Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: charity

Weighed

Today’s Lent word, weighed, reminded me of a cold night when I was volunteering with a Christian charity working with women in the sex industry. I was on the outreach van, driving round the red light district looking out for working women in need of food and a safe place to rest and chat for a few minutes.

It was late when we spotted one of our regulars on her way out to work. She was limping along, painfully and slowly, clutching the arm of her ‘boyfriend’. The van pulled alongside and my team-mate and I jumped out.

‘Hi Molly*, would you like a hot chocolate?’

With her boyfriend’s permission, Molly climbed onto the van. She wrapped her hands around the beaker of hot chocolate and slipped the cheese sandwich and crisps into her bag for later.

‘How’s your leg?’ We looked at her with concern.

‘It really hurts.’

We could see Molly was in a lot of pain. All we could do was urge her to see a doctor and offer to accompany her if that would help.

Her boyfriend was hovering outside the van. She needed to start work. So we held hands and quickly prayed with her.

The step down from the van was high and Molly hesitated, trying to figure out how to get down without jarring her painful leg. My team-mate and I glanced at one another and I nodded. I jumped down onto the pavement and held up my hands.

‘Come on Molly, I’ll lift you down.’

She weighed nothing. I’d worried that I might drop her or hurt her bad leg. But she felt weightless in my arms. I’m not sure to this day whether God gave me supernatural strength to lift this precious child He loved or whether she was so skinny as to be almost weightless. Either way, Molly was safely off the van.

But I had tears in my eyes having to watch her limp away with her boyfriend. On the corner, a client was already waiting.

 

 

* Name changed to protect identity

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Ordinary Miracles

Challenging, exhilarating, faith-raising, adventure-stirring, full of ouch moments.

Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places by Chris Lane is about making friends and being church on an inner-city estate. The author is open, honest and real, telling it like it is. Sometimes you are blown away by what God does, other times there are no happy endings. It’s messy and complicated but heart-warming.

I was struck by God being at work in every place at all times. So often I pray asking him to be at work in this and that. This book opened my eyes to the fact that He is already at work and it’s we who need to tune in to what He is doing in any given situation. I find this really exciting: being able to show people where God is already at work in their lives (I’ve already been able to put this into practice with a lovely woman I met in the red light district). Chris writes:

I now get offended when I hear a place or a person being described as ‘godless’, because I think it is an offence to our God who is always reaching out, always seeking the lost, always bringing His light into the darkest places. He asks that we follow Him to those people and places.

I think this makes life more challenging (in a good way) because we can’t just write off people of whom we disapprove. If our God is already reaching out to them, we need to be big-hearted enough to follow Him. Challenging!

This book also raises my faith for miracles to happen. Chris is open and honest about how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone to offer to pray with strangers in the pub or in the street. Yet when he made the effort, things happened. People were healed physically and emotionally, and situations changed. God’s presence fell on the least likely people and they were astounded to discover He loved them.

Your church may run a food bank,
but who sits around your dinner table?

Finally, I was hugely challenged by the need to share life with people different to me. It’s not enough to do a few acts of charity, and retreat. Jesus didn’t work that way. He shared life with people. As Chris points out in the book, a lot of the Gospels is about Jesus eating and spending time with ‘sinners’. He didn’t have projects, He had friends. Chris’ church is based around a dinner table and everyone is welcome. Not just a nice ideal, but a messy reality. This particular passage has stayed with me:

When all our connections with those different to us are based on the modern idea of charity, we are able to hold people at arm’s length, while easing our consciences that we are making a difference in the world. Jesus goes much further than this, and challenges us to do the same. Your church may run a food bank, but who sits around your dinner table?

Ouch. That last sentence makes me deeply uncomfortable…. And it’s right that it does. But what are Adi and I going to do about it…?

Ordinary miracles should come with a health warning. If read thoughtfully, life may never be the same again….

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

 

 

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