeing the area transformed. The Café Forever team have had opportunities to come alongside individuals and families, directly impacting the community and helping them get to know who Jesus is through the ministry in the park.
Tom said, ‘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’.