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'Love now, in the midst of the mess'

 

Hope into Action is a charity which provides homes for the most vulnerable in society in partnership with local churches, and recently held its third annual conference. Founder and chief executive Ed Walker, member of Bretton Baptist Church in Peterborough, reports


HopeIntoAction
 

Our aim for the day was to inspire and equip churches and others into this sort of work. I think it also served, though, to inspire staff - a chance for them to get out of the grind of the office and hear the impact of our work through some amazing testimonies.

We had 250 people attend the conference (our record) coming from as far west as Dartmouth, south as Isle of Wight, as far East as Woodbridge/Ipswich and as far North as Sunderland.

It is hard to put in words the feelings that such a day conjured up, nor to do justice to the atmosphere it created, but here goes:



 

Opening interviews

After my speech we interviewed three tenants/ former tenants.

Both spoke fluently, eloquently and insightfully. I asked one what messages she had got from churches throughout her time. To which she pointed out that sometimes churches / Christians can share a message of: ‘If you get ‘clean’ then you will get God's love’.

The message you should be sending is: 'God is with you even when you are in the darkest pit.’

A number came up to me afterwards and said how they had felt really convicted by their judgementalism. Jesus also, often told off the religious for being judgemental and so this also seemed to fit with our mission of equipping churches to love the ‘homeless’ but it was put across in a way I could never have done.

This is how one delegate put it in an e-mail:

 

“I think the stand-out moment for me was the lightbulb clarity of the statement by one of the tenants that churches need to show people (as Jesus did) that they are loved and precious now, in the midst of their mess, not wait until they have sorted it out to welcome and engage with them.

A real 'boom' moment and one that needs to be at the heart of our thinking as Christians, even though it means we have to walk through the mess with them.”



We also interviewed a refugee from Eritrea who was excellent.

 

Keynote speaker

Hope IntoAction Jonathan AitkeFormer MP Jonathan Aitken was our keynote speaker. He spoke movingly and with humility, humour and insight into homelessness and the issue of being released without having a home.

During his speech he became quite emotional, and this is what he wrote to me in an e-mail afterwards:

 

“I am writing to congratulate you on the tremendous success of your Hope into Action Conference on Friday. I was honoured to play a small part in it.

I was moved to the point of feeling quite emotional by the wonderful work that the charity does. Those testimonies and many conversations I had during the day all made me see your vision is doing a great Christian service and helping the lives of many vulnerable people.

The model you are using is a brilliant conception. Please keep up the good work and do not hesitate to let me know if there’s anything more that I can ever do to help the cause.”

 


Seminars – hearing from our tenants

We then had a time of seminars from ‘experts’ followed by seminars from those who had been in ‘lived experience’ of issues. The one which seemed to particularly work well was when three of our tenants spoke of what it was like to be addicted either to drugs or to alcohol. Then the audience were able to ask questions and hear from them their views.

We believe listening to our tenants is so important both for us and for them.

 

Linda Huskisson, our trustee, shares some of her story. 


Hope IntoAction Linda  

           
Awards

We ended on a key note speech from the General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance (Steven Clifford) who, along with the Dianne Tidball, President Elect of the Baptist Union, gave out awards to our tenants.

This was perhaps the most moving part of the day as tenants, so often rejected by society, had a moment were they were applauded, recognised, honoured for what they had done. At least three of them were moved to tears as they collected their awards.
 
The awards were for maintaining tenancy, battling drugs, battling alcoholism, finding work, social engagement, and a couple of others.



 

Feedback

I end on the words of one of the people we interviewed, as it was the most encouraging feedback we have had, and then an e-mail from someone else who, evidently, also felt inspired by the day:

 

Hi Ed,
 
I just wanted to write a quick note to say thank you.

Thank you for setting up Hope into Action. Thank you for having me come and share a bit today, it really was an honour to give back a little bit of what has been given to me.

And thank you, along with your team for organising today - I know it was probably a stressful nightmare at times trying to get everything to come together! But I felt really emotional standing up there, looking out at all those people, and seeing a room full of people who genuinely love and care for people like me, for the people who society generally rejects. It makes me feel really proud and privileged to be connected to a group of people who want to walk along side some of the messiest people and love them any way they can.
 
So thank you, and keep up the good work.

 

And:

Dear Ed,
 
I would like to express my thanks to you and to all of your team for a great conference on Friday. I am really pleased that I came. I found it immensely inspiring and the day also confirmed to me that HiA is well run and doing great things for vulnerable people in our communities.




Hope into Action is an award-winning charity set up to enable churches to fight homelessness initially in Peterborough, now across the country. Its dream is to change the lives of the most disadvantaged in our society by finding them homes rather than a bed for the night. It currently has 90 tenants living in 38 houses in 12 cities - and wants to do so much more.

Visit http://hopeintoaction.org.uk


Related:
Hope for the UK's homeless Ed Walker has some innovative ideas about how to tackle homelessness, but it's not without risk, he admits

Sleep out highlights homelessness rise A charity which provides homes for the most vulnerable in society in partnership with local churches is running its annual sleep out - amid growing levels of homelessness

 

Baptist Times, 05/04/2017
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