No one understands doing whatever it takes to reach people for Christ better than Shaun Pillay. Born and raised in South Africa, he and his wife, Deshni, arrived in the United States in 2007 as newlyweds. Having sold their possessions to finance their move, they brought only two pieces of luggage, a Bible, their wedding album, and a resolve to follow God’s call wherever it led them.
“It was a jump, a crazy leap,” Shaun explains. “Everything was so different here but Jesus remained the same and He saw us through. Every morning when we woke up we knew that this is where God wanted us to be.”
As a young man in South Africa, Shaun was surprised when he heard of the need for missionaries in the United States. Even more surprising was the fact that he knew God was calling him to be one of them.
“I never thought of it to be honest,” says Shaun. “We hear of all that God is doing in Africa and other places like that, but it’s sad to see what’s going on in places like Europe and America with regards to church. When I heard about the need, I just felt God telling me, ‘Shaun, you go.’ And I said, ‘Yes Lord, I will go wherever you send.’”
God sent Shaun and his wife to the small town of Norwich, Conn., a far cry from the home they’d known in South Africa. With a population of 40,000, the city is full of history and diversity. Once marked by money and influence, it is now equally marked by economic struggle, homelessness and drug use.
“We looked at the homeless population, the drug problems in Norwich and just knew there needed to be a light in the city,” Shaun says. “We had compassion as Jesus did, looking on the multitudes and seeing them just waiting like sheep without a shepherd.”
Since their arrival, this has been the goal of Shaun and Deshni: to lead and love the people of the community just as Christ does. They started Cornerstone City Church in an effort to give the “sheep” in the community of Norwich a place to gather and grow in Christ. And it has been from the moment they opened the doors.
The Pillays have set up “proclamation points” around the city—locations where they can share the gospel and study the Bible with Norwich residents. Shaun’s most recent Bible study meets in a local barbershop owned by a former drug dealer. One by one, Pillay is transforming the city of Norwich.
Cornerstone has grown to be a home for family, faith and friends. We have a blessed time at our worship gatherings with people from different walks of life and fourteen different nationalities, all in one voice giving Glory to our Father.
“Whatever it takes to reach these people, whether it’s leaving our homeland or going to a place where we don’t know anybody. Whatever it takes to share the love of Jesus Christ, that is what we’re here to do.”