The road to the garden centre 

Pat Hillier
10th February 2016

It’s about 2 years ago now that I first felt that God was asking me to do something for the lonely and those with low self-esteem here in Great Yarmouth.  I have always had a heart for witnessing on the streets so I wasn’t looking for anything different, anyway
There was a first encounter in a quiet time in September 2013 when I had this picture of a garden centre run by and for such people. I must have shown God how terrified I was because gradually, over many months of quiet times he revealed that He was in control, and I felt that it wasn’t a garden centre but a centre with a garden
The garden became very important in what he was showing me; as passers-by would see the fun that was going on and be tempted in. This I could understand because it answered my call to mission and indeed our church’s prayers for opportunities to reach out to the people of Great Yarmouth
Well, I kept praying and, meanwhile, we had a wet room fitted. I got talking with the people from the council and Social Services and they told me to keep their names if I ever needed funding. And I kept on praying, it has been more than 2 years now- still believing and waiting for God to prompt. Then I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the spine and I wondered what my role would be
Well, God sent a friend who helps me with lunches and my disabled sons have stepped up to help set up and do refreshments at an arts group. Gradually, I am feeling that this is a vision for lots of people
In early December, I was prompted in my quiet time to read the ‘Your Norfolk’ magazine which I had stored ready to read if ever I had time, and after reading that I felt compelled write to the leader of Norfolk County Council.  I wrote about the vision I had been given and asked for a venue. I had a polite email back saying that he would forward my letter to people he felt could help
A couple of weeks later a leaflet came through the door asking people to get involved in making the square behind our house into a place where the neighbours could relax together. The meeting was to be outside on the square but the rain poured down and the wind was too fierce to get the gazebo up. My conservatory backs onto the square so I invited them in. We got talking about community and I told them about the lunches and about the arts afternoon that we were going to run at Chatterteria. The organisers told me to get in contact if we needed any help with funding. One lady was a care coordinator for this area around the church and she told me, “I have a lot of very lonely clients, do let me know when anything is up and running”
One Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago, I had an email from a man called Chris Scott saying “I would very much like to put you in contact with Great Yarmouth Borough Council and the 'Neighbourhoods That Work' scheme which has been set up to work with local people to build on their ideas, to help community groups grow and to help residents feel proud of the neighbourhoods they live in”. I was so excited, tears came to my eyes, it looked as though the years of waiting were coming to fruition
In the afternoon, we had our housegroup and as they were all leaving and saying goodbye to each other, my eyes welled up again, they are the core that we have had at the art afternoon and they are so loving, so caring and so welcoming that I knew that anyone who joined the group would quickly feel accepted. God is providing venues and people ready for further work
I am not someone who likes to be out at the front: I love one to one listening.  I have been reading Romans and JB Philips commentary on Romans 12 sums up how I feel. We should remember that spiritual giftedness does not equal spiritual maturity; just because a person has substantial spiritual gifts does not mean that they are necessarily spiritually mature or a worthy example to imitate 
The distribution of gifts is all due to the grace that is given to us. Spiritual gifts are not given on the basis of merit, but because God chooses to give them
This gift or vision was given to me but I believe it was given to pass on