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Hope fulfilled: approaching Advent

calendar18 November 2021

Author: Alicia Chapman

Hope fulfilled: approaching Advent

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

Isaiah 9:2

(This devotional is taken from the October 2021 issue of our Lifted magazine)

As we enter the home stretch of 2021, our minds may begin to look ahead to the year’s end. Though the days grow shorter, we know light can still be found in this time. In a few weeks, all across the world, people will celebrate the birth of our King Jesus. In the season of Adent, we remember with gratitude and honour our Emmanuel, who chose to live with us.

This time of year brings with it a sense of waiting, of expectation, and of hope that things will be different. As the Church approaches Advent, we are reminded of the greatest countdown in history: the desperate longing to see the light promised to those who dwell in darkness, and the King who will make every wrong thing right. Across the world, people like you and me will be entering a time of reflection, looking back on all that 2021 held and daring to hope for all that 2022 may bring.

This year, more than ever, after the turbulence of a global pandemic, I remind myself that the longing and anticipation for hope fulfilled is not in vain. God fulfilled his promises to his people, as he always does. And so Jesus, the light, stepped into our darkness, our mess, our pain, forever declaring to humanity ‘you will not walk alone’.

For many, the pandemic put parts of life on hold. In this season of hoping for better things to come, we may feel like those people who wondered when the hoped-for Messiah would arrive. Yet we know that God is here with us. He came just as he said he would and is with us now. Even now he is doing what he does best: stepping into brokenness, pain and darkness, to restore, redeem, heal and transform. As we set our hope on all that is to come, may we know the light that has shone in the darkness, and may we witness him do it again. 

Will you join me in praying for his light to break through across our nation today?

A day in the life of a CAP Debt Centre Manager

calendar30 September 2021

Author: Claire Wong

A day in the life of a CAP Debt Centre Manager

For 25 years, CAP has been providing a free debt help service. But what does that actually involve? What does it mean to run a CAP Debt Centre? We sat down with two of our brilliant centre managers to find out more about the life-transforming work they do.

Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your jobs. Let’s start by introducing you to our readers!

Rachel: I’m Rachel Ryan, Debt Centre Manager at the Darlington Debt Centre, which opened during lockdown.

Maria: And I’m Maria Baker; I started out as a Debt Centre Manager in Chippenham last March.

 

Tell us a bit about what a day in the life of a Debt Centre Manager looks like.

Rachel: My actual day to day job is hard to define – I think most Debt Centre Managers will tell you that no day is the same as the next! Some weeks my time is spent doing client-based work – going to visit clients in their homes, following up on things they are struggling with, whether that be getting them food parcels, dealing with paperwork they can’t organise, helping them access various services. Then there is the element of building up their trust, getting to know them better, introducing them to befrienders etc.

Other weeks find me involved in much more admin-based tasks. This week for example, my focus is on chasing up people who have expressed interest in volunteering or referring clients to us – giving them a nudge to remind them of previous conversations we’ve had! I will also spend time in updating our centre entry on our church’s website, preparing a talk for a local church who have asked me to explain my work to their congregation, (in the hopes they will offer support – both volunteer and financial!) and preparing a presentation for a local Cancer Support group who want to make their members aware of our services and how we can help them. I’m also needing to liaise with some local church leaders about using their town centre space for client meetings, for occasions when the home environment is not appropriate.

Maria: Since our Debt Centre opened in May I have been supporting seven different individuals or families, and have found this incredibly rewarding and also varied. Definitely no two days are the same. It has involved going school uniform shopping with a family who have four school-aged children, and providing £100 towards the cost. On another occasion I helped by feeding a client's cat so that he was able to do a work trial away from home. He successfully got the job, which is fantastic news. We helped another family move house: they had no transport and couldn't afford to pay for a removal company.

(Pictured above: Maria Baker, Debt Centre Manager at the CAP Debt Centre in Chippenham)

 

You both became Debt Centre Managers during the pandemic. What was that like?

Maria: It has been an exciting new adventure, and time and again I have seen God’s provision and perfect timing. My previous job was helping people into work and learning mainly at the job centre, and during the pandemic I spoke to so many people struggling financially, due to redundancy and reduction in income. I always wanted to do more to practically support those in need. And being able to pray with clients and bring hope is amazing.  I was able to complete my training online during Covid-19 and found the variety of learning and content was excellent. 

Rachel: Training as a Debt Centre Manager and opening a Debt Centre during lockdown also meant I have had a very different initial experience to most of my more established colleagues.

The first nine months were spent running the debt centre exclusively online, via email or on the phone! I worked from a corner of my living room, alongside my Labrador, (who’d occasionally join in with meetings) my pyjama clad teenagers (who would waft through in search of food in the kitchen) and taking my tea breaks with my husband who was working from our dining room! This was very different from my previous job, working in a primary school, where I rarely sat at a desk at all.

(Pictured above: Rachel Ryan, Debt Centre Manager of the CAP Debt Centre at Darlington)

 

It sounds like it’s never a dull moment at your Debt Centres! What have been some of the highlights this year?

Rachel: Highlights so far for me have been getting our first debt free client via a Debt Relief Order – someone who had come to know about us through our own church food bank. Also there has been the delight of a client joining me and a befriender in prayer for her situation and another client asking to come along to church with me. Every time I get the opportunity to say to clients that there is ‘always hope’, I’m filled again with the knowledge of how privileged I am to do this job.

Maria: Some of my highlights to date include doing a sponsored cycle ride for CAP with the children from our church; we raised over £1,500 and had such a great time! At our CAP launch service, we had lots of visitors from other churches and also our local MP, it was so great to share how we can support our local community through CAP. And we raised money via Acts 435 for a fridge freezer and washing machine for a family in need. The family were blown away with the help they received.

 

If you’re struck by how Rachel and Maria go above and beyond to care for others, you’d be absolutely right. Our frontline workers are unsung heroes, and we hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the life of a CAP Debt Centre Manager.

Find out how you can support the work of our CAP Debt Centres, in your local community and others across the UK.

Roy’s story: debt help without judgement

calendar15 September 2021

Author: Roy, debt free since 2021

Roy’s story: debt help without judgement

This week we’re so excited to welcome Roy as a guest writer to the CAP blog. Roy sought help from CAP’s Debt Help service back in 2018, and has recently become debt free! As he was approaching debt freedom, Roy sat back to reflect on the past three years. Here are some thoughts that he felt inspired to share about his journey. Over to you, Roy...

Where it began

As I sit writing this testimony I am counting down the hours until my final payment to Christians Against Poverty, which will signal the end of years of debt problems. Even typing those words it still seems impossible to believe!

I had tried many times to get on top of my debt but, rather like a serial dieter, once I began to make progress I would go on a spending binge and create even greater problems. When I approached CAP in October 2018 I had £15,000 worth of debt, comprising a large bank overdraft, maxed out credit cards, historic banking debts, store card debts, and money owed to doorstep lenders. It finally all got on top of me and I found it impossible to cope.

CAP was recommended to me by a pastor in one of the churches I used to attend. She spoke very highly of them but I remained to be convinced. I felt very ashamed at having to ask for help and did not know what to expect.

But I needn’t have worried. Sheila Fielding, the CAP Debt Centre Manager in Blackburn, was so supportive and professional. No blaming or shaming, just debt help without judgement. Sheila offered a simple, objective approach to accessing my indebtedness, my income and expenditure, and a clear statement of what would happen next and what I might expect in the future.

Looking back

Reflecting on the past two and a half years, it has been a long journey. Sometimes it felt as if it would never end. But throughout, Sheila and the team at CAP head office in Bradford have been alongside, encouraging, advising and supporting me. There have been cheerful group meetings in a local church hall, online conversations and advice, and prayer on the phone when I needed it with individual workers in Bradford.

On reflection it has been an enjoyable journey but please don’t get the idea that it was easy. CAP is rigorous in its oversight of the process and that is what I needed. Living on a severely restricted budget for that long is very hard, but it does teach self-discipline.

CAP has shown me how to save rather than spend, and now that at last I do have more spending power I shall still not be taking my foot off the brake. The amount I used to send to CAP each month will now go into a savings fund. I have learnt that I can manage on my remaining income. I now understand the wisdom of my grandmother’s advice: ‘If you don’t have the money for something, don’t borrow to pay for it; save for it. It causes far fewer problems in the long run.’

With the money I begin to save, I would love to go to Rwanda and visit the two boys I sponsor there. My church sponsors over 100 children and every so often they send out a team – I would really like to do that.

Thank you

As the process comes to a conclusion I want to say a couple of things. Firstly, I’d like to say thanks so much to Sheila Fielding and the team for providing me with debt help without judgement. It took me a while to reach out because I felt ashamed, but it’s a wonderful service that CAP provides, and I come out of this a much wiser man than when I entered it. God bless you all richly, and may he empower you to help many more people achieve the peace I now feel.

And for those of you who need help with your finances, there’s no shame in asking for help. When Sheila came, she encouraged me and she was brilliant. There was not one hint of judgement about it. It was so clear all they wanted to do was help and sort things out and it was amazing.

 

To access free, local debt help without judgement, find out more about our CAP Debt Help service today.

Enduring hope: holding on to hope no matter what life throws at you

calendar02 September 2021

Author: Sarah Scarisbrick-Rowe

Enduring hope: holding on to hope no matter what life throws at you

I’ve always been passionate about hope. It’s what brought me to CAP in 2013 after hearing a client’s story, showing CAP bringing hope into the desperation and darkness of debt. Hope is what kept me going as a Debt Advisor for five years. It saw me through both the good days where you could send clients healthy budgets and keep their creditors at bay, and the bad days with finances that were impossibly tight meaning you could only offer clients difficult choices. Hope is what motivated me to go again and give my very best to the next client. 

Hope is also something that means a great deal to me as someone who has struggled with depression on and off for the last decade.

Holding on to hope

I am aware that might sound like a bit of a contradiction, to be passionate about hope and struggle with depression, an illness characterised by despair. I suppose it comes down to what we understand by hope. For me, hope is not a feeling. Yes, it can be a feeling and it’s a blessing when it is, when we feel good about the future and can look forward with optimism. But emotions are fickle and, whether or not you struggle with mental illness, there will be times when you don’t feel hopeful. Times where you don’t feel positive about the future, where it looks bleak, dark or disappointing. 

But if we lose that feeling, does that mean we’ve lost hope? No, I don’t think so. Because, to me, hope is a truth rather than a feeling.

It’s the truth that we’re forgiven and redeemed. That there’s nowhere we can go that’s beyond God’s grace. That we are loved unconditionally by our Heavenly Father. That no matter what we face or how we feel, we’re never alone or abandoned. That God can bring good through even our darkest nights. That he will use us for his glory even when we feel weak and unimportant.

The Bible is full of reminders of the hope that we have in the gospel and God’s promises to us. One of my favourites is 1 Peter 1:3-6: 

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.’

Holding on to hope when you don’t feel hopeful

Depending on what situations or circumstances life throws your way, you may find that those truths and promises of God stop feeling true. It’s easy for our faith to be led by our emotions and when they don’t line up with our expectations we can doubt God and question his plans. But for our faith to weather life’s storms, it has to be built on more than our emotions. One thing mental health challenges teach you is that emotions are unreliable guides when it comes to truth. The things that are true in the light, when the sun’s shining down on us and our lives are as we want them to be, are still true in the dark, when we’re cradling shattered dreams and weighed down by pain. But we do have to fight harder to hold onto those truths when the lights go out. 

Hope isn’t pretending life is perfect. It’s acknowledging the pain and brokenness of this world, but choosing to view it through the lens of God’s redemption and grace. It’s choosing to trust in spite of our circumstances because God’s character hasn’t changed though our perspective has shifted. Hope is fixing our eyes on God’s kingdom coming whilst recognising it’s not here yet. 

Holding on to hope, in spite of the noise

And it isn’t always easy to hear hope speaking. Life comes with lots of voices clamouring for our attention. Maybe it’s ill health or the pressure of family life, financial challenges or relationship struggles. It could just be the daily grind of everyday trials and disappointments that can steal our energy and joy. Over the last year, we’ve all felt the anxiety, fear and isolation of the pandemic coming at us from every newspaper headline and conversation; exhausting and unrelenting. These situations and challenges can be loud and overwhelming. At times, hope can become a whisper that we have to listen for amidst all of life’s other noise.

At times, we can get knocked off course altogether and put our hope in other things. We trust in ourselves and our own effort and strength, thinking if we just worked harder then we’d be able to solve all our problems ourselves. We can put our hope in work or the other roles we play, finding our identity in what we can do and who we can be to other people. We can put our hope in things, in those material possessions or financial security that make life that bit easier. Or we can hope in another person, a leader we expect to save the day, or a relationship that we’ve centred our lives around. Sometimes we don’t notice our hope has gone astray until that thing is taken from us and we find our foundations have been shaken or fractured.

Holding on to hope in Jesus

Putting our hope in God is a daily choice we have to make. Choosing to centre ourselves around who he is and who we are within him. It’s especially important to do when storms are raging around us and that emotion of hope feels like a distant memory. God’s promises still stand and he is the only true source of hope.

Sarah Scarisbrick-Rowe has worked at CAP for eight years, and is now part of the Technology and Transformation team. When not working at CAP, she enjoys crafting, baking, writing or any activity that can be done with a cat asleep on her lap.

7 easy ways to make the summer last longer

calendar24 August 2021

Author: hayleytearall

7 easy ways to make the summer last longer

This time of year, as the weather begins to get colder and the evenings get darker, I always find myself wishing there was a way to make the summer last longer. With less sun to boost our vitamin D levels and the wetter, colder weather making it harder to plan family-friendly days out, the approach of autumn can be a total dampener on your mood - and pocket!

But with a bit of creativity, this year I’m determined to find some ways to bring the spirit of summer with me into the autumn months without it costing a fortune – and I hope some of these ideas inspire you and your family to do the same.

So, here are 7 easy ways you can make the summer last longer (that don’t cost the earth):

1. Pack a picnic

With the kids back to school and the forecast predicting rain followed by more rain, it probably isn’t the perfect time for a week away. Instead, why not make the summer last longer by turning that park trip into a picnic lunch, or packing some sandwiches and going for a drive to the countryside (there’s nothing like a car boot picnic with cosy blankets and hot chocolate)?

If you’re feeling super creative, you could even create a themed picnic lunch based on your kids’ favourite show, have a ‘mad hatter’s tea party’ with the craziest snacks you can find, or enjoy some ‘high tea’ with some scones and jam and finger sandwiches. By bringing some wellies and waterproofs, you might even be able to fit in a walk if you’re feeling adventurous.

2. Bring the BBQ indoors (not literally)

Nothing screams ‘summer’ quite like a barbecue, so why not have an ‘indoor barbecue’? Of course, you can’t bring the actual barbecue inside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cook all your family’s favourites in the oven then pick someone brave to finish them off for five minutes outside to give it that authentic smokey taste. In fact, why not put your big coats on and eat al fresco under a gazebo or umbrella? We’re all used to sitting outside nowadays anyway!

3. Toast marshmallows over a bonfire

For an evening activity to make the summer last longer that doesn’t require sunshine, it’s time for an autumn bonfire! Set up a fire pit or mini bonfire (safely) and stock up on marshmallows, biscuits and chocolate for smores. Sometimes the simple things are the most special, and marshmallows are somehow ten times more delicious and exciting when toasted over a fire!

4. Camp in the garden

Why not take your marshmallow toasting to the next level and enjoy a night of camping? I remember camping in my garden as a child with some friends from school, watching a DVD on a laptop with some sweets in a much-too-snug sleeping bag and slightly uncomfortable air mattress that always deflated overnight. Believe it or not, these are some of my best memories (because, let’s be honest, nobody likes camping for the convenience or comfort!). Why not make the summer last longer with an overnight camping trip…. in your back garden?

You could let the kids invite their friends to stay and bag yourself a quiet night in, or you could camp outside as a whole family. If you don’t fancy sleeping outdoors, why not set up camp in the living room with a blanket fort and some fairy lights?

5. Spa at home

Get those cucumbers ready, and have a laugh as you try out mummy’s face masks, take it in turns to do massages, paint each other’s nails or open a hair salon (get those haircuts in before the school photos!). Put some relaxing music on, get some spa-snacks for each ‘customer’ and even make your own mocktails with some fizzy pop and fruit juices.

6. Chase the sun

If your kids get up at the crack of dawn, or are total night owls, why not take them to see the sun rise or set? Make the summer last longer by mimicking that holiday excitement of getting up early, just hopping in the car and driving to your chosen viewpoint. Pack up the car with some camping chairs and blankets, and head to your local moor, park or hill before sunset or sunrise.

7. Take photos to capture the memories

Purchase a disposable camera for each child and task them with taking photos of the memories you make, either over a particular weekend or just whenever they like between now and Christmas. You can join in too! By doing things the old-fashioned way, getting the photos developed can be another activity and you can look through the memories you’ve made at the end. You could even collate them into a family scrapbook. One way to make the summer last longer is to see all the fun things you’ve been able to do in the autumn months that actually didn’t need summer at all.

I hope some of these ideas will help you embrace the coming autumn and winter months with a new sense of fun and creativity, even if we all wish we could actually make the summer last longer!

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