Continued from Part 2 in previous post
And so, armed with the confidence that God had placed a similar burden amongst other members of our house group, I decided to get in touch again with that same lady a few months after our initial meeting, and enquire of her whether she knew of any other community initiative where she felt we could serve as a group. I specifically mentioned the idea of putting together some food parcels on a regular basis which could be handed out to the needy.
When I read her reply, every bone in my body felt the peace of knowing that right at that very moment my life and its course lined up with God’s will. It is not something I often have absolute conviction of, but at that very point, I just knew only God could have brought us two together in such a timely manner. This is an extract of her reply to my email:
“It is good to hear that you have a strong home group, not only for you and its other members but with a real heart for mission. I think your idea of putting a box of provisions together is great. I am, as it happens, due to meet a local organisation this Friday to discuss its plans to help the homeless in Guildford through the winter months – as you say, God often connects people for a purpose, and the timing of your email is perfect! So I will try to find out from the people there what opportunities there might be for your idea to take shape and an appropriate link person. I’ll let you know what I can find out for you.”
Eureka! A door was finally opening, a vision which had long ago been planted in a few hearts was beginning to take shape, and in my heart I had a tremendous peace knowing that this had birthed as a result of solitude in God’s presence, fellowship and individual as well as group prayer; it had nothing to do with the limiting and constraining influence of a leader or leaders within our church, but all to do with intently seeking God’s lead through a personal relationship with Him, a relationship with no hackers trying to steal the dream away or with well meant chaperones trying to reap what they had not sown.
Two days later, this lady had already met with representatives from all the major providers of services to the homeless in that town. In other words, of all the people I could have possibly got in touch with to bring to fruition the vision that God had planted in our hearts, this was THE ONE, the best connected person who could establish the bridge between us and the homeless and needy whom we wanted to help. During that meeting, she mentioned our group to the representatives of the different charitable organisations, and how we were interested to start helping the homeless, and as a result she put me in touch with two different organisations dedicated precisely to that. Having discussed it with the group, we chose to go with one of the two: The Salvation Army.
To learn about their excellent track record and broken heart for the needy go to:
I got in touch with the Commanding Officer at the Salvation Army and he was delighted that we had volunteered to help. He explained how during Harvest time, people are quite generous, but then outside of that time, people tend to forget that the need is still there. He also told me that they had no funding at all to purchase any food for the homeless and so they fully relied on people’s donations. Needless to say that for us this was yet another confirmation that we were in the right place at the right time. As a group we agreed on the date of our first donation of food to be taken to the Salvation Army, and we were so inspired and excited to see a dormant vision come to life in such smooth and timely manner. It was not long before we realised that if we were going to really have an impact on contributing to the selfless work that the Salvation Army were carrying out by dealing first hand with homeless people, single parents, victims of abuse and addiction, etc, we really needed to become more ambitious in our vision and to pluck up the courage to approach others and inspire them with the desire that God had placed in us.
Weeks after our initial delivery of food to the Salvation Army, I approached other Bible Study Groups at our church and invited them to come on board our initiative. An advertisement also went into our church bulletin, and so before long, 6 more groups and various individuals started donating food parcels on a regular basis. It is difficult to describe how I felt at the time, other than by saying that I really felt like I had finally found that elusive pair of shoes I had dreamt of, which fitted me perfectly, effortlessly. Again, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and not a sense of guilt or of failure because you are not meeting the expectations everybody else has for you and the ministry you should or shouldn’t be doing. A few months later I felt the call to involve our children’s primary school. I produced nearly 400 flyers inviting parents and school staff to join the initiative and donate food. Seven families joined the initiative. One might think that out of over 200 families at the school, seven is not that great, but each family meant one more person fed. and so to me taking that leap of faith and asking parents at the school, people who in their majority do not necessarily have faith or are “practising” Christians, meant I could end up getting a lot of stick for putting the suggestion to them, and so I saw each family who joined as a massive blessing to the initiative who in turned would be greatly blessed by their compassion and generosity, and to date I believe that has been their experience.
A few more weeks went by and I decided to write a little article based on the flyer I had produced, and have it published in our Parish Magazine which is distributed to over 2,000 houses in the area. That did not get much response and so I decided that I should deliver the flyers individually to each house instead. I started printing dozens of them and walking round the village distributing the flyers. Soon I started getting phone calls each week with people who congratulated us on the initiative and who felt it was a fantastic thing to do but they just needed the prompt from someone else to begin to make a difference themselves. I was so excited by how this whole thing was starting to touch the hearts of people I had not even met before. Complete strangers coming to our house and humbly leaving bags of food on our doorstep. I was so encouraged I decided to use the momentum and invited 12 members of our church who all live in different streets round the village to deliver flyers on my behalf, as I knew it was a gigantic task for me to cover the whole village on my own and I also felt God telling me that this would open up many doors for others to serve in a similar way and to give back of the love and innumerable blessings they themselves had received in the first place.
These twelve friends delivered over 600 flyers and so the phone calls kept coming and the number of bags left on our doorstep kept increasing. The Church Leadership begun to recognise the initiative as a worthy effort which deserved endorsing and encouraging, and so a member of the Salvation Army was invited to come to our Harvest Service and to take away with them the donations that members of our congregation brought to the service that day. It was a delight to see the lady from the Salvation Army loading her car to the roof tops with bags and bags of food. She spoke to the congregation and shared that their Food Crisis Center had not long been running, probably just a few months before our initiative began, and yet they had gone from an average of 4 people attending the Center during the Food Crisis days to 40 individuals. Days after that my husband and I hosted a meeting at our house with two members of our church leadership who were beginning to buy into the vision and also with the Commanding Officer at the Salvation Army and a lady volunteer whose testimonies that day left us all speechless and broken, but also so passionate and zealous to see the initiative progress.
This lady told us of the perils that many of these people who attend the Food Crisis Center have to endure. She spoke of a lady who used to be abused by her father as a child and who then after the trauma of all those years, witnessed her own dad committing suicide. This sent her over the edge and she began to take heroine, which meant she soon found herself living in the street. But the story does not end there. We also heard of the wonderful transformation that this lady went through as a result of the love, care and attention that she received at the Drop in Center and how she went from rudely demanding her food parcel on that first day to lovingly greeting all the volunteers and developing relationships with some of the regulars. I get upset when I mention the initiative to some and their reply is: “Well, I think that what you are doing is great, but I have no sympathy for those people” which is actually a contradictory statement, but apart from that, the one thing this lady insisted on was that the vast majority of people they dealt with found themselves in awful circumstances through no fault of their own but as a direct consequence of the evil that someone else had forced upon their life.
The most encouraging message we heard that day was that as a direct result of the increase in food supplies, more people were visiting the center. This in turn meant that there was more opportunity for relationships to develop amongst the homeless but also between the homeless and the volunteers at the Salvation Army. I must take this opportunity to express that I am in absolute awe of the work and service that these volunteers do for the needy. They have to put up with rudeness, hurt, lashing out, violence at times, addictions, pain and the worst of human traits which come to the surface as a result of their brokenness, and yet they will patiently accept these people where they are at with a heart of love and compassion which oozes Christ-likeness. That kind of faith in action blows me away and it also challenges me daily.
God has also opened another significant door through the initiative for people to actually serve hands on at the Food Crisis Center and to engage with the needy on a more personal level. This is a much more challenging commitment than giving food once a month, and so only those who feel truly called by the Lord to give of themselves in this way should undertake this, otherwise the consequences may be disastrous. But the opportunity is now there for those with the right heart and the right gifts to go that much deeper in their faith and their commitment to Christ’s undeniable heart for the broken and the needy, for the orphans and the widows, for the poor in spirit and in body. Opportunities are constantly arising through the people who are joining the initiative and the wonder of it and where I see God’s will and heart all over it, is that those who have now become part of the initiative are starting to come up with new ventures of their own to put to good use their own spiritual gifts, talents, energy and time. There is no limit to what God can bring to pass when we obey his call and abide by his principles. And I have no doubt that a year from now things will look somewhat different from when we first captured the vision that God revealed to us as a group. It is wonderful to witness believers and unbelievers alike coming together and sharing in the vision to nurture those in our community who are not as privileged and blessed as many of us are. It is refreshing to see that something which birthed from Christian faith is not causing division and strive as religion has done all over the world for centuries past, but bringing members of a community together, developing relationships and friendships amongst people that perhaps would not have considered doing so under normal circumstances.
We have a couple more ideas in the pipeline, so watch this space!
I thank the Lord for every bag of food and for every person whose heart has been stirred to join this initiative, but most of all I thank Jesus Christ for putting me in contact with the amazing individuals who have inspired me and challenged me to the extent of no longer being content with spiritually remaining where I was at, and of fully trusting that when God places a desire in your heart, He will not let your spirit rest until it comes to pass, and He will not abandon you to fend for yourself, but He will equip you with everything you need for that particular journey. PRAISE GOD FOR HE IS FAITHFUL AND HIS PROMISES ARE TRUE (and in case you are still wondering the reason for the title of this very lengthy post, that is it: HIS PROMISES ARE TRUE!)