“Show them Love… And they won’t Forget You”.

The above is a quote that concluded a testimony in such a succinct and stark way that it stayed with me for a long time after the telling. It made me think about the small things we do as Christians, the little acts of kindness that allow people to see Jesus in us.

It was my boyfriend who told me the story; of his friend who was in prison and had been left alone. I currently have a family member in prison and it’s only now that I realise just how lonely the experience is. Those who receive regular family visits are the lucky ones: for a lot of inmates, the only visitor to pass by their door is the police guard; the only time they talk to people is when they’re in their cells, whether it be an argument or an impassioned wail: if there’s no one outside kind enough to wire money to their prison account, they’re poor. The only way to make money is to do jobs inside the prison (with salaries starting from around £1). These are needed to purchase the most under-appreciated necessities: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap….

Then there’s the lack of ‘outside’ time; in the ‘harsher’ prisons, the weather is a myth. You’re unaware of the rain; you’ll be released having missed blizzards, tropical storms, monsoons and biting chills; heatwaves…. the draft from the window and the tiny swirls of dilapidation left by dust motes in the sun are the only traces of natural life you get. Imagine being in a place like this, against your own will, and no one you knew on the ‘outside’ could be bothered to give you a call?

It’s a well known adage that one only knows their true friends when they’re going through a struggle. I suppose that, whilst the prisoner stares at the cell walls, their eyes tracing the assaulted escape attempts of prisoners past, they’re able to reflect in their loneliness and desperation; of all those friends they had way back when who were always there for a laugh, but the moment a member of their arsenal was gone, they quickly found a replacement at the artillery store.

Like my family member, my boyfriend had an acquaintance who had been in a similar situation. In prison and alone. His ‘boys’ were no longer there. The person who sent him money and letters was simply an ‘acquaintance’: my boyfriend. When this man was released, he simply said:

“You were the only one who was there for me. Even though I don’t believe in your God, if you ever tell me something I’ll listen to you before anyone else”.

The only reason why this guy was able to say such a thing was because he saw something different; a trait of Christ. It’s a powerful testament for any Christian, anyone who loves God, to look into their everyday actions and see if the people around them would be able to identify the Christ in them. We can’t all be in a position to rescue a baby from a burning building, or be stoned in the Middle East for our faith, or make it into the public domain and publish books about our life in Christ, but we can help a struggling person with their shopping; spot a lonely person at the bus stop on a chilling winter’s day and offer them a lift home; say “good morning”, volunteer, become a mentor to younger people we know; simply tell people we know to be struggling with life that we’re there to hear their vent. And smile. A genuine smile given to a person who never receives them is like ambrosia: something heavenly. The best stuff. It’ll keep them going.

When people see the genuine care you have for humanity, they’re more likely to inquire about the One who placed that care in your heart.

xXx

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Do Something!

I’ve bored my male friends silly with my talk about women’s rights and whatnot. It’s not that they don’t care or anything, but I think they know that talk is cheap. I have such strong views, but what am I doing to make a difference, to help women in those positions that truly breaks my heart?

A few years ago I watched a Dispatches documentary about women in Afghanistan living under Taliban rule. These women were forced to wear burqas—even to the point where their eyes had to be covered—they were beaten by their husbands, they couldn’t work or be educated, and even being spotted in their homes by another man without appropriate cover meant severe punishment. These women were so hurt that they were self-immolating. There was an eighteen year old in a forced marriage who had attempted the same on a busy high street, but was rescued and doused with water by onlookers. The camera crew visited her in hospital, all bandaged and weak, and my stomach dropped. The girl looked dead inside, as if her soul had gone. It was after watching this documentary that I decided to start my own charity.

There’s so many things happening in the world against women, so there was a lot of think about: what would my charity do? What section of women’s inequality should I tackle? I did lots of research and found that there are already charities helping women in the Middle East and ones that set up schools for young Afghan girls; I know that there’s rape crisis centres rapidly being established in the Congo and other parts of Africa where war rape and incest is rife, so I decided to look into the areas of violence against women that aren’t being addressed.

Cue another documentary, Panorama this time, about asylum seekers and refugees who try—by any means necessary—to escape their war-torn and dangerous countries to get into the UK. It was  a very sad documentary and made me thankful that I was already born and raised here. There was a trio of college lads who had literally left Afghanistan in just their t-shirts and jeans and ended up on the borders of Europe in the middle of winter, shivering, with just a plastic sheet between them to keep warm.

There was a woman on this documentary who left Africa after her husband was killed. She had her two young daughters with her, trying to get into the UK. There’s a part of the asylum seeker’s journey that’s dangerous—rogues operate in the area and use exploitative means to provide transport for people to get on to the next country.

You know where I’m going, right?

Yes, the woman was raped by these poachers and they molested her nine-year-old daughter. As the woman told her story to the reporter, she and the camera crew were in tears. That’s when it struck me: women who are homeless, or coming into this country poor and broken—and their children—are in danger. It’s more dangerous for women to be on the streets than men and women asylum seekers won’t only be exploited on their way into this country, but a lot of them find themselves in human trafficking rings once they’ve arrived.

So I want to start up a charity that helps homeless and vulnerable women and their children.

It’s going to take a lot of prayer, and it’s something I don’t actually have the time to tackle at the moment, what with university and assignments, but I’m hoping that with God’s help and a lot of patience, this idea can become a reality.

Stop thinking, Baker, and start doing.

xXx