Returning Home - The Message
03 Oct 2023

Returning Home

Head to Middlesbrough and there you’ll find South Bank, a former steelworking town named as one of the poorest in England. It’s a place people try to escape from and it’s right here that we’ve launched a brand-new Eden team, headed up by Krista and Niki.

South Bank isn’t new to Niki and Krista. They both grew up there, and were two of those desperate to leave the town behind, until God called them back. 

We caught up with them to hear more and about what God’s been doing since Eden South Bank launched. 

Tell us about South Bank 

Krista: It’s home, and I love that I’m back getting to bring up my family here! It’s a great place that’s so much more than the stereotypes people hold about it. It has community and family at its heart. Everyone has each other’s backs. But if you’re told often enough that you’re not going to amount to anything because you’re from South Bank, this starts to sink in. You begin to believe it. Lots of our neighbours feel like they’ve been labelled and haven’t got much hope for the future. 

Niki: But we know this isn’t the case. We see the huge potential everyone has and know how loved they are by Jesus. We’re determined that they know this too. 

The number of conversations we’ve had with people who can’t believe we moved back is crazy. They can’t wrap their head round why after getting out, we’d come back. People have told us we’ve downgraded our lives but, you know what, the opposite is true. We’ve had an upgrade. 

We’re finding more people are choosing to return to places they’ve lived before to join Eden teams. What’s it been like moving back? 

Niki: It felt right from day one. I know some people on the estate wondered why we moved back, especially as they know some of the trouble I’ve had in the past. For many years I struggled with drugs and alcohol (and Krista did too) and was in and out of prisons from when I was 16. I cried out to God and instantly I knew I was loved. The barriers I’d been building up in life came crashing down, God restored me and my life. I see that a lot of what we’re called to do in South Bank is about this. We want to see hope restored, relationships rebuilt and people discovering Jesus for themselves. 

Your journey to launching Eden has been different. Can you tell us more? 

Krista: We moved back in 2020 right before Covid struck. During lockdown, we looked for ways to help and support the community wherever we could. As we did this, we got to chat to people about Jesus. 

Then in March 2022, we got the chance to hold an event in a building that used to be the nightclub here in South Bank. We opened the doors offering food and didn’t know what to expect but the response was huge, with loads of our neighbours coming along. Since then, we’ve not looked back. Every Tuesday we open the building for what we call The Open Well. We still offer food, but there’s also worship and people sharing the gospel. We’ve also run beach days and launched house groups so that everyone can hear about Jesus. 

But it quickly became obvious that there was so much more to do. People were coming to us asking about Jesus and needing support as they turn their lives around, just like Niki and I did. 

Niki: We officially launched Eden South Bank in March 2023 and haven’t looked back. We have a whole team as passionate as we are about sharing Jesus in word and action. It’s a team made up of amazing people who have always called South Bank home and, like us, are desperate to share the gospel here. 

As well as The Open Well meetings, we’re launching wellbeing courses, debt relief support and loads more events for the community. One thing we’re really excited about is our new homework club. Loads of the kids here are still struggling to catch up after Covid as they didn’t have access to the computers for homeschool. At the club, they’ll find iPads and help to complete their homework, as well as food. Our hope is that it will be like saying to the parents who come along to The Open Well, ‘we don’t just love you, we love your family too.’ 

Krista: Back in the summer, we put on a ‘Celebrate South Bank’ festival to show our neighbours that our town is somewhere to be proud of. The community and the Council helped us clear the rubbish that had been dumped around the estate and we filled the centre with inflatables, a rodeo bull, penalty shoot-out and activities that everyone could enjoy for free. 

More than 300 people came along to join in the fun but, even better than that, we got to share the gospel from the stage and one lady gave her life to Jesus. It was incredible! 

What have you seen God doing? 

Krista: We could be here all day! Since The Open Well started, we’ve seen people responding to the gospel every single week. 130 of our neighbours have become Christians, and are growing in their faith. 

There’s Chloe who, when we met her, was struggling with her mental health and on the brink of having her kids taken away by social services. As we got to know her, we were able to support her, and tell her about the hope Jesus offers. When she gave her life to God, the change was huge. She found hope and light in the darkness. Fast forward to today, she’s not only got a job – something she never thought she was capable of – but social services can see what a good mum she is, and her family is still together. 

We love how God’s impacting whole families. Another family that are well known in South Bank have 92 grandchildren, from eight children, and over 100 great-grandchildren! Over the years they’ve gained a bit of a reputation and there was a time when the police could usually track any trouble in the town back to them. 

A few months ago, one of the family, Kelly, became a Christian and God’s set her heart on fire for him. She’s the biggest evangelist and can’t stop telling people about Jesus! The other month she said, ‘I want my family to be known for good and change our reputation.’ 

Well, a few weeks ago, her brother became a Christian too! They are probably two of the most influential members of this family, and the ripple effects of them coming to know Jesus will filter through not just their family, but the whole community too. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen as this whole family gets turned around. 


Watch Krista’s full story at