Bridge aid helps forgotten nations

BRIDGE Community Church is not just a beacon for those to worship - it sees itself as a vibrant, proactive community who help local people and way beyond Lurgan, as far as Italy and Africa.

The strong dulcet tones of Pastor Marcus Thomas helps when it comes to getting things done.

He is a ‘doer’ and his practical approach emanates towards others he has inspired. The knock-on effect is the achievement of so many things, even the most basic for those here and abroad who are in genuine need.

Most are unaware of the huge problem of immigrants coming off boats from Africa, Romania and various places and landing in Italy. As a country struggling to deal with their own economic crisis, this is an added burden.

Many families who expect a new life in such a country suddenly find themselves without shelter and food.

Pastor Thomas said: “There are forgotten nations on the streets of Rome.”

The Apostolic Church is a worldwide denomination and there is an Apostolic Church in Italy. Through Marcus being involved with leadership training in the Apostolic Church in Italy he met Pastor Andrew Thomas (no relation although he is also Welsh). Pastor Andrew runs a feeding programme from the Church to help immigrants and those in need around the Church.

“The community church has raised 400 euro in the past year to support the feeding programme,” he explained.

Bridge Community Church also sources medical supplies locally. The Church stores and then distributes the equipment which ranges from syringes to surgical gloves to a range of countries including Albania, Zimbabwe and Hungary. Also medical supplies have been sent to the Czech Republic.

One of the main things the Bridge Community Church is involved with is working in Zimbabwe. Pastor Thomas has been going there for the past six years.

“We make yearly trips and while out there we buy food. The best deals we get are from Spar same as here. We would spend about 1,000 dollars on food aid,” said Pastor Thomas.

“It would support up to 350 families for a few weeks. We would buy cooking oil, fish, meally meal which is like ground maize,” he explained.

The church has also supported some orphans in Zimbabwe and organised sponsored Sunday school training which was provided by the Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Medical supplies have been sent to a Salvation Army hospital in Zimbabwe and through the Methodist Missionary Society, the Church has put in a brand new canoe for an orphanage there.

Another example of the help the Bridge Community Church has brought to Zimbabwe is that in September of last year local electrician Kenny Thompson went to Zimbabwe with Marcus where he installed a lighting system at an Apostolic Church just outside Bulawayo. This was paid for by local people in Lurgan. Kenny is a member of St Saviour’s Church in Dollingstown.

“In February of this year we have sank our first bore hole in Bambadzi in Zimbabwe,” said Pastor Thomas.

Pastor Thomas said: “Our next step is in August setting up a market garden area close to the bore hole. The area of the garden is 60 yards by 45 yards which has been fenced.”

He explained that the village does have a problem with rampaging elephants from time to time. The fencing helps protect the garden and locals have erected extra buffering fencing made of trees to help steer any hungry elephants away.

“The local church has supplied the poles and in August I am meeting a farming expert to see what we can do with the land so that each family can grow their own crops,” he said.

Pastor Thomas explained that people would have had to walk over half mile into Botswana to get water. “When the river there was dry they would have had to dig 6-8 feet to get the water. But now they have that lifeline.

“Another bore hole has been repaired taking pressure off the use of the bore hole built by the church, and now the focus is on creating a garden which will help their diet and self-sustenance.

Pastor Thomas said the money is raised by car boot sales and fairs like the Country Comes to Town but that donations mostly come from private individuals.

“In the last eight months we have invested 8,000 dollars in Zimbabwe all raised locally and on top of that we also supported the General Missionary Work of the Apostolic Church UK through their Missionary Arm Action Overseas.

“I personally feel that while we are not a big church, we punch above our weight,” says Pastor Thomas. “We don’t support them regularly but there is an organisation called Stand By Me which supported children’s homes and orphanages throughout the world,” said the Pastor who gave a special mention to Dickson school which gave the church a lot of support for that last year.