Thursday, 26 January 2012

Should I warn the police about the #40days celebration evenings?

It has been an emotionally tough week for me.  Everything I am responsible for has put significant demands on me.  There are normally one or two pressures but this last week feels like they are all pressing in at the same time.  I have found myself getting frustrated in a way that I normally don't - especially towards the cyclist who ignored the red lights when people were crossing!

Some of the pressures are the result of things going well. So for example Lionhearts FC, the football club I manage for children in school years 3-9, continues to grow at a fast rate.  Last weekend at our A vs B league match we had 31 boys, which means 9 boys were a sub.  This puts huge pressure on the managers, Michael and I.  Some boys were going to be disappointed about not playing enough of the match. Amazingly at the start of this season we were asking ourselves would we have enough for 2 teams, we now find ourselves asking if we need 3 teams for the 2012/2013 season! 

In the Jericho Road Project the pressure is as a result of the huge potential of significant life change in many of the people we work with.  We are working with people who are waiting to leave prison to come our housing project, we have many people keen to get key working support, as a team we have upped the expectations with a number of our residents which requires time and wisdom, many people are wanting to volunteer at the Feast, we have new people coming to Alpha this term and we are expecting the biggest ever residential trips to Chepstow in March and then Encounter Camp in June.  In addition plans are progressing well for King's Debt Advice to be started again in March - more details to follow.

However last nights Feast did not present me with additional pressure despite the following incident happening.  I spotted a new man at the Feast following a girl around and I am instantly involved.  I find out in a short time that the background is one of previous violence between them and he was threatening the girl at the Feast.  I am then trying to quickly build a rapport with the man - it's key to resolving conflict!  The 3 of us agree that it would be better if we all go outside.  As we go to the front of the King's building, the dispute then escalates because another former (violent) boyfriend of the girl has appeared.  The 2 men that start an abusive argument because they both said they could not trust the other not to beat up the girl.  So instead they threatened each other.  When the police arrived both men stopped them in the middle of the street.  Crazy!  The situation then looked even more wild because the police car was blocking Catford Hill, buses couldn't get through, traffic backed up, horns hooted.  Once the police car was moved the situation quickly calmed down! 

At the end of the evening I felt like I do on many Wednesday nights, "this is why I'm alive!"  I felt a level of refreshment and perspective on my week.  In the book of Isaiah there is a promise that when you hear the cry of those in need, God will hear your cry!

However for the Feast team we were not surprised that this incident had happened whilst the #40days celebration at King's Church was taking place (both events take place at the same time in the same building but in different halls!)  I don't think we have called the police since last February when the 40days celebrations last took place and then we called them on 3 or 4 consecutive Wednesdays.  What is the reason?  Well somehow when the people of King's Church gather to pray and worship it stirs up something in the lives of people at the Feast. 

Let's see what happens next week, perhaps I should warn the police that King's Church is meeting to worship and pray!       

Thursday, 19 January 2012

'Arms Wide Open' Hampers 2011 Summary

As part of the King's Church 'Arms Wide Open' Christmas theme I co-ordinated the collection of Hampers and then the distribution to families in need. This is a summary of what happened.  The list of food items for the Hampers included about 15 essential items and 5 Christmas treats and we asked for items to be good quality.  Thanks to Big Yellow Storage Company for donating 150 boxes to be used for putting the food items in.  Thanks to all the volunteers who spent hours sorting and getting the boxes ready to be sent out.

The response from the people of King's Church was remarkable with over 250 hampers being collected, we were preparing for around 100!  The collection Sundays were an amazing picture of a community working together to benefit others.  Whilst the majority were from individuals, families and community groups within King’s Church, there were many schools and companies who also got involved in providing Hampers.  Here is one example,

“The Hampers below are provided by my team at LOCOG Accreditation and Uniforms department. They were so excited to know the great work that Kings is doing. I was overwhelmed by the response.”
The task was then arranging where to distribute all these hampers.  Here is the list of organisations who helped us to make the deliveries to the families in need.  I've added a few comments from the people who handed them out.

Lewisham Family Support and Intervention Service – 150 boxes
“Just wanted to say thanks again for the hampers. I had the privilege of giving out 8 and they were certainly very well received by people struggling and would have made a big difference to their Christmas. I've heard lots of stories of kids being excited to find the chocs!” Children’s Social worker
“Just a little note to let you know that social workers are all very busy delivering the hampers to our very grateful families. We were able to give some Hampers to our colleagues in other services such as Children with disabilities service, Meliot Road family centre and to our no recourse families primarily based in our Referral and Assessment service. So I can assure you the children and families that will benefit from the Hampers cover a whole spectrum of 'children in need' across the borough.” Manager of the team
Honor Oak Family Support team – 10 boxes

“I wanted to let you know how appreciative my work colleagues were about the quality of the food boxes; it gave me lots of opportunity to talk about the project and the church! If we are doing it again health visitors could provide a very extensive list of needy families for you.” Children’s Family support team worker
Lewisham Refugee Network – 30 boxes
"Thanks once again for the hampers you delivered before Christmas. The clients who received them were thrilled – it really made a difference to them."
The Bridge school of English – 6 boxes
Voluntary Care centre – 30 boxes
Jericho Road Project and those known to King’s Church – 20 boxes

I will leave the final comment to a member of King’s who emailed the following comment

“I was so glad that we decided to do this in this way. It made me feel proud to be part of something that is not about shinning glory on ourselves and bigging ourselves up as kind and generous but that truly wants to help those in need regardless of the status or thanks that we receive.”
Brilliant! Well done and Thank you!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Mistaken Identity - Being Simon Allen

One of the oddest parts of my pre-Christmas rush was a conversation with a lady who phoned me because she wanted to find out how Simon Allen was.  She had seen my photo and name in the newspaper, had then called the Caring Christmas Trees phone line who passed the call to me.  For a few minutes I spoke to her desperately trying to remember who this lady was and not wanting to come across rude that I had forgotten her.  She asked about my family and how I was etc.  She found out quite a lot while I tried to work out who she was.  However it was when she asked me "was I travelling to Germany again before Christmas" that I realised that she was speaking to the wrong Simon Allen (I've never been to Germany).  When I told her that I was not the Simon Allen she wanted she commented that 'when I saw the photo in the paper I thought you had changed a lot'.  In fact this lady wanted to contact a Simon Allen who lives very close to me.  I have met him because we have mutual friends -  it was a slightly strange experience meeting another Simon Allen!. 

In fact the first time I knew there was another Simon Allen who lived close by was when my Doctor read out the wrong medical history to me.  I am now careful when I go to the Doctors to explain which Simon Allen I am.

Within a day or two of this phone call, I then received a small parcel addressed to Simon Allen from the 2012 Olympic torchbearer offering me congratulations for being successful in the final selection to carry the Olympic torch.  I was delighted but a little confused.  I had been nominated months before (Thanks Kemi!) and had made it pass the first cut off, however on the day of the announcement in December I was told I was unsuccessful in making the final 10,000, and yet now I had a document informing me that Simon Allen was successful.  I read on, before I allowed myself to dream too much about my moment carrying the Olympic torch, to find that Simon Allen was successful because I was a 'true fighter against a devastating illness'  Ahhhhhhhhhh - that's not me!!!!  Somehow they has got the wrong person again - perhaps it was the other Simon Allen again.

I laughed lots at the mistaken identity on the phone call but I felt gutted about the second one.  It would have been an honour to carry the Olympic torch but ultimately I am a Simon Allen who knows I have my identity in Christ Jesus and He is never confused about who I am! Thankfully!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Never start back to work on a Wednesday!

I returned to work yesterday (Wednesday) and following a quiet and restful Christmas/ New Year period I was hoping to ease myself back in gentle.  I quickly discovered - Never on a Wednesday!

My reflection on the Autumn term 2011 was that I worked harder and more effectively than ever before.  It was a term that marked the 10 year milestone of the JRP as well as co-ordinating the Arms Wide Open Hampers.  I also took on greater responsibility on the Catford site of King's Church.  In fact the very last moment of 2011 in the office was handling an angry resident venting what he thought about the project (it was not very positive feedback in case you are interested!).  In fact in 20 years of working in this field, I have similar memories of the final moments before going on holiday - I remember evenings at the Nightshelter on nights before holiday when I would not be able to leave on time because someone caused a disturbance.  Some things do not change!

But after an almost complete break from the Project I returned hoping that I would have space to plan ahead and catch up on things I have not got to recently.

However Wednesday means the Feast and yesterday was also a very busy day in our office.  It meant there were often 7 people in the room and our office is not very big.  Plus I am getting a few weeks news in a few hours.

And it was the realities of the people's lives that caused me to feel out of my depth - A lady who we have helped for many years is now in HMP Holloway; met a new man who has just arrived back out of prison; a new couple who are squatting; there were 2 mums with newborn babies at the Feast  (one mum's fridge stopped working 5 days ago); another girl in ICU barely alive in a coma following a drug overdose; rumours of the winter shelter in Deptford being shut due to a window being smashed, people who have wasted their rent money on ... well you can guess what!   The news kept coming (not all the stories can be written here) but perhaps you can see the extent of the emotional challenge.    

I think it took me to the end of today (Thursday) before I started feeling like I had any control of it all. I have not yet been able to structure my to-do list but there is some order established.  Thanks to the great team I work with - Andy and Dave. Interviews have been set, we have decided to buy a fridge for the mum who has no fridge and probably most importantly Dave, Andy & myself have time booked in next week where we will get together out of the office and plan ahead for 2012.  There are some key challenges to making the residential scheme work effectively, the one I can mention here is the need to get suitable move-on accommodation for the residents who are doing well.

So perhaps the answer is to start back on a different day but perhaps it reflects that I have had a really good break.  Or is it exactly as I would want it!  I am always so excited that we are genuinely involved in the realities of the lives of people in need!  I sometimes forget the level of involvement and trust we have with the people involved in the JRP.  So perhaps I wouldn't want it any other way - Wednesday is the best day to be reminded!