Recently, a few people who used to visit the Northampton Jesus Centre died. It caused me to reflect. Did we do all that we could have done? Did they experience the love of God through what we did for them? It reminds us how fragile some of our visitors’ lives are and how important it is that they are made to feel welcome and at home.
I’ve wanted to write about the power of belonging for a while. It was sparked by watching a film and reading a book about two boys from two different countries. As I reflected on the powerful effect they had on me I realised that what united the two boys was that they were both in a prison of believing they belonged to no-one and that no-one cared about them.
The first was the young boy in the film ‘I am David’ (based on the novel by Ann Holm), who escaped from a prisoner of war camp aged 12 years old, believing his parents were dead. The other was Paul, abandoned by his mother at two weeks old, found by a neighbour among the rubbish, who was brought up in the notorious St Leonard’s children’s’ home in the 70s (where paedophiles gained access to senior care worker positions and routinely abused hundreds of children placed in their care).
Just before David escaped from the prisoner of war camp, with the help of a German officer, he was told “Trust no-one”. Paul’s experiences in the London children’s home also taught him to “Trust no-one”. Because of their early experiences both of them believed they were worth nothing and didn’t deserve anything good to happen to them.
There is power in what we believe about ourselves.
What we believe impacts on how we behave. If you don’t believe you are worth anything then why does it matter if you wreck your body with alcohol, drugs and casual sex? Who cares anyway? How do you ever learn that God created you in His image? That you are a unique human being who He loved and cared so much about that He allowed His only son to be sacrificed in your place?
Many of our visitors have experienced rejection, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, and from this they have believed that they are not worth anything to anybody.
If you believe, like the boy David in the film, that no-one can be trusted, how do you learn to trust that not all fathers beat you or abuse you or let you down? That there is a heavenly Father who is perfect in His love for you and who is totally trustworthy?
Part of the answer lies somewhere in a comment made to me in an attempt to help some of the sadness that I felt over the tragic end to these two visitors’ lives: “Maybe they saw enough of Jesus in us, that when they meet Him face to face they will recognise Him and that will be enough for Him to welcome them in.”
We have a picture painted for us in our Step-Up drop in space. It has many worn and lost faces – young, old, black and white, with the title: ‘Welcome Home’. When I look at it each morning it reminds me why I am doing what I am doing.
Whether our visitors find a relationship with God for themselves is not always certain. But as long as they find home – a place where they feel they are welcomed, accepted, valued and safe – then they are already halfway there on this journey.