Geckos and alpacas welcome students to Birmingham

Black and white shot of a gecko indoors on log

What has a gecko to do with mission in Birmingham?

Well, as students with CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training recently discovered, it is just one of many beautiful creatures – both animal and human – that find a welcome at Newbigin House in Winson Green.

“It is run as a community house, where anyone is welcome to come and share a meal and have company, by Australians Anji and Ash Barker, who have had much experience of mission work, having worked in slums in Bangkok for many years,” explains Fiona Mayne, who took part in the weekend.

“The house had a very large lounge/dining room which was the hub. As time went on whilst sitting in that room there was a great ebb and flow of people that came and went in and out like a tide. It was overwhelming at first. A pug called Yoda ran around barking and someone had a Gecko on their lap and I asked if could hold it. I was given a coffee by John, who cooks and makes coffee and does hospitality and everyone was very welcoming. I noticed a sign saying ‘Beware of the Alpacas!’ which confused me even more. This became self-explanatory later!”

To find out where the Alpacas come in, read Fiona’s blog on the weekend.

It was one of several ‘resource weekends’ that give students the chance to immerse themselves in and learn from a mission situation here in the UK.

Rachel Burton is in her first year of a BA course with us after having been a CMS short term mission partner in Bolivia for two and a half years.

Rachel said of the weekend, “I think everyone of us who went on the weekend at Newbigin House was touched by the generous hospitality of Ash and Angi and moved by stories of transformation and the powerful witness Christ’s love through their faithful service to the community in Winson Green.

“It is hard to think of a highlight, as there were so many things that were inspirational. It was insightful to visit the gurdwara and mosque, and I particularly enjoyed the ‘Flavours of Winson Green’ evening, where we were taught to cook a couple of dishes by some Pakistani women.

“It was also great to spend some more quality time with the group of students, including sharing the cosy yurt with a few of them! I’d love to be part of something like Newbigin House, a missional community/family, and I’ve felt challenged to consider how I could be more generously hospitable in my home in the future (difficult in my current circumstances), as well as more engaged with those around me.”

If you’d like to visualise the place, here’s a recent clip of Anji and Ash on Songs of Praise:

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