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calendar10 February 2021

Author: Paula Stringer

A message from Paula Stringer

A message from Paula Stringer

As we share the news that, 25 years after founding the charity, John Kirkby is moving on from his role here at CAP UK, I want to take a moment to express my admiration and gratitude for the incredible legacy he will leave.

I have had a passion for the work of Christians Against Poverty for many years, so after joining the organisation in 2018, it was an incredible privilege to be asked to take over running the organisation just over a year ago. My own personal experience of debt and some extremely difficult challenges really solidified my belief in, and passion for, the work that CAP does.

My story

A few years ago, my husband Dan and I owned a deli, coffee shop and restaurant in Marple. I was working for the BBC at the time but when the recession hit, despite our best efforts, the business didn’t make it. Debts sprang up from every angle, we had to let our amazing staff go, and Dan was completely broken. Our only option was to go through bankruptcy.

Sadly, Dan ended up very, very poorly and unable to work for a whole year as he recovered. It was a really difficult time for all of us and I could have never anticipated the impact this would have on our marriage, our family, or our relationships. 

There was a key moment during our recovery when we realised that, if this had been so incredibly difficult for us, even though we had my Christian family supporting us, a local church family praying and rallying round and an income coming in, then how on earth did anyone who didn’t have these things ever get through it? We realised the enormous impact debt has on people’s lives and knew that, if we could, we wanted to do something to help. We had no idea what though at that time. As usual, God did!

There were times where I thought Dan and I were going to get to breaking point, it was so hard, but God did get us through it. The experience gave me an understanding of the true trauma of debt. The shame, and how judged you feel as a person just going through those kinds of things and how hard it is – I’ve lived it.

Working with John

So, I ended up joining Christians Against Poverty and, as I said earlier, what a privilege it is. John founded the most incredible organisation and God not only used John’s own experiences and past to drive his passion for the poor but also gifted him with an entrepreneurial spirit, sheer grit and determination. Without John’s personal commitment and sacrifice in the past 25 years this country would not have seen as many people’s lives changed and people following Jesus. It has been my honour and joy to work alongside, and get to know, John more deeply over the last year or so and I have committed to keeping the foundations of this organisation standing on the same ground they were built on – Christ.

What’s next?

CAP looks different now to how it did ten years ago and it will likely look different again in another ten years but there will be no change to the way God has always been absolutely central to our vision. We will not lose sight of his call on us to serve and include the many people for whom poverty and debt are ruining their life. And we will never turn away from reaching those people through partnerships with his Church.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment — always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries or organisations. They simply steward what God has entrusted to their care for a season. A wise leader embraces the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. This is exactly what John has done. Even before I joined CAP, for many years, John held an ‘open handed’ attitude to CAP’s future. That means we now have a team of empowered, experienced staff who have been carrying CAP’s vision extremely well for many years. This is an incredible, strength-giving gift for a founder to give to an organisation, and it means that the vision, mission and culture are not built entirely on the shoulders of one person. When John leaves later this year, CAP will not change identity or lose any of what makes it ‘CAP’: of that we are certain.

As we look back on what has been achieved in the past 25 years, it’s not about a trip down ‘memory lane’. It’s a moment to celebrate the foundations laid through our history, ready for us to build on in the future. And God has our future in his hands. I am just thrilled that I still get to work alongside John doing some of the International work for CAP so I won’t have to miss out on the privilege of working with him.

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