What the heck is a Brit doing in St. Louis, USA?
Let me introduce my friends to you. Kevin and Ann Pimblott. They hail from Stoke on Trent in the UK. We have been friends for 40 years. Their story is amazing. He tells it better than me. So here goes….
There are defining moments in life which change the course of your future. One such moment was a throwaway comment from a speaker over lunch; ’No, you are not in a mid-life crisis, God is simply preparing you for a new kind of Church’. I knew God had called us but it turned into a seven-year pursuit of what would be for us a new kind of church with fresh distinctive.
I discovered the term ‘food deserts’ in the fall of 2017 and began to learn how people were trying to solve the problem of people having no access to food stores and healthy food in particular. Christmas of 2017 arrived and with it, sub-zero temperatures and also came quickly on the heels of my stumbling across a neighbourhood called ‘The Ville’. Once the richest and most entrepreneurial African-American neighbourhood in the USA with the nations first female African-American millionaire it had now gained notoriety as one of the poorest and most violent in the country.
We began collecting coats, hats, gloves and bedding and searching The Ville for people in need. What we discovered horrified us, haunted us ever since and filled us with righteous anger and has driven us to more action.
Clothing people in the USA was confusing to me as was the need for a food store because I had visited, lived and worked in St Louis since 1989 but I had no idea there were such need and deprivation. Being in the neighbourhood helped us see the need but not the systemic forces that have created this monster, gaining insight and learning how to address them has been the biggest challenge!
We decided in the winter of 2017 to collect a few coats and drive in the neighbourhood and give them away and so we would fill the car and gently approach people who looked like they might need one. Some, almost all had genuine and heartbreaking stories like Gloria who had suffered a stroke and had been hospitalized for weeks with no visits from family, including her husband. She lost her professional position at work and when discharged returned home to find the locks changed and homeless. No one would help! When we removed her spring jacket and clothed her in a new winter one she wept and thanked Jesus. She had prayed that morning for a coat!
Coats and money kept coming in and giving children’s coats to moms led us into a local elementary school where we discovered not only children without coats but also without bedding. Another need was met and through an act of kindness, we were welcomed into the school where we now sit on its Advisory Board. We are now working on developing an old courtyard into an outdoor classroom and peace garden where children with symptoms of trauma and PTSD can find solace.
The needs are great! But serving with humility and kindness we believe goes someway to bringing community change and bringing the heart of the gospel to those who desperately need it.
If you would like to find out more then check out Kevin’s website.