East of Glasgow Cross, down Gallowgate beyond the train lines, lies the East End, the district that perhaps most closely corresponds to the old perception of Glasgow. Hemmed in by Glasgow Green to the south and the old university to the west, this densely packed industrial area essentially created the city’s wealth. Today, isolated pubs, tatty shops and cafés sit amid the dereliction, in sharp contrast to the gloss of the Merchant City just a few blocks west. You’re definitely off the tourist trail here, though it’s not as threatening as it may feel.
So reads the Rough Guides introduction to Glasgow’s East End. The picture it paints is accurate, if unflattering. On the surface, the East End is a pale shade of its former glory; gone are the thriving workplaces like the Parkhead Forge iron and steel works and in their place sit bars, bookies and charity shops. In the housing schemes, like Easterhouse, sprawling areas of former housing lie empty and derelict; overgrown and piled with rubbish. It may sound bleak, but what this kind of picture doesn’t tell you anything about is the people who live and work, and do their daily lives in the East End.
a weekend away
One small group of these people is part of the Refuge family; a community group who gather together in Easterhouse. Last weekend this group served together, along with a plethora of other volunteers, on a residential camp (run by our friends at Junction 12) where 56 young people aged 11 to 13 from across the East End came together for a weekend away at Lendrick Muir. There was singing, dancing, outdoor activities, Bible teaching and ceilidh dancing a-plenty. We worked through the book of Esther together and asked the question—
Where is God?
Many people in the East End might well be asking that very question. Often, people here feel that they have been forgotten; that successive governments and organisations have given up on them; that their struggle goes unseen and unheard. What a privilege to be called by Jesus to serve the young people of the East End and to remind them that He has not forgotten; He has not given up; He is not blind or deaf to their struggles and suffering—indeed, He is there in the midst.