Sunday, 30 October 2011

Life in Catford - Lasting Fruit

The challenge of leading a project like the Jericho Road Project is that much of what I do is now through others rather than getting to do it myself.  I mean that I help others to help others!  However I started doing this work because I really like working with rough sleepers, alcoholics or in fact anyone who is down trodden and rejected people around them and now I get limited opportunities to do this.  Last Wednesday gave me such a moment.

A group of  9 young men from King's Church joined us at the Feast for the evening.  I took the opportunity to take 3 of them on a tour of rough sleeping spots in Catford. To be honest I am a little out of touch who is where but I knew enough to know where to go.  But after looking though a few car parks and some more specific spots we had met no-one and we were walking back to King's Church, when on the steps of Catford Bridge station we met Neil (don't worry, as always I've not given you the name he told me).  This man was drunk and collapsed, looking like he was staying for the night. He didn't know how to get back to his flat, couldn't face the future and encapsulated everything I love about working with drunks.  He had great stories to tell of crimes, of prison, the pain he felt about his son going to Afghanistan, he couldn't face sleeping in his flat so he slept in a cemetery.  We hit it off immediately.  Some of his story made no sense at all, some of the addiction story was scripted from the manuals, he was charming and offensive at the same time.  He talked about how hard a man he was, yet all I met was a lonely lost man desperate for hope.  He had no problem believing there was a God but there was no peace in his heart.  Sure if someone had threatened him, he would have attacked first but all we met was a weak and broken man. So we helped him to get to the correct platform to get a train home.

It was a delight to be doing what I've always loved doing.  This week I will follow up with Neil and try to provide help.  But the lasting fruit is probably with the 3 young men who were with me.  Life looks very different when you view it from the bottom of the pile and for a short while we shared this man's pain, we walked with him and experienced the frustration and confusion he felt.  We watched how others reacted to him.  I hope that this man's years of destruction will provoke this group of young men to dream big dreams for how they live their lives and how they help others.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Big Ask

I guess that all milestones create feelings of reflection and/or plans for the future. So whether it is birthdays, new year or anniversaries there is a moment to wonder what has been and what will be. I must admit that I am far more likely to look forward than look back. I genuinely do not remember most of the bad things that have happened in the last 10 years, others have to remind me.  So today I looked through a couple of hundred photos of the events of last weekend, and there are some fabulous photos. If I was slightly more technically savvy and had a little more patience (and time!) to get the selection right I would be linking you to my facebook page to see the photos. Perhaps tomorrow!

The photos got me thinking again about the amazing people that I get to work with. People from all backgrounds and experiences are in the pictures. There are people that until recently were using cardboard as a mattress behind shopping centres. There are people who give many hours every week voluntarily to help homeless and vulnerable people get a fab 3 course meal or get their flat cleaned up. There are others who provide us with housing which means we are able to house homeless people.

But it was while I was away at a church leadership event this week that it struck me that I get to make the Big Ask of lots of people very regularly. I ask a lot of my residents hopefully with the right level of support; I ask a lot of my volunteers and I try very hard to express my Thanks; I ask a lot of the team (3 of us in total) who are employed by the Jericho Road Project. And there are others but I realised that while I was comfortable making the Big Ask for all those mentioned, I am not as good at making the Big Ask when it comes to money. I probably feel happier asking for houses than pounds. There are reasons for this, I have always wanted the work I do to be told in stories and then because we have credibility, people would want to give to the Project. This has been the case and regularly people give to the Project. I have had a reluctance to go down the grants route, concerned that it requires lots of time and then lots of time convincing someone that you are doing your job correctly and then the funding stops. I prefer fundraising that is sustainable, the Caring Christmas Trees are an example of this with customers who come back year after year.

However there are great opportunities ahead of us that hinge on fresh financial input.  For example we can with volunteers run a Money Advice Centre on an annual budget of 2.5K which by anyone's calculation is value for money. But am I able to make the Big Ask?

There is though an even bigger Ask - Am I going to pray that God would provide this and much more for all the opportunities ahead us? The Project is an adventure of faith that requires us to dig deep and trust that God will provide all our needs.

My guess is that in the next 10 years I will be making plenty of Big Asks!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A day and a week to remember!

What a day and what a week! Today was a fabulous day as we celebrated 10 years of the JRP. Yesterday was our 1st ever Lionhearts under 14's victory. Add in the lunchtime event on Thursday and 3 Governors meetings it has a full and intense week. Thankfully I have a day off tomorrow and for once I plan to do very little. I will switch off the phone,spend the day with Rebekah and probably watch the film '127 hours', I read the book in the summer.
The response to today was great. One person who has been at Kings for some years said that today helped him understand what we are doing at Kings more than any other talk. And there were loads of other comments expressing great excitement about the day.
But it was tiring day and I will enjoy sleeping well tonight. Rest is the order of day tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

10 Facts about 10 Years of the JRP

1. We have recorded 1131 different people who have been to the Feast.

2. Since the Feast began we have never had to do any recruitment for the team.

3. There have been 88 residents since the housing project started in 2004.

4. King's Church Sunday Attendance has grown from 250 to 1250.

5. About 14% of people who come to the Feast go on to attend Alpha.

6. We serve approximately 4400 3-course meals a year.

7. There has been a Feast table at every evening Alpha course since 2002.

8. We have taken 37 people on holiday this year.

9. I estimate that we have served 27960 meals at the Feast in the 10 years.

10. The Money Advice Service took on 60 new people in a single year.