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I thought it was a good idea at the time!

calendar16 January 2014

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

You know when you've agreed to something but then the reality of what that 'yes' means hits you? Well that's me now!

At the end of 2013, I was working with CAP Australia, when their National Director, Ross, started going on about the Tour de France in Yorkshire next July. He wanted to cycle the Grand Depart, as he's an avid fan and a decent cyclist. He said, ‘Why don’t you and Matt, plus the other CAP National Directors in New Zealand and Canada do it?’ Then it just popped out - an enthusiastic ‘yes’, which over the last few weeks has become more of an ‘I said what?’

The facts are that the Grand Depart is 120 miles long and has three 2,000 foot mountain pass climbs, I've never cycled further than five miles, and my only bike is mountain bike from a supermarket that weighs in at just over half a ton and sticks because I never built it right!

But I need to push myself, do something that will stretch me in discipline and determination. CAP needs continued financial support because we are growing and increasing, so I simply need to step up to the plate.

We are doing great at CAP. 2013 was an astonishing year throughout all our work around the world, but particularly in the UK where we are making huge progress. Yes, it would be easy to sit back and be a by-stander to all that’s happening, and perhaps I could argue I've done my bit over the years - hey, in 2011, I ran 15 marathons in 18 days, and 84 miles in just 30 hours in 2009. However, I know that’s not how it works, we all need to keep doing what’s needed; to step up to the challenge and play our part in the miracle CAP is becoming. I need to literally ‘get on my bike’ and I would just ask you to maybe do the same.

Whether that's joining me in a sponsored cycle, taking part in our ‘Week Without’ challenge, leaving CAP a gift in your will, becoming a Life Changer with a monthly donation, or increasing your existing gift - the list is endless! - organising a church talk, or getting involved practically in the work we are doing in 1,500 churches around the UK. Whatever it is, please don’t sit back and watch - there's no joy in that, no sense of ‘I did my bit’. We will see God continue to do the miracles (I think we might need one to get me through my 120 mile bike ride in June!). My plea to you is make sure you’re part of it. It will make the celebration at the end of 2014 and beyond so much more enjoyable than just watching from the sidelines.

One of my most loved quotes, from Theodore Roosevelt, sums it up:

‘The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, who strives valiantly.’

Sponsor John here

 

Week without

What a year!

calendar20 December 2013

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

Together, we have had a bigger impact this year than ever before.

Your support in donations, time and prayer has meant that life after life has been changed. We've seen a record breaking 710 people becoming Christians and 1,808 households becoming debt free in time for Christmas! Without you, the simple fact is that this wouldn't have been possible.

Watch our celebration video and see just how much we have achieved together in 2013.

Not your average day at the office

calendar02 December 2013

Josie Barlow's avatar Josie Barlow

When Sema and I left Sarah’s house after filming her family for our Christmas Appeal, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I felt such warmth towards her very cute boys, partly because I have a seven year old son, Jed, and Zac really reminded me of him. I had this overwhelming desire for everything to be ‘fixed’ and for good things to flow towards this family.

The reality is that not only is Sarah confined to a wheelchair, but she also has a terminal illness. She has lost 65% of her lung capacity in just three years and there is little that doctors can do to halt the destruction. She has been told that in the end, she will suffocate. I can’t even begin to imagine being told that news and having to deal with your worst fears of leaving your boys alone in the world.

This made me so grateful that she called CAP and met people from her local church when she did. Before CAP, not only did she have all her health issues to deal with, but she was also bringing up her boys alone after her previous partner went to prison, leaving her in £30,000 of debt; she had all the pressure of debt to deal with as well – the last thing she needed.

Now though, she is free from the constant worry and fear caused by debt. She has met wonderful friends through her church and has become a Christian, which means she now has an eternal hope. Her new partner has become a Christian too and they even got married last year.

So she now has eternal life, a new husband, Mark (who I could just sense was such a good, compassionate man – I’m sure he’ll be a great dad to Zac and Louie), and they have a fresh start ahead of them, free from debt.

But I want more for Sarah. Please will you join me in praying for her health, as we have a God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).

Watch Zac and Louie's story

Josie Barlow is CAP's Communications Director. You can find out more about Josie and our leadership team in the who's who section of the website

The most wonderful year I’ve seen for some time…

calendar01 December 2013

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

Well, here I am waiting to leave my hotel to travel to Toronto Airport for the ten hour trip back to the UK, and I just felt I needed to record what I've witnessed over the last four days here. To be honest, it’s more to do with what I've seen since we started the CAP Canada journey over the last 18 months. It’s strange to think of all we have been through and all God has done. I’m used to seeing miracles (because I always need them!), however what I've witnessed here has really taken my breath away.

First, I really did take some persuading about coming to Canada. It took well over a year for me to really get a sense of peace from God about it. I’ve no idea why it took so long or why I struggled to find the peace but, hey, it’s always important you are honest – if you're not sure, always say you're not sure.

Then by last October, very much led by the faith of Helen Johnson, who was our UK Director of Centre Development at that time, we agreed to begin preparation. Helen really knew God was calling her to Canada and, without her faith, I’m not sure we would have pioneered into a new country. It took six months to get everything ready and then, together with Will MacLaughlin, one of our centre managers form Northern Ireland, Helen flew out to Toronto to make a start.

And here we are now! Wow – what a nine months of progress! From just a few names and a couple of churches who said they would be interested, we have seen massive favour from God. CAP Canada is now truly up and moving! We have 41 churches running the CAP Money Course, with 88 CAP Money Coaches trained. More importantly for us in terms of reaching the poor, we have established our first four CAP Debt Centres and have 30 clients on their way to becoming debt free. It’s working! Just last week we saw our first client choose to become a Christian too.

We needed $170,000 to cover the initial costs, establish the staff team and set off. On Friday night when we held our first ever fundraising dinner in Toronto, we raised $37,000 from just 70 generous Canadians. This $35,000, when added to the other income we've seen this year, means we haven’t just covered the $170,000 we needed – we might even have a few $1000s towards 2014! We also have 150 Life Changers giving every month! It’s been some time since I've seen God's hand so clearly in something. 

We are definitely on our way now here in Canada. We are looking to open at least six more debt centres next year and partner with another 40 churches to run the CAP Money Course. We’ll see our ministry really get ready to expand throughout Canada. It's such a privilege to be used by God to see his kingdom come. I just can't quite believe it’s 17 years since it all started in my bedroom office with £10 and a heart to see lives changed. Here I am 5,000 miles from home, in awe at my generous and gracious God, who is able to truly do more than you can dream or imagine.

I’m looking forward to going home to see Lizzie and the kids and having some time to reflect on the most wonderful year I've seen for some time.

Giving a voice to the voiceless

calendar22 November 2013

Phill Holdsworth's avatar Phill Holdsworth

As Head of External Affairs at CAP, it is my job to stay up-to-date with developments in the credit industry and get involved with discussions about how to improve poverty and debt relief on a national scale. But I also have first hand experience of debt. Both as a youngster growing up in a broken family environment, and as an adult coping with a spate of redundancies and trying to provide for my family. I fully understand the emotional trauma that accompanies financial strains, and it is my personal experience which has made me so passionate about speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Although I don’t directly support vulnerable clients one-on-one, I ensure that CAP has a say on industry matters that impact them. My role is to liaise with the policy-writers and decision-makers who are in a position to influence change that will benefit our clients now and in the future.

For example, I recently had the opportunity to input into a key report on personal debt in the UK. As a member of the Serious Personal Debt Working Group for the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), I was asked to contribute to their research into how debt is impacting people in our nation. Through our own case studies, we were able to tell stories of our clients that include the concerns of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. These stories represent thousands more that are still hidden behind closed doors, so to be able to give a voice to them is invaluable. They get to be heard by the people who have the power to change their lives.

The report, Maxed Out, was published this week by the CSJ, a social policy think tank which is right at the heart of getting social justice onto the political agenda. The report stresses the need for proactive steps to be taken to address the root causes of debt, and makes policy recommendations to they key decision makers. Many reports published by the CSJ have already shaped and informed government policy and influenced opposition parties. We hope this will do the same.

Maxed Out has already made headlines, leading to further opportunities to speak up about poverty through national media. Several of our clients were able to share what debt was really like for them on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme and on BBC Five Live. We are working to give our clients a platform to speak out nationally and, through the media, we are able to reach others who are still struggling to tell them that there is hope and a solution to their debt problems.

This is just one of the many ways in which I am building the profile of Christians Against Poverty to be recognised as a key stakeholder in the credit industry. Our opinion matters. There are so many other important events connected with debt management and the credit industry, which I am attending over the next few weeks – too many to mention all together here. But what it all says is that CAP has a clear and resolute voice in this industry. Government departments like the DWP and specific members of Parliament are listening to us and taking note of the work we’re doing. They are keen to help us bring about positive change. These are the signals of a new forecast – the winds of change.

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