Choir hits all the right notes
By Kerry Allan | United Kingdom in Europe
Cultures come together at Harper Church. Photo SIM UK.
They say never work with children or animals, but this won’t deter Lawrence Jah’s plans for a community fun day at Harper Church in Glasgow this Christmas, including a nativity scene, planned by the leadership of the church, featuring live rabbits, a guinea pig, a goat and a donkey!
“Nothing will go wrong and it’s one of many things we’ve planned in order to reach more people with the gospel this Christmas!” he insists.
Lawrence, originally from Sierra Leone, has taken time away from his role as a pastor in The Gambia to help the church grow its cross-cultural gospel ministry.
Together with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Priscilla, he moved to Scotland in 2021 to join SIM UK’s ENGAGE programme, which recruits and places gospel workers from around the world in UK churches that want to share the gospel with their multicultural communities.
As well as his ministry among the many refugees and asylum seekers living locally, Lawrence co-ordinates the African diaspora fellowship at Harper.
The couple have experienced many joys in their first year of ministry, including hosting the church’s first Nigerian community meal, attended by more than 70 people from different nations in October.
“It was a great opportunity for friendship and relationship-building, with the recently arrived international students from Nigeria,” says Lawrence.
Another was helping to set up the Harper African Voice Choir — an initiative by the church’s pastor Alan McKnight.
“The opportunity for an African choir as part of Harper’s Sunday service once a month is a true reflection of a multicultural church comprising of over 30 nations and is intentionally open to other nations and ethnicities in the church,” says Lawrence.
“By the grace of God, through a weekly street ministry and interactions with other charitable organisations in the Glasgow community, I’ve been privileged to engage with people, not only from African backgrounds, but from all nations, ethnicities and cultures.’
The couple’s involvement in the life of the church is not only limited to reaching the adults in the multicultural community, but also their children.
When the family first arrived, Priscilla was the only African child in the children’s church on Sundays, and the weekly evening King’s Club on Mondays, but this has now grown to 13 — eight primary school-aged and five pre-school children — thanks to the relationships Lawrence and Elizabeth have built up with a number of international students from Nigeria and asylum seekers from West Africa, who’ve joined the church.
“It’s so encouraging to engage with Africans from various cultural backgrounds, including people from my country of origin, and on top of that, Elizabeth is able to get various African dishes, which means we don’t miss home too much!” says Lawrence.
And as the Christmas season approaches, Lawrence and Elizabeth are keen to make the most of the opportunity to show God’s practical love to the people they are trying to reach, and to have conversations that may have been closed at other times of the year.
“We’re organising a family get-together and inviting various asylum seekers and international students to come to our home with their children for fun and fellowship,” he says.
“The programme is also designed in such a way that it gives room for the various nations represented at Harper to celebrate their unique festive traditions.
“The aim is to use Christmas as a way to strengthen relationships with those people the Lord has brought along our path, in the past year.”
And while the family will not be celebrating Christmas in true Gambian style, with street parties and time on the beach, Lawrence says they feel very much at home in the UK, and are keen to embrace one particular festive tradition...
“Last Christmas, I felt like the odd one out because I hadn’t purchased a Christmas jumper; but, God willing, I’ll definitely get a matching jumper for all three of us, this time!” he says.
• That God will work powerfully in the lives of people through Christmas outreaches at Harper Church.
• That Africans at Harper will be well integrated into the wider church family life.
• For God’s guidance regarding the next steps to be taken, before the couple’s visa ends.
To find out more about ENGAGE and how you or your church could get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about the Jah's ministry, take a look at this story on the SIM UK website.