Four years ago today my church, Northfield Community Church, opened a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre. I guess the church members did not know what to expect at the start of this adventure. As a church we prayed for ten years to become a partner with CAP but God’s answer was always not yet. God’s timing is perfect so we waited and continued to pray. Eventually, in 2010, we opened the doors of our centre to the local community.
The community we serve, Bootle (Liverpool), is one of poverty and deprivation. Those within our community are faced with various problems. There are individuals unable to pay their bills because they cannot find a job or they are too ill to work. Parents who cannot feed their children, often going without food so there children will not go hungry. There are families unable to go out and spend the day together at the cinema or the zoo. Those struggling with debt also face the shame and hopelessness that comes hand in hand with it. They feel ashamed because they cannot provide for their family, and they feel as though they have failed.
CAP visit these individuals and restore hope in their hopeless situations. As well as debt advice we also provide food for those unable to afford to do a weekly shop. At our centre we collect food which is taken along to client visits as and when it is required. We send birthday cards out to let our clients know we are thinking about them. We organise events for our clients to show they are not alone in their struggle. The events allow them to meet others who share their difficulties and also those who are willing to help release them from the burden of debt. It has been an honour to help organise these events and has made me realise that even the simplest of things, that seem trivial to us, can put a smile on the face of those who are surrounded by darkness. Two years ago I helped organise a Christmas dinner for some of our clients. We decorated the church with paper snowflakes and Christmas decorations, brought all the children a little present, and prepared as well as served the food to clients. It was an evening of food, entertainment and fellowship. The opportunity to sit down and share a meal with others was not the norm for so many of our clients but they all had a great time. For me to be able to be part of such a special time was touching and to see our clients leave at the end of the evening wearing a smile made the evening even more special.
We have seen people in our community released from the grips of debt. We have seen our church grow as people have given their lives to God. Our church has individuals who are still struggling with debt but they attend church most Sundays to get to know God. They acknowledge that even in their struggles and pain there is a God who is for them and not against them. To me, seeing those individuals each week is a real inspiration. We have seen frowns turned into smiles, tears turned into laughter. It is amazing to see!
Our CAP centre is run by an amazing, Godly women who is passionate, hard working and kind. She does an amazing job both publicly and behind the scenes. She is supported by members of the church who accompany her on visits, help organise and run events, pray for the work of our centre and donate food to the emergency food collection. God has given our church a real heart for the poor and a longing to see their lives transformed.
Everything that our centre has achieved in the last four years has been for the glory of God. It has been His strength and His will that we have continued to be a lifeline to a broken community. It is by His love for us that we are here today. This has been made possible by Him and the examples Jesus set. My prayer for the next four years, and beyond, is that we continue to reach out to the needy and that, through our kindness and support, they will get to know our amazing God. The God of unending love, and the One who will never give up on them.
Thank you God!!