I recently learned the meaning of Emmanuel. It means God with us. It’s one of Jesus’ many, many nicknames, and is quite possibly my favourite. Emmanuel. God with us. Sometimes I need reminding that God is with us here in our communities in the North East of England. Is it just me that sometimes wonders why God would bother with us or remember us or find time for us, not just in this location, but in this time? 2016 seems such a long time after Jesus ascended into Heaven. And yet… Emmanuel.
Sometimes when I read the Bible I feel God clearly in the story. The hairs on my arms stand up with the power of the message. This happened recently when I heard the story of the Good Samaritan, which though I’ve heard dozens of times before, still gave me Goosebumps.
But at other times when I read the Bible I feel completely lost. I don’t understand the significance or the context. I struggle to imagine how the story could be useful to my life. I wonder ‘How does that show me God’s presence today?’
Does anyone else feel like this? On days like that, I find hearing true stories from people who are alive today are just what I need. Emmanuel. God with us.
My generosity story- Ian Davies, Whitburn Church, Tyne and Wear
We married at 20, and had a child within a year. Money was very tight, and it was a struggle to get to payday, especially after the second baby was born. If the children needed shoes, then food went short. I remember one Saturday morning when Sheila and I decided that prayer was our only hope. We still had a week to go until my wage was paid, with no food left in the house and no money to pay for it, and I was walking six miles a day to work to save bus-fares.
We had simply asked God to help us as we were in a mess, and we needed food for the children. Within the hour, a knock came to the door, and a man I knew from my previous job asked if we could help him out. His wife had been ill, and he had done the weekly shop, then taken it home to find his wife had already done it. So he called to ask if we might be able to use what he had bought. I can still see the vacuum-packed bacon sitting on top of the box; a touch of luxury that could never afford. It kick-started us on a journey of prayer and intercession and thanksgiving, and trying to share. We are grateful to God, and an old man who showed us unexpected and undeserved generosity.
Meeting a Deadline- St George’s, Fatfield, Washington
Our church has had all sorts of problems with HMRC and Gift Aid and we were still waiting for it to be resolved when the deadline for paying Parish Share was approaching. We were short by thousands of pounds and didn’t think the tax office would pay us in time. We prayed about it and out of no-where we received a legacy donation from a parishioner who had moved away years ago. She left us more than enough to allow us to meet our pledge, and provide finance to begin exploring the vision God has given us to develop our building.
Stranger at a Station- Ehsan is helped by a Guardian Angel
Ehsan is from Afghanistan, a country that does not have the same laws or justice systems as the UK, by any stretch of the imagination. Persecuted and due to be hung in his home country, he fled to save his life. Incredibly, he completed an endurance walk few of us could imagine, and made it to Italy after walking through half of Europe. He’d made up his mind to come to the UK where he felt he would be safe and could seek asylum. He arrived in Italy destitute, frightened and very alone. There he lived a very difficult life, desperately trying to earn enough to travel to the UK. In time, he had made enough euros to buy train ticket to Calais to cross the Channel. But he’d miscalculated. At the station the train guard told him he was roughly €20 short, but Ehsan didn’t understand due to the language barrier and was very distressed. A woman overheard. Looking at Ehsan she could see he was in a real state and felt such pity for him.
Something moved her to act with love and generosity. She took out enough money to meet the cost so he could purchase his ticket. Then, she bought a ticket for herself, so she could sit next to him. The stranger’s generosity didn’t end there. The train didn’t leave for a while, so she took him into town and bought him a new set of clothes and paid for him to shower, have a haircut, and shave. After the difficulties he had already faced on that journey to Italy, can you imagine how good a shower must have felt?
She then travelled with him to Paris and got him to the correct station to get the train to Calais. The Italian lady took him to the correct seat on the train and spoke to the passenger sitting in next seat. She instructed him to look after the Afghan man and then she departed, leaving no name or contact details. Ehsan knew he could never repay her. He told a colleague of mine, all he knew from the cross on a necklace that she was wearing, was that she had been his ‘Christian guardian angel’ who had helped him to freedom.