Four years ago, I moved from my role working with vulnerable children in Kisoro, Uganda to become a community chaplain on Bradford’s Faxfleet estate. Returning to the city where I did my curacy was, in many ways, like coming home.
But it also confronted me with a kind of poverty more profound than I found in Uganda, and that’s why I’m writing today, to ask for your support for CMS mission in the UK.
In Kisoro, almost everyone has someone. Although so many are struggling, there is help from extended family networks and the local community. But in Faxfleet, as in many other parts of the UK, community and even primary family structures are so broken that many find themselves destitute.
"The good news is that when we respond to this call, change happens."
Home for Shirley (name changed), a mother of three, has been a tent in the woods for the last seven months. With no income or benefits, she only eats when she’s made it to the food bank. I knew she was due to see her children on Christmas Eve this year, empty-handed.
An outpouring of kindness from the people of the city resulted in a store of donated presents at the cathedral, and I was given some to distribute. So I invited Shirley to my house to choose and wrap gifts for her children. She doesn’t know Christ yet, but I’m praying that this tiny glimpse of grace might be the start of her journey.
For many, Faxfleet is a place of division and despair. Lax landlords leave tenants with inadequate heating, dangerous wiring and unsanitary conditions. Vandalism, arson and fly-tipping are rife, and people are frightened and lonely.
A few frail elderly people find themselves unable to sell the homes they bought years ago, as their value has eroded. They’ve been joined by people from a mix of nationalities, unfamiliar with each other’s cultures and languages, and struggling in isolation with their own issues. So many people I know are waiting tensely for the knock on the door that spells deportation or eviction.
"At a PCC meeting, we suddenly realised that our little church has more than doubled in size."
Our postcode is notorious, and outsiders avoid it like the plague. But God’s people are here, as in many other places across the UK, working to share the love of God with people who only know Jesus’ name as a swear word.
Mission partners Andrew and Faye Parfitt, for example, work with asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, including many from Muslim backgrounds, like Hashem (name changed) from Iran. Barred from working during the long and complicated asylum process, he now chooses instead to value the time this releases for him to study the Bible.
These people, mourning the loss of their loved ones, home, nation and identity, are poor – poor materially and poor in spirit. The Parfitts are here to show them that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Like me, the Parfitts have worked overseas with CMS. They can also attest that the opportunities and needs are just as great in the UK. Yet, finding financial support for UK work is often much harder.
Could you support Church Mission Society’s people in mission across the UK as we work to bring hope instead of despair?
The good news is that when we respond to this call, change happens. The light breaks in, and it’s powerful.
I saw this recently, at a PCC meeting. As we were listing members of the church in order to organise visits, we suddenly realised that our little church has more than doubled in size.
When people who have known little but isolation and rejection discover themselves to be seen, valued and loved, their lives start to change. Like Leanne (name changed), a single mum with six children, each with a different dad. After starting to come along to Thursday family church, she found faith in Christ and decided to have her children baptised.
Leanne has such new joy and energy. She is now even helping to lead some of our church sessions. Life is certainly not easy for her, but now she has hope.
The UK is a wealthy country, and many are clearly thriving. But the reality is that so many others in our nation feel utterly abandoned and without hope or help. They matter so dearly to God, and what breaks my heart is that they just don’t know it.
Will you make a gift today to help us reach them?