My Zimbabwean friend, whom I’ll call Andrew, has always taken his Christian faith very seriously. For him, it is not just a matter of church on Sundays; it is an everyday business of caring for those around him, and keeping his eyes open to see whom he can help in the neighbourhood.
Before he came to the UK, he taught in a secondary school at home in Zimbabwe, and at lunchtime he would walk out to the local shops to buy himself something to eat. It soon became apparent to him that there were a lot of children hanging about in the streets who weren’t as well off as the ones he was teaching. He started to chat to some of the boys he saw, asking them what they were doing and how they ended up on the streets like this. After a few minutes trying to gain their trust, he rubbed his stomach and said “I’m hungry. How about you?”. As they were even hungrier than he was, Andrew decided to share his ‘dinner money’ with them. He wondered if he could trust one of them to take his cash to the supermarket and buy something for them all to eat; so he decided to ask the little group which one of them was most reliable – “is it you…or you…or you?” Amid much laughter the boys selected the most reliable of their number and off he went to get orange juice, bread and beans: enough for everyone to share.
This became a regular event. Every school lunch time found Andrew sitting on the grass with his new companions. The police even checked them out to see what was going on. Slowly, as trust grew, the street kids opened up and told Andrew about their lives, stories of family breakup, of incredible hardship and of starvation. Andrew looked round for other ways to help. He decided to both tell them some bible stories and to help them get better clothes. They were ragged, and some of their garments had never been washed, so Andrew went to second hand clothes shops to get some trousers and tops. It wasn’t always possible to get things the right size, but the worst cases were soon reclothed.
Now that he is living in London, Andrew is still looking for those who need loving care and attention in the community. But that’s a story for another day.
Andrew told me that he finds Isaiah 58 very inspiring. I picked verses 6-7 and 10-11:-
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
…if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun parched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”
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Alphabetical index for other ‘Now that’s what I call practical Christianity’ Posts
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