UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Compassion & Community
Compassion & Community Compassion & Community
Ordinary People with an Extraordinary Dream

Illtyd Barrie Thomas
ISBN 1903689325 (9781903689325)
Piquant, 2005

Category: Evangelism & Mission

Reading this remarkable little book (101 pages + photographs) is rather like reading the Acts of the Apostles for the first time: a story of God at work through his people in surprising ways and — from a normal human point of view — unlikely places.

Raffles is a run-down council estate in Carlisle, North West England, an area of dysfunctional families and broken relationships, the kind of area that some would say is best avoided — precisely the kind of area that Jesus would walk into and get involved with.

Starting with a children's club called "Loaves and Fishes" set up by a couple of local mums — as they're described in the subtitle, just ordinary people — the project began to grow as more and more people caught the vision. The story is told by Barrie Thomas and — again, rather like the Book of Acts — his narrative switches back and forth from a first person to a third person account.

Barrie himself started out as something of a bystander: a member of the church but, due to his commitments as Commercial Director of the Eddie Stobart Group, unable to get as fully involved as he would have liked. Circumstances changed, however, and Barrie left the Stobart group to take on a full time role in the work he'd previously supported from a distance.

The Living Well Trust was formally established as a charity, premises were acquired in the form of a former Co-op Food Store which became a Family Centre offering community services and support to families on the estate, and more people came on board — quite literally as a double decker bus became a mobile youth service!

There's no false optimism here, no pretence that if we commit our way to God everything's going to be okay — on the contrary, there's a dogged determination to fight on for a faith that's worth living for when the odds are stacked against you.

Giving an honest and down-to-earth account of the lows and the highs of Christian community work, this is a book that will encourage and inspire anyone involved in this type of ministry. It deserves the widest possible readership.

Buy direct from the Living Well Trust, from your local Christian bookshop or use the links below.

Phil Groom, April 2006

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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