Ellie, Emily & Pete
Openshaw, Fir Vale, Walsall
Ellie, Emily and Pete share their story of joining an Eden team while studying at university.
It was whilst attending New Wine at the age of 14 that Emily first heard about Eden: ‘Some people from an Eden team shared about what they were doing within their community and what Eden was all about. I remember thinking this was something I really wanted to do.’ Emily moved to Sheffield for university and the church she attended partnered with the Eden team in Fir Vale. ‘I read that Jesus left his home to go to the poor and wondered why, as Christians, we were not doing this. I really liked this about Eden.’
Ellie heard about Eden when she moved to Manchester for a gap year with The Salvation Army. Living in East Manchester, she became part of the Eden team in Openshaw. When her gap year came to an end, she knew she had to stay on. ‘God had broken my heart for the community and there was no way I could leave. The work of Eden is life-changing so I knew I needed to stay on the Openshaw estate while I studied at university. Being part of an Eden team whilst at uni was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I loved that I could be a part of transforming a community at the same time as studying a subject I loved.’
Pete moved to Birmingham to study theology and mission. ‘I heard about Eden through a close friend who had joined a team in London. Her experience sounded so authentic that I was drawn to check it out for myself. I loved being involved with my home church in Devon, but it felt very safe working with middle-class, churched kids. I needed to step outside of my comfort zone. Whilst I knew about Eden, I hadn’t really thought it could work with my studies. Then one day I had a dream where I was looking for a place to camp and was shown different parks. I was in one park and felt like I needed to move into the next – and that park was called Eden. As I woke I really felt that God was calling me to check out Eden.
‘Being a part of Eden Walsall whilst studying has really helped me to break out of the university bubble and stay connected to real people with real challenges. I’ve met so many kind and wonderful people and seen Jesus move in many subtle and gentle ways. There have also been many challenges as I’ve been learning to navigate a very different world.
‘At Christmas, a large-scale outreach event crumbled only moments before it was due to begin. But what was set to be a disaster turned into an incredible event as the team and members of the community pulled together. Jesus continues to be evident and present as he works through the team to restore our community.
‘Whilst there is a tension that comes with being on an Eden team while studying, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to anyone. there is a balancing act that needs to be done between wanting to spend all of your time with the community and knowing you have an essay deadline coming up. But so far, I’ve found the time to do both!’
‘During my time at uni, I’d got to know the kids and families in this community really well and knew life would only get harder for some of them’, says Emily. ‘So when I graduated I wanted to stay and use what I had learned at university to make a real impact in the lives of these people. I knew I was there for the long term.
'There was one boy we met who was from a Muslim background but had been coming along to the kid’s club our team ran for quite a while. One day we asked if he wanted to follow Jesus and immediately he said yes! We explained how serious this decision was, but he was adamant that he wanted to be a Christian. It was such a joy for me and my team to see him make this decision.
‘Being a student while being on an Eden team is a great thing. Eden has taught me to be both committed and present wherever you find yourself.’
‘It’s the sense of community you find in Eden teams that really stands out,’ says Ellie. ‘Eden has completely changed my view of people and the church. Seeing people come together to care and love their neighbours at all times whilst also showing and sharing Jesus’ love to them pushes you out of your comfort zone. And so, staying on the Eden team after finishing university was an easy decision.
‘The relationships I’d made were for the long term. I’ve known Demi since she was ten years old as she came to a kids’ club we ran. She came from a broken and struggling family. Over the years she’s told me of some of her situation and it’s heart-breaking. I remember just wanting to help her. Being part of a community for the long term is the key in building relationship and trust with people like Demi. Now 17, I still see Demi and our friendship continues to this very day.
‘Being on an Eden team whilst at university has taught me so much about stepping out and trusting in God’s plan for my life wholeheartedly. God wanted me in Eden I just had to step out and do it.’
Feel inspired by this story to play your part in transforming communities with the love of Jesus? Find out more and start your journey today.