Sharing faith with Saturday shoppers in Dereham
A small group of Christians are heading into Dereham’s town centre on Saturday afternoons to pray for shoppers and introduce people to God, with some amazing outcomes. Jenny Seal reports.
Former London City Missionary Alex Milne, his wife Astrid and their four children moved from East London to Swanton Morley, a village in Mid Norfolk, in the summer of 2014.
A passionate evangelist, as well as a driving instructor and a Town Pastor, Alex started going out on the streets of Dereham on a Saturday afternoon to pray for people and to chat to anyone interested in knowing about Jesus.
His wife, Astrid, their sixteen year old daughter Lizzy, a Russian friend and sometimes a few others from the Fountain of Life Church and Wellspring Family Church in Dereham join Alex.
The team, which is backed and prayed for by the Fountain of Life Church in Ashill, which the Milne family attend, can be found on the streets of Dereham three out of four Saturdays each month from 1.30pm-3.30pm. Their ministry on the streets has led to various encouraging encounters.
Alex tells about a man the team came across one Saturday in early November, after having prayed for him a couple of weeks earlier. Alex said: “We often bump into him. The man said to us: ‘here’s my medical report’ and I looked at the medical report and it said, ‘it has resolved itself’. We had prayed for him a couple of weeks before because he had lung cancer.”
Alex also recalls praying for a lady with arthritis in her hand. He said: “We prayed and then she walked away and then she came back wiggling her fingers, saying, “I couldn’t do this before”.”
“We have prayed for a lot of young people,” Alex said. “Skateboarders often have accidents. They tell their friends, ‘he healed my ankle’, but we tell them that it is Jesus who healed them.”
“We can’t say we’ve seen everyone be healed. But the more we pray, the more we see. I’m looking forward to seeing more. What inspired me was YouTube ‘Healing on the Streets’ videos. In the New Testament they preached the Gospel and healed the sick, and that inspired me to go down that road.”
On the second Sunday of each month, the group meets for training and prayer. Astrid said: “Alex encourages us in sharing our faith, talks us through how to do a Discovery Bible Study and things like that. Our emphasis is on being equipped to tell others.”
Alex explains: “Going out on the streets we will ask a person the question: “May we ask you a question? That’s the opening, and if they say yes, then we ask them: “if you could know God as your friend, would you be interested?’. And some people say, ‘yes’ and some people say, ‘no, thank you’. And if they say yes, we share our testimony and the Gospel. And then we also ask the question, “are you in any pain?” and if so we pray for healing. And we have found that the more we do it, the more we grow in it.”
Alex uses resources taught by Steve Addison, who is the founder of Christian mission agency MOVE and has a website called movements.net. Steve teaches about sharing the Gospel through ‘Three Circles evangelism’ and discipling through ‘Discovery Bible Studies’.
Alex said: “We want to make disciples who make disciples. We would like to see a disciple making movement. And we are looking for people of peace. These are God prepared people, people who would like to look further into the Christian faith, people who would like to share with their friends.”
Astrid has recently led a Discovery Bible Study, in the town centre, with a mum of five children that she met on the street and Lizzy, their daughter, is leading a Discovery Bible Study with non-Christians in Dereham Sixth Form College where she is currently studying.
Lizzy Milne, Alex and Astrid’s daughter, joined the team after an awakening of faith when she was 14.
Lizzy tells of how in 2016 a South African lady, working in Eckling Grange, came to the family home for a meal and prayed individually for the children. Lizzy said: “She spoke some prophetic words over us – I can’t really remember much of what she said, but my life changed from that moment onwards. Before I wasn‘t interested in God and definitely wouldn’t go out on the streets. Gradually I wanted to read the Bible for myself, and go to church, not because my parents wanted me to but because I wanted to. God became real for me and I started following Jesus myself.
“And then a few months after that I decided to join my parents who were already going out onto the streets of Dereham, praying for people and telling people about Jesus, and I decided I could join them. But for the first six months I didn’t really say anything – I just kind of watched while they did all the talking but then gradually God helped me grow in confidence and I started taking part.”
Alex and Lizzy agree they have different styles of talking with people on the streets. While Alex is keen to pray, Lizzy prefers to ask questions, but both share the same challenges.
Lizzy said: “Sometimes it is quite hard when we ask them a question and they may have misconceptions so they brush past quite rudely.”
Alex agrees: “Yes, it does hurt you if you ask someone ‘if you could know GOD as your friend, would you be interested?’ and they say no, it does make you feel a bit sad. The way we approach it is that we are looking for people who are interested and if they are not interested then we just say ‘God bless you’ or say ‘Have a good day’.
He continues enthusiastically: “But there are people that are interested, and it is such a joy when you find people who would like to know God personally. One young person asked me, “Why has no one ever told me this before?” and I remember apologising on behalf of the church for failing to go out and tell people”.
“What we hope to do is not just share the Good News and pray for healing, that is the starting point. We want to see a disciple making movement and see many Discovery Bible Studies and missional communities established. We are very much at the beginning, but from acorns oak trees grow. We believe God’s on the move. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples...” and we are going in obedience to his command.”
If you would like to join Alex, Astrid, Lizzy and their team to share your faith on the streets of Dereham you would be very welcome. You can contact Alex on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07946 287 283.