Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them —Dalai Lama
This past week has seen two major events take place at my church; our annual Christmas fayre and a Christmas meal for our Christians Against Poverty clients.
Lately I have been thinking a lot. My heart has felt heavy and there is so much going on in my head. I am not even sure that any of this will make sense to anyone. It does not really make sense to me.
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!!
Today I realised that you do not know how someone feels until you are put in their shoes. I received a text from a friend who lives about an hour and a half away. She is going through a really difficult time at the moment and is involved with things that are destroying her. I know she wants help but she is scared. I want to help her but I am scared too. A few hours after the first text, I received another one saying she was just walking around. It was nearly nine o clock in the evening and it was getting quite dark. I was worried about her and quickly replied telling her she needed to go home. I did not want to sound like her mother but I really value her as a friend. I was desperate to get through to her but, knowing she was not in the right frame of mind, all I could do was pray that she made it home safely.
This incident has left me feeling helpless. There is physically nothing I can do for her as we are so far apart. If I could take away the pain, I would. If I was able to switch places with her, again I would. If I could, I would get in my car, drive to her town and search for her.
I also feel a little ashamed of myself. In the past I have had people be concerned for me the way I am concerned about my friend. I have had people tell ME that I need to go home when I have not been in the right frame of mind to be out at night. Regretfully I ignored their advice. I now know how it feels to be ignored when you are only acting in the best interests of someone you care about. I have had people tell me all the things I am telling my friend. The things you say when someone is sad. The things you hope they may grasp onto and somehow they will start to feel better. Again I often ignored those things and sometimes I even threw them back in the faces of those who where trying to help. I was in such a terrible place that I did not want to hear that it was not always going to be the way it was. I wanted it to be different right there and then. My friend has, like myself, dismissed the words I am saying to her. She has brushed them off and made it clear that she is not ready to change. Although I know she is and deep down she knows it too.
So I want to say to those people reading this who have tried to help and support me that I am sorry. I am sorry for the times I ignored you and made you feel helpless. I am sorry for the times I threw your kind words back in your face and told you that I did not want to know. I am sorry for the times I listened to your advice but chose to ignore it. I now have an insight into how I made you feel and it hurts. Therefore it must have hurt you too.