Often I have found myself shying away from news coverage of famine, scenes of war or images from natural disasters finding them too difficult to watch. Offering instead a few token prayers and choosing to change the channel or click a link with a more uplifting story. In many ways responding to social need here in Northern Ireland has always been considerably easier for me, I can see the need on the ground and know when we trust God for the resources to meet the need He never fails to provide. It seems very straightforward in my mind and I can see the small piece I can play in that puzzle. However the Syrian crisis hit me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.
The images of complete desperation and the horrific tales of the risks so many thousands of people were willing to take to flee their war torn country hit home with me like never before. The fear etched onto the faces of men, women and children, fear that seemed to span decades from the oldest generation to the very youngest, tiny babies wide-eyed and pleading for help without even saying a word. I found myself crying out to the Lord, ‘Father can You not see this?’.
As the days went on and the death toll continued to rise with people supposedly fleeing to safety drowning at sea instead the ache in my heart got more and more painful. My cries became more frequent to God, questioning His ways and begging for a resolution to come about.
I spoke to my children about the refugee crisis, describing as best I could to 3 six year olds how we should pray for these people who were in such great need. What struck me straight away was their child like faith, asking instantly and wholeheartedly what they could do. I was quite taken aback with this attitude.
In my quiet time that evening I read from Hosea 11:10-11, it was a passage I wasn’t familiar with nor to be honest did I completely understand but the words that jumped off the page for me where ‘they will follow the Lord… They will come trembling from the West’. This coupled with the Lords declaration that He ‘would settle them into their homes’ what a promise to stand upon! But first their needed to be the movement from the west. Oh how I was challenged! For days I had been wrestling with God, grumbling and complaining that He wasn’t doing anything when very clearly the whole time He was pressing on my heart so that I would move off my knees and actually do something with the giftings He had given me.
God didn’t want my cries, He wanted me to respond with Christ like love in action. He didn’t want me to see through human eyes at the impossible task of making a difference when there were so many thousands of migrants in need of immediate help. God wanted to know what I was prepared to do, someone without any great geographical or political background, someone quite ignorant to conflict and wars throughout the world, someone who would usually chose to look for the free cookery pullout instead of read through a newspaper. God wanted to use me!! Quite astounding really and so humbling, He being God didn’t need me but would choose to use me, wow!
Little did I know that as I was spending some quiet time in study and prayer my husband Neil was sourcing out regional appeals in support of the Syrian Crisis. He had come across the Cork to Calais Refugee Solidarity, a people to people aid set up by a pregnant mother in the South of Ireland. What an inspiration!! A woman who wasn’t going to sit back and helplessly watch the crisis get worse and worse without a response. Following a telephone conversation with Phelim Convery from the Newry Lions Club I knew as a family and as a body of believers we could work together to make a difference, even a small difference would still be a difference. Phelim shared how he would be heading to Calais along with the convoy from Cork and that any support from our sleeves would be greatly appreciated.
Incredibly the ache and pain in my heart instantly shifted. No longer did I need to wrestle with the feelings of complete helplessness. God had opened my eyes to my role and encouraged me to step up to the challenge of appealing for others to get on board with the aid appeal.
Pastor Helen was, as she always is, so encouraging when I first spoke to her about the appeal. As I shared my reluctance to appeal yet again from the front for donations she reminded me that this wasn’t about me it was about God and our calling to serve. The warmth and encouragement I received from our church family following the appeal was again humbling. The body of Christ in GGC were willing to use what was in their hand to reach out to those without. Donations of tents, clothing, blankets and medical supplies came flooding in. Boxes and bags of various shapes and sizes were carried into my garage, our car boot and into the church building over the past 3 weeks. Donations came from outside the church, into the wider community as word spread that the ‘grace church’ were collecting donations. A countless amount of bags also arrived from our brothers and sister in Green Pastures in Ballymena. Approximately 70 boxes of clothing were donated in total, 12 tents and 25 sleeping bags. Offers of help were extended to sort, label and transport the donations into the van (driven by my wonderful Father in law who was more than happy to give of his time to help us with the appeal).
Oh how God loves to unite people together with their own unique gifting to build the walls of His kingdom! When we looked at the appeal throughout Ireland we could see how His hand was moving through it all, how He had stirred up the hearts of believers and non-believers to come together and respond to the needs of His children.
As our appeal for donations ended at the weekend I was challenged again by the Holy Spirit to see this not as an end but as a beginning. For me it’s the beginning of a change of attitude, a challenge to no longer settle for lukewarm Christianity, I don’t want to be a spectator any more. Nor do I want to give my God who gave me 100% a mediocre 70% or 85% of my love and adoration. I have prayed often enough that the Lord will break my heart for what breaks His, now I’m praying it and actually meaning it. With child like faith I am going to trust in our God is able and willing to use the 5 fish in our hand and feed the thousands. Tonight I’m standing on Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I’m refusing to be a Christian spectator, I want to be a disciple.