St John's Park is a small green space on the Isle of Dogs, East London. Just a few years ago it was a 'no man's land', a place where no one dared to enter because of the gangs, drugs and high levels of crime. But now it is a vibrant hub of community where, particularly in the summer months, parents and children gather to enjoy time together.
This change has been brought about through the long-term ministry of Café Forever, a cafe run by London City Mission on the Isle of Dogs. In 2006 they took a disused council building in the middle of the park and transformed it into a small shop where they could sell cold drinks and snacks. Slowly but surely the gangs moved on, the crime levels dropped and now the Park is used by all members of this diverse community.
The Family Fun Days are always the highlight of the summer in the park. One of them in June was attended by 600 people. They enjoyed a selection of crafts, games and competitions, all free of charge. This year's summer programme in St John's Park continues until 17 August. Activities include an under 5's programme, football training and tournaments, kids craft and even couple of day trips to the beach.
Tom Carpenter, Team Leader at Café Forever, said: "We wanted to do something that would interact with the community around us. We found that fewer and fewer people were coming into the café uninvited, so we decided to go to them.
"St John's Park provided us with an opportunity to invite members of our community into a neutral space and enjoy time together. And through simply caring for the park and the people that come into it we've seen this place completely change.
"We've had the opportunity to come alongside individuals and families and so have a direct impact on this community. By coming alongside people they get to know who Jesus is through what we are doing through this park.
"What we've found here is that it doesn't matter how much police you have, or it doesn't matter how much money flows into this area, genuine transformation only comes when people come into a genuine life transforming relationship with Jesus."
Source: London City Mission