Acting on a Calling
By Sue Wall
I always enjoy my journey from Milton Keynes to Peterborough, as it gives me the opportunity to have some quiet, thoughtful, prayerful time as I drive the 60 miles towards the city where I believe God is calling me to be.
Usually, the purpose for my visit is to volunteer with the City Centre Chaplaincy team which I do every Friday, out on the square, sharing God's love with people where they are at, as they go about their busy lives. However, today is Thursday and the reason for my journey is to attend a meeting aimed at informing leaders from the Christian Community about the impact that the new Welfare Reforms will have on the people of Peterborough.
Thankfully I arrived early, as the room very quickly filled up to bursting point with over 60 representatives from Churches, local charities and other organisations, all seeking to make a difference in their communities in our Saviours name. I always find it a humbling but invigorating experience to be with other Christians who have a servants heart and in so many cases, are giving their time for free.
This was my first real opportunity to meet with other Christian groups in Peterborough, as whilst I have a wealth of experience working with both Christian and multi faith communities in Milton Keynes through my previous involvement with MK Food Bank and various homelessness charities, my short time in Peterborough so far had been focussed around volunteering with the chaplaincy. I was truly heartened to see the level of togetherness that was demonstrated both in the meeting and during the conversations afterwards and the assuredness that as Christians, we do have an important role to play.
"I always find it a humbling but invigorating experience to be with other Christians who have a servant heart"
The speaker Adrian Chapman - Head of Neighbourhoods for Peterborough City Council, pulled no punches and made it very clear that as the various reforms start to take effect the number of families affected will increase. He acknowledged the amazing work that many Christian groups were already doing through organisations such as Christians Against Poverty, Food Bank, Credit Union and Hope into Action, however with reduced budgets, the only real solution that the Council sees for many of the challenges that the community faces is for us, as Christians, to step up even further.
I believe that one of the biggest challenges for families or individuals when they receive their new Universal Credit as a one of monthly payment, will be their ability to budget effectively, making debt counselling and budgeting skills training both for adults and in schools and youth groups, a top priority. During the meeting I heard that both Christians Against Poverty and Community Money Advice have long waiting lists for new clients meaning that whilst they wait for an appointment, they are at risk of falling further into debt, making them prey to loan sharks or even at risk of losing their homes. Funding to enable expansion of these essential services is critical and something that we as Christians should be looking to help to raise, irrespective of whether it is our Church or another that is running the programme. I believe that unless we can stem the flow of people reaching a crisis situation by training people to budget with their income, we will always be chasing our tails.
As I drove home to Milton Keynes, I had time to reflect on what I had seen and heard during the meeting. I felt excited about the good people that I had met and the passion with which the groups had spoken, but challenged about the enormity of the task that we face and frustrated that I was living so far away. Since first coming to Peterborough in October 2012 I had felt that for some reason God was calling me to serve here, however I was now filled with a sense of urgency to act on my calling, put my home on the market and to take this next step of faith on my own journey with the Lord. I look forward to serving as part of this amazing Christian community that is alive, thriving and ready to stand up and be counted.