This week I have been teaching our ministry degree students on the effects of poverty in UK. The greatest impact however for them and ourselves is listening to someone first hand who has had to deal with hardship. There is power in someone’s story. So today I want to give you a brief outline of my friend’s journey from a dark hole to a light of hope. I hope you wil be inspired, moved but above all that the best gift that anyone could receive is the gift of hope.
His life was turned upside down about eight years ago, when he lost his job and became unemployed, which lasted for two years. During this time his wife and three children struggled to make ends meet. They struggled to pay the rent and other housing bills and before they knew it they began the spiralling descent into debt. As he put it himself this was the start of his six years in hell, trying to fight his battles on his own.
There was one particularly low point during this time, when the bailiffs turned up at his front door, demanding to take all his property. By this time he could not take much more and dragged the bailiff out onto the street threatening to do some serious harm. The police were called and he had the dilemma of being arrested or agreeing to the term of the bailiffs. He was not arrested, but he had to agree to pay the bailiffs over £800 within 24 hours or they would come back and seize his property.
My friend is a typical man in the sense he was unable to share how he was really feeling inside and instead put on a front that everything was rosy and fine. This veneer had lasted for six years, until the day after the bailiffs arrived. He broke down for the first time and it was in front of his boss of all people. Her heart broke for this strong but broken man before her. When our heart breaks for someone else we have to act. She did and the company paid off the debt to the bailiffs. The boss understood that my friend was a valuable member of the firm and they did not want to lose him.
It was at that point that he was given a leaflet about Christians Against Poverty. For six years he believed that he could not help himself. For six years he worried himself to illness including depression. For six years he was alone and isolated not knowing where to turn and who to trust. It was six years of hell. He just needed the courage to ask for help. Sometimes that is the hardest thing we will ever have to do. He had the leaflet for a week and read it about 1000 times over and over, willing himself to pick up the phone and make the call.
That glimmer of hope is there in front of him; all he needs to do is open his eyes. Eventually he makes the call and is immediately met by a reassuring and compassionate voice. A voice that had such a calming effect on him, it was like tasting a hint of heaven. Relieved that he made the call he then waited for a few days for the debt coach and support worker to attend his home. When the help arrived and they were explaining how CAP could help, my friend felt as though a big fork lift truck arrived in his living room and scooped up his burdens and frustrations over the last six years. When the meeting was finished and the CAP team left, the whole family danced for joy, jumping up and down, thankful that some of the pressure had been lifted.
From that moment of asking for help my friend started to get his life back. It’s made him a stronger person. It’s made him a better and more loving husband. It’s made him a better father. Would he want to go through this time again? Of course not if he had a choice. However sometimes we need to go through very difficult circumstances to make us better people. My friend is now thankful that he went through what he did, because he now realises with such clarity what is important in his life.
There is so much to be thankful for. He is thankful to his family sticking by him when he wanted to give up. He is thankful for his employer for showing such compassion and love, as he stood before her, vulnerable and bearing his broken spirit. He is thankful to the caring and calming voice at the end of the telephone. He is thankful to his debt coach for not judging him and showing a practical love. He is thankful for the gift of hope that glimmers in every life. He is thankful for the day he opened his eyes and saw that gift of hope.