At the end of my last update there were just two sentences talking about the fact that we were hoping to raise $2,000 USD for our back to school fundraiser this year to help families in the inner city. The background to this is that we have been doing a back to school fundraiser each year, to help families during a time when the stress of not having enough is at its highest. However, we have tended to be “realistic” about only trying to help a small number of families. We helped 15 the first year, 20 the next, and then between 30 and 35 the following years. With 95 (and at times up to 120) children attending our programmes every week, and each of these programmes operating on a shoestring budget, we never really thought it would be within reach to try and help everyone … until this year. In fact, part of what motivated us to think bigger was some controversy last year where some parents who received help then bragged to others who didn’t, and started stirring up malice as a result. The hardest thing about working in these communities has never been the poverty, it is the social brokenness; the bitterness, resentment and anger that simmers just beneath the surface when life is tough and people are not respected and treated as human beings. Sadly, this can get vented on one another, on the children, and by the children to one another … so one of the most important contributions our team makes to the community is by treating each child with dignity and respect.
As we prayed about back to school this year, we sensed that it was right to pray for the fundraiser to be symbolic of the presence of God’s Kingdom, where there is enough for everyone, which is why we set our target figure higher than ever before. And you, who stand with us in our work, responded. Instead of the $2,000 USD we had targeted, we raised $3,500 and more than half of that was from donors within Jamaica. It was such a blessing to go through the community last month, visiting the parents and registering children for another year of our clubs, and being able to distribute book vouchers to every single family. Each interaction with every parent has been precious; where they have expressed real gratitude, not just for the vouchers, but for being seen and valued and helped along the way as they seek to provide for their children’s education.
At the end of the month we had a meeting with our team, and the story that we read was from John 6, where Jesus fed the 5,000, which we read with a new resonance. The kingdoms of this world are characterised by ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, and the chasm between the two is more stark in our generation than at any other time in human history … but in Christ’s Kingdom there are no ‘have nots’. Through prayer and the faithful responses of God’s people, we witnessed that Kingdom being present in these communities through the back to school fundraiser this year.
“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” John 6:11