Come as you are

How we’re loving and serving our community

Jason Beynon was given some sage advice when he became pastor of Bont Elim Community Church... and he hasn’t forgotten it. 

“Engage with the community spirit and you’ll lead people to the Holy Spirit.”

That was the advice Jason Beynon received when he became pastor of Bont Elim Community Church, near Swansea, in 2007.

It’s advice that has fuelled his work ever since, not least during the pandemic and in an increasingly secular age.

“Think where we’ve drifted over the past 50 years,” he says.

“Fifty years ago, the church was connected like a jigsaw in society. Sunday schools were thriving, assemblies taught the truth, people understood who Jesus was. It was no wonder people gave their hearts to the Lord at a Billy Graham event or after a good sermon.

“Now, what people hear about church is so negative. That’s why I passionately believe the Lord is raising up places like ours that show we are here to love and serve, until people ask, ‘What’s this all about?’

“I believe God called me to be the Elim pastor of the Bont, with my primary focus outwards, and that’s why our community activities are so important.”

For Bont Elim, loving and serving its community happens via an energetic mix of activities for parents and children, pensioners and people in crisis, all of which have had to be adapted to Covid restrictions.

Lockdown put paid to indoor mums and tots meetings, but when one mum complained, God gave Jason a picture that led to a flourishing new group.

“I got her and her husband in for a chat and said, ‘I believe God has told me you’re going to help me get a new version of mums and tots off the ground.’

“We started a group on our astroturf, which began with this mum, her friends and 30 kids. I warned them it might be a royal rumble because these kids hadn’t played together before, but they played so well, and the mums got really emotional.

“We’ve spread into the dining room now. We meet on Thursdays too and we’re waiting to open on Fridays.”

This group led to another, as the parent of a baby with Down’s Syndrome mentioned there was nothing in the area for children with additional needs, and so Eva’s Place was launched, attracting eight little children each Wednesday.

Other mums had yet more ideas.

“Some came to see me who had started something called Work + Play Wales. There were six mums who were working from home with pre-schoolers and forever feeling guilty – either for playing when they were meant to be working or sitting their kids in front of the TV.

“We played with the idea of having five mums working for an hour while one looked after the kids. After an hour they swap, so everyone gets to work for five hours.”

For adults in crisis, Bont Elim teamed up with FareShare before the pandemic to source out-of-date bread from Tesco.

“We’ve been open nearly every day through Covid from 6am. Someone might come for a loaf but then it leads to something.”

As part of Jason’s mission to share God’s love in his community, he is passionate about adopting other groups into the church and has welcomed a visually-impaired group, a ladies’ well-being group and craft groups.

A dance teacher with an initial handful of students has grown a 135-strong dance troupe, Star Dance, based at the church, while pre-school work Mudiad Meithrin has grown into a group of 30 children five days a week.

As Jason looks to life after the pandemic, he is eager to extend his work with young people and pensioners.

Before Covid, the church ran five thriving karaoke nights a week and a drum troupe to engage local teens at risk from drugs and alcohol. Jason can’t wait to reopen both.

“We had one girl who was a self-harmer. She pointed to her arms and said, ‘I used to put it on this skin.’ Then, pointing to the drums she said, ‘Now, I put it on those.’

“That’s why we do it. These kids take their frustration out on the drums.”

With an ageing population in the Bont, the older generation are also close to Jason’s heart.

He is keen to reopen the church’s coffee shop, which attracts grandparents from two schools nearby.

He also plans to extend the church’s popular Sunday afternoon traditional hymns service to mid-week, twin it with a pensioners’ lunch, and involve more older people in outreach.

“The oldies have a lot of free time – we’re involved with the Bible Society’s Open the Book, and our seniors go into schools all dressed up to tell stories. My future kids’ and schools work will come from them.”

Ultimately, Jason sums up the importance of connecting with his community with the story of one man who suffered the loss of two children at just 42.

“He was angry with God, but his daughter said, ‘Dad, you’ve changed being in church.’ Being in the love, being part of what’s going on here, it changes you. It’s an incredible journey.”          

Jason’s journey from no belief to pastor

Jason was managing three petrol stations and hiding an alcohol addiction when he was first invited to Bont Elim in 1989.

Sceptical and out to prove Christianity false, he was surprised at the love he found and came to faith.

Fast forward to 2007 and Jason, who is married to Catherine, was surprised to be invited to become minister of the then 12-strong congregation.

“It was a wonderful work of grace for the fellowship to recognise the church clown as minister, and because of my background, others going through addiction gravitated towards us,” he says.

Today, Jason is overjoyed to see God moving in the church. Recently, two boys became Christians during the Sunday service, for example.

“The Lord showed me we had these two boys, and up and down the nation there are people saying ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

Lollipop man on a mission

If you’re ever in the Bont around school drop-off or pick-up time, you won’t fail to notice a lollipop man in a bright curly wig sporting odd socks.

That’s Jason, who’s been turning gridlock on a rat-run into a pantomime for the past six years.

“I knock on windows and say, ‘Welcome to my car park, I’ll bring popcorn and crisps in a minute,’ then dance from car to car,” he says.

Jason sees 700 people per shift and his entertaining efforts are building familiarity with him and the church.

“Mums who come to tots for the first time already know me from the lollipop. It’s all part of a bigger plan to erode barriers between people here and our church.”
 

This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered directly to your home.

 

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