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9th September 2015
This blog post originally appeared on the Jubilee+ website on Tuesday and is used with permission.
On Thursday I was wandering around my local supermarket trying not to cry. I was in the toothpaste aisle buying tubes to send to Calais, when I spotted the milk teeth toothpaste. It made me immediately think of the image of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the beach a few days ago.
I'm often moved by the news, but not usually to tears. On Thursday I couldn't stop myself from crying several times, which is really unlike me. Mostly it was the harrowing image of the little boy – I started imagining his family fleeing from their home, considering it safer in a small rubber dingy in the sea than on the land.
But it was also feeling incapacitated by compassion – I felt compelled to act yet had no idea what I could do. And I felt simultaneously baffled and outraged at some of the attitudes I was reading on social media.
"We have to look after our own first" was one comment that left me indignant. Our own what? Fellow human beings?! Are people seriously suggesting that we turn our faces away from desperate people risking their lives and the lives of their children to find hope for a future?
"But we can't let everyone in!" No, perhaps not, but is that really what comes out of our mouths in response to 3,400 refugees who have died trying to cross water to reach safety?
A central tenet of the Christian faith is that every life matters – every single person has inherent value, no matter who they are, where they're from, or what they've done, because their worth is based on the One in whose image they are made: God.
What's more, God has always required His people to extend the mercy He has shown them to others who need their help. Take Deuteronomy 10:17-19, for example: "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt."
Or look again at the story of the Good Samaritan, where Jesus makes it crystal clear that His followers can longer define their neighbour as just the person living in their city.
For the Christian, the Bible really leaves us no choice but to show mercy, kindness and compassion to our fellow humans, whether they live next door to us or oceans away. But crying about it isn't enough – catching God's heart is fundamentally important, but so is demonstrating it to people made in His image who He loves.
The one thing that was a joy to watch on Thursday was the rising number of people signing a petition to get the Government to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK. When I signed it in the early hours of Thursday morning, it was at 49,000 signatures. By Saturday morning well over 400,000 people had signed it – the highest number of signatures on any Parliamentary petition of its kind.
As well as signing the petition, which forced a Government debate on the subject, there are other things we can do – we don't have to be incapacitated by our compassion.
Firstly, we can pray.
Secondly, we can give – there are a number of charities working in war-torn countries in the Middle East (for example, Tearfund and Christian Aid) and a simple search on Facebook of the word 'Calais' brings up numerous pages about local groups taking clothing, toiletries, etc., over to the refugees in Calais.
Thirdly, and more radically, could you provide a home for a refugee? The Government has now committed to taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees by the General Election in 2020, but there are 60 million displaced people in the world today according to the UN. It's estimated that if every council in the UK took in 10 refugee families, there would be nearly 10,000 more refugees cared for. If that's what councils could do, what could churches do? There are many more churches than councils in the UK. Could we be a significant part of the solution to the refugee crisis? If you think that your family or church could, get in touch with Citizens UK or Home for Good for advice on how to go about it.
Fourthly, if your church wants to help, wants to connect with those who are helping, or is already taking action, please get in touch with Jubilee+. We want to help you to network and coordinate practical support.
Finally, and crucially, keep asking God to align your heart with His, so that you reflect His heart to those around you, whether that's through direct contact with refugees or in conversations with your friends and family. Don't walk by on the other side, even in your heart and thoughts.
Jubilee+ has produced a briefing paper for churches on the refugee crisis. You can download it here.
Jubilee+'s fifth annual Churches that Change Communities conference takes place in East Grinstead in October – the early bird rate closes on Friday 18 September, so book here if you'd like to go!
Posted by Natalie Williams
18th February 2015
Two of our leadership team recently had the privilege of spending a week with our good friend Praveen Darole at his church in India.
Paul and Aled spent a week in January with members of Life Church (formerly known as JVK) in Mumbai, seeing how the church operates and teaching the leaders in different areas of church life. (Pictures below taken by Aled.)
After arriving and settling in on the Saturday (which included washing with a bucket of cold water!) they spent the Sunday at Life Church. The church has a Hindi congregation of around 200 meeting regularly in a schoolyard in Mumbai, and is led by Praveen, who visited us here at King's in August. Indian dress was a part of the day and, after a warm welcome, Paul preached in the morning. He said, "We strengthened our friendship with Praveen, and also got to meet more people from the church. They're at a really exciting and formative time and they're looking to plant an English congregation on the same site."
After the meeting, Paul and Aled travelled to a leader's weekend away called Builder's Camp, where several church leaders ("a great bunch of leaders", to quote Paul) from across the area met together for a few days. As with our recent conference in Hastings, this was an opportunity for many to experience God's Father-heart, and also to learn more about the future of the church.
They travelled back from the camp on Tuesday, and on the way they had a chance to play cricket with locals on the beach!
On the Wednesday, they visited a children's day-care centre run by the church in a slum in Kendra. This centre has been supported by children from our own NRG and N:gage groups, who have generously sent over £1,000 to support them.
Aled said, "Although resources are limited in the slums, the work that the day-care centres were carrying out was brilliant. There were plenty of opportunities to build links with non-Christian families, and the church has been carrying out some really important work."
Aled visited three slums during his visit, explaining: "There's huge wealth in small pockets, but there's poverty everywhere." He added that even the more organised slums were surrounded by rubbish, and elsewhere people were literally living on the side of the road, but "through so much poverty there was so much joy – we don't realise how blessed we are".
Later in the week Paul and Aled visited a children's centre in a church in Kalyan, which was over an hour's train journey away. Aled also spent some time teaching the worship teams, and although there was a power-cut one evening, it wasn't enough to stop them worshipping! They even knew one of the songs from the King's Church debut album Found in You.
From experiencing chaotic traffic to equipping leaders in how to manage growth for the next stages of the church, the trip was an exciting experience. Aled said, "Everyone was so hungry for God. There was so much genuine contentment and joy."
We're blessed to be part of an international family of churches and to have such deepening friendships with people in other parts of the world. Paul summed up by saying: "I'm really excited about where our friendship with them will go in the future. I think it wasn't just a one-off trip for us; we want to continue to stand with them, support them, partner with them as they look to achieve things in India, and it's just a real privilege to get to know them better and enjoy friendship with them.
"It felt really fruitful and we're looking forward to seeing how that friendship will continue to develop over the next few years."
Posted by Sian Francis-Cox
26th November 2014
For our 40th birthday party on Saturday night, former members of King's Church Hastings sent us birthday greetings by video from around the world. Watch below to see messages from the Philippines, USA, France, New Zealand and more...
Posted by Natalie Williams
4th April 2014
My husband Steve and I were on our way to Bulgaria for a holiday in the early 1990s. After we had booked, we met a young Bulgarian man who was looking for a lively church in Hastings. In conversation he told us he'd had to leave his home because of his Christian beliefs. He had been to a Bible college in Scandanavia, but after communism collapsed, he had returned to his home to see his parents and to Burghas where he had been a member of a evangelical church, which had just reopened.
This man had come to England to improve his English. As we talked, he realised we were going to be staying just three kilometres from his parents – he asked if we would visit them, so we said we would be happy to meet them. He then told us of the plight of his church – all of their Bibles had been confiscated when the communists took over the country and now they were very scarce and materials for children's work were non-existent. So we decided to try to help them. We contacted a company called No Frontiers that translated Bibles and other Christian materials in every language and we bought a supply of Bibles and children's material to take with us.
So here we were on our way, the flight was delayed, but we eventually boarded just before midnight. The plane was very antiquated, it looked like it had been hand-painted! Our seats were at the back, I looked under the seat for the life jacket but there wasn't one there, my husband had one and I just hoped they would have spares if we needed them! Hopefully we wouldn't.
At about 1am they put a plank across the aisle and said the bar is now open: all they were serving was spirits and vodka mostly; all I wanted at that time was a cup of tea! So I declined and tried to sleep. We eventually landed in Bulgaria. We had to pay for visas to get in the country. Then I noticed people were in a queue with their luggage and as I watched I saw they were scanning people's luggage before they were allowed into the country – at that time we had never experienced that before.
We joined the queue apprehensively. We weren't sure about our case full of literature – I rather felt we would be in trouble! I looked at my husband and could see he was worried too, but we just had to bluff it out; I started praying desperately for a miracle. I came out in a cold sweat and started shaking, my husband held my hand to hide our nervousness.
Our cases were just approaching the scanner when suddenly there was a tremendous argument going on: a Bulgarian lady was screaming and shouting at one of the passport control officers, she was waving her arms and everybody stopped to watch, including the officer in charge of the scanner. Our cases passed through the scanner without anyone watching what was in them! When the shouting stopped the officer didn't seem to realise our cases had not been examined, he smiled at us and we were through. I have no idea what the commotion was about but I know the timing was of the Lord's, he was looking after us and His Word!
The church was very grateful for the literature, which made it all worth it. We went on to enjoy our holiday and meeting the parents of the young Bulgarian. His mother and sister later became Christians and we remained friends with his mother – she came to stay with us when he later married an English girl. We will always remember our first experience of Bulgaria!
The original version of this story appears on Heather's blog.
Image: 'Bibles' by GeoWombat.
Posted by Heather Benn