Archive | January, 2017

Longing to be included.

11 Jan

The “Wayside Community Centre”, is a voluntary Sector organisation, with registered Charity status. The organisation was Set up in 1990 due to the increasing number of people who were suffering from mental health illness. The organisation was a direct outcome of a weekly prayer meeting that I held in my home in 1987.

The charity was set up after overcoming some personal experiences that almost drove me insane. I found that no one was available to offer any support or comfort that could help me through this very painful time of my life. Upon realising that my own personal circumstance was not isolated, I decided to set up a support network that would help to heal, and restore the lives of those who have no voice, are broken, lonely, and isolated.

Since becoming a widow in December 2015, I’ve found out for myself the benefits of an Organisation like Wayside to those suffering losses. Having relocated to a new borough I was unfamiliar with the area, had nowhere to go and remained secluded in my home for a short period of time. Loneliness had become a companion I did not appreciate so I spent most of my time longing to be a part of “Wayside”. Since starting the organisation in 1989 it has been a big part of my life having worked tiredly to keep it going in the face of insurmountable obstacles and mental stress.

After spending the last twenty-six years working to create a welcoming atmosphere to the community I now realise how unique it is in the services offered to the elderly and the impact it has on the lives of individuals.

Times spent at the centre gives people the opportunity to be themselves. They socialise not only through the daily activities but through sharing stories, laughing, and even dancing as they reminisce on times gone by.(Having a good time is what we call it).

Being much older now I get very tired especially after being diagnosed with Angina. I may not be able to do much now, however, I make sure that  I get to the centre so I can do what I do best, supporting people through prayer, giving words of encouragement to those in distress, and just being there for them.

I thank God that He has brought us thus far enabling us to employ two full time and one-half time members of staff to keep the organisation going. Times are still difficult for us as our main source of income comes from our Charity shop

And some one-off donations. In my experience of feeling excluded from the community, it is my desire to see the organisation become financially stable so as to accommodate others needing somewhere to go for companionship in the future.

Looking forward to somewhere to go during the day definitely provides a positive contribution to a more fulfilled life as it gives people something of interest to look forward to –Itself a factor in preventing mental and physical health deterioration. Thus improving the quality of life.#inspiration

Finally finding peace with God

3 Jan

On spring bank holiday, May 1987, as I left home to walk the short distance to catch the coach to Derbyshire: the day seemed like any other day of the year. The neighbourhood was quiet and calm as people were still asleep. On this particular day, I was among several members of our church party who were attending the final celebration weekend convention held yearly at Cliff College.

Our journey started at 7.00am, and was estimated to take three hours but took several hours due to the heavy traffic. We had hoped to arrive in time to attend the first of the seminars held outside on the Terrace, but by the time we arrived this activity was already in progress. As soon as we arrived we were confronted with the view of hundreds of cars, caravans, tents, and numerous coaches. There were those on foot walking from both direction and people seemed to be coming from everywhere.

We were so taken up by the crowds that no one noticed that our leader had mysteriously vanished. We were strangers to the area, so it was with some trepidation that we ventured out of the coach to go in search for her. Some went to the nearest tent, whilst others including myself found the Terrace.

The Terrace was an area located between two main buildings of the College, which evolved from an 18th century Manor House. Here, the service was conducted in the open air with a makeshift rostrum. Situated on the hill above and overlooking the Terrace was the most beautiful arranged flower gardens I’ve seen. A wall separated the Terrace from the garden, which was accessible by several rows of steps. As we entered we could see that the area was already packed to capacity. People were sitting in every available space possible – the garden walls, and even on the ground among the flowerbeds.

A group of singers led the worship, which was very vibrant. From the expression on the people’s faces, you could see they were happy to be there. They were smiling; moreover, they were very welcoming and made every effort to make space for us to find a seat. Their singing was joyful and boisterous; their entire bodies were caught up in the act of worship. Some raised their hands in adoration, whilst others clasped their hands as if in prayer and occasionally people yelled Hallelujah, Amen, thank you, Jesus. This was unusual to me; however, I settled down unstirred by the emotions of the people around me and waited for the preacher to be announced.

Soon after the preacher began to speak it was as if he had mysteriously picked me out from among the crowd of people. His message seemed to make a demand of me. His voice penetrated into my entire being, which made me feel conscious that the congregation too was aware that his message was directed to me. This preacher was making a demand on my life telling me I had certain duties to perform in the church, and I certainly was not prepared to get involved there. By now I was beginning to feel very angry and had a great urge to escape. I simply switched off and went to a pity party with myself thinking of my own sad state of affair of the heart, the breakdown of my marriage, which was very painful. How was I going to cope? What would become of me? These were a few of my questions. I was not a particularly good company and was getting rather critical of this group of people who seemed so full of themselves. Clapping, smiling even looking happy in Church: whatever next? I thought.

At the end of the meeting, we made our way in search of somewhere to sit and have our lunch. Once outside I was made even more aware of the vast numbers of people who had come to the convention.

The multitude of worshippers filled the park as far as the eye could see. They were coming from the upper tent, the Terrace, the children’s meeting, the big tent, and the lower tent. People were ascending and descending the hill, some were sitting in groups on the grass at the top of the hill others were sitting around their caravans. The beauty of the colours of their attire amid the green grass and the surrounding hills was magnificent to behold. The sound of music mingled with the voices of children at play filled the air, and I could picture a biblical scene with Jesus on the hillside of Galilee and a multitude of people coming there to hear him speak. I had never been in a place as this before. The scene was mesmerising, as I stood and gazed at the beautiful Derbyshire hills I said truly: “God is in this place”.

As we sat down for lunch the feeling of unease came again. There is definitely something spooky about this place I thought. The message about getting involved in the mission of the church was being transmitted in my brain and I was hearing it loud and clear so much so that I felt the urge to get away as fast as I could from the place.

Frustrated, I decided to spend the rest of the evening sitting on the coach. As I pondered over the situation my thoughts went to the bookshop up the hill. I loved reading and thought it would be good to browse around in the shop and see if anything on display caught my fancy. Perhaps I’d find a good book to read whilst I waited for the others to return from the service for the journey home. Feeling more relaxed I began the short walk in search of the shop. On the way to the Terrace, I remembered passing a sign that showed the position of the shop, so I went directly there. I was only there a few minutes when a friend who had arrived at the weekend celebrations ahead of us, approached me.  She was quite happy to meet up with me, but somehow she seemed to be in a hurry and quickly pointed out two books she thought I should read. Together we went to the checkout and paid for the books, the Holy Spirit and you and Nine 0 clock in the Morning.

Taking me by the hand she said we must hurry or we won’t get a seat. We went to the lower tent to hear Rev Colin Urquhart. Vera had heard him speak a few times before as he was one of the main speakers for the weekend event. In her excitement, she told me all she knew about him. He was an Anglican Priest previously, but he was now an Evangelist and: “You‘ve got to hear him” she insisted. I had nothing against this man of God, but I was not particularly interested in sitting amongst those who instead of sitting quietly to listen to the preacher, respond with hallelujah and amen and this Jesus thing. “Why were they saying his name so often?” I came to the conclusion that they were new to the church and thought they had to say his name. In my heart I was protesting: “No I’m sorry, but I’m not going.”  but I did not want to let her down.

All my life I‘ve tried to please others; never wanting people to think badly of me after all, Vera was enjoying the conference. She happily told me what I had missed over the past few days. The bible study, Morning Prayer meetings, speakers, walking along the prayer paths, the new friends made etc. I could not tell her how uncomfortable I felt being there so I went along quite unwillingly to the lower tent. I did not know at that time that my life would never be the same again.

Up to that period of time, my life was a boring one. I was a very sensitive person, who took offence for the simplest of things said about me, kept very much to myself and I did not make good company. This meant I had no friends and was the worst off for being lonely and isolated.

I was brought up in a small country village in the Caribbean in a family that kept very much to themselves, which meant I had a very reserved upbringing. We lived across the road from the Methodist church that my family attended religiously every Sunday. The little chapel was used for Christian worship and sufficed as a school that provided education to children from the age of five to 16. My village and those from other areas also used this chapel/school.

The chapel was a hive of community events, as it provided various social activities organised by missionaries who taught several Irish and English folk songs.

I was a weak child and suffered from some common ailment or other including asthma that plagued me regularly especially in the rainy season. This condition kept me from participating in most of these activities and attending school regularly, and I was absent for several months of the year. However, by living nearby I was able to work from home so in spite of the setbacks I was bright and succeeded in each stage of the school exams.

I was very shy and particularly choosy in my dress sense. Unlike other girls of my age who wore ordinary below the knee dresses I liked mine ankle length. I also felt unable to have my arm, chest and back exposed and people referred to me among other things as being old fashioned, stupid, and why can’t you be as everyone else? I was constantly being criticised and felt very unloved, rejected, and condemned just for being me.

As I grew up these feelings continued and I felt that I would never succeed in life as I had never been given any encouragement. However, deep down I longed to be somebody. After leaving school I was sent to study pitman typing and bookkeeping. On Arriving Here, in England at the age of 20, I continued my studies in typing and office practice, including several life courses but this fear of rejection continued with me throughout and even though I had acquired several certificates of distinctions I was unable to make a career in any of them through fear of not being good enough.

As a young girl I dreamt of marrying a gentle, loving and kind man but alas this was just a folly of a simple-minded girl who had no exposure to the world at large. People like me from a small village in a small island have no knowledge of places outside the vicinity where she lives, has no real life experiences and could only make belief. So my dreams were unrealistic, and after trying to hold on for the sake of the children the marriage ended after 20 years. So here I was at Cliff College with various emotional feelings. I felt alone, abandoned, rejected and thought that there was definitely no hope for me finding my dreams come true.

Now I was hearing testimonies of people who had similar life experiences. In communicating their life story they told of a loving father who came to their rescue when they called, they spoke of heartaches, pain, rejection, abuse suffered in silence and the bitterness they harboured in their hearts and of the release and freedom found as they invited Jesus into their lives.

I had never been at a place where I’ve heard of wonderful things like these. I felt myself wanting to be free from my pain, and gradually I was opening up but remained sceptical.

These were young people: I was now 43 years old and I still felt rejected, unloved, humiliated, scorned etc. “God, I will like to have a testimony, but why are they talking about Jesus so much.” I thought. Up till then I very rarely heard people calling on the name of Jesus or even asserting that he did something for them. Were these people real? Again, I felt uneasy and wanted to make my exit, as I was about to do so a young man sitting somewhere along the pew decided to get up and beckoned me to his seat. We exchanged places just at the point of introducing the speaker the Rev. Colin Urquhart. Perhaps I’ll stay and listen to him after all. He came from the Church of England they won’t dare express themselves whilst he’s speaking.

He invited people to give their lives to Christ. Even though I was brought up in the church, had attended Sunday school regularly, at the age of 12 attended reception classes, learnt my catechism and made a commitment to follow Christ and was finally received as a member of the Methodist Church this didn’t feel right for me. As I reflected on these things I became aware of a headache that I had all day. I was beginning to feel miserable again, I thought about the difficulties of my life and of my longing to find peace, and happiness. As far as I knew peace could only be acquired in death, right now my life seemed to be of no real value what so ever. In fact, I was fed up of life.

As the minister prayed for people to accept Jesus as Lord of their lives I finally thought I might as well give him my life. I needed his intervention and without any more resistance I closed my eyes and said: “Jesus you can have my life. I don’t want it anymore. Have it. Here, catch.” I threw myself in the hand of Jesus and as he caught hold of me immediately I felt as though a large burden had fallen off my shoulders and I was filled with the most wonderful sense of peace imaginable. From that moment I had no recollection of the people standing there in the tent with me.

The Marquee that contained hundreds of people suddenly seemed to be empty except for the Spirit of God at my side and me. Suddenly I could hear the preacher speaking in tongues, but in English, I heard a voice calling me by name (Jean), and telling me what He wanted me to do. I wondered how He knew my name and how did He find me among such a crowd. When at last I was able to open my eyes I found that the people were all there and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something miraculous had taken place. Even the atmosphere seemed changed; inside me was a hushed silence. My very soul was at peace with God, and from that moment I had no recollection of the rest of the service. I was simply lost in wonder pondering over the mysteries of God.