They See What We’re Doing

14 02 2014

By Andrew Fellows, Derbyshire, England

I have always considered myself fortunate to live in the United Kingdom. We have one of the world’s best welfare systems. Not only is there a state pension, a minimum wage, and free medical care, but the government provides financial support for the sick, injured, disabled, and unemployed.

At least that’s the idea. So why are 12.3 million people in poverty?

When a homeless person finds accommodation and moves to a new benefit system, financial support is halted, and the individual needs to reapply. This results in a funding problem. Whenever a family moves to a different house or applies for a different benefit, there is a delay. During this time nothing is paid.

Wages are static, but the basic cost of living, food, heating, and electricity are rising above inflation. A recent report from The Guardian newspaper suggested that hundreds of thousands of families have used up all their savings. They’re just one unexpected bill away from falling into debt and poverty.

This is where Clay Cross Foodbank comes in.

Clay Cross Foodbank shows the compassion of Jesus in offering food to people going hungry. We offer three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced meals. We provide a stop-gap, non-judgmental listening ear and referral to other organizations, charities, and churches.

We collect our food from public donations, engaging the community in becoming part of the solution. In one weekend we collected over 1.6 tons of food by asking shoppers, as they entered a supermarket, to buy an extra can or two for us. We are persuading schools and churches to collect, too.

We empower 30 professional agencies to refer families and individuals to Community of Christ, where we operate Clay Cross Foodbank.

The result of all this is reflected in James, who has a wife and two children. He works, but at a low wage. He arrived at our church in Clay Cross on his motorbike. We accepted his food voucher and offered him soup and bread.

He and his wife have mental-health issues. They were having problems claiming benefits. I called his case worker, who explained the family had applied, but there had been a delay. The family had spent all its savings and had not eaten properly for four days.

We were able to help. There were so many bags that James had to take what he could and come back for the rest. He returned with a friend and son. The boy exclaimed, “Look Daddy—food!” James just grinned!

It all started when my wife, Helen, and I had the vision of doing more to aid our communities after I attended the Tackling Poverty Together Conference. Many churches were represented. The event showed me churches could regain relevance in our communities and start to fulfill the mission of Jesus.

So with new vigor I started to look at the community’s needs. I learned about the Trussell Trust, a Christian organization that heads the largest network of food banks in the United Kingdom. My congregation was amazingly supportive. A World Hunger grant through the Mission Initiative of Abolish Poverty, End Suffering ensured we could make it happen.

I have begun to realize how all the Mission Initiatives have to fit together to complete the picture, and how one project can give so many opportunities.

Running the food bank has been a steep learning curve. We have had to learn to accept people as they are and to train our members and volunteers. We face challenges at each step. As we coach our volunteers, I realize we’re practicing the Mission Initiative of Develop Disciples to Serve.

Our whole congregation is involved. Through this we Experience Congregations in Mission.

At Clay Cross Foodbank we get to know our clients. We are attracting non-Christian volunteers who value what we’re doing. We offer both groups a chance to become part of our church family. It’s a step toward the initiative of Invite People to Christ.

When I meet care professionals, counselors, and church leaders they sometimes say our food bank is letting the government off its welfare promises, and that it’s not our responsibility. But we believe we are carrying out Christ’s mission. Doing nothing is not an option. The Trussell Trust uses our data to campaign nationally to bring justice to the people we serve at food banks across the United Kingdom. We help to Pursue Peace on Earth.

A wonderful by-product is that for the first time in years churches are starting to work together. We meet other Christians and encourage them to help.

Our volunteers come from several supporting churches, non-Christian friends, and local people. We are starting to attract previous clients who want to give something back.

In the first 2½ months, we fed 150 people with 1,350 meals. We are changing lives in our community and showing people what being a Christian is all about.

We are called to be at the forefront of such organizations. I now feel other Christians judge Community of Christ in Clay Cross by what they can see us doing.



One response

14 02 2014

Reblogged this on Terryflowers Blog.

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