Wild and precious lives

We live in Hull, where we spend much of our time listening, learning, agitating, discerning, imagining and creating, and supporting those living on the margins who do not yet know their worth, write Anna and Chris Hembury.

We do this through creating and curating mutually supportive spaces such as a breakfast club, weekly community meals, a group for young people exploring faith for the first time, a sewing collective and other community initiatives. All of our work is about doing life together with others, not simply doing things for them. All of it is about sharing the Jesus we know and discovering what others have to teach us about ourselves and about God. Two recent stories offer a snapshot of our work:

Chris Hembury repoints bricks with (anonymised) young man
Rebuilding the barbecue that had been destroyed

When timing is everything

We often find that youth work can be a fine balance between encouraging and teaching. Part of our mission is about finding that particular question, the one that stops a teenager in their tracks, makes them assess where they’re at and change direction. It could be a question about work, education or faith. In the words of the poet Mary Oliver: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

But what turns a good question into a life-changing one? Timing. Recently, Chris felt somehow pressed to ask a question of a local lad who lives on our street, comes to youth club and hangs out in the community garden whenever he wants somewhere to chill. Did he have any thoughts on who may have kicked in the side of our brick-built barbecue in the community garden?

Chris was realistically pessimistic about getting the answer he was looking for (or hoping for) but the timing seemed apposite. To his surprise, the lad owned up without flinching to the fact that he had kicked the wall in. It wasn’t an intentionally malicious act and nothing against us; he was just having some growing-up-teenageboy fun (also known as showing off).

The next timely question Chris asked was, did he fancy helping rebuild it? Again without flinching, he said yes. And so a few days later they spent a couple of hours together mixing cement, re-laying the bricks, finished off with a bit of pointing and then, of course, the necessary standing back and marvelling at their handiwork.

When what you need seems impossible

Our friend Jenny (who comes to our breakfast club) lives in a five-bedroom house, which she has rented for 10 years. She has put time and effort into decorating it from top to bottom and making it into a beautiful home for her and her family. Last summer, she was informed by her landlord that he had decided to put the house on the market with immediate effect. Suddenly, Jenny found herself showing potential buyers around her family home.

Jenny and her large family would require a similar size property to move into, but this was a near-impossible ask given that virtually all the five-bedroom houses in our area have been turned into flats. Jenny, who already suffers from depression and stress-related illness, was devastated and at a loss, under pressure to take the only option of moving her family to the other side of the city where there was suitable housing stock. This option was far from ideal, however, as it would be far from her support network and community and her children’s schools.

We told Jenny that we would pray and encouraged her to pray for a miracle herself, asking God that the landlord would change his mind and take the house off the market. Two months later the landlord did exactly that and Jenny was able to sign a new contract!

This, for us, is kingdom stuff – seeing God’s will being done on earth in ordinary, everyday situations where we’ve been privileged to walk alongside people and see God make more than a marginal difference.

Published 25 February 2019
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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