by Wolf Fields Reserve Manager, Kailean Khongshai.
Southall is known to be a very multicultural and very deprived area. With the struggles of daily life, for most people caring for the environment is not seen as a priority. Many areas of land lie derelict.
Our own creation care ministry in Southall & Hayes started back in 2009 by forming friendships through creating a community garden. As my wife, Kim, and I were praying about our next step, we came across a patch of about three acres of derelict wasteland. Initially, we felt intimidated by it: there were five or six people taking drugs on it and a huge pile of rubbish. Kim said, ‘maybe God’s telling us something’. So, we prayed that day.
We had begun working with A Rocha UK. We shared our vision to transform this place for God’s glory. We wanted it to be a demonstration of his love and care for the natural environment and the community. Daunted by whether it was possible, we continued to pray. The A Rocha UK leadership and local churches backed the idea and doors started opening with the local council who own the land. And then some generous donations meant we could start the work.
So, for the last 10 years, working for A Rocha UK and with the support of local churches and volunteers, we have managed this small patch of land as a community project called Wolf Fields Nature Reserve. The transformation began with removing 54 tonnes of rubbish. It was a lot of work, but now we have a beautiful multi-purpose space with a multi-sensory garden for the blind, a raised bed disability project, fruit orchards, an allotment, a story-telling area, a wildlife pond, beehives, and a prayer labyrinth.
The area has become a haven for so many. Local churches of all denominations meet there for reflection and prayer, as well as local forest schools and community groups. Wolf Fields is now recognised as a social prescribing site by the NHS – it’s particularly good for those with disabilities. We sit together, we talk, and we share. Everyone feels comfortable to come – it’s a neutral place where you can openly discuss your faith – and that includes those who wouldn’t feel comfortable in a church.
We’ve also encouraged interfaith friendships through the work in Southall. Friends from Southall’s rich multi-faith community all meet at Wolf Fields and use the space. God’s wisdom has helped me to form deep friendships with people of different faiths – Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist, and they are all excited to see the ongoing conservation work happening on the site.
As a Christian, I believe we first need to act, to sow, to demonstrate to people what we believe. In the bible, Jesus was everywhere, he was active, out in the world, on boats, up mountains. That really motivates me, not just to go into church, but to go out into the world and proclaim the good news.
Kailean has been the Wolf Fields Reserve Manager for a number of years, with Kim his wife, playing a key role as a volunteer. Kailean and Kim have been supported in their work for A Rocha UK by the Church Missionary Society. Kailean will soon be starting training for ordination in the Anglican church.