In Matthew 13 verse 33 Jesus says “The Kingdom of heaven is like leaven (yeast), which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” The nature of the Kingdom therefore is to be hidden in this world until it has brought the change that society (the dough) so desperately needs; a transformation into something alive; a new culture. As churches then, our expression of the Kingdom should be that this societal transformation should be taking place at every point of contact. One example of how God has inspired ordinary Christians to do extraordinary things for the sake of the downtrodden and afflicted, is the ministry to the homeless called Green Pastures.
Green Pastures is based in small offices in Southport, where the charity manages £17m of property, all used to give formerly homeless people a place of their own. Working with 29 churches and Christian groups across the UK, Green Pastures houses and cares for 400 men, women and children. Unlike a commercial landlord, it does not ask for deposits and references, which often make it impossible for homeless people to start to rent and because the charity owns the buildings, when one tenant moves on the property is still there to provide accommodation for another person or family. This means it has the potential to impact homelessness for generations.
What makes Green Pastures unique is the model they use to help local churches and charities reach out to the homeless and poor in their communities. This is best summed up as Partner, Invest & Give.
Partners are carefully selected to ensure they will offer the support that tenants need, this can be assistance with keeping appointments, help in learning to read and write as well as giving people opportunities to tackle the problems that caused them to become homeless in the first place. Green Pastures and its partners also work closely with social services and other statutory bodies to ensure tenants receive the most appropriate help.
Properties are bought through Green Pastures Housing CBS Limited, an exempt charity and an industrial and provident society. This company offers people an opportunity to invest in the work of Green Pastures so the charity can buy properties to house homeless people. The company pays 5% interest on these investments.
The final part of Green Pastures model is the gifts made by people, businesses and churches to support the charity. Green Pastures has some partners like Boaz Trust who work with destitute asylum seekers and refugees fleeing oppression who have no right to UK benefits, but still desperately need accommodation and care. Gifts enable Green Pastures to provide a home for the people Boaz support, even though they have no means of paying for their housing. Gifts also enable the charity to employ vital partner liaison staff, who help new partners get started and assist existing partners with unexpected difficulties.
Jesus often used the phrase “a time is coming and now is”, which reflects the contrast between the gradual growth of the Kingdom’s influence and its certain fullness. The outworking of those two themes for Green Pastures is to give local churches the tools to house homeless people in their communities, allowing them to start to take responsibility for the poor. This is implicitly a prophetic action that influences this present time but also speaks of “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. It says “we don’t yet see every expression of the church challenging poverty, but because it is the nature of the Kingdom to reach and transform everything – it must come”. On the ground it looks like hard work and heart ache and many, many opportunities to give grace to people who by any rational standard don’t deserve it. But the prize is rescued lives and a church that believes they can be transforming yeast in their communities.
If you would like to find out more about Green Pasture’s work please visit www.greenpastures.net.
Article by Daniel Russell, Green Pastures.