Beyond the Ache

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Ahhh my head is full! Four weeks ago I was checking into a flight at Heathrow airport. From there myself and two others, Anika and Leah, were headed to Cape Town South Africa. I have already shared the story of ‘Sallie’ in a previous post but those two weeks were crammed full with connections, meals, […]

Talitha

Sallie came across as we walked in her direction. Of all the ladies we spoke to this evening she was one of the best dressed, she wore good quality make up and her hair was nicely done with highlights. The conversation was in Africaans, so I didn’t get much of it, Caroline stopped to quickly fill me in: ‘ Sallie had been working at the bakers but they soon found out that she previously worked the streets and so had told her they had no more work for her.’ This had happened a few times over the last few months, her ‘boyfriend’ would always turn up at the new work place and tell stories about what ‘she was really like’ and then the work would stop; she had no alternative but to return to the streets, believing what she was being told – that she was worthy of nothing more.

I picked up the gist as Caroline proceeded to tell the story of Rahab, a prostitute who had helped God’s servants and so been blessed – God honoured her and she became the ancestor of the great King David … and of Jesus, God’s own son. The message was clear as tears filled Sallie’s eyes – there is a God who loves and honours people as broken and cast off as she. The conversation continued and we ended with a prayer, we found a clean tissue and gave some homemade sandwiches; Sallie went her way and we moved on.

Sallie was one of about 10 ladies who between us we stopped and spent time with this evening. A little while ago, one afternoon, Sallie had got herself together and with her kids had headed off to the church. ‘Mum, where are we going?’ ‘We’re going to church, ‘cos I’m going to give my life to Jesus again.’ When they got to the church the person she was expecting to meet wasn’t there, Sallie returned home disappointed.

She is longing to return to Jesus but she’s not sure if she can count on the people at church. If she goes will she be introduced as ‘one of the ladies we minister to on a Tuesday night down town’? Will she ever find the fresh start that she so desperately wants. She approaches every glimmer of hope braced for a revisit from her past through well-meaning and malevolent means alike; expecting the bubble to burst at any moment.

The ransom that Jesus paid for Sallie’s redemption was his life, in no universe can that have been in vain. But the powers of darkness and our own well-meant ignorance can sometimes create a perfect storm through which that redemption has to push in order to meet its mark.  Will the body of Christ stand up and push back the darkness so that Sallie, her kids and the hundreds in your neighbourhood like her, can find the life that Christ purchased for them?

Talitha Koum – little girl, get up.  That’s the name of this group because they believe that inside every lady that they meet on the street is a little girl that Jesus is gently calling back to life again.

want to be inspired?

Hi, this week i posted two new links on my blog, i’d love you to have a look if you havent already. You’ll find them on the left under ‘newsletters’. the first is the most recent edition of Beyond the Horizon, a vibrant collection of stories and interviews with youth and community workers on the front line in the countries across the two thirds world. the second is an exciting report of the last 18 months or so here in the UK with Fusion. i KNOW you will be inspired by one or other of these and i will be suprised if you’re not encouraged by both!!

Thank you Majesty

Yesterday I helped to run a training day for a group of 20 people wanting to explore how they can help their communities come together. I was able to share a bit of my recent experience at a festival in Jamaica.

When i was there a few weeks ago, we had a week of training in which we took a group of 30 people on a personal and group journey that culminated in a community festival at Majesty Gardens. As you know from my last blog, this was my first time in Jamaica, i was struck by the incredible natural beauty of the place – i only caught glimpses of it as we journeyed between Kingston in the south east and Duncans in the north west of the Island. Travelling through the lush, precarious mountains, traversing huge rivers in deep valeys, running along side the beautiful coastline, was incredible despite multiple near misses on the roads and passing several serious road accidents. It would have been nice to have the space to enjoy the beauty more, but alas time (and possibly my nerves!) did not permit.

Majesty Gardens is one of the rougher communities in the suburbs of Kingston. It’s very similar to Alexandra, Johannesburg or Nassarawa, Kaduna. Similar chaos of homes and shelters, brick and corrugated iron dwellings, open sewers, fine cars and barefoot kids, the beautifully dressed and the unkempt; yetwithall it is home to and loved by members of the Fusion team in Kingston. Each year the guys run a foundations course in January and the participants become the team for a festival at Majesty Gardens.
At the end of the festival it was moving to hear team members who have grown up in Majesty Gardens describe with tears in their eyes the meaning of the festival and what they had seen take place during those few hours in their home town. For me it was a reminder of what can take place when a small group of people love Jesus enough to band together and reach out to others, willing to make the effort to bring another reality into being.

I noticed what seemed to me to be a unique harsh edginess amongst the young people and kids at Majesty, you saw it in their interactions with each other, their keenness to see what they could get away with and a flavour of violence that laced their presence. So, into that imagine the significance of helping a child learn to walk on stilts, looking into their eyes and giving quiet words of encouragement, seeing their face erupt into smiles and reflecting them back. Or sitting on a door step with a bunch of young boys, at the end of the festival, just chatting about this and that, answering their questions about places they had only every heard of. There was a young boy about 10 years old who was deaf and dumb who spent the afternoon being carried on a team members back or learning to walk on stilts, relishing being smiled on and looked at in the eye. One of our team spoke in amazement about his next door neighbour, with some level of intellectual impairment and who was not known to have engaged in conversation with anyone in the last 12 years – at the festival this man was engaging with the team and others and even spoke over the microphone.

Something significant happens when a bunch of mates gather and create a safe place where others can come, where the forgotten ones are seen – life and joy are wooed and slowly emerge. In some places it happens quickly, other places like Majesty, the change takes years, but if we will just hang on… it comes.

I lost a day….

I have lost a day! It’s a most disconcerting feeling. I have been accustomed of late to have a sense of what friends and colleagues in three of four different countries are doing on a given day, and now I don’t even know what I am doing! Two days ago I left the UK on the double long-haul flight to Australia only to find that it was three days ago…

I am what my friend termed a ‘portable’ member of the staff of my organization. Two and a half weeks ago I was asked to consider spending the rest of the year based in Tasmania, Aus. This is where our organization’s headquarters and training hub is. I am to join the team that runs a 6 month residential training course for youth and community workers. Depending on how you choose to view things I could be filling in a gap, coming to the rescue in a crisis, taking a strategic step towards the establishment of a similar course in Europe and Africa in keeping with my general ‘calling’, or just going where my yoke partner seems to be leading. In truth its probably a mixture of all of these things, and as I was reflecting this morning, I may not really know what it was for another 10 years.

But here I am in Poatina, weathering one of its famous wind storms that seem to arrive with alarming punctuality just before the arrival of large numbers of visitors to the village. Tomorrow, we begin the July Foundations course which will have approximately 100 participants, two thirds of whom are teenagers. The course counts as the first week in the Certificate IV in Youth and Community Work (Christian) that I have come to help with.

Today we had an orientation session for the students, as part of this we braced ourselves against the winds and walked around the village. First stop was the chalet, a restaurant hotel facility that we run here. A team of village members – young and old – were preparing for an 80th birthday party that was booked for the afternoon. When I arrived in the village yesterday, I sat by the wood fire, enjoying a bowl of chips and chicken nuggets as I looked out over the valley. It’s a stunning place to be. Next we visited the offices and then the community hall and Heart FM radio studios and from there we returned to the village CBD… which consists of a general store, post office, gift store (AKA Cheryl’s Shop), the Wombat Boutique (second hand clothes store), gas station and Pigibela Art Galery.

Being part of this community means that you get a turn at least once a week on to work at one of the enterprises, whether its housekeeping at the chalet or manning the garage. Every enterprise is open normal working hours and is maintained by village members. No one gets paid but all the profits go towards our staff and work across the world.

The village was my home for three and a half years until June 2007. It’s a special thing to be back again, much has changed significantly but I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you whatever it may be.

Check out the Poatina blog on:  http://poatina.wordpress.com/

Life in a war zone – Southern Sudan (part four)

I haven’t said much about what we were all doing yet! We were a team of about six, medics and logisticians. The project was focussed on training primary health care workers, midwives, hygiene promoters as well as providing primary health care and treatment for a terrible disease called Kala-azar (visceral leishmeniasis) which had a 95% mortality rate without treatment. We also dug latrines and distributed mosquito nets as well as targeted trachoma prevention in our work with the hygiene promoters. In case this makes me sound like some kind of hero, my job was very much coordinating and facilitating rather than doing!

 

The relationship with the rebel army and the King of Shilluk were both very key to the success of our work. The King sent me (for the team) a prize young bull, I gave him a pen…! We didn’t look after the bull very well and in the end it served us for an end of year feast for all our primary health care workers and team!

 

Every 4 to 6 weeks I would head off to Kenya for R&R, we were given one day for every week we were in the field. I found the beautiful Woburn Residence Club in Malindi on the coast of Kenya. It is still run by an Ely and Franco who trained their chef in Italian cookery. It so happens that most of the times I went there, I was one of a hand full of guests so I often got ‘taylor made’ meals from the chef. I loved being there, it was always refreshing and resting, Ely and Franco have a real gift in hospitality and welcomed me into their lives.

If you get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it! http://www.woburnresidencemalindi.com

 

In the end, the harsh climate and stress from the potential insecurity in the area took its toll on my body and although my contract was for a year and Tearfund were hatching plans for even more work for me down the line, I had to leave. I spent a month in Nairobi seeing doctors, having treatment and running tests, but I didn’t improve and it was decided that I needed to come home. To be in the field in Sudan one had to be fit enough to go on the run in the bush for 24 hours at least, and I was no where near that! It eventually emerged that the giardia, UTI’s, chronic tonsillitis and dehydration had left their mark and I was left with chronic fatigue. I was off sick for a year in which I wrote the book “letters to Kate”, but that’s another story for another time…