Being responsible for Storehouse, the foodbank in South Suffolk, I was recently contacted by a national newspaper. They were running a piece on how London is economically divided from the rest of the country.
During the interview I sensed that the paper’s economics lead writer could not quite get his head around the fact that a place as idyllic as Sudbury needed a food bank. And yet here we are.
Requests for emergency food bags have more than doubled since April this year. Yet this is not a story about statistics, but people’s lives. Many of the accounts I hear simply break my heart and reduce our team to tears.
It takes a lot of courage to admit that you cannot feed your young family and to seek help outside your own means. More than a twinge of shame is often attached to that. Personal confidence takes a severe blow and you want to withdraw from the company of others. Meanwhile, inwardly, you are at war with yourself and wondering ‘why me?’
Of course, some situations are self-inflicted but, then, haven't we all done things that we are not proud of? Who are we to judge? Then there are the others who have worked hard all their lives and now find themselves in an inconceivable position.
We try our hardest to make people feel ‘human’ as they come in to our Storehouse ‘Drop In’. It gives us some satisfaction to see people walk out just a little bit taller than when they first arrive. I am keen to say that we are not an extension of the benefits office, but a safe place run by caring individuals whose faith in God has inspired us to serve others.
Does anything ever change? You bet.
There was a young mum who came in to see us for emergency food who had been a victim of domestic violence. Her children had been taken away from her because she had become mentally ill and drug-dependent. She was rehoused, but had no furniture, so Storehouse and the church did what it could, which included contacting a qualified handyman who we were told could lay carpets. It turned out that he was helped by Storehouse in the past. He did the whole job for free.
Christmas is a time for hope. To quote Mother Teresa, ‘Small things done with great love change the world’. The one star over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago signifies the one hope in the world through Jesus to help guide us ‘home’ safely.
Why not join us for a family Christmas at Stour Valley Vineyard Church and reflect on these things together? We have a number of events going on.
Shine – free young families’ fun afternoon, 3-5pm, Saturday 14 December at the Delphi Centre, Newton Road, Sudbury.
The Great Big Mince Pie Giveaway, Market Hill, Sudbury 11am, Saturday morning, 21 December.
Christingle – the increasingly popular family church service, 10.30, Sunday 22 December, The Delphi Centre, Newton Road, Sudbury. Includes craft activities.
GLOW –Community Carol Service, 6.30pm, Christmas Eve, Delphi Centre, Newton Road, Sudbury. ‘Carols by glowstick’ with readings read by people in our local community’. Mulled wine, soft drinks and mince pies served from 6pm.
One last thought. Maybe take a moment this Christmas to look up at the sky on a clear night and imagine what that single bright star over Bethlehem might have looked like some 2,000 years ago. The truth is, it still shines as bright today in the darkest times in our lives.
Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year to all. God bless.