“A cafe atmosphere, no rules on the wall, an atmosphere which helps people to relax when they
come in, an environment where they feel safe.”
Rob is talking about the Matthew 25 Mission (formerly Oasis) drop-in centre in Eastbourne, where
he is a full-time volunteer.
“The oldest of our regular visitors is in his 70s, the youngest in his late teens. There are those who
have been alcoholics and drug-dealers in the past; all together at the same table!”
The philosophy is to work with each individual when they arrive, nothing heavy. Working with
them, he emphasises, not a programme. Family groups, parents’ groups, a music group -
something for everyone.
Rob is happy to share his own story, and how he feels at home with the Mission.
He grew up in Ayrshire, part of a ‘very Protestant family, somewhat xenophobic’. At the age of
seven, he was taken into care, where he stayed until he was 15, when he wasn’t running away.
Later he moved on to London’s West End, working as a kitchen porter at the Waldorf Hotel, but
sleeping rough, which gave him total freedom and responsibility only for himself. He admits to
being just eight stone in weight when he was 24, regularly experimenting with LSD, marijuana
“At this time I was married and my wife gave me the option of being with her or on drugs. We had
contact with church over the years, especially at particular periods of decision-making, which
helped me to focus.
“My wife was saved first through an Alpha course. I was invited too, but said no. We had three
children, then the marriage broke because of my heavy drinking. I used to find reasons for not
helping at home and the drinking worsened.
“I had a flat in North London, but I was not emotionally equipped to be indoors, and went wandering
for a while, until I turned up in Eastbourne in 2009, and met Peter, director of Oasis.
“After ten months of volunteering, I hit another bump in the road. Finally, I faced up with who I
am, a proper breakthrough. I ended up in a bar, very drunk, contemplating suicide. I was, in fact,
trying to live life on my terms.
“One day I was in Portsmouth, really angry, especially about the people around me. I left every –
thing, started walking and caught a train to Brighton, although I knew I was going to get back to
Eastbourne. When I arrived at the Oasis centre, Peter’s response was ‘What time do you call
this?’. That, to me, was the equivalent of ‘Welcome home!’.
The reception from pastor and friends at his Old Town church was equally warm and encouraging.
‘Where I’m supposed to be’ was Rob’s assessment.
He realised that the Lord was guiding him, so it was time to take notice.
Now, of course, this man is well-settled at Matthew 25 Mission.
“People who come in to Brodie Hall have similar positions to me. I am able to work with some level
of grace. There is love and care, and a relationship of trust, based not on ‘them and us’, but on
what Christ has done. If God has blessed us, we can do anything!”
Rob notices subtle changes in himself: his behaviour and language, the tension has gone, the veneer
has fallen away. He refers to the words of James, brother of Jesus and writer in the New
Testament, summed up in chapter two of his epistle: ‘Faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by
action, is dead.’
Can’t argue with that!