Photo of crying girl sandwiched with Edinburgh Castle for Edinburgh City Mission

The greatest need of all

Behind the culture, traditions, history and the tartan tourism of Scotland’s capital city, lies a less glamorous tale.

Clichéd caricatures of a drunken Scot with the suggestion that it is a common affliction may be an unjust exaggeration, but Edinburgh, like so many cities, has its own share of people blighted by poverty and addictions.

In Edinburgh there are many charities operating who do very good social work. Without trivialising the situation, the streets of Edinburgh are among the best in the country if you are unfortunate enough to be homeless, poor or on the margins of society. Food, clothing, shelter and various other forms of help are available from many sources. We’re not criticising any of them and Edinburgh City Mission is also there to help. We provide help and care to those in need and work beside others who do too.

However, at the core of our beliefs is that the greatest need of all humankind is to find and know God.

ECm photo of street person

Cynics have sometimes stated that ‘peddling religion on the back of charity is exploiting the vulnerable’. But we believe presenting the Love of God is serving the greatest need of all, whether rich or poor.

A biblical narrative describes an occasion when a sick man was presented to Jesus at great effort and expense to his friends. It seems a bit extreme but the account of the event describes that they broke a hole through a roof to get the man stretchered in. The gathered crowd were surprised and indignant that Jesus response was to say to the man that his ‘sins were forgiven’. Firstly why did Jesus think he could forgive sins, as they believed only God could do that, and also wasn’t there a greater need, that the man’s health was clearly so poor? Jesus further response was to say to the man to ‘rise up and walk’. As the man was healed, he immediately got up, was clearly thrilled and praised God. In doing this, not only did Jesus demonstrate who he really was, he demonstrated that the need of that man was not just the physical but his spiritual condition.

This was hardly an isolated case. Jesus continually showed compassion for poor and needy people. Another thing he said was that to give someone a drink of water, to visit outcasts in prison and to help those who are sick, in his name, are akin to doing these things directly to him.

Fundamentally, Jesus cared for people’s physical well-being in conjunction with their spiritual needs.

Doing good deeds and social work are good things but to leave aside the spiritual need is to deny the essential and greatest need of us all.

ECM photo of crying girl

ECM reaches out in the name of Jesus to everyone, on every facet of society, the poor, the affluent, the addicted, the cultured and the intellectual.

Pray for us in this great work. And pray the Lord of the harvest to send, enable and resource the labourers.

Image of The Pillowcase Kid bookcover

The Pillowcase Kid

New book from Alex Dunbar, available from Edinburgh City Mission Office, Faith Mission Bookshop and Niddrie Community Church.

Contact Edinburgh City Mission for your copy.

Alex Dunbar writes: ….‘As much of my story relates to my years as a missionary/superintendent with the Edinburgh City Mission I wish the proceeds from my book to go towards the valuable work being done by God’s devoted servants at Edinburgh City Mission.’….

David MacLennan, ECM Chairman Writes:

Alex Dunbar, alias the ‘Pillowcase Kid’, never seems to have had much rest from serving Christ in Scotland – apart from his time in England!

Now at 84, he has been persuaded to sit down and rest a bit more and write humbly of his life and how, a gravedigger’s son, has been used to bring ‘new life’ to many folks in Edinburgh, Quarrier’s Homes and south of the Border. Who would have thought that a kid from Gorgie might become a great Man of God.

Alex’s second last ministry was in Edinburgh City Mission and included being its Superintendent. As its present Chairman I can really appreciate the legacy of all Alex did there in the name of the Lord. Alex would have been only half the person he was without his dear, now late, wife Rebecca to whom this book is dedicated. Indeed Paul’s self-effacement to the church at Corinth, with which Alex concludes this book, is as relevant to Alex as it was to Paul two thousand years ago.

This book will have a readership far beyond Edinburghers! The City of God will have many citizens who have been affected by Alex’ life of selfless service.