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Looking Back: Prayer Knocked Down this Aberdeen Slum!

From January 1963

Some time ago a congregation set in the midst of slumdom made a survey of what was happening within its bounds. After discounting the squalor and the shame and recognising the courage and sacrifice, one fact disturbed the Christian conscience – the many elderly and lonely poor who lived with memories and no suggestion that any one cared.

When these facts were shared with the congregation, someone appealed for prayer that these people be helped.

What happened? Prayer was poured forth for the elderly, poor and lonely in the midst, and those praying were ready to do what God showed ought to be done. Ideas flooded in and soon the practical took shape.

The Youth Fellowship undertook to visit those wholly house-bound, and mutual blessing followed. The elderly were sustained by youth’s thoughtfulness and unselfishness; and the young found profit in the wise experience of age.

In a variety of ways things were done to lighten the load and to brighten the home. Jumble sales and private purse brought money – and this, in turn, produced paint and wallpaper, electrical and gas fittings, curtains and cushions, and many other things which transformed drabness into cheerfulness.

Prayer and Bible readings as well as a commendable digest of the Sunday sermon became a commonplace at several bedsides.

The men of the congregation were challenged to do something for those elderly and poor who were mobile. Nearby was a building last used as a school in 1876 and since then as a dosshouse, a wheelwright’s shop and lastly as a painters store-room. The Town Council had in mind to convert the derelict building into a welfare centre for Old Folks but shied when the architects estimate reached £9,000.

Prayer needed action and the congregation razed most of the structure. Two years of intensive voluntary effort saw the whole building repaired as well as extended, fully furnished and decorated, and what had been an unsightly weed-strewn dump became a deftly planned garden complete with lawns, rockery, seats and a ‘wishing’ well.

The Women’s Guild, who had shared in the prayers for ‘the old and poor in our midst,’ now gave proof of their earnest. They staffed what is now called ‘Friendship House’ and met the many needs there. The washing machine, the ironing board, the sewing machine; the teas, the games, the chats; the bath (reputed to be the only one in the parish!); all are under the efficient control of the Guildswomen.

In all, over a hundred elderly men and women have been coming to this enterprise born of prayer.

When the financial aspect of this venture was envisaged there were hearts that feared it would be beyond the compass of a small working-class congregation. But a Voice speaking through one man assured; “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies”. And so it ever proved. The money came as prayer persisted and work followed. - J.B

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