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We can make every day a jubilee

With poverty strangling the lives of many around the UK, John Kirkby, founder of Christians Against Poverty, reminds us that economic justice is everyone’s responsibility.

Half a tin of beans and a yoghurt. ​“How long will this last you?” asks the voiceover man as the camera lingers on the saddest of fridges. ​“Four days,” says Holly. So begins the documentary The Debt Saviours which was aired on BBC2 this autumn. It focuses on some of the individuals being helped by the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), including Holly, who, just into adulthood and living alone following a childhood in care, is routinely brave and her courage is heart-breaking.

The programme correctly shows that a lack of income is just a part of the picture, the whole being so much more lonely and full of hurt than many imagine. I know this from my own story. It’s not the lack of money itself that is the problem, it’s how it makes you feel. It’s how it makes you see yourself. It’s devastating.

My story

It was the early 1990s and I remember looking through the back window of our family home knowing I had lost everything, mostly through overstretching my various business interests. My girls were playing and the crushing realisation was I knew I had just lost them their home. My marriage was falling apart too. I had come to the end of the line, and I felt a failure – in my business but more importantly, as a husband and a father.

Later, at rock bottom, living in a single room, struggling to buy the basics, a wonderful thing happened: a couple took a real interest in my situation and seemed to genuinely care. It was confusing at first, but they seemed to sense just how much I needed their friendship, needed to feel valued. Of course, they were Christians.

After a time, they invited me to church, where I learned about Jesus and I just knew it was right and so I accepted Him. This became the model of how CAP works today too: we partner qualified debt counsellors with the love of the church. It’s an equal partnership, with both sides determined to see someone become debt free and know they are loved. Love is what the church does best, and it’s an underrated and powerful resource in the UK.

We’re happy to say that Holly, Ronnie and the other clients featured in the documentary all see their outlook improve. My experience is repeated again and again in the lives of CAP clients. People suffer a change in circumstances and, in the emotional turmoil of losing a job, relationship, spouse, their health, their home, their children, or a combination, their finances spiral too, at a time when they are least able to cope.

A poor perception

Everyone has a view on poverty and wants to point the finger at someone – should those in need have tried a bit harder? Been less materialistic? Should the government do more? Is poverty in the UK overstated? These are all fine, but while we’re deciding who might be right or wrong and getting our view across, that person remains in need. Chances are, if they’ve made mistakes (and who hasn’t) that person will be feeling it more keenly than anyone.

Poverty is complicated, by the way. There are no easy fixes especially when our average client family earns around £15,000. Thankfully, as it was with me, the UK church is there to show them that positive way forward. God’s army of willing volunteers break through the isolation of that situation and demonstrate Jesus. Literally thousands have come to faith in this way and we’ll never know the legacy.

It is the sign of a sick economy when the National Audit Office says personal debt is costing our economy £900m a year.

If we’ve been part of a church community for some time, we can easily forget that such care is nothing short of revolutionary to someone in real need. Salt in our positive non-judgemental attitude and light in someone’s darkness.

In fact, with so many hiding from bailiffs with their curtains shut all day, we can literally bring light too. There is huge relief when one of our debt coaches tells someone: ​“We can get this sorted. You have no need to hide.” In doing so, they pull back the curtains and let the light come in.

A church in Manchester

Holly was helped by Sports Village Church, in her home town of Leigh in Greater Manchester, where HMRCstatistics show more than a quarter of children live in poverty. It’s a pioneering congregation started 10 years ago by its more traditional big sister Christ Church Pennington.

Meeting on a Sunday afternoon in a local function room, it’s an informal gathering with free food and drink served before the service. The church uses various resources to support those they meet in the community. As well as debt help, it offers a CAP Life Skills Course and helps people learn good money management with the CAP Money Course. It also has a community fund for anyone in need.

Poverty relief is through providing community but it’s also financial. CAP has a head office staff of more than 300 people negotiating with banks and collection companies, working on clients’ budgets and supporting more than 600 church-based centres across the UK.

All of those who go through CAP’s debt relief are given money management principles that will stay with them long after they are debt free. Contrary to popular belief, people in debt do want to pay their debts off, if they can. However, as many of them are on a very low income with little spare, it would take them decades to achieve and insolvency can be the sensible option. This is why our head office building is called Jubilee Mill, mirroring the Old Testament’s Year of Jubilee when debts were wiped.

Justice for the vulnerable

What about the bigger picture of injustice? The Bible has plenty to say on this, of course, and CAP is and has been working behind the scenes to influence policy change and creditors’ processes for the benefit of the most vulnerable.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (CAP’s patron) recently spoke on the subject of inequality, as a member of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice. He writes that while the economy has been growing, people’s wages have not, and the commission recommends a boost in wages for those on zero-hour contracts and working in the gig economy. He told journalists: ​“There is injustice in the economy. People suffer from the need to go to a foodbank even when you’ve got two adults in a household and living reasonably tightly and both working. People suffer from being caught in a debt trap because they can’t replace a basic bit of equipment they need: a new stove, a washing machine, let alone luxuries.”

This is one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the years of doing debt counselling: people are getting into debt with the basics. It used to be that clients were in debt due to overspending – they had a lot of secondary debt, loans and cards. Now we see 68 per cent of people getting into arrears on an essential household bill and the credit being taken out. More than nine in 10 of CAP clients have borrowed to pay a bill or service another debt.

It is a sign of a sick economy when the National Audit Office says personal debt is costing our economy £900million a year. Debt really is everyone’s problem. It may be behind closed doors, but it’s there. We are all called to be living breathing good news to the poor, not just by hoping for the best or feeling sorry for them but actually bringing relief.

James 2:15 and 16 says: ​“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ​‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

The Bible says we must act – and actually it just makes sense! The church network of denominations covers every single part of the UK, therefore we are perfectly placed to make a huge impact. We don’t need to go into communities because we’re already there.

The scale of UK poverty can seem overwhelming, but there will be people, families on your road perhaps – mums and dads – feeling hopeless and lost, who need you to share the hope you have.

For EAUK website

 

Mess || Christmas Spoken Word by Dai Woolridge

Dia Woolridge has for a number of years now created great resources for Christmas and this year is no exception....

Mess. It’s just one word. One syllable that brings to mind a whole load of images….messy ones! And at Christmas time, this one messy syllable word seems to shift into top gear! I think of the post-Christmas dinner-plate pile-up in the kitchen and the décor of celebration wrappers between the sofas (the Malteaser ones!) It’s fair to say there was a fair bit of mess at the very first Christmas too. As Mary and Joseph trekked down to Bethlehem for a census, there was no room for them to stay. So the young couple welcomed Jesus into the world, with a bunch of animals as his roommates (some scholars claim it was almost as bad as living with students).

 

Here is a new video from Dia Woolridge, Spoken Truth and Bible Society.

You can get a free copy of this video to use in your church services this Christmas at Spoken Truth

Could there be more to the Christmas story than meets the eye?

We all love the nativity story, but has it become so familiar that we stop hearing it? This year, a detective mouse is on the case and provides a different perspective on the story that changed everything.

The Mystery of the New Noisy Neighbour is based on an inquisitive mouse who slowly discovers the big picture of Jesus’s birth. It’s available as a children’s booklet, video and a script for an instant nativity that you can stage in your community.

Last year, Bible Society’s Christmas resources was based on a journey (The very greatest Journey), the year before it was a poem (The Well good news of Christmas) and this year it’s a mystery solving adventure. What ever will they come up with next? Here we hear from Dai Woolridge, creative development specialist at Bible Society, who amongst other things, has the challenge of coming up with this stuff.

“For the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of writing the children’s stories for Christmas. It’s an honour to try and communicate the glorious truth of who Jesus is and how significant his birth was, in a way that is faithful, fun and accessible for young families. That said, telling the same timeless story in a fresh way certainly brings its challenges.

“For a start, maybe we feel like we know the story before we even read it? We roll the nativity plays out every year with an extra supply of paper crowns and tea-towels, but if we’re so familiar with the story, maybe we don’t fully engage with what actually happened? Maybe we end up adding to the story, or changing it in some way without even realising it? (Were there really three wise men, or were there just three gifts?) Then there’s ​‘donkey gate’. Let me be clear, I have no beef with the donkey as you’ll no doubt find out. Neither do I take issue with the traditional picture of Christmas, but let’s not check out of the story. If we switch off when Angel Gabriel visits and just tune back in for the final scene at the ​‘stable’ – the arrival of Immanuel doesn’t land because we’re just on auto pilot.

“How differently would we engage in the story if we came to it with fresh eyes? What if we met Jesus at Christmas for the very first time? And that’s where this year’s Christmas story comes in.

“The idea of The Mystery of the New Noisy Neighbour began with a love for characters. As I was creatively doodling one day, I came up with the concept of re-telling the nativity story through the lens of a character. As I scribbled and jotted, I started thinking; ​‘What if the story unfolded through the lens of an eye witness who was at the scene of Jesus’ birth?’ And given that Jesus was born next to a feeding trough, what better eye witness than an animal eh! (Granted, you have to suspend your disbelief with this story…I don’t think you’ll find ​‘a mystery-solving detective mouse, who was quite partial to cheese’ in the original Greek manuscripts!) 

“But as I further dipped into this train of thought, I twigged that traditionally we associate an animal with each character group in the story. It also dawned on me, that we can learn a key message of truth about Jesus that is unique to each character. Mary learns that He’ll be Immanuel, the Shepherds hear that He will be Rescuer and the Magi discover that He’s King. And so, with the help of three furry or fluffy friends (Donkey, Sheep and Camel), Mouse pieces together three great truths to discover who the new noisy neighbour really is, the greatest one who ever lived.

“My heart with this story is that families step into the shoes of our little detective friend and discover Jesus just as Mouse does, in a new and profound way. May we learn to encounter the Christmas story like a mystery-solving mouse and find that the little guy in the manger is not just noisy, he’s the greatest one who ever lived.”

Find out more about The Mystery of the New Noisy Neighbour or it’s available from bible​so​ci​ety​.org​.uk. The video and script for the instant nativity are free and there’s just a small charge for the booklet. Also available as part of their Christmas resources is a new carol booklet featuring 12 well-know carols. And their short booklet, Just Hay in the Manger? takes you behind the scenes of the nativity play showing what it was like when Jesus was born and what it could mean for you. 

“I think what the Bible Society do is brilliant. The nativity resources provided an excellent way to connect with our local schools, families, and those that came to the nativity service.”

From the Evangelical Alliance Website written by Ryan Haylock 

Talking Jesus - A great resource to help you share your faith

Conversations with Christians are one of the most important influences in bringing people to faith. This course will inspire you to share your faith and will give you practical suggestions to help you to be natural and relevant as you talk about Jesus with the people you meet.

There are six encouraging, video-based sessions with short films, inspirational, short testimonies, real-life examples from people who are talking Jesus, and a short, easy-to-follow course book. Buy Talking Jesus – The Course on DVD or USB for your homegroups.

To find out more click here

Karen Davies of Purples Shoots wins a Leading Wales Award

Karen Davies, Chief Executive, Purple Shoots has won a Leading Wales award for 2018. Leadership for the Future (Sustainability), sponsored by RWA:

Congratualations Karen and Purple Shoots for all the hard work you do! If you would like to know more or even support the work of purple shoots then why not visit their website purpleshoots.org

Here is what they said about Karen when she was notimated for the award and the responses she gave.

Karen is the founder and chief executive of Purple Shoots. She set it up 5 years ago to provide funding to individuals who are excluded from all other forms of finance apart from high cost providers, to remove the barrier of access to finance to allow the many talented and entrepreneurial individuals on benefits to realize their potential. She is responsible for all strategy and for driving the direction of the company, for raising finance both to run it and capital to lend, for maintaining proper processes to comply with FCA and other regulators, for promoting what Purple Shoots does to a wide audience and for the day to day lending activity as well as running a small team to develop and run the self-reliant groups.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I didn’t plan to be a leader. My passion and drive were to do something about the disadvantaged and social injustice I saw around me. In the end that meant creating something of my own to do it and drawing in other support and investment to work with me. My Christian faith has taught me to be bold and single-minded about following the right path and to be unafraid of striking out in a direction that goes against the norm, but also to respect and value every individual who I come across.

What have been the main highlights and challenges since taking up your leadership role with Purple Shoots?
A major challenge which we face constantly is the need to challenge mindsets and attitudes towards people struggling with poverty and unemployment. There is still a belief amongst some that poverty in the UK is the fault of those who are in it and there is a very negative attitude towards people on benefits. This is a completely false understanding of the reality, but it hampers us sometimes in our ability to raise money and engage partners to work with us. An equally damaging attitude is the one which sees people facing disadvantage as problems to be solved when in fact they are frequently talented, resourceful and capable and need only an enabling environment and perhaps a small amount of financial support to realize this potential. The highlights of my role have been seeing so many people do this with our support, either through starting a small business or through our self-reliant groups.

What have been the most helpful things you have learnt from these highlights and challenges?
Through working with those we serve and seeing them flourish and transform things for themselves, I have learned a deeper respect for each individual. I have also learned to be patient. My natural inclination is to make things happen, but it is far more effective and sustainable to be the enabler and to wait for people to do it for themselves, even if their timeframe is longer than I might like.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing leaders in Wales in 2018?
The biggest issue facing leaders in Wales now is I think the need to respond to uncertainty in the economy and changes in the way work is happening. There is a need to think differently and creatively to ensure that Wales is an inclusive place in every respect and that parts of the population are no longer left behind. Leaders in politics and business have different roles to play, but one thing we can all do is to continuously focus on and draw attention to the positives of visiting, living and working in Wales.

Which other leaders in Wales do you admire and why?
A contemporary Welsh leader who I admire is Rob Parsons, chief executive of Care for the Family which is a UK wide charity supporting families. He was a partner in a law firm with a good career ahead of him but gave it all up to do what he believed in. His charity now has a turnover of over £3.5 million with numerous offices but he retains the head office in Wales. His organisation has probably kept thousands of families from breakdown.

What is one word that sums up leadership for you?
Commitment

 

Scripture Union offer a great alternative to Halloween

Does your church wonder what to do for children and young people at Halloween? Light Parties are a Christian alternative for Halloween and a great way of reaching out to your community with the good news of Jesus.

Scripure Union have put together some great resources your church can use as a postive alternative to Halloween this October. Including Pumkin Heroes. 

Scripture Union say 

"We’re joining with our friends at World Vision again this year, as together we find ways to help you share God’s love at Halloween. We’re both passionate about sharing God’s love with children and young people: World Vision through their work with some of the world’s most vulnerable children, and Scripture Union by sharing the good news of Jesus with the next generation. World Vision’s Pumpkin Heroes resources are back for a second year and can be used effectively alongside your Light Party Pack."

Check out the details of how you get hold of these great resources here 

Long serving Cardiff care home manager June is in the running for a major award

A woman who started her long career in caring for the elderly by making a quick visit to the home where he daughter worked as a tea girl and ended up staying for over 30 years has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Back in 1985 June Lyons was invited one day to take a quick look around Ty Draw Lodge in Penylan, Cardiff where her young daughter Rachel was working as a part-time helper.

June was asked by the manager if she fancied a job there too, had a successful interview and started as a care assistant. She then went on to be a reliable, caring and diligent Registered Manager who has dedicated her life to the home.

She fell into love with the place and its residents and eventually rose to become the manager, retiring earlier this year after three decades in charge.

It is her lifetime of dedication and commitment to her role that has landed 70-year-old June, who lives in Rumney, a place in the final of major national competition, the 2018 Wales Care Awards.

This is the 15th anniversary of the awards and the glittering presentation ceremony will be held at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday October 19.

The awards are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation which is celebrating its own 25th anniversary this year after being set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.

June is shortlisted for the Outstanding Service Award sponsored by Hallmark Care Homes.

Originally from Cardiff, June started work in a children’s nursery but when she had her family switched to the role of home care assistant with Cardiff social services.

She recalled: “When she was young my daughter Rachel was working at Ty Draw Lodge making tea for the residents. I went along to pick her up one day and had a look around. I was asked to have an interview for a job, ended up getting it and never looked back.

“I began as a care assistant working at weekends which fitted in with my family life.

“I then took various training courses and eventually became the home manager. I retired last June after over 30 years, which I understand made me the longest serving care home manager in Cardiff and perhaps even Wales. But I had a fantastic team around me who helped me very much.”

June, who will have been married to her husband Philip for 50 years next year and has three sons, one daughter, seven grandsons and three granddaughters, added: “The things I loved most about my job as manager at Ty Draw Lodge were being able to give people a choice about how they were going to live the rest of their lives and making a difference to those lives.

“During the many years I was manager we must have received thousands and letters and cards from relatives of residents thanking us for how we had looked after them and it was nice to be recognised for doing a good job.

“When I was nominated for the Wales Care Awards I was a bit shocked at first because I’m just used to working in the background and have never flown the flag for myself but when I calmed down a bit I must say I was delighted about it.

“I’m now looking forward very much to going along to the awards evening in Cardiff.”

“I have seen her cover half shifts in the middle of the night, too often this meant leaving her family to do so, but she was always happy to make compromises between her home and work life to ensure our residents had the best possible care they could. This is just one example of how she always put the wellbeing of the residents first.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special  occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and the event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce - they deserve to be lauded and applauded.”

Eva's Story - The work of Manumit Coffee highlighted in a recent Media Wales report

A woman who moved to Britain to work as a nanny but ended up being stripped of her passport and being forced into sex work has described the horrors she had to endure.

Eva - not her real name - was brought from the Baltic States under the promise of working as a nanny – but was forced to work almost constantly as a sex worker by violent gangs who paid her just £5 a day.

After escaping from captors, who regularly beat and sexually assaulted her, Eva now works at coffee production company in Cardiff that was set up to help slavery victims.

Eva said: “I was 19 when I was promised to be a nanny in the UK. I came to the UK and then after about a year I found out what I’m going to do.

“[A captor] brought one of the [working] girls to the house and they told me to shave my legs and put make up on and wear these clothes. And I thought ‘Why?’”

After this Eva was forced into sex work from 10am in the morning to 4am the following day.

“He put me to slavery and made me a working girl. He sold me to a gang for $3,500 so they said I have to work for them.

“They told me I was to work for seven days a week with little sleep. I used to have £5 a day – £2.50 for food and £2.50 for cigarettes.”

After working as a nanny for several months a woman visited Eva and told her what she was going to be forced to do.

Eva said: “My back used to be black and blue. They never hit my face. They used to whip me with belts with all of the metal studs. They would kick me in the stomach.”

Eva added that at point she would be beaten nearly every day because her captors told her she did not make enough money.

Men would be charged £70 for one hour, of which Eva would keep £30.

In early 2007, three years since leaving her home country, Eva decided to leave and managed to escape her captors.

Four years since she last worked as a sex worker, Eva has worked since June part-time at the living wage employer Manumit Coffee Roasters.

The company takes raw green speciality coffee beans and transforms them into ground and whole bean coffee products that are sold online.

Eva, who said she loves coffee, said: “I’m happy with my job. I’m safe now.

“We have a laugh here.”

The company was set up by Dai, whose full name we are not revealing to protect his staff, and his business partner as a way to offer “dignity and hope” to survivors of modern slavery after he became aware of the issue several years ago.

Dai said: “The reason that slavery flourishes is because it happens in the shadows. “We don’t see it because I think if we saw it with our own eyes we would do something about it.

“This is several years into quite a painful but passionate journey we’re on seeking to try and do something and put right what’s wrong in this area.”Coffee firm Manumit hopes to raise awareness of the issues surrounding modern-day slavery (Image: Media Wales)

Dai said he hopes the coffee will raise awareness of the issue and hopes the company will be fully operated by those who have escaped slavery.

He said: “I would love to see this company be run by the people. I have no wage for this job at all and I’m not here to make lots of money.”

All of the coffee used at their site is sourced from ethical slavery-free suppliers and profits are invested in local and international anti-slavery projects.

Taken from a Media Wales Article

 

Higher Tour is coming to Wales this Autumn

The Higher Tour seeks to boldly proclaim the gospel to young people and see them supported and encouraged as they start their journey of faith alongside the local church.

The Higher Tour begins in schools. Our mission teams will spend a day in each school taking lessons and assemblies, drawing on our 25-year history of representing the Christian faith clearly and authentically in an educational context.

Following the schools’ days are evangelistic gigs– perfect for inviting young people and their friends. These will feature a clear presentation of the gospel and an opportunity to respond and be connected to a church.

The local church is at the heart of the Higher Tour. We long to see young people engaged in a healthy Christian community as they begin their journey of discipleship. After a young person makes a decision to follow Christ during the Higher Tour, our goal is that they would be quickly connected with a youth worker from one of our partner churches.

The Higher Tour aims to raise a generation of culture-shifting disciples. Over the coming years, we'll be touring around the country delivering lessons in schools and sharing the good news about Jesus through concerts and large events. We'll be engaging a generation of young people in evangelism, training and releasing them to see their friends come to the fullness of life through Jesus.

To find out more click here

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