Jesus tells us that the good news of God’s kingdom was for people whom the Jews thought had no standing before God. They were not God’s chosen people, they were Gentiles, they were the marginalised, the ones God didn’t care about.
But Jesus showed us that the people to whom he brings hope, the people who are to see God’s glory, are the outsiders, those people whom we rather despise. Those whom society despises.
Perhaps it is human nature to ignore what is difficult to process. People seem to become invisible to most of the world once they've taken a path which leads them too far out of the mainstream. Once outside of everyday, acceptable society, people function in their own underworld. They can pass under the radar and live in circumstances we like to think we'd never let our friend or neighbour cope with alone. The homeless, asylum seekers, people suffering with mental illness.
There is a huge amount of stigma and ignorance.
God’s heart is for these people. I am delighted that in the coming weeks Alice Hicks is going to come and give her testimony about living with mental illness; our friends Ruth Bravery will talk about the Newham Renewal Programme, and Sheena Dykes will speak from Wycombe Homeless. And then finally a new initiative – Rob Stevenette from Transforming Lives for Good.
I hope that as we listen to their stories, we will be moved to ask what we can do to show the love of God in practical ways.
13 May Ruth Bravery Newham Renewal Programme
27 May Alice Hicks Alice's Mad Hatter Tea Parties
10 June Rob Stevenette Transforming Lives for Good
24 June Sheena Dykes Wycombe Homeless Connection.
Ruth Bravery, Newham Renewal Programme
Ruth is CEO of the Renewal Programme. The charity has been working with the community in Newham to transform and inspire lives for over 45 years. Their services are taken up by over 5,000 people a year who are facing challenges in their life because they might be a carer, a migrant or refugee, homeless, or unable to communicate because English isn't a language they know.
They work with people in a personal way to provide them with the tools and direction to address the challenges they are facing.
We believe stronger communities are created by empowered people, and we hope we are playing our part in creating a stronger community in Newham through the life-changing support we give to so many people.
Alice Hicks Alice's Mad Hatter Tea Parties
Alice Hicks, who herself has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, set up a monthly tea party at her local church in Oxford. “It’s for anyone, but most people here are living with mental health issues in their lives,” said Alice. She realised that mental illness is no respecter of persons or rank and many in the church didn’t know what to do with those suffering from mental illness.
“This is about doing something ordinary and enjoyable, meeting for tea and cake, rather than accessing a formal mental health service.” Alice said. Her friend Rosemary: “A lot of us are isolated and I know when I am unwell I am very much alone. This is a place where people can get together and meet people.”
We often won’t talk about mental illness because of the stigma attached to it. Alice has created a safe space where people living with mental health issues can come and get together and enjoy company and friendship.
Rob Stevenette Transforming Lives for Good
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG) exists to bring hope and a future to struggling children. Every day, there are children across the UK that are facing difficult circumstances in their lives or tragic situations such as bereavement, family breakdown, poverty or being in the care system. TLG look to bring a hope and a future to children and families together with partner churches across the UK.
They intervene at the crossroads to bring support and care to make sure that children have hope for the future and that their life is not over before it’s even started. This may be through a volunteer offering one to one help to act as a mentor, right through to intensive support of young people and their families that have been excluded from school.
Sheena Dykes Wycombe Homeless Connection.
Wycombe Homeless Connection was started by local churches in 2007 out of Christian concern for the poor state of local rough sleepers they were in contact with. The charity’s first project was the Wycombe Winter Night Shelter, which still runs annually. Soon afterwards, year-round advice and support services were added because people were becoming homeless all year. Unfortunately, it’s still happening. They have four objectives: to reduce the harms of homelessness without creating dependency; to help homeless people find or keep accommodation; to help people reconnect with the community; and to help people get any official help they are entitled to.
With thanks to Tim Baynes for the photo of Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz