guest blog: community changes (part 2)

One of the great privileges of being on the Sanctuary’s journey is the like-minded and like-hearted people who become part of our dispersed family as we all spur each other on. One of those people is Helen Griffiths. Together with her husband, Tom Elmitt, she is part of Koinonia, an intentional Christian community rooted in and reaching out to the St Mellons Estate, Cardiff – and backed up by their local church Glenwood Church Faith Community.

Helen is many things including a part-time youth worker at the Beacon centre on the estate and a PHD student in International Human Rights Law and Violence Against Women. To the Sanctuary she is a source of huge encouragement and inspiration. In part 1 of this guest blog, she shared her journey into intentional community and outreach to the disenfranchised. In this second part, she tells us more of Koinonia’s vision and experience living in St Mellons and encourages us to open our eyes to where God has called each one of us.

Helen Griffiths

What has been most encouraging so far?

A big part of our community routine and spiritual rhythm happens around the dinner table.

Perhaps the most encouraging moment this year was a young man from one side of a gang feud cooking a meal for a guy from the other side as a peace offering.

We had been praying for months for these guys and encouraging them to forgive each other – it was the beginning of a peace process that brought them sat around our dinner table offering their prayers to God.

What has been challenging?

Learning that God will constantly challenge your comfort zones if you let him!

Living in community is amazing, but it lays bare where you place your security. Having life shaken up has made us realise how quickly we look for security, for control. When I first moved I wrote in my journal: ‘Seek security or pursue purpose.’

These aren’t in conflict where both are found in God but the more we seek his purpose for us the more we see our earthly security shaken.

What does society believe about your estate?

In the 2011 report on poverty in Wales our local community came in the bottom 1% for income and community safety. It is in the bottom 4% for child poverty, health, and education.

When we moved everyone asked us ‘why?’ The young people and families we knew asked us ‘why?’

There is a lot of crime and people assume the worst of people here – particularly young people. When we go places with the young people we know other people judge them and write them off.

Many of our friends and neighbours are treated in ways that we would never be treated. This has become worse as the government and media persecute and vilify the unemployed and benefit claimants.

What do you think God thinks about your estate?

God’s heart is for the people of St Mellons – for each individual.

But we know he also has a heart for the community – for justice within the community between neighbours and families, and for justice between communities – for just relationships and just representation for poorer areas.

What is your vision for your estate and the young people living on it?

As simple but massive as it sounds, our vision is for people on this estate to know God loves them and to know we love them.

So many people in UK communities are lonely and disenfranchised. Yet God made us to be together, to bear with each other through the ups and downs of life.

It is church; it is how he wants us to live.

Our vision is for the kingdom of God to grow in St Mellons – for it to become a community that bears with each other in the love of God. Big vision! But day-to-day our vision is to do our part – to love and be loved, bearing with each other.

What keeps you going on particularly difficult days/when you are feeling discouraged?


Friends of ours were recently relocated from a community in Africa that they loved. They had lived there for nearly 30 years and it was their home. They lived under the threat of terrorism for the last few years and were eventually relocated by local police and military to evade capture.

On talking about this they spoke of the comfort they would pine for from time to time – electricity, running water, chocolate! – but how on relocation, to a much more comfortable city, they realised there was something so much better than comfort: purpose, and without it they felt lost.

Purpose keeps us going and on days when we’re discouraged we still know God wants us here.

What would you want people to pray for in churches across the UK for your estate, disenfranchised young people, and similar places?

We could list many things that we would love to see change – but they don’t just change by themselves – please pray for the love of God to spread amongst the people here and for his love to bring redemption and transformation.

Please pray for more Christians to move here and to move in to areas where people are disenfranchised, to see them as God sees them and join with him.

We would also love to see change on a wider societal level that could impact our community – pray for justice and righteousness in law and policy affecting poor communities.

What would you say to encourage people wanting to reach out to their area/difficult estates near them?

Ask God to open your eyes to how he sees things and to where he is already at work.

Once we moved it couldn’t seem more obvious!

Home for each Christian is wherever God calls you to be – sometimes this is counterintuitive and goes against the culture of the day.

Be brave and peruse little glimpses of a mighty God at work – you’ll find a home that is better than anything you could build for yourself and you’ll find a purpose that will challenge and inspire you. -‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.’

If you have questions, or encouragements, to pass on to Helen and her community, feel free to get in touch with them directly at as well as through the Sanctuary

Comments are closed.