When Steve Robinson at Elim Bewdley felt the Lord tell him to dream bigger he never expected to live the vision out by supporting his town through a flood and a pandemic
If you told me a year ago I would be a central part of the flooding effort in Bewdley, meet the Prime Minister and support the town through a pandemic, I wouldn’t have believed you,” says Bewdley Elim pastor Steve Robinson.
“But that’s what God can do, and it’s forced us to dig into him in prayer and rely on him.”
Steve and his wife Liz had only been leading the church for a year when they felt God give them a word: “bigger”.
“We were starting to explore that when Bewdley was flooded last January. The town was on national news, with 38 homes flooded,” Steve says.
For two weeks, the church became a base for the emergency services and a hub for all the support in the town.
“We had ambulance, fire, police, Wyre Forest district council, the rescue teams and the road authorities based here. We cooked for them and offered pastoral support too.”
But more was to follow once the waters receded. The Environment Agency asked if the church was available for a meeting with the MP and the emergency services. Steve agreed, but he was in for a shock.
“I was met by two secret service agents who started grilling me about why I was here and who I was. It turned out it wasn’t just a meeting with our MP, Boris Johnson was coming too.”
When the officials became aware of all the church had done, they insisted Steve join the meeting. “I was ushered from the kitchen to sit with the heads of emergency services waiting for Boris Johnson. I felt so out of my depth.”
Later, as Boris was set to leave, an official thrust Steve into the spotlight. “He stopped Boris and said, ‘I don’t think you realise what this church has done to support this community.’ Suddenly, I was having a one-to-one conversation with him. He asked me questions like what it means to reach people and a community with the love of Jesus.”
No sooner had the flooding teams left, the UK was plunged into national lockdown, leaving Steve to figure out how to do church and support a community during a pandemic.
Like many, he decided to live-stream services and began navigating the now-familiar world of new technology, remote pastoral support and online meetings.
Steve encouraged the church to support a nearby food bank as it helped nearly 300 families each week. As he looked for other ways to act on God’s “bigger” vision, Bewdley Elim also boldly decided to open a community café in October. A team of volunteers are connecting with customers and sharing their faith as they serve up coffee and cakes.
“They understand it’s not just about serving food, but getting to know people,” says Steve. “People are coming to church for the first time, joining our online communities or coming to faith just because they had a cup of coffee in our café.”
As lockdown restrictions curbed use of the church building, the café became a meeting place for Bewdley Elim’s ministries too. Among them is the church’s dementia support group for carers and sufferers.
Before the pandemic, the church ran a dementia café to provide support and relief to these families. Steve says that, sadly, many dementia sufferers’ conditions have worsened during lockdown, with more than half moved to care homes and some lives lost.
The dementia café team have adapted their support by making calls, texts, shopping deliveries and organising café meet-ups instead.
“We’ve been supporting carers, meeting for walks or in the café, and organising deliveries of flowers or chocolates to families who are effectively locked in their homes caring for someone vulnerable.”
The church has also been supporting families as local businesses have closed.
“Bewdley is a town of mostly self-employed people and many businesses have gone bankrupt. We’re trying to offer practical support through things like food hampers and making sure people understand they’re not forgotten.”
Through the flooding support and the church’s ministry during the pandemic, Steve has certainly seen God’s ‘bigger’ vision come to life.
“We’ve had a massive change, asking ourselves if we are serving the community and sharing our love with others? And that’s where we’ve had the biggest breakthrough – sowing into community outreach which has really impacted the town. We’ve seen people stepping out in faith to support their neighbours in a way we’ve not seen before, families and communities reconnecting and people being cared for with the love of Jesus. That word ‘bigger’ and the fact that God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine has really spoken to us.”