We’re used to seeing bad news in the media. We’re used to the feelings of sadness and anger and wanting to shout at the telly because no-one is saying it the way we would be saying it. We’re used to wanting to hide from the news altogether. But this week, I was really struck by the intensity of a sense of lost hope, which seemed to touch our nation when the news came of the murder of Jo Cox MP.

The referendum debate had been heating up, the rhetoric and behaviour surrounding it ranged from ever more confusing to downright nasty and violent. The massacre in Orlando, where 49 people were killed in a gay bar by a gunmen, was still clear in our memories. We were already feeling raw. Jo Cox was the sort of person who put her head above the parapet and stood against hate. The irony and pain of her killing in the midst of everything else brought despair. What I was reading on social media wasn’t just grief and sorrow, it was, “I’m sick of the human race” stuff. Everywhere we looked, it seemed that people were being silenced, through accusation, fear and violence.

But beauty and hope have a way of breaking through despair. Resurrection follows death. People have responded with peace vigils, letters to MP’s to thank them for their service, hastags on social media that reflect Jo’s message of unity, donations to organisations making a different in people’s lives, and calls to improve the tone of the last few days of Referendum campaigning. The responses have been international, and they have been filled with love. The day after Jo’s death, I read this letter that someone had shared on Facebook. I really appreciated the share, and thought you might too:

(Source: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/01/wind-clock-for-tomorrow-is-another-day.html?m=1

Letters of E. B. White, edited by Dorothy Lobrano Guth; Image: E.B. White, courtesy of Wikimedia.)

Author E. B. White won numerous awards in his lifetime, and with good reason. Born in 1899, he was one of the greatest essayists of his time, writing countless influential pieces for both The New Yorker and Harper’s; in 1959, he co-authored the multi-million selling, expanded edition of The Elements of Style; he wrote children’s books which have gone on to become classics, such as Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. He was also responsible for writing hundreds of wonderful letters.

In March of 1973, he wrote the following perfectly formed reply to a Mr. Nadeau, who sought White’s opinion on what he saw as a bleak future for the human race.

North Brooklin, Maine

30 March 1973

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


(Signed, ‘E. B. White’)

Mentoring leaders 

It is great to be able to announce a new project that we are involved in, which will be launching later this year.

Through a partnership between the Bible Society in Australia, YFC International and ourselves, a new app is being launched this year, where young people can go to ask questions about faith and life.

There will be a variety of ways that this will work within the app, but what is exciting for us, is that young people can ask questions in a safe environment and young leaders will respond to those questions.

So what part are we playing?
To start with, there will be 24 young leaders under the age of 30 from across the world, responding to the questions sent in. Our role is to mentor them to ensure they have the space and time to grow as leaders, but also to explore any issues that may come up through this process.

As soon as this app is officially launched, we will send out information for young people to engage with it, but it is exciting to know that all the appropriate safe-guarding will be in place and there will be space available for young people to work things out, ask those questions and have help to process them. For us, it will be great to support young leaders, help them grow and enable them to work through their own questions, as they in turn support and enable others do the same.

So, we ask for your prayers for the following, please:
1: An increase of young leaders to support and answer questions that the young people send in.

2: That young people will engage with this and ask the questions.

3: That we will be able to raise up other mentors to support the young leaders.

4: That extra support, particularly in terms of finance, comes our way to enable us to take on this project and mentor these young leaders appropriately.

Life-changing memories

I’ve been involved in events that draw young people together to serve and bless local communities on a short term basis, for many years. I’ve done this both as a leader with young people and as a community worker in an area where teams have carried out this outreach, or mission, as it is usually known.

Over that time, I’ve had good opportunity to reflect on some of the pros and cons of these times. On one hand, there’s a danger that we teach young people that sharing faith and serving communities is not a simple and every day affair, that it’s something that requires special organisation and going to somewhere “other”.  There’s also a danger that local communities receive short term and fleeting input, often from people who have a very different life experience to those living there, and then are left to continue as before when the visitors are gone.

However, I believe that, done well, we can shape such times to be precious and valuable, where young people grow in confidence, develop their understanding of faith and their relationship to God and people, and bless local communities in the process.

This year in Meanwood, one of the areas where I work, a team of 8 young people who were taking part in a residential called Mission United, joined and enhanced the community work that is already going on there. For members of the local churches, they brought challenge and blessing –  young people from another place, standing alongside, being vulnerable in their own inexperience but passionate in their hope for change, full of energy and enthusiasm to serve. For local residents and agency workers, it was so important to see young people in a positive light, willing and able, working hard simply to be a blessing. Those “receivers” were also presented with a challenge – to be gracious with young people who weren’t always graceful in the ways they served and to be humble enough to receive. There was opportunity for growth everywhere and that opportunity was not lost on any of those involved. It was a really great experience.

The beautiful thing about special events is that they create space for us to raise up our eyes and take a look at things from a different perspective. Sure, life doesn’t continue each day as though we’re at an amazing gig, on a once-in a-lifetime holiday, on a spiritual retreat or, indeed, on a mission residential, but memories made at those times can be precious memories indeed, not just as recollections of the past but as things which shape the way we go forward. I know great memories were made when our Mission United team joined us this April, and I know that it made a positive difference to people’s lives. I’m very grateful to have been a part of that.

Whatever you ask lord! 

Recently I have read part of the encounter Mary had with the Angel, as she found out she was to become a mum.  A story and encounter a number of us have read any number of  but something new struck me on this occasion that I hadn’t been struck by before, and that was Mary’s complete obedience to God, and to what was about to happen. 
She would have been very aware of all the social struggles, the questions, the comments, and even the rejection that was about to come her way, but yet, she knew that she had heard from God, she knew that this was what the Lord wanted, and so she went along with it. 
How many of us would do the same, recognising hwo others would rein a situation or context, how many of us, would a pet and recognise what God was saying, and go with it, rather than trying own way out of the situation due to fear, worry, anxiety?
How many times do we put our own concerns, worries, thoughts on to a situation that God wants to maybe due to our attempts to control something things don’t happen in the way that God would want them to happen.
Mary, with little or no regard for herself, went with what God had for her, with what God want and didn’t au rather in the situation.  And things happened as God wanted them too.
Maybe we could learn a lot for learn not to put our own thoughts and controls in place, and maybe, we could all be more obedient to what God is calling for each of us. 
What is it that God is saying to you today through this?
Shadow you need to make to be more obedient?
What is there of yourself that  to remove, to allow more of God in?