The trip to Calais

In mid October, along with two guys from our Church we ventured down from Derbyshire to Calais in Northern France.  We went to the home which is known as “the Jungle”. It is a camp made up of both refugees and economic migrants from large parts of Africa and the Middle East. We spent a few hours of the afternoon in the camp.

The purpose of the trip was threefold,

  1. Take some items (blankets, tents, clothing) in order to help those who now call the jungle their home.
  2. See for ourselves what it is truly like. The media stirs up all sorts and I would recommend going along and seeing with your own eyes before passing judgment either way. (It is worth having a contact on the ground though, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies)
  3. To encourage the Christians there and get alongside a team (who go in weekly to share the good news of Jesus). All with a view of discovering what can we do to make a difference and help bring hope.

    So…  we did take some stuff. The people of Redeemer King Church  were very generous and we filled up my car with a load of clothing (mainly for men) pots, pans, blankets, chocolates, sleeping bags and tents.

    Some of what was taken

    Some of what was taken

    Some of this was distributed to a few Sudanese guys we met, they had a shopping trolley that we filled at the road side.
    But for the most part we opened up our boot and people gathered round. There was no violence, anger or even the slightest problem, in fact they were more polite than we are. “Can I please have this?” “Do you have any shoes that will fit me?” At one point I was surrounded by 20 guys from Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and they all patiently waited their turn, all of them thankful, all of them keen to wrap up warm ahead of winter.

    The Jungle – well you drive along a B road out of Calais and it is literally there, by the side of the road. It’s like going from your town to the next with a refugee camp along the side of the road. You take one turn off this B road and you’re in.  It is a camp of about 5,000,  but growing every day as more and more men, women and children make the perilous journey. It’s slowly developing and loads of French and British people were on the ground cleaning up, building shelters and facilities and generally being helpful. That being said, it’s not a nice place to be. It’s a slum and I can only imagine what conditions will be like as winter takes hold

    It is heavily segregated, dependant upon where you have travelled from, and even which tribe you belong too from wthin that country. It was peaceful whilst we were there but empty shotgun casings on the floor and the presence of French riot police tell a different story. We spent most of our time with a group of around 20 blokes from the Darfur region in Sudan. (pictured below)

    Some of the guys

    Some of the guys

    We sat around in one of their tents as the rain lashed down singing songs, drinking chai (tea) and eating dates. Even though they had travelled thousands of miles, they showed incredible generosity towards us – they have nothing to their own names, yet shared what they had. Very humbling.
    Most of them were at the jungle because they were waiting. Waiting for their papers, waiting for a light at the end of a very long tunnel. Most of them wanted asylum in France or elsewhere in mainland Europe and they had each come to better their life – they wanted education or to be reunited with relatives. You can’t blame them, I’m fairly sure we would do exactly the same. And the attraction of Calais? Well it’s not the town… it’s more shabby than chic, it’s where their mates are, so why not wait together?

    Mohammed told me about his journey from Darfur, up from Sudan into Libya and the Sahara desert, four days in cars and walking to get on a boat headed for Sicily- absolutely rammed with people- and during the crossing people are falling off left and right and there’s no lifeboats, no search and rescue just abandonment. Then from there up through Italy and onto France- a long way to end up in a slum for what seems an indefinite time period. He had been there 11 months. All he wants is to study and help his family out.
    The living conditions are poor, tarps and tents make up the majority, however, thanks to the generosity of volunteers they do have warm clothing.

    As for giving them hope, we sat round and talked about Jesus, a Spanish man shared his story and we sang some songs. Week in week out, a team from a local town go in and share the good news with them. There were also two Churches in the Jungle one which was set up by some Pentecostal Ethiopians (Come on!) that had literally just begun.

    So how do we make a difference?
    Well to be honest, the guys on the ground are doing an amazing job so pray for them, encourage them, support them. If you are reading this in Kent or London, get involved.
    You see to really help you need to be in it for the long haul, to be there regularly to invest in relationship, that is more difficult to do from a few hundred miles away. You can end up feeling a bit helpless about it.

    However, this crisis is larger than Calais, and that’s where other charities come into play. Helping people in Syria or Iraq or other countries where they are being displaced from is really key, helping those that simply cannot make the journey that many of them have made.
    So that’s certainly worth exploring either as individuals or Churches.

    My final thoughts from going to Calais are these –  we need to change our attitude and approach; to treat people as people; and in the midst of loving people to direct them towards the hope that we have in Jesus.

    More often than not we spend all our time with people like us, and as a result we love those like us and struggle with anyone who is different. The call of Christ is to share his love not just with our mates, but with those who are not like us, to love those vastly different.  In order to change, we have to be intentional in who we hang out with, be willing to take some risks, to be generous and bless people- even if their lives look so different, we have to be the ones who bring hope by telling them of the saviour of the world. For guys like Mohammed in Calais, asylum in the UK or France will not meet their deepest needs, but meeting Jesus will.

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The crisis in Calais- Every life matters.

I am not pretending here to be an expert on the situation in Calais. I have not been (yet). I don’t know all the stories, the reasons why people have travelled so far merely to join an ever increasing slum, whether it be economic migrants, refugee’s or those who have been illegally trafficked with the promise of a new life.

But this I do know, the Church has a responsiblity to respond. As of yet it appears, on the face of it, to be doing very little.  Surely so close to our shores we cannot just sit idly by.  The stirring of God the Holy Spirit within me tells me that’s not right….

My hope is that, in reading this, you have felt the same thing as me.  Stirred into action, but feeling utterly helpless as to what to do.  It’s not straightforward, sure we can just ‘rock up’ with some ‘stuff’ which would feel like a drop in the ocean, but nevertheless a drop which is better than us simply watching on. (watch this space)

For a moment switch off your politics, switch off the sense of entitlement that comes with being British, and put on a kingdom mindset. Our passport should read Kingdom of God and love should have no border. Certainly the love of God didn’t have borders when it pursued and rescued me in Jesus Christ, who was prepared to lay down his life, so that I could be gifted a new one.

Jesus did not simply watch on and label me “human” but willingly chose to show love, grace and compassion in order to bring about the greatest rescue plan ever for all those who put their faith in Jesus.

Whether we think the migrants/refugee’s ‘deserve’ our care and our love, is by the by, grace calls us into action whether we like it or not. We are called to represent the one whose love has no boundaries (political or otherwise), in this case we can represent him by not only believing the best of these people, but by loving them as Jesus would have us do.

We need to drop the label’s, drop the politics and remember that the people in Calais are people. Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Aunties, Uncles….people. All, ultimately, probably trying to do just as we are, make the best of life for ourselves and our families.

What I love about the gospel is that it teaches us clearly that every person is precious to God.  In Jesus we see that he stops for the one, blind Bartameaus cries out (Mark 10:46-52), the crowds and the politically correct brigade try to shut him up….but Jesus stops and meets with him. To Jesus- people matter.

The whole person matters to God, physically, emotionally, spiritually, all too often we just pick one area- I would love to see christians on the ground in Calais, providing, love, care, ministry for people, to be giving blankets, sleeping bags, clothing, but also providing love, prayer and encouragement.

“So whats the plan?” I hear you cry….

Well at the moment just a stirring, a burden to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, putting into action the words of Paul from Philippians to not look to our own interests but to the interests of others.

With that in mind- if it’s something you would like to help with (and that can start now by praying) then don’t hesitate to make contact:

Email: Dan@redeemerking.com
Micah 6:8     “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Easter- Extending Grace

Every Thursday we have a prayer drop in meeting 6-8am at our house, kind of means I need to be there week in week out.  This week it fell on ‘Maundy Thursday’ in the Church calendar, which remembers the last supper the night before Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world.
Jesus has gathered his closest mates around him for the final time to share the passover (the story of a lamb being slain so that God’s people could go free)

It’s worth quoting the passage at length,

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.” Luke 22:19-21

Jesus breaks the bread which is a symbol of his body being broken a day later, and shares the cup, a picture of his blood, as he says, this cup is the new covenant in my blood. In other words, his death will bring them a new life- and the promise is sealed by his death and later his resurrection.

Anyway the point I want to share is this, at the table that evening according to Luke was the man who would betray Jesus. The man who would in one sense cause pain, torture and agony for Jesus just a day later- and he knew it. Jesus knew Judas would betray him and cause him to suffer at the hands of the Jews and Romans yet he still broke the bread and shared the cup for him. He offered Judas himself- he did not turn him away, he extended grace. Grace is undeserved favour, and it doesnt work if it’s done through gritted teeth, a forced grace is no grace at all.

Jesus meant it when he said, ‘ my body is given for you, this cup which is my blood, is poured out for you.’ That meant Judas as well as John and Peter.

So Jesus loves Judas, he offers him grace and ultimately he dies for him, he doesn’t villify him or cast him out, he loves him, in the days and weeks to come with a general election on the horizon, our temptation will be to villify whoever politically is the enemy, but Jesus died for the left, the right and all inbetween.

The days we live in present us with the best opportunity to point people towards the hope we have in Jesus. The way we do that is not with vengeance, gossip and wrath, because that tears us up and we end up bitter not better. The solution is to extend grace.

We have to follow after our saviour and his example, by offering grace even to those who have made our life difficult, because Jesus went to the cross for them aswell as for you.

So this easter, why not extend the underserved favour and love to others that God has shown to you.

Happy Easter

Garden Tomb

 

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We all need a little encouragement

One of the greatest ways we can support, love and help one another- and one of the greatest things we neglect to do: Encourage one another.

I doubt very much that I am the only one who needs a little encouragement. Believe it or not I have monday mornings too, and following a cracking sunday gathering full of faith, hope and life it’s easy to feel discouraged, to get lost in the ups and downs of the working week, but instead of us living lives that seek out  encouragement’s for our own benefit, we should be the encouragers of others.

Recently I preached on the end of Acts 4 and the beginning of Acts 5, and there is a marked difference between a guy called Joseph (who gets the nickname Barnabus) and a couple called Ananias and Sapphira.

Barnabus is generous and held up as an example for us, here he sells his property and gives the money to the apostles to distribute for the church, as you go through Acts Barnabus turns up and is encouraging the christians-he is a bit of a legend. If your name is Barney- you have been named well.
Ananias and Sapphira(not very popular baby names) are actually pretty generous to be fair they give a portion of their land to the Church but hold back some for themselves whilst claiming to give it all. They are sneaky and deceptive  which are not good, and have no place in a community of people who are generous with what they have.
In fact they are hypocrites saying one thing and doing another and God does a bit of judgement ahead of time, as they both meet their demise. (Will post a link to the sermon of this passage which elaborates further when it goes live online.)

Now on this occasion Barnabus whose name means ‘son of encouragement’ does just that by living generously and sharing his possessions and money in order to serve others.
You see encouragement is not just saying nice things about someone, it can be giving your time, an example of this was one couple travelled purposefully over 100miles to support and encourage us, it blessed us greatly. We can encourage with use of our possesions (self explanatory) and also your money (a gift in the post, a bill paid, a shopping trip, all of these can have a massive impact).

We spend far too much time seeking blessing and encouragement for our own ego’s that we neglect to bless and encourage others. If we all put others first as Paul asks us too in Philippians wouldn’t the community of God’s people look more like what we read at the end of Acts 4, where no-one is in any need?

So take the encouragement challenge this winter time, in the run up to Christmas where “getting what you want for Christmas” is our focus, put yourself to one side, your needs, your requirements and think, how can I bless, love and encourage someone else. It makes the world of difference…

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A Light shines in the darkness

Light shining

Last weekend we were in the Lake District celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary, my wife deserves a great deal of respect for putting up with me for five years!

We wandered down to Derwent Water, and as we did, from the darkness (typically rained most of the weekend), light broke through. As you can see from the picture above it was almost a spotlight straight from the heavens.

I was half expecting to hear a loud booming voice say something like, “Dan, Dan”, but that didn’t happen (gutted), no Damascus Road experience this time, but in that moment I had a thought.

We live in dark times, we live in a land without hope and like the Lake District that day, life for many is gloomy and miserable. Yet God wants to break in, better than that, already has in the person of Jesus.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

So often in our world darkness overcomes. But not with Jesus, he beat sin, death and hell by being resurrected from the grave. Those who trust in him also conquer the darkness through him and become light bearers for all to see. We have a responsiblity to shine his brightness to the world.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

So what are we doing? What message are we sending to the world? Are we shining lights in the world? Are we a story of  light breaking through the darkness as we by the Spirit glorify Jesus? Or do we just get lost in the clouds of life with our moaning and grumbling?

Just a thought…

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Reflections on Mary & Martha

I recently preached on this story from Luke’s gospel, this is what it says,

“Now was they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him (Jesus) and said ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)

In a nutshell one sister is distracted by cooking, cleaning, checking everything is ok, the other just sits at Jesus feet. It is a passage about discipleship, those who profess to be Christian how should they be? Should they be people who do lot’s of cooking cleaning etc (no bad thing) or people who sit at Jesus feet?

I would argue that each of us is either like Mary or Martha and it’s not as if one is good and the other is bad, we need a bit of both…

Mary

Mary is contemplative, she is not lazy as a Martha might level at her, she is doing something, in fact Jesus says what she is doing “Sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to his teaching.” is the “good portion, that will not be taken away from her.”

She is concerned with the presence of God and being with Jesus, enjoying him, taking time to just be. She is teachable, and her time is spent bible reading, praying, fasting, maybe even journaling if that’s your thing.

Martha

Martha is active, she is go go go, she must be doing something, she is the person with the check list of activities, food check, cleaning check, family sorted check, and her time with Jesus just get’s shifted down the list, not on purpose, but her lack of intentionality means she misses out on the good portion. Martha thinks serving cake is the best portion, Jesus says otherwise. Instead of being concerned with the presence of God, she is concerned with presents for God, doing stuff for him.
I am sure Jesus appreciated all that Martha did for him, cooking and giving him shelter, but the passage is pretty obvious, most of all Jesus wanted Martha to sit at his feet, to just be with him.

To sit at someone’s feet culturally was the posture of someone who is a willing disciple of the teacher, see Luke 8:35 & Acts 22:3 for further examples.

Instead of sitting at Jesus feet Martha is bossing Jesus around, wanting Jesus to sort her sister out (how mental is that) “Jesus do you not care” (it’s not as if he is going to die for her or anything is it.)
Like every sibling she tell’s on her sister, and frankly it’s a bit petty, Jesus sort out Mary she does NOTHING. Martha was anxious and troubled and not spending her time in the best way possible.
So the question is who are we more like??? The chances are the answer is Martha, so what are we going to do about it because at present we are not choosing the Good portion.

The Good portion

Martha has been slaving away for sometime cooking, probably serving up portions of food for Jesus and his disciples, yet she does not have the good portion, Mary sitting with Jesus was just that. The meal was temporary, as good as that meal may have been it does not last, my brother used to eat incredibly slowly and say “it’s because I am enjoying it.” Even eating really slowly, it still ends, your either full or you just don’t want anymore, the portion does not last, however Jesus is the good portion, which will not be taken away.

In other words if we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and saviour, through faith and repentance we can enjoy relationship with God and be with him eternally, to extend the metaphor- the portion is everlasting.So in this life with choices about what we do and how we do it, it stands to reason that we should be choosing the good portion now.

The Solution? Mary first Martha second

For us Martha’s (myself included) we have to re-order what our lives revolve around. We live in a Martha run world, where everyone is about getting stuff done, and our days are organised like Martha, we have work, home, school, jobs, cooking, cleaning, church and then Jesus. He becomes just one of many things, problem is if we are not intentional with our time we never get there. So being just Martha does not work, we don’t get the good portion.
Equally so if all Mary does is sit at his feet and never move, I am sure she has an amazing time, but there is no application, she never works, she never puts anything into action, she never get’s on with what she is called to do.
So it’s Mary first then Martha, in terms of commitment, being with Jesus-first, Church- first, being with God’s people- first, chores, work, sport etc 2nd.
The solution is not just adding bible reading and prayer to our list- but intentionally changing the way we structure our time; as Jesus responds to our busy way of life by saying,

“(Insert name) Dan, Dan, you are anxious, you are troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, the good portion.”

Jesus does not condemn us, but invites us to be with him, to enjoy his presence and a relationship that starts now and lasts eternally.

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Only in Kenya

Tomorrow I head home to the UK after spending the last few days In Kenya, and though it is similar to Tanzania, it’s provided a very different experience.

Upon arrival in Nairobi we got about 2 hours sleep before getting In the car to a place called Homa Bay (By Lake Victoria) after 7+ hours we got there to do various ministry. Pete was teaching pastors and I was taken to meet teens and twenties, to do some sports outreach, there were about 50 players and at least another 150 of all ages watching and listening. We played a bit of football and I shared the gospel before explaining the format of the tournament that would take place on the Sunday afternoon.

Sunday came and I was told just to bring a greeting to the church we were going too, so I had not prepared a word, only for during the service one of the guys to be saying things like “we look forward to the spiritual food that Dan and Pete will bring” at which point you panic and praise God for Dropbox and iPads! TIA- this will be my biggest learning point for the whole trip, you realise the event is more important than the time it takes or the point it starts, it’s just important that whatever is organised happens!

I was then rushed off to conduct this football tournament with all the teens and twenties, again we had a message and then football shirts to award to the winning team! (Thank you to those who donated)

Then we returned to Nairobi on the Monday and chilled In the evening before today and our visit to Kibera ( Africa’s largest slum).

It has been the most dangerous and yet most humbling place I have ever been too. We did not stay long as it would have been asking for trouble, but we met some guys who do ministry in Kibera, they work to get people out of a life of crime(amongst many other things), they offer alternatives, they teach in schools and they share the gospel at every opportunity, it was truly inspiring. They put their lives on the line to bring hope to people. The pastor that we met called mark-vivien who has a church in Kibera, had a nasty mark on his forehead, just days earlier he had been pistol whipped outside the church and mugged.
Pete brought a short devotion and I prayed for the ministry and the pastors, who knows where that may lead, but it was humbling and thought provoking. I have never seen anywhere like Kibera, and I have no photos as it was not safe to get my camera out, so just google it for an idea, young children in sewage, people selling everything and anything and people turning to crime to make a living, Kibera cannot be more than 4/5 square miles in size(guessing) yet it is home to just under 1 million people, so it is just very intense.

The guys doing ministry in this place are inspiring. In incredibly difficult circumstances they are doing all they can to transform their community, to share Jesus with people. There is a real sense of urgency! Again and again I realise we have so much in the west and we misuse it, we waste resources and yet these guys literally have zero, nothing and they do so much, it is a picture of what true discipleship looks like, dying to self and loving the people in your community. So please pray for them and the work that they do in the slums.

There are many other stories that I could share here that led me to use the title “only in Kenya” from some incredible highs to some difficult and dangerous times, and maybe in time with reflection I can expand on some of them. But just as I loved Tanzania I love Kenya and it has been a real privilege to be here.

Tomorrow the journey home begins, and I will be off African soil, but the effect of this continent upon me means I will take the experiences home with me. I have loved serving here, and am happy to serve where I will be useful and bring glory to God, whether that is my time in Africa or home in the UK, I long for people to encounter Jesus and be transformed by the gospel.

This photo is of some of the young people that took part and watched the football during the sports ministry.

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