Hope is rising out of Asha – by Julie Hogben

66325I was first introduced to the work of Asha in Delhi back in 2005 when I had the opportunity to travel to India as part of a Tearfund Transform Team. Asha means “hope” in Hindi and this is in evidence as people are helped to realise their full potential regardless of their background, caste or religious beliefs. Ten years later, I continue to see the ongoing transformation in people’s lives due to the inspirational work that is carried out day after day by Asha’s dedicated team, some of whom have been part of the story since Asha’s beginnings back in 1988

One of the areas where Asha has been making a huge difference since my first visit, is that of education. Part of their mission statement says:

– Every child has a right to an education that will give them the opportunity to reach their potential, earn a living and grow in self-esteem.

For many years Asha has been encouraging parents, many of whom are uneducated, to see the benefits of education for their children. One of the ways they have been successful in getting children enrolled in local schools is by the example of older children who love to pass on what they have learned and have even been known to visit the schools and get the younger ones registered for entry!  The free government schools the slum children attend are typically under equipped and the teaching standards are low. Only a few English and Computer lessons are taught    during the week and some children have said they are not allowed to touch the computers! Of course this means these youngsters are not off to a great start compared with those from more well off families who can provide English speaking opportunities and laptops for their children.

The Asha staff, never ones to be daunted, have risen to the challenge!  Why shouldn’t the slum children be given opportunities which would enable them to hold their heads high with their peers? After school computer classes have been set up in slum communities. English teachers, some local, some volunteers from abroad, come in and teach the children. “Tell us about verbs” they call out! The hunger to learn is evident and what’s more they share their knowledge. We have walked past a home and seen a pile of sandles outside the entrance.  Inside a teenager has gathered “her class” and is teaching them something she is studying. The age range is wide,no one is omitted.

When he was 15, Jubair used to watch other students from a nearby college walk past his slum colony and wish that one day he could be like them. It looked impossible as his father was struggling to support his family of eight and it was more likely that Jubair would have to drop out of school and get a job. However, with Asha providing encouragement, guidance and resources for him to study, he did well in his school exams and was able to apply for a BA at Delhi University. He graduated in 2014 and Asha was able to get him an internship at a seven star hotel where he performed so well, they offered him a job!

He says,  “As we got help, so we provide help to those with potential but no opportunity.”

He now volunteers as a Student Ambassador providing tuition, advice about college admission and financial help. He also urges parents to give their children freedom to achieve their dreams!

One Mother told us that she had joked with her daughter that she was going to arrange her marriage instead of sending her to university. The daughter looked horrified and burst into tears “But Mummy I want to go!” Such is the hope that now rises in the hearts of both boys and girls as they see the older ones graduate and stand tall with great dignity.

The phrase ” Never underestimate the power of one” is popular at Asha. We have seen how the Christian faith of one woman, Dr Kiran Martin, has brought hope to so many who had no dreams, no future they felt they could look forward to. Asha sees each person as made in the image of God, having value and encourages them to reach their full potential in every area of life, which of course is what we all want for our children and for one another.

If you are interested in seeing the work of Asha for yourself, we hope to take a team out Easter 2016. There are always opportunities to volunteer so do have a look at their website www.asha-india.org

Poppins Ministry Update – Rachel Crowe

When we think about toddler groups, we can have a broad spectrum of experience from a dark, damp church hall with brittle, plastic toys; to a brand new children’s centre with friendly faces on hand to give lots of advice.

Many of us have fond memories of taking our children, or maybe even remembering going to such toddler groups ourselves. Some new parents find the stretch to walk into a place where people already know each other, just too hard.  At the GateWay we aim to make sure that parents and carers feel welcomed and have a great experience.

If you’ve never been to Poppins, let me give you an overview. Poppins at The GateWay has a space, and lots of it. This allows us to have different groups that cater for different age groups and plenty of varied activities so that the individual and unique children can have lots of fun!

Over 480 children have come to Poppins this year. That’s more than 300 families! Thankfully we have an awesome team of volunteers who are so lovely and friendly that they get to know these families and share their lives.

On a Monday we have a new and still fairly quiet group called Mini Poppins. This started after Easter this year and caters for unders 2s. They get a chance to play on all the big toys here without being bossed around by any 4 years olds!

On a Tuesday we have a lively and friendly Baby Poppins in the Preston Lounge. The main theme of the morning is relaxation, tea and biscuits. These pre walking babies are usually the children of first time parents so there’s plenty of time for supporting one another. The team manage this group carefully to make sure it doesn’t get exclusive.

On a Wednesday and a Friday, two different teams run our largest groups of the week, Poppins. There’s four rooms with different activities and so there’s something for everyone. Families can come and go any time between 10 and 2 so individual families can choose to come at a time that suits them. We’re finishing for the Summer now and so we’ll be up and running again in September.

Looking forward to seeing many of our families back again and wishing those whose children are starting school, every blessing in their new routines!

Hope for Kids Ministry Update – Roger Allen

One of the joys of my role within Hope for Kids International is the partnerships that we enjoy – and the relationships that develop – with other directors and staff in the worldwide Kids Alive International network. With such partnership and relationship comes greater understanding of the issues that face our brothers and sisters in countries like Lebanon, South Sudan, Zambia and Haiti.  And with greater understanding comes a deeper solidarity and desire to stand with them in ways that make an eternal difference.

Many of these countries make up what some call the ‘majority world’. It’s a term that makes for uncomfortable thinking when we consider that the ‘majority world’ is the MAJORITY world – and that my comfortable life here in the UK is most definitely in the minority.

Recently, I have been thinking about the ‘bigger picture’ of the church and its place and role in the world – this world that God created, loves and is ultimately seeking to fully redeem and restore. Like many, I am convinced that ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ involves the call to all of us as Christ’s church to partner with God in bringing about the fullness of that kingdom on earth.

I believe that we have a God who expects his people to model what that looks like, particularly in relation to the poor and marginalised – whatever form of poverty and marginalisation you care to consider. I see this in many places in the Bible, including the words of Jesus, the King who is not to be mocked or taken for granted as the all-loving, ever-gracious, ever-forgiving Saviour, but who is also to be recognized as the Judge who questions us about our attitudes and actions involving ‘the other’.


 

Hot and sunny it may be, but Cap Hatien’s shoreline is far from the usual picture of a Caribbean island. The white sand, aquamarine water and palm trees swaying gently in the trade winds are not here, replaced instead by polluted waters and rubbish as far as the eye can see. The material poverty in much of Haiti is obvious and longstanding, with years of ineffective and corrupt government making little headway in tackling the underlying problems. This is a country where eighty percent of the population is reported as being under the poverty line, more than half the population being in ‘abject poverty’; where unemployment is reported as being anything between forty-five to seventy percent; where good education is in desperately short supply; a country where even government orphanages close down for not meeting government standards.

But it is not just the material poverty that is obvious – it is the poverty of ‘being’, the look of resigned hopelessness that mars the faces of too many of those loved by God.

It’s a look that takes a while to recede from the children who are ‘fortunate’ enough to be the poorest of the poor. Fortunate, for it is many of these who end up in the Kids Alive Haiti children’s village. It is here, within a walled compound surrounding two, perhaps three, acres of land, an environment of comparative tranquillity on the outskirts of a bustling, messy Cap Hatien, where hopelessness is replaced by hope for the future. Robenson, the national director for Kids Alive Haiti, puts it well:

“With tears in our eyes, in a country where people complain every day about misery, poverty, politics and despair, I see our children talk about their big dreams for their own futures and the future of Haiti. Children who were hopeless, vulnerable, at-risk and ignored by society – and sometimes even their own families – are achieving great things because of their faith in Jesus Christ. GOD IS GOOD! GOD IS GREAT! ‘What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits toward us?’” (taken from Psalm 116:12)


 

New Wine is approaching, a new and exciting opportunity for God to help us raise the profile of Hope for Kids. If you’re there, we’d love to see you at our stand in the Marketplace, which we are glad to be sharing with 4 Family. There or not, we’d appreciate your standing with us in praying for growth that will enable life-giving difference to be made with greater impact and in deeper partnership with more of the neediest children and families in our to-be-mended world. Thank you.

Roger Allen

Director, Hope for Kids International

Justice & The Average Joe – by Lizzie Roles

Listening to Joe’s talk about Justice in March really spoke to me, I think it spoke to all of us in the Service that day.   But what really struck me was how many people stood up at the end.

I feel like being a Christian means justice must always have been on my heart.  But for the life of me, I don’t know how to articulate it. My heart breaks for so many things, to the point that in the end I’ve become a bit numb to it all.

My stumbling block? The sheer enormity & scale of the issues.  Also… SO MANY types of issues, & sub issues, & sub-sub-sub issues.  It’s enough to make your head spin.

If you were in the service when Joe spoke, he said at the end that if we wanted to do more; to be more affected by & mindful about the way we buy things, our food, clothes & such; to stand up & then he prayed for all of us. That was the end of the service & we went on our way, prayerfully deciding to go forwards into our lives with justice on our agenda.

That doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the issues have been made clear to me, that I know the in’s and out’s of everything that need to be done.  But I do know that justice is an issue so inline with God’s heart that we can’t help but respond to it.  I think that’s why so many people stood up.  We can’t be Christ’s hand and feet and not care about this issue.

Since it’s something we can all do something about.  How do we go about it?

I guess the key is just to start small, with one thing.  I think one thing at a time is really key for someone like me.  There is only so much headspace a Mum of two young (and very spirited kids) can have.  So I have asked God very simply to tell me the one thing he wants me to do, the one thing he wants me to think about.

‘Water’, said God.  ‘Water’? ‘Yes Lizzie, water’.  I love that God chose something so simple for my simple mind.

‘Okay God, what do you want to tell me about water?’.  Then my tap broke!

Let me tell you a story.

My kitchen tap broke & I sighed.  A deep, annoyed, ‘what am I going to do now’ kind of sigh.  For nearly a week I had to walk from my kitchen to the downstairs loo to fill my kettle.  Literally 10 steps if that. I had to wash some dishes in the sink in my utility room.  What a hardship! I found it annoying, an inconvenience.

God very clearly told me straight down the line that walking a few steps to get clean, flowing, cold AND hot water IN MY HOME was a luxury millions don’t have.  It’s sometimes hard I think to comprehend that number? MILLIONS of people don’t have access to clean water, surely not in this day and age?! It’s a basic right isn’t it? But it is the truth.

Life giving water, a resource that is literally cut off from children, adults, sick people, orphans, widows, families. Even when they do get water, it’s dirty, it makes them sick, people die.

I’ll tell you another story, I saw a post on Facebook that had gone viral of kids bedrooms around the world.  Kids living in absolute squalor.  The post was meant to make us in the First World realise how grateful we should be that our kids have beds, in a clean home.  But actually what struck me was a comment left on the post by a lady.  She said ‘this breaks my heart, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it’.  What’s that now?  NOTHING you can do about it?  Really?

If you want to know God’s heart for justice, then ask him.  Ask him what he wants you to see.  He is not asking you to save the world.  The justice subject is wide and diverse.  But ask Him to give you SOMETHING! Just one thing, because we can make a difference, one person, one thing, one step at a time.

– Lizzie

Yeovil 4 Family Ministry Update – Nicola Baker

Hello!  You may well be aware that we recently hosted an event where we celebrated the work done so far through Yeovil4Family.  It was really well received by those that attended (various agencies and organisations that we work with) and it was really encouraging  to look back and remind ourselves of what God has done. He has been, and continues to be, good!

Some feedback from those that attended:

  • Keep up the amazing work!
  • I have found your support and intervention excellent!
  • Thank you for all you do!
  • Your work is priceless!
  • Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!  Fantastic work with our most needy families.  Not sure how we would have managed without your support.  Thank you.  (School Department Head)

We are currently in an exciting new season where we have the security of knowing we have funds to continue to support families we have begun working with and provide them with deep, long term support.

We are also looking at ways to hone what we do and in doing so our prayer is that God would give us wisdom and inspiration for the future development of the project.

We are really pleased that Alex and Liz Parsons have agreed to take up the baton of Y4F Prayer coordinators and already they have been actively raising the profile of prayer within the team and beyond.

They are planning a Day of Prayer on Tuesday, 29th September at the Gateway.  More details nearer the time.

Points For Prayer

Families: Pray for the families we work with,  particularly struggles with mental health issues (Anxiety, depression, struggling to find purpose in getting up each day, confusion and paranoia.)

New Referrals: Pray that as we begin to receive new referrals God would  help us know which families we should be working with and where best to use the resources we have.

Team: Please continue to pray for the protection of the Y4F team and their families and for refreshing over the summer term.

Funding: We continue to look at funding opportunities to see the work continue beyond the end of 2015.  We need wisdom and favour in our applications and God’s guidance into the areas to look.

Focus: In the midst of all the busyness and all the complex situations,  that we keep Jesus at the heart of everything that we do.

Shopping Local by Hannah Morris

61894We live in a society where we go to the big supermarket chains where we can buy anything we fancy for a very reasonable price, but do we actually think about the people behind the product?

I have always felt it would be great to live as much as possible using only local or fairtrade products. Being a large family this has to be done on a budget.

Last week we decided to take the plunge after we being inspired by Joe’s talk about justice. It took a lot of planning, finding out where and when there are farmers markets, which farm shop sells what and what is actually available. Although I was really surprised how much is out there on our door step, it also meant I have had to change my way of planning breakfast, lunchboxes and dinner for 6 people.

Breakfast was the hardest for the kids. The only choices were muesli , porridge or homemade bread (made with locally sourced flour). No sugary cereals!!
The amount of fairtrade food in some supermarkets was fantastic: bananas, sugar, chocolate and lots of other things.

There were a few items which we couldn’t find like toilet paper and washing powder. But we then opted for environmentally friendly products.

61895Ham, pasta or chopped tomatoes were also either not available or far too expensive, but it was just a case of creating new ideas like home cooked chicken in sandwiches, homemade cheese straws and making our own pasta, which the kids loved doing.

I found so many delicious products during that week, all produced by people who want to make a living by selling something they are passionate about.

61896Everyone was so friendly and helpful and my best find was a local dairy farm selling super fresh milk, yum!

This week was an amazing experience and as a housewife I loved it even though it took a lot of time and effort. And the best bit is that we were able to do this on a budget. But it did mean not having things like biscuits, crisps or any other treats unless we made them ourselves. Therefore we had lots of fresh cake and we even made lollipops with berries we had picked and frozen last autumn.

I am now really looking forward to find more products and maybe even looking into clothes and other things we can change to make this world a better and fairer place to live for everyone.

– Hannah

Yeovil Street Pastor’s Ministry Update – Steve Hart

As this is my first Yeovil Street Pastor blog post, it’s an opportunity to describe the initiative.  In future, the blogs will have stories from the streets!

Yeovil Street Pastors started patrolling in April 2009, as part of a national team first pioneered in 2003, and is now one of 270 initiatives across the UK.  We are an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets late at night.  As volunteers from over 20 Christian congregations in Yeovil and the surrounding area, we work as a team to bring a caring presence, a listening ear, and to help people to stay safe whilst they are out on Friday & Saturday nights.  In a nutshell, we care for our community!

Whilst the Street Pastors are patrolling the streets, there are also those back at base called Prayer Pastors, who provide sustained prayer support.  Because prayer is an essential part of what we do, the team patrolling on the streets is in 2-way contact with the Prayer Pastors via mobile phone.  In addition, the team on the streets is often praying for people.  The Street Pastors do not go onto the streets without the Prayer Pastors praying back at the base.

In our distinctive uniforms, we are usually walking the town centre streets from 10pm to 3.30am every Friday & Saturday, patrolling from the top end of town down through Middle Street to Wetherspoons and then up around to Club Neo and Chicago Rock in Stars Lane.

Working in partnership with local Christian congregations, the police and the local council (often referred to as the Urban Trinity), as a registered charity we are led by a Management Committee and our Co-ordinator Steve Hart.

We currently have 45 Street Pastors and 18 Prayer Pastors.  So far in 2015, the Friday & Saturday teams between them have had general contact with over 1,000 people, averaging having contact with 40 people per night.  We are known for handing out lollipops and providing flip flops to girls, often at the end of the night when they struggle to keep their high heels on!

Though our Christian faith is at the heart of why and what we do, it is not at the forefront initially of what we say – we offer a practical demonstration of God’s love.  We bring the presence and power of God onto our streets, which is making a difference because since the Yeovil initiative has been in existence, crime in Yeovil has reduced.

Our comprehensive training programme is designed to fully equip new Street Pastors to respond to the needs of all the people with whom they engage on the streets.  Our next training starts on Saturday 5 September 2015 and we are currently recruiting because we need to increase the number of Street Pastors in order to sustain teams being available for every Friday & Saturday night.  Therefore, if you want to become either a Street Pastor or a Prayer Pastor, please get in contact with Steve Hart on yeovil@streetpastors.org.uk.