Vulnerability and the Machine

Vulnerability is something I know something about.  Don’t we all? When I first heard Brene Brown was a Vulnerability and Shame Researcher I thought it was a made up job.  I thought the journey I was on with vulnerability was a one woman show.  To hear that millions of people feel the same? To learn that someone actually studies this and it’s a crucial part to thriving? That’s an eye opener for me.

I write a blog where I put myself out there in the public domain again and again.  I’ve been on a journey where I’ve had to let the opinions of others be like rain drops off a duck’s back.

When I feel vulnerable its like I am cornered, not in control, open to personal judgement.  So the machine takes over,  spurting out the one liners, positive all the time, don’t ever say how you’re really feeling.  To let the real you out? That’s harder. So be the machine, be a robot, fit in.

I feel it as a blogger, and more as a woman but never more so than as a mother.

The definition of vulnerable is to be: exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

So why are we being encouraged to be vulnerable in church? Why is being vulnerable seen as a good thing?

These are questions I am asking myself and I’m not sure I know the answers to, because even though I don’t think vulnerability is a weakness, I do think it can make us ‘feel’ weak.  Don’t you?

I know that there have been times when I’ve given information out to someone only to have them use that information against me to attack me later.  Has that ever happened to you?

So how can we be vulnerable and feel the fruits of that? Firstly I think there are two types of vulnerability.  I think there’s good vulnerability and then there’s the please “use your common sense” type.

For example babies are totally vulnerable, they need constant care and attention.  To leave them open to attack or harm is negligence.  Don’t get vulnerability and negligence mixed up.

Another example could be a man or woman walking home on their own late at night, or jumping off a balcony into a swimming pool below or drinking a whole bottle of gin in one go.  This is not the kind of vulnerability that is good for you.  I’ve learnt this the hard way.  Use your common sense, don’t do things that will harm you.

The second type of vulnerability is what I call “you make me brave”.  This is the type I’ve been learning about and it uses the motto “tell the truth, even if your voice shakes”.  tell the truth

 

I watched a Jonathan Ross show awhile ago and Florence and the Machine were on.  Florence Welch is the lead singer and although I appreciate the songs they sing I’d never really been a fan of theirs.

I noticed Florence didn’t have any shoes on as she stood there and sang her song, confidently and beautifully as always.  It was only when Jonathan went over to help her walk to the sofa for the interview afterwards that I realised she’d hurt her foot.  She’d done the whole performance with a broken foot!

As she sat there with the other celebrities it became clear very quickly that she is not your usual celebrity, meek and quiet in her speaking voice she timidly spoke and said, “this is my first interview on tv”.  I felt an immediate connection to her, she was out of her comfort zone, sat on the sofa being interviewed injured and hurting with a broken foot and shaking like a leaf.

I applauded her in my head (and heart) because she was being brave.  I applauded her because she was vulnerable. She was hurt and she performed anyway.  Her voice shook but she spoke anyway.  I felt a connection to her because she showed her real self.  It was brave and beautiful.  It’s a choice I’m trying to make every day in my own life.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown quotes a Theodore Roosevelt speech, sometimes called “The Man in the Arena” which he delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23/04/1910.  I think Florence was in the arena and I want to be in the arena too.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. , whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

man in the arena

Look at Jesus (who knew vulnerability on our behalf), sent into the wilderness (the arena) for 40 days and 40 nights AND He was hungry before being tempted, have you ever made a decision on an empty stomach?.  Most people would fold out of sheer hunger.

Jesus was vulnerable to attack and to harm.  He was vulnerable to weakness, to throwing in the towel and saying “Yes I’ll take my kingdom now”, he was vulnerable to ending it all, taking the control back.  Jesus stood firm.

Thank you Jesus for standing firm.

It is because of His vulnerability and bravery and his willingness to go to the cross that we can be vulnerable and brave today.  I believe He had his armour on, I believe He was covered in prayer AND I believe he added wisdom to the balance.  It is because He was tempted and stood firm that He knows our vulnerability on a human level and understands our struggles with failure.

Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

Whatever God has called you to in a given situation, chances are you may have to be vulnerable, check in with Him about what He wants you do and say, being real is to be vulnerable, in essence.

Use common sense, He has given us a way to be vulnerable and wise, put on your armour.

Put on the full armour of God.  God wants you to be vulnerable, brave AND protected from the enemy who would have us stumble and fall.

Ephesians 6:10-18 The Armour of God

10.Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Imagine yourself actually putting on the armour, one item at a time.  Pray for God’s protection over your heart and mind. Imagine God’s angels surrounding you.  Grab yourself a mentor to counsel you and pray for you.

Finally it’s ok you know, you don’t have to let every single person you meet into every single part of your life.  Talk to people that you trust.  I have a mentor and I have people that I know I can go to when I need say ‘no, I’m not ok’.  These are people who know me well enough that even if I say I’m ok they know I’m not, it’s all about relationship.

I’m still working on being vulnerable, on being real, it’s a journey.  I’m not ‘real’ 100% of the time.  Are you?

I’m aiming for the arena though,  I’m aiming to be brave, I’m aiming for imperfection and I’m intending to use my common sense, and to be protected.

Be vulnerable and ‘tell the truth even if your voice shakes’, and remember you don’t have to do it alone, grab a mentor and take Jesus with you wherever you go.

 

 

 

 

CAP Ministry Update Steve Hart

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I’ve been in the role as the Centre manager for 10 months and it’s been a very exciting journey, being invited into the homes of those who have contacted CAP at head office in Bradford (0800 328 0006) and helping them journey out of debt!  Of the 16 homes I’ve visited, 2 have become debt free, 1 of which became a Christian!

There are so many stories I could share so let me talk about L&H and their 3 children.  It was clear at my first visit, where I explain the process, answer any questions and address any concerns, that both L&H were very keen to receive CAP’s help.  Circumstances beyond their control meant they needed help.  At the second visit, we went through a Fact Finder document and got together all the paperwork I need to send to Bradford.  At the third visit, I was able to present them with a budget that CAP head office had put together, which meant they were now on their journey with CAP of repaying their debt over a period of 2.5 years.

It only took 22 days to go from the first visit to presenting them with the budget, though not every situation flows as easily as this.  It meant they needed to work hard and tighten their belts, indeed if they could anymore!  L needed to find a job and as we prayed at each visit, L’s journey took him to finding a job in the village where he lives, which makes life so much easier for the family.

The occasional need for a Lord’s Larder food parcel was very welcome, and the last time I dropped one off, I received a text from H stating, “I just wanted to tell you, after getting the children from school, J (oldest son) helped me open the food bags and J’s words were wow Steve is awesome!”  Encouraging words from a child, which took me back to my childhood where I had experienced the very same joy in a very similar situation!

Because the need is so great in the Yeovil and surrounding area, we are now booked up to visit people into January 2016!  It must be so difficult for people to buck up the courage, ring CAP and then be told that they will have to wait until a few months’ time.  But we try to keep in contact with them and encourage them all we can before the first visit.

Which brings me onto our current greatest 2 needs.  We are about to start advertising for a paid debt coach who will be working 2 days per week, enabling the debt coaches in the Yeovil Centre to make more visits, therefore, hopefully reducing the time between someone ringing CAP and one of us making the first visit.

Secondly, when we visit homes, we need to take with us Befrienders, those who will continue the relationship and bring help where necessary, once the budget visit is complete with their debt coach.  So if this is something you may be interested in and would like to know more about, please contact me on stevehart@capuk.org or you can speak to me anytime.

In my recent weekly update I wrote: Just maybe there are no limits as to what God can do in Yeovil through Christians Against Poverty and the church working together.  We are helping to build the Kingdom of God.  We are reflecting the Kingdom of God and trying to keep the poor at the heart of who we are.  I truly believe this and if you want to be more involved, please come and chat to me or you may want me to come and share at a group you belong to.  Thank you for your support.

Prayer for Growth Ministry Update Martin Mason

Since the last P4G post there’s been much talk of identity, both God’s and ours. I’ve just listened again to Adam’s talk on “Who am I?” and I’m struck that at a general level this is something we all really struggle with to one degree or another. It occurs to me that he gave opportunity to respond – but in reality, those that did were probably the ones that were being more honest with themselves.

There were two things that resonated with me. First, “Who do you think you are?” and second the thoughts on comparison.

The first thought is something that often pops up in a setting usually outside of work. At work I know exactly who I’m supposed to be. My roles and responsibilities are (mostly!) clearly defined and I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s expected of me, what my strengths are and how to get the best result in a given situation. Obviously I’m learning all the time and being human make mistakes. But so far the pay packet arrives each month and the feedback is positive.

Then enter the rest of life. I love being a husband, father and friend in whatever form – it’s fun and gives me a tremendous sense of worth. But there is another side to me that although it has its practical application in a lot of the things I do everyday (God’s giftings and calling on my life) I have gifts that I can choose to use, or leave on the shelf. The best way for the latter to happen is for me to entertain the thought, “Who do you think you are?”

Take this blog for instance. The fact that you’ve got this far in this blog potentially fills me with a sense of excitement for what God’s doing, but at the same time I could easily think, who am I that people would read this.

You wouldn’t realise this, but when I wrote my first one for P4G there was no pressure. The person who asked me gave the impression that at best it would be anonymous. Then to my surprise when Chris (my wife) found it on the YCC website I realised it had my name on it. A plethora of feelings then ensued; from vulnerability to excitement, pride to loathing. I then realised that that same confidence I have at work, has completely escaped me in this arena.

Leaving myself ‘out there’ is something I’m not used to. I’m used to direct feedback; “Great!” “I don’t understand?” “We don’t accept your position”, scowls, handshakes, high fives, smiles and winks. But don’t just leave me hanging. It’s like going to an interview that you never get the results of. But this is where humility comes in.

Humility to step out and get it wrong. To make a fool of yourself. For people to get the wrong end of the stick. All of those above feelings stem from one place, and that’s pride. Proverbs says that “the beginning of wisdom is to hate pride and every evil way”. We also read in Samuel that God never let any of Samuel’s words “fall to the ground”. It’s up to us to not worry about our pride and for God to worry about our reputation. The bible says God gives grace to the humble, but opposes the proud.

The second thought was on comparison. And in many ways it’s part of the first. Part of the “who do you think you are?” is the, “yes, but there are better people than you to do this…” There are even people paid to do this (or titles at a minimum!)… (Whatever your ‘this’ is) Ironic to think that I often encourage people to think, “Only you can do what you do how you do it!” Did you know that every drummer I’ve ever spoken to thinks that they’re the least good drummer they know? They clearly got the wrong end of that stick (b-dum-tish…). Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

A good friend of ours posted a video on a social media website at the end of April, showing people missing life because they were either too busy recording it on their phones or watching everyone else’s on social media. Don’t get me wrong it certainly has its place. We rediscovered some friends that we lost contact with for ten years, through said website. I love watching the latest crazy downhill mountain biking nutter or the Hardy brothers nailing new tricks on their skis. But for a moment I realised that it was fast becoming the lens through which I was viewing life and in the process, missing mine. Philosophical eh?!

The bible says all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. So I figured I’d do an experiment. I’d see what life was like without social media. Deactivated my account for 28 days and moved the app to the back page of my apps on my smartphone.

The first 48 hours were (I imagine) like trying to give up smoking. I actually had a craving! Sad, I thought. Friends of mine would say that I’m competitive. But what I have to explain to them is that as a general rule the only person I’m competing with is myself. There was no way I was going to let me beat me, so I resisted. You can guess where I’m heading. Within a few days I’d realised that all those times my head is down looking at my phone, it was actually up. Seeing things. Playing with my children. Talking to my wife. Joking with colleagues. Tinkering in the garage!

Today is day 12, and I’m seriously considering not going back on. I’m happier. Like it or not (and Adam touched on it in his talk) you can almost find worth (feeling good about yourself) in the number of likes you get, or re-tweets, shares of your posts. When you don’t get enough, it’s like a drug that has stopped working and your sense of worth dissipates. Apparently there’s even an app to ‘measure’ your influence on social media! As if the realisation of this wasn’t enough several people have contacted me to check that I hadn’t ‘unfriended’ them and that they hadn’t done something to upset me. Someone also said, “oh, I wondered why you hadn’t responded”, when I told them I was temporarily off it.

I think of the friends that we’ve had to console when they’ve been close to tears because “they weren’t invited to that” or weren’t included. Yes, these are grown ups we’re talking about. But I get similar feelings when I wonder why someone didn’t ‘like’ something I thought they in particular would like.

I read an article a couple of days ago about FOMO v JOMO. Ok, I confess, it was on LinkedIn. But that’s ok, I’m giving up cigarettes, not chewing-gum… (metaphorically)

FOMO is the “fear of missing out” and this article spoke about JOMO; the “joy of missing out”. Apparently it’s something that top leaders realise affect their levels of productiveness and happiness. Part of the JOMO I’ve experienced for the last 12 days I’ve not really thought about what people think about me or indeed vice versa (other than my family and those I have chosen to spend time with in person) good or bad.

So just remember, only you can do what you do how you do it. Instead of “why me?” Think “why not?”, and don’t compare. Most people have a higher opinion of you than you do anyway.

Oh, and it’s God’s opinion that really counts no?

We’d love to help you with P4G… So in the words of the 15+ ask “someone who looks like someone” about it. 😉

Hope for Kids Ministry Update Roger Allen

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We had a good time at New Wine, having some great conversations with people at the Hope for Kids International stand in the Marketplace, getting our name ‘out there’ a little, linking up with various organisations. Matt Parker was there with his family on a holiday from the USA, where Matt is now President (of Kids Alive International, at least!). It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility but our God is so much bigger and loves to give the wisdom that Matt and all of us need to be as effective as possible in our callings.

In September, a meal and quiz evening in aid of projects in Zambia raised over £600. Thank you to all those who contributed to a great evening. During the event, we profiled some small, portable, solar panels and LED lights, which may be one way of addressing some of the effects of the severe electrical power supply issues ‘current-ly’ ☺ prevalent in Zambia and other countries in that part of Africa. Rains in the region have been lower than normal for longer than normal, leading to reduced food production and sporadic hydroelectric power generation. LED lighting powered from stored solar-produced energy will enable children to do their homework safely (avoiding the use of candles), staff can charge their ‘phones, etc. The vision team going to Zambia at the end of October will take some of these items to Zambia, but our Kenya partners are also expressing an interest! Feel free to help us give Africa a boost!

Talking of vision teams – or ‘go and learn’ teams – it would be good to gauge interest in possible team trips for 2016. If God is putting on your heart one of the countries that we support and prompting you towards a team trip as perhaps a ‘taster’ experience for a longer connection, please get in touch with Carole or Roger. A congregation in London is likely to be arranging two teams to Guatemala; definite plans are being made for a Yeovil team to Romania; and Lebanon, Kenya and Zambia are other possibilities if the interest is there. Purity and Jim (national directors of Kids Alive Kenya and Kids Alive Zambia respectively) would REALLY love to have more teams from the UK visit them!

The Syrian refugee crisis continues unabated in the Middle East. Our Kids Alive Lebanon partner is educating and feeding around 60 Syrian refugee children at their Oasis programme, which is distinct from the existing school and residential boys home. They would like to do much more but need funds to expand the work. Thank you to those of you that have helped meet this critical need so far. If more people feel led to give regularly towards this mission, please get in touch.

Right now, a key focus for us as an organisation is growth: we want to see loads of growth in practical care, love and eternal hope for more of the millions of desperately vulnerable children and communities around the world, but Hope for Kids International is human resource-limited. Our two staff met with our six wonderful trustees recently to discuss how to move the charity forward. We value your prayers that we continue to hear God’s heart and leading in this, so that we are positioned in the best possible place to see the release of God’s resources that we believe is just around the corner.

We have a few personnel needs:

If you are good with words and also with social media and website input, and want to help us communicate stories and articles about the amazing transformation that is possible in children’s lives in the majority world – we are looking for a volunteer that could commit to something like a couple of hours a week for at least six months, preferably longer, to create informative communication pieces for facebook, twitter and our website.

We would also like to enhance our existing board of trustees by inviting someone with legal expertise to join us. There is an increasing number of issues that we need informed help with, relating to charity constitution, employment requirements, etc. – so if this floats your boat, please get in touch.

Finally, if you are technically competent, able to maintain confidentiality, and assiduously precise as regards inputting data into an electronic database – AND you are the type that gets a buzz out of doing that – AND can commit a few hours a month to the task – come and have a chat.

The number of child and site sponsors is growing slowly, for which we give God thanks. Please join in if you’re not already giving in such a way that helps planning sustained care for the children we serve. £20 per month is the normal amount – but please talk to us if that’s beyond your reach.

It’s been good to see the new school bus finally come into existence at Kids Alive Kenya. And it’s always exciting to hear more stories of transformation in young people’s lives.

In partnership with God, all things are possible!

Thank you.

Roger Allen

Director, Hope for Kids International

Yeovil 4 Family Ministry Update Nicola Baker

18630It can be hard sometimes in the midst of all the difficult things that we have to deal with at Yeovil4Family to notice and focus on the good stuff.  So as a team we have been sharing recently about what’s going well in the families we work with.

Here are a few examples of what’s been happening…

In one of our families a lady has been struggling with an eating disorder for a number of years.   For months she has refused to seek help for herself whilst her family watch on helplessly as she becomes more poorly.  Y4F has been consistent in their affirmation and determination to see this lady receive appropriate care and make the decision to choose to live.  Recently, the lady has made the step to contact an eating disorder clinic and when talking to her Link Worker over a cup of hot chocolate said “something has got to change”.

Several of our families are deciding to accept support from CAP (Christians Against Poverty) and are working towards becoming debt free.  One commented that it has empowered her to ring up people and feels so happy, like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.  They are now more able to focus on other areas of their life.

We became involved with a family where the child had suffered severe neglect and was now being cared for by another family member.  Along with a diagnosis of an Attachment Disorder and poorly controlled health issue, the child could not cope with school and so wasn’t attending.  Y4F have been involved with the family for a little while now, supporting this child’s new carer.  It has been so encouraging to see positive changes within the family.  The health issue is now much better under control and the child has been attending school again.

A common issue that affects families is a lack of working together by the parents in their caring and discipline of the children.   This was a really big issue for one family in particular and has been the cause of household conflict both physically and verbally.  Having worked with the family for some time we are starting to see both parents take a united front on a consistent basis.  This has been a hard process for all the family but will undoubtedly help make the home a happier place in the long term.

A lady whom we have been working with for some time now recently wrote this poem about the support she’s received:

In my time of woe and sorrow

When my life was a mess and I felt so low

You came into my life like a torch in the dark to lead me through and find life’s spark.

You’ve been there to help and listen with care and in that time I’ve unloaded a little of ware.

Before you came I kept it all in, no one to trust

And now thanks to you I know a release is a must.

You’ve taught me to try to use a calm way to deal with things on my mind

Because before it was anger and hate, I know now I was blind.

We recently hosted a Day of Prayer for Yeovil4Family.  Alex and Liz Parsons (Y4F Prayer Coordinators) led us wonderfully through the day, focussing on various aspects of the work of Y4F.

We believe that prayer is foundational in all we do, it is powerful and effective and it positions us to hear the voice of God.  We want to be fully aligned with God’s purposes and outwork His priorities in the lives of the families we come into contact with.   Please pray for the work at Y4F.  If you would like to be receive our prayer update letter and commit to pray regularly for Y4F please e mailnicola.baker@yeovil4family.org.uk.

 

Free to feel rich

‘Do you feel poor’?  Maybe the better question is ‘do you feel rich?

These were questions posed by Adam in his first talk in a series on ‘Enough Part 1‘.

In the talk we found out that the world’s richest people don’t feel rich.  We can scoff at that can’t we? How can that be when they have so much money?

Who do you think of when you cast your mind to rich people? Simon Cowell always comes to my mind for some reason and yet he is not the richest person in the world, not by a long shot.  It is true that he is stinking rich and lives a lavish lifestyle, these thoughts come to mind too when I see the rich and famous in the magazines or on the tv:

‘They must have loads of friends’

‘They must go to loads of amazing places’

‘They must eat the finest food’

‘They must meet important people’

‘They must attend the best parties with no expense spared’

Yes, some of the lifestyle must be amazing.  To travel the world first class is a dream that’s why it’s so enticing to many, but plenty of people travel the world who aren’t rich and plenty of people eat fine food and aren’t rich.  Feeling rich is something else, feelings aren’t always the reality.

I wonder if we asked rich people the same question, do you feel rich? What they would actually say! Can they factually say ‘no I’m not rich’.  No, the question is do you FEEL rich.  That’s the crux of it.  Comparison hits the rich as much as the poor.

In the UK we’re in the top 10% rich in the world, but do we feel it?  Do we actually know (as in know in reality), that we are rich because we have a loo in our house?

The things we take for granted are the very things that make us rich in monetary terms.

  • Running water
  • Sanitation
  • Free education
  • Housing
  • NHS and so on

Or, do we feel like these things don’t make us rich, that they’re just there, a normal part of life.

I think that’s what it must be like for those really money-rich people who don’t feel rich.  To them it’s just normal, there’s always someone else richer, someone else with a bigger yacht; what they have has been taken for granted, they want or need more.

It wasn’t until we got home from the service that I realise quite how much I live in lack.  Sometimes I do feel poor and I didn’t even know it.  Not because I am poor but habitually I tell myself I am lacking and socially I am told I am lacking.

We are told we are lacking as a woman (or man), as a teenager, lacking as a Mum, lacking as a friend, lacking in sleep, lacking in energy, lacking in expensive shoes and a walk in wardrobe.

The tv / social media/ radio bombards us with things that the marketeers are trying to sell that will make our lives easier, better happier and more efficient.

My cup overflows but if I could just get through this hard bit with the kids, then I’ll be happier.

I am blessed but if only that person over there would stop letting me down. ‘

I am so grateful for ………..’, but if I could just have a little bit more time/energy/sleep/work/money……

It says in the Word that we already have enough, more than enough.  In fact Jesus teaches us more than that, he tells us give!  To give everything freely over to him in thankfulness and praise.

In prison Paul says ‘What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ’.  Phil 3:8, How amazing is that, locked up, in chains, definitely not rich in money or freedom, full of praise and rich beyond measure.

So how can we go from knowing we are rich to feeling rich? Gratitude is the key here; Adam spoke about gratitude and breaking the habit of feeling we’re in lack.  We need a process, that of gratitude, bringing our list of blessings to God in thanks.  Gratitude means giving up control and giving control over to God will transform our minds.  That’s so hard isn’t it to break that habit? Giving control over to Jesus, to say thank you when you’re desperate for change, to give over control to God without knowing what will happen, if anything? To be thankful when things aren’t going our way.

Gratitude is being thankful for no more and no less than what we have right now.  If nothing were to ever change (ever!) we are still thankful.  THAT. IS. HARD. and that is being grateful.  The more we do it the more the habit becomes a natural one of praise and feeling rich, happy and successful.

Start small and start simple.  It’s harvest time and this time of year we bring our offering, our first fruits, everything we’ve been growing over the year and bring it to the harvest table.  In our minds too we can bring all of our spiritual growth and offer thanks for it.  An offering of thanks to God for everything and everyone He has provided for us.

Another simple tool to gratitude is to write down 10 things every week that we are grateful for, also called counting your blessings.  Start really small, the most basic of things.  Our roof, the jumper on our back, food in our cupboard, a bed, running water; then we might include the little nuances that make our lives unique, that you got a card from someone or you helped someone open a door.  Maybe a friend offered a complement or you broke down but got picked up, anything at all.  Write it down and thank God for it.  Over time you will find that you ‘feel’ more rich.

We might never be ‘Simon Cowell’ rich, but all money really does is buy freedom, that’s what people are chasing after. The truth is we can all choose to be free to feel rich, the reality is that Jesus bought that for us that freedom already.

gratitude quote

 

 

Youth Ministry Update – Claire Hardy

So things have wound down in YCC youth work for the Summer, we finished on the weekend of the 19th July with parties in all of the youth groups and a great trip to the beach with the older youth.

We now go quiet for the summer whilst we pray and dream about the next year of youth work and will be back in September!

We have had an amazing Summer term with the young people in YCC and our highlights have been:

  • Seeing 8 of the young people being baptised in the sea at West Bay and hearing their stories of what God has done in their lives
  • Starting a Youth Alpha follow on group for those who became Christians during Youth Alpha and seeing them grow in their faith and wanting to carry on next year!
  • Taking young people on three camps- a girls camp called Inside Out Beauty, a boys camp called Live Football and taking boys and girls to an activity camp called Spree! Camps are always a great opportunity to get to know young people more and to see them growing in their faith, wherever they may be on the journey.

This Summer a few of our older young people are helping us lead the Youth venue at New Wine Week Two and then there are 24 of us going to Soul Survivor, a youth festival at the Bath and West Showground with over 8000 young Christians! We are really looking forward to going away together and would love your prayers for God to do amazing things in the young people’s lives.

When we look back on the last year of youth work it is incredible to see all that God has done, the prayers he has answered and the transformation we see in young people’s lives and we look forward to seeing all the young people when we return in September, and can’t wait to see all God will do next year.

– Claire

Christians Against Poverty Ministry Update – Steve Hart

CAP_logo_greenThe Yeovil Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre is one of over 270 Centres in the UK and whilst based in St Johns Church Yeovil, the Centre is very much in partnership with other Churches in Yeovil & the surrounding area, and the award winning National Debt Charity Christians Against Poverty.  CAP was established in 1996 by John Kirkby in Bradford, where he used his experience in the consumer finance industry to help those struggling under the burden of unmanageable debt.

Whether people are feeling the weight of debt, struggling to find work or just need a bit of help budgeting – CAP can help and over 38,000 people a year are helped nationally through free debt help, job clubs, addiction groups and CAP Money Courses.  The Yeovil Centre provides debt help and CAP Money Courses to help with budgeting.

Debt can be a devastating experience and many people, especially the poorest and most marginalised in society, can find it virtually impossible to resolve the problem themselves, even if excellent advice has been given.  Repeated phone calls and letters from creditors can result in feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, causing family break-ups and even suicide.  Shockingly, one third of CAP clients surveyed have said they considered or attempted suicide before seeking help.  Hence, CAP’s free professional service is specifically tailored for the poor and socially marginalised.

The Yeovil CAP Debt Centre has been in existence since May 2011 and since then over 170 people have contacted CAP from the Yeovil area of which over 40 have become debt free and 17 have become Christians.

Following my appointment on 17 Nov 14 as the Centre Manager, my dream is to see the Centre supported by the Church in Yeovil, which is made up of many denominations.  Since my appointment, Yeovil Community Church and St Peters (on the Westfield Estate) have agreed to become Associate Partners with St Johns, and I’m continually blessed by so many other congregations joining the local Centre in support of CAP on its journey of helping people become debt free.  As the Centre continues to grow, more debt coaches will be able to visit people in their homes, listen to their situation and provide a real solution to their debts, in what may seem a hopeless situation.  There is hope and we aim to be used by God to this end.

We have a ‘Drop-In’ from 10am to midday every Thursday in St Johns (in the town centre) and today we had a couple that came in for help with their paperwork.  I asked how they found out about CAP and was encouraged by their response.  “We had some money stolen, which meant we couldn’t afford to shop for any food.  When we arrived home very stressed, a Yarlington support worker had just arrived on our doorstep to see how we were.  We shared our situation and immediately she ordered a food parcel for us from the Lord’s Larder food bank.  When it arrived we found a CAP flyer and though we had heard of CAP before, we realised that we needed to ask them for help.  So we rang CAP and we are now thankful that CAP are helping us become debt free!”

This just goes to show how agencies are working together and helping people in so many different ways.

I continually ask Christians if they want to be involved in what is an incredible ministry that expresses itself via relationships as it connects with people, has an amazing story to tell, serves the church, and is clearly part of God’s plan in helping to transform communities across the UK.  Therefore, if this is you, why don’t you speak to me and find out more.  My email address is stevehart@capuk.org

Steve Hart

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