Overcoming #emotionalstress to build a #safeplace in the community

19 Feb

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Lack of self confidence has been the ruling force in my life for many years. Criticism about the simple way I lived my life helped to suppress my development in confidence and drove the real me into hibernation.

Living my life contrary to my true nature failed to make me feel good about myself. Having a life that is dictated does nothing to make anyone feel secure. Living this way made me feel I had no goals to reach for myself. No ambitions to achieve, No decisions to make for my life and this made me feel voiceless and just an object.

For years I harboured bitterness in my heart towards those who made my life a misery. I felt they ruined my life through their constant criticism. I tried my best to please them and found I could do nothing that would change their opinion of me. I never felt appreciated, no one encouraged me, Instead I felt rejected, unloved, scorned and afraid of life until a spiritual experience changed my life forever.

That experience brought about the peace I longed for in my life. I still get depress on occasions but it does not have the powerful effect on me as it did previously. I am now more aware of my emotions and can take control over them. Allowing emotions to rule your life has destructive powers. Whilst I concentrated on what others were doing to me I overlooked the fact that I was the victim of my own emotions. Those bad feelings drove me into the wilderness and that’s a place I do not want to re-visit.

We all make choices every day, some good, some bad. I have made some bad choices i.e. I choose to remain silent instead of standing up for myself. I choose to hide my emotions because I wanted praise for being submissive to being insulted, harassed, and scorned.

When I finally came to my senses I realise that I had done more harm to myself than those that despised me. Holding grudges against others is destructive. It does not allow truth to be seen clearly. A distorted view of life does not allow self to be seen in an imperfect way, instead it allows you to be constantly eroded by your actions until your situation becomes hopeless.

After having that encounter with God I became confident, secure, and happy.  I began to look at life differently and took notice of other people’s plight and wanted desperately to help restore the lives of those suffering the effects of stress an illness that has been my constant companion for many years.

This new vision of life reminded me of a hymn written by William Tidd Matson(1833-99)

Lord I was blind! I could not see in thy marred visage any grace

But now the beauty of thy face in radiant vision draws on me.

For tho hast made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak

The dead to live, and lo I break the chains of my captivity.

Once upon a long time previously I had dreams for my life as every one else, but I had lost them along the way, only to find them when Jesus made my heart his home. This is summed up in one of my poems entitled Second Chance;

Out of the wilderness of life I stand,

And looked through the tunnel of time

From whence I’ve travelled years ago

A Lass with dreams most beautiful.

I took but one step and met my destiny

Too proud to let any one know

That I had fallen at the pit of despair

Along with my dreams and hopes.

 

Years went by while I lay

With my face into the ground

Each time I tried to raise my head

I was pushed further in the sand.

 Then one day Faith passed by

And lent a helping hand

He stood me firmly on my feet

And brushed away the sand.

 

He recovered my dreams

And laid them at my feet

My emotions became the better of me

And I stoop to pick them up.

 Now that we are reunited

I shall guard them with my life

In case someone else should steal them

And destroy me once again. 

 

 First steps

I opened up my home and started a #prayer group. These meetings were different from the traditional church prayer meetings.They were to be a means of helping people know the love of Christ Jesus and enable them to build confidence enough to share their opinions in open discussions. This created a space where people could come and openly talk and pray about their fears, disappointments, grieves, doubts, hopes, and above all faith in God.

Sharing our lives in this fashion gave people a new freedom to openly share their feelings/emotions. Many conservative people were now openly expressing their faith for the first time in their lives. People found new hope and meaning for their lives and many Friendships developed. They also found it easier to cope with their situations. I offered counselling and befriending sessions. Later on, a helpline was introduced to provide support to the shut-in.

At that time Social exclusion, injustice and inequality were widely experienced and talked about. We decided to call a meeting to find out what the people wanted to see happening in the community. Many people voiced their concern about the impact the economic decline was having on the lives of local people. Serious poverty was prevalent, whole families were unemployed; others lived in bad housing conditions, suffered from stress, and remained lonely and isolated in their homes. These people felt trapped in a recurring cycle of stress/depression and hopelessness. It was said that those situations also contributed greatly to the deterioration of mental ill health experienced by many members of the community.

The situation cried out for a community centre that would take a person’s physical, social, and spiritual needs into consideration and provide care for the whole person.

As more people began to tell others about the meetings, my home became a Drop in so I packed up my job to be there for the community. It was at this point that the seriousness of the situation was fully realized and we set about seeking ways for further development and became a registered Charity in 1989. We provided a programme of activities that would help to heal the lives of the vulnerable.

Never in my wildest dream would I have considered providing care and support for others when l was in need of support myself. Having gone through many years of stress, I was not in a fit state of mind to help anyone previously; even though one of my ambitions was to have a community centre to care for others. However by the grace of God this became possible when I yielded myself to Christ Jesus and was healed of a broken heart. God was now able to use my life to have a great impact on the lives of countless broken individuals.

 

Stepping out in faith

We started out without any funds what-so-ever. We organised Social/recreational activities, outings to places of Interest and a lunch club. Grateful people brought provisions to keep the Club going, and to help with the outgoings. I began to attend every meeting possible to gain information of the various services in Hackney around mental health issues.

We organised workshops on this topic in an effort to break down the stigma around mental health issues that existed. Attended training courses and took up membership with various voluntary sector organisations in London. This helped to gain support that would better equip us to meet the needs of this client group.

In an effort to fundraise we organised jumble sales, Caribbean evenings and barbeque events. We baked cakes and sold them at Christmas bazaars and so on. Catering for community groups events, salvaged discarded items from skips to recycle, took clippings from plants and I would go out in the garden in the rain to stick the cuttings in the soil so we could cultivate plants to sell. We also began to raise small amounts of funds from trusts.

All this time there were those who continue to refer to me as being worthless and confused whilst others asked if I knew what I was taking on. What about insurance, premises, renovation, staff etc., and what makes you think you could carry out the task they asked? The comments brought back memories to my past life when I lived in fear of the future, and the opinions of men. Now the only voice I tend to listen to is the voice of God who called me to this mission, and I would succeed come what may! I do believe the word of God which states: “I could do all things through Christ who strengthen me”. (Phil 4: 13) Therefore I never allowed any one to succeed in putting me down, and then rejoice when I fall. With this thought in mind I said “I am determined to succeed in this mission come what may. This organisation will be unique. With Gods help it will survive in this community”.

And it has survived these twenty seven years thanks to the faithfulness of God. Wayside Community Centre was feature in several media Publications for its work these include:

The Shaftsbury report on the effective work of faith communities

The Medical Journal (Working with students from St. Bartholomew and

St.Mary’s Hospitals).

The Voice newspaper

Hackney Gazette

City and East London Focus Magazine.

A short Film around Active aging shown at a conference at the European Commission in Brussels One of the sessions was recorded at the Round Chapel.

A Channel 4 program you deserve this house

The Wayside Community project aim to help improve the quality of life for people suffering the effects of stress/depression. Our service users are encouraged and empowered to take ownership of their lives. This is achieved by teaching them how to live a happier, healthier, lifestyle.

Our input helps to reduce social isolation to a number of local people. Wayside recognizes, the multi cultural people living in the Borough and now has extend its services to include people from Cuba, Spain, India, Italy, France, and other Countries. Our doors are open to anyone who needs our support. Many people from these countries are now volunteers at our centre and charity shop.

We provide a place for people to meet, engage and most importantly to be heard. Our intervention includes providing: A health programe which provides elderly people the chance to keep fit in a fun and safe environment

Educational projects which help to equip local people with the tools and skills necessary to assume control over their lives and livelihoods

Recreational events which provide people who are socially isolated the chance to explore new places and develop friendships.

A Charity shop to help people assess affordable goods to help maintain their dignity and feel good about their appearances.

The shop also helps bring the community together and promote social inclusion. It also provides a small income to help sustain the organisation.

Activities include: Gospel aerobics, Gentle chair exercise, Zumba Gold , Art & craft, Diabetes workshop Prostate Cancer and healthy eating workshop, Knitting & Crocheting We also provide: Outings to the seaside & places of interest, Guitar lessons, Sewing classes, Tea dance, and Christmas parties, and IT skills. Prayer and Bible study are held separately and open to all. We also partner with several international ministries over the years. I continue to marvel at how God can take a broken vessel and use it to bless hurting people in his own way. To God be the glory . Great things he has done. Visit http://www.waysidecommunity.org.uk and www.jeanvjohn.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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