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A decade of freeing people from crippling personal debt in Northern Ireland

calendar20 May 2019

Jim Fleming's avatar Jim Fleming

A decade of freeing people from crippling personal debt in Northern Ireland

I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I do remember where it was. I was working as a weather forecaster for the Met Office and was heading home after shift, back into Belfast down the Crumlin Road.

On the radio was a man being interviewed about the work of his charity. I didn’t catch the name, but he was describing how, through the local Church, the charity helps people in debt, bringing release and freedom from that awful burden.

Wow! Local churches doing something really practical to help people in their communities with this massive problem. That was all well and good, I pondered, but the church I was at the time would have no interest in doing anything like that. I put it to the back of my mind.

Fast forward to Spring 2008. God was capturing my attention with articles on poverty, emails about those struggling to make ends meet, child sponsorship newsletters and much more. It was hard to ignore. One evening, I sat down at my PC and typed into a search engine: Christians……… poverty.

Up came a list of results topped by Christians Against Poverty!

Oh yes, I knew that name – that was the charity I heard about on the radio a number of years ago. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘what are you up to, God?’

By that stage, the leadership in the church had changed so, after requesting an information pack, I approached the pastor and chatted about the possibilities of working with CAP. A short time later, another Pastor and I travelled to CAP’s head office in Bradford for a Church Partnership Day. This was in July 2008. We loved it and returned to Belfast full of enthusiasm and excitement about what God was planning.

We started the process of partnering with CAP and in December of that year I was back in Bradford to be interviewed for the role of Centre Manager.

In January 2009, I returned to Bradford for training and the first CAP Debt Centre in Northern Ireland was officially opened!

A month of publicity followed, before we were let loose on the unsuspecting public of East Belfast, where the centre was based in Church of God, Glenmachan. As a brand new charity in Northern Ireland, there was much pioneering work to do. I visited Citizens Advice, constituency offices of local political parties, the Housing Executive and many more. There were also press articles, which came off the back of our initial press release, and even some radio interviews on UCB, Belfast Citybeat and BBC Radio Ulster. I was thankful for the media training I’d received in the Met Office!

There was a lot of interest from other churches and I met with church leaders who were keen to find out more about opening centres in their areas. It was fantastic to see another four Northern Ireland Debt Centres open in November that year. We had an official launch which took place in Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

Our first client visit took place in February. From there on, I was seeing four new clients a month, squeezing my CAP responsibilities around my Met Office shift work. The first client response to the good news of the gospel happened in early April. We were shocked and delighted in equal measure. Wonderfully, the client is still attending church and walking with Jesus day by day.

Above: Kylie and her family are one of the thousands helped by CAP in Northern Ireland.

Now, I run a CAP Job Club, and the network has grown beyond recognition in those ten short years.

CAP has 40 services across 30 lead churches with more than 100 congregations partnering across Northern Ireland. Hundreds of volunteers give up their time to play their part and around 85 churches run the CAP Money Course. We gather together to worship, pray and live out a common mission.

Thanks to this amazing united effort, 5,000 people have been helped and cared for, many of whom were truly vulnerable and suffering, which makes me feel so very, very thankful.

Jim Fleming is a CAP Job Club Manager and Debt Centre Manager in Killicomaine, Northern Ireland.

Why you should get involved with Thy Kingdom Come this June

calendar16 May 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Why you should get involved with Thy Kingdom Come this June

For every Christian, praying for friends and family can be nerve-wracking. Sometimes we worry that it will be unwanted or perhaps even nosy, if you told them or if they found out. It can feel especially tough if the people you pray for don’t believe in God or aren’t Christians themselves, as in our culture we often feel like we should keep our Christian and secular lives separate. But that’s just what the Church of England has been asking Christians to change – around the world, no matter their creed or tradition – through an event called Thy Kingdom Come.

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, calling on Christians to pray for others to experience the love of God and perhaps even come to faith.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, first launched the movement in 2016. Since then, it has grown into an international call to prayer for every denomination. Justin Welby says, ‘People today pray formally and informally in different circumstances. People are bought up as Christians in some settings that pray very informally and others always use a book.’

‘Thy Kingdom Come has prepared through the Church of England a wonderful little booklet of services and other prayers to use during the ten days of Thy Kingdom Come this year. The thing about those ten days is to pray for those you know and love, who don’t know they are loved by God through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter whether you pray formally or informally. Just pray.’

Here at CAP, we’ve seen the power of God’s love in the work we do and it’s always exciting when another person discovers it too. So, although we help clients of all faiths and none, Thy Kingdom Come is something we can get behind.

Praying might help the people you love to come to church and come to know Jesus. It might help them to know that you’re thinking about them. It might help you to be mindful of what’s going on in the lives of those you care about. It might even inspire you to become a better friend by showing God’s love, whether you tell your friend you’re praying for them or not. As often is the case with prayer, it might be a source of great change in your life. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a go!

Thy Kingdom Come is happening from Ascension Day (30 May) to Pentecost (9 June). You can join in individually or as a church by going to the website here, where you’ll find lots of information, as well as plenty of resources and videos you can use.

Six steps to a more affordable summer

calendar03 May 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Six steps to a more affordable summer

Have you started making plans for the summer yet? It’s just around the corner (and if the weather we had in Britain over the Easter weekend is anything to go by, we’re in for a good one!)

However, as with most things, when you’re trying to keep to a tight budget, affording to take part in summer fun can be a challenge. Plus, businesses know to raise their prices during the summer, especially when it comes to activities for children and families.

But you know how we think here at CAP – there’s always a way to save money! Plan ahead, seek out free and inexpensive things to do and take a look at these tips for making summer life more affordable.

Look for free family events

To keep the family entertained over the summer break, there are bound to be events near you that are suitable for all ages and free to enter. My church often runs free fairs and other events – why not check your local church’s notice board or website for ideas? There are also lots of museums with free entry around the UK. Click here for a few suggestions.

Temporarily cancel your subscriptions

As you may be out of the house more over summer enjoying the weather, or even going away on holiday, an easy way to save cash is by cancelling subscriptions you won’t need as much. For example, you could take a break from Netflix, or cancel your gym membership and go out for a run instead. Often we forget about these things and they can drain our money in the background. If you’re not using it, save the money and sign up again later in the year if you need to. It may also be the push you need to explore new hobbies.

Save energy

Summer is an ideal time to save energy – from turning down your thermostat and switching off the lights when you don’t need them, to using a washing line instead of the tumble dryer, to even ditching the car and walking or cycling instead. It’s good for your budget and for the environment too. Click here for more ways to save energy at home.

Research before travelling abroad

If you decide to head overseas for your summer break, be sure to do your research beforehand. Check restaurant prices in the area you’re visiting and consider booking activities in advance. This can help you get the best deals and avoid being hit with unexpected costs. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of travel insurance – it may seem like an extra expense, but in the long term it could save you a whole lot of money.

Holiday at home

Opting for a staycation in the UK this summer is an easy way to save the money you’d ordinarily spend on flights, luggage charges, travel agents and exchange rates. How far do you really need to go to find beautiful and interesting places? Give camping a go if you haven’t tried it before – you might find a new hobby! Remember, it’s not about where you go, but the people you’re with and the memories you’ll make.

Enjoy festivals for free by volunteer

If your family’s keen to go to a festival this year, you may be able to bag yourself free entry in exchange for a few hours of your day spent volunteering. Free or discounted food may even be included. This summer, CAP is on the lookout for volunteers to lend a hand in their cafes at the Big Church Day Out (25 to 26 May) and United 19 (27 July to 10 August). Find out more and apply here.

Five fun and easy recipes for the Easter break

calendar23 April 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Five fun and easy recipes for the Easter break

With the kids off school for Easter, it can be a challenge to keep thinking up fresh ideas for meals, as well as ways to keep them entertained during the day. I asked people from CAP to tell me their favourite Easter treats. Here are five recipes that are fun, easy and shouldn’t cost you a fortune.

Fried egg in the bread basket

Breakfast – sorted!

What you’ll need:

  • One slice of bread
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • One egg
  • Salt and pepper (to season)
  • Frying pan
  • Medium sized biscuit cutter

Method:

  1. Use the biscuit cutter to cut a shape in the centre of the bread slice.
  2. Crack the egg into a mug or bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in the frying pan. Fry the bread (both the cut out shape and the edge) on both sides for two to three minutes, or until slightly toasted.
  4. In one swift movement, pour the egg into the hole in the bread.
  5. Fry for one to two minutes until the fried egg begins to seal the hole in the bread. Then, flip the toast and egg over and fry on the other side for a minute or so (depending on how you like your eggs).
  6. Serve with the cut out shape on the side to mop up any yokey bits.

Easter Colcannon

Try this traditional Irish recipe for a filling dinner.

What you’ll need:

  • Six large peeled potatoes
  • One large leek
  • Splash of milk
  • Knob of butter
  • Four eggs
  • Grated cheese
  • Salt and pepper (to season)
  • Shallow baking dish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to a medium/hot temperature (190℃/Gas Mark 5)
  2. Boil the potatoes in a large pan until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, wash the leek, slice finely and place in the baking dish.
  4. Drain the potatoes and mash with the milk and butter. Add a little more milk if it's looking too dry. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt.
  5. Spread the mash across the leeks.
  6. Using the back of a spoon, make four dips in the mash. Break an egg into each dip.
  7. Top with a sprinkle of grated cheese and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Ideally, the veg will be cooked through and the egg will still be a bit soft.

Easter sundae (get it?)

A really easy way to liven up dessert.

What you’ll need:

  • Ice cream (vanilla or chocolate works well)
  • One chocolate Easter egg (go for a cheaper option – it will work just as well)
  • Toppings (e.g. fruit, sauce, sweets, squirty cream)

Method:

  1. Split the Easter egg in half to form two ‘bowls’.
  2. Scoop the ice cream into each half of the egg.
  3. Add the toppings and enjoy!

Chocolate mini egg nests

A classic! The kids will love making and eating these.

What you’ll need:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 85g shredded wheat, crushed
  • Chocolate mini eggs (optional)
  • Bun cases
  • Glass or ceramic bowl

Method:

  1. Boil water in a pan until just simmering. Place a small glass or ceramic bowl on top of the water. The bowl should be slightly larger than the rim of the pan so that it doesn’t fall in, but still allows the water to warm it.
  2. Melt the milk chocolate in the warmed bowl. Carefully remove from the pan and mix in the crushed up shredded wheat.
  3. Spoon into bun cases. Press the back of a spoon in the centre to spread out the mixture and create a nest for the eggs.
  4. Share out the mini eggs (if you’re using them) on top of the nests.
  5. Chill the nests in the fridge for two hours until properly set.

Hot cross bun and butter pudding

Enough said.

What you’ll need:

  • Six hot cross buns
  • 25g butter
  • Two large eggs
  • 250ml milk
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • Baking dish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170℃/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Cut the hot cross buns in half, butter and sandwich back together. Arrange in the baking dish.
  3. Whisk the egg, milk and sugar separately and pour over the hot cross buns.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes until just set.

‘It turns out his plan was for that break to be the massive turning point in my life.’

calendar15 April 2019

Andy Boyle's avatar Andy Boyle

‘It turns out his plan was for that break to be the massive turning point in my life.’

All of a sudden, my heart just started racing and I put my hands up in the air. I felt myself saying these words, asking God for forgiveness.

I’d arrived at the Discovery Break thinking I’d prove them all wrong – God didn’t exist and I was sure of it. It turns out his plan was for that break to be the massive turning point in my life.

I’d been struggling with drugs and alcohol for years and debt had built up amongst the chaos. It was missed payments – Council Tax, card bills, utilities – they were all building up. I’d be trying to pay off one thing then another.

Supporting my family in all this was really hard. It was like being stuck in a black hole. It was horrible getting threatening letters summoning you to court, or saying that you’re going to be evicted, that they can seize property. All these things they said in the letters were really worrying, and whatever I tried never worked. My life was spiralling down.

It was Katie in the end, she said, ‘This relationship needs to end because I can’t deal with you being like this anymore.’ And suddenly I was at risk of losing more than just my home: I was going to lose my family. That was the moment I knew it had to change so I called CAP and they booked me in.

It wasn’t until our CAP Centre Manager, Duncan, came round with a big massive smile, and said ‘I’m here to help’, that I believed they would. That took away lots of stress.

At the start, I was often on the phone with the head office team, and my confidence built. You get your budget and repayment plan and everything is explained. That was when it sank in that this is doable. That’s when I knew things would get better.

We were invited on a Discovery Break in July 2016. I went with the thought in my head that I was going to prove these guys wrong – God didn’t exist. I thought it was just a free holiday – we hadn’t even contemplated going away before.

When we got to the break, I was struck by how nice everyone was. Nobody was judging me. That softened me into talking to people.

The next day, Rod (CAP staff member) shared his story. Every single thing he said about the drugs and the night life and all that he’d been through mentally and physically hit home with me – before meeting Katie, I’d been in a similar situation. Everything that he was saying – I actually thought he was talking about me rather than himself.

I just broke down in tears and after I’d said that prayer inviting God to be part of my life, I felt so much better.

I felt this wave of release that things were going to be better and it would be easier. Katie said I looked different – my eyes were bright! So bright!

The next few years have been an absolute whirlwind – God has put things in place for us as a family. So many people had been praying for me for years.

In February 2017, Katie and I were married. There were over 300 people there to watch. It was so blessed. We couldn’t have done it without our CAP family – they did the catering. From then I was offered an internship as a CAP Debt Coach at the church. I was fully trained in November 2017, and was able to start seeing my first clients. God has really blessed us. So much has happened!

Back in 2016, I would never have thought that I would be part of a church leadership team, working as a CAP Debt Centre Manager and talking about Jesus every day of my life.

Without that break, our family wouldn’t have survived together but, now, we’re such a strong unit, all in church together and growing in our faith.

Every single part has been God shaping us and helping us grow and guiding us. It’s remarkable!

Andy Boyle is a CAP client, dad, husband and Debt Centre Manager who's passionate about sharing the gospel.

This Easter, we need to raise £30,000 to give 200 people a life changing break. Your donation could enable someone to open their heart to God.

When our clients call us for help, their debt problems are often just the tip of the iceberg. Often, they’re battling several other vulnerabilities such as disability, mental illness or past trauma.

These precious people need a place of sanctuary – a chance to get away from the daily grind of the issues they battle constantly. That’s where Discovery Breaks step in.

We take around 800 people awayon a break each year, providing them with the chance to truly relax, enjoy fun activities and attend sessions exploring forgiveness, self worth, anger or worry. Most importantly, they have the opportunity to hear
 the truth of God’s love for them. Like Andy, an average of 13 people make a commitment to Jesus on each break. Your donation today will enable someone else to have this vital opportunity in 2019.

Will you give today and send a family on a life changing Discovery Break?

Donate today

 

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