Christian Aid week always falls in May each year. Not only is it the single largest expression of practical love and compassion to the poorest most struggling members of the human family, but it is also the principle way in which the churches work together for the good of others. These are two ways in which we can know that we are doing the will of our Lord.
Locally we will be celebrating with a united service at Wickhambrook Methodist church on Thursday 5th May, beginning at 7.30pm. This will be preceded by a ‘bring and buy’ sale, beginning at 7.00pm. Everyone is, of course, very welcome. The theme of the service will be the excellent work being done by Christian Aid and its partner organisations in Nicaragua.
We are often tempted to think that the problem of world poverty is so vast that we can’t possibly make a difference. But if we make a difference to one person or family, then we have made a difference.
Gustavo Adolfo Talavera is a coffee farmer and community leader in Jinotega, Nicaragua. He is one of the founding members of a cooperative which has been selling coffee through Christian Aid partner Soppexcca (pronounced so-pecks-ka) for over 12 years.
He says: "I don’t know how to read or write and I did not want my children to be like me. I did not have the opportunity to go to school, so I tell my children to study and do what I couldn’t. We fight so that the new generation, the children, are able to steer this boat."
Gustavo is illiterate. But he wanted his children to be educated. There was no school in the village so school lessons were held in his front yard with the children sitting on the ground. When it rained, they got soaking wet. This happened for many years. And then Soppexcca, funded by proceeds from Christian Aid Week, came along. It gave the community a better price for their coffee, helped them improve the quality of what they were producing and, crucially, pooled their efforts as a community to start building a school. That was nine years ago. Farmers started producing high-quality coffee and began receiving a higher price for their coffee beans. Their quality of life improved and an end to poverty came into sight. They ploughed their profits back into their own community and not only managed to build the school Gustavo dreamt of, but a health centre as well.
Now the children in Gustavo’s community are looking at a future where poverty doesn’t define their lives. For example, Gustavo’s daughter and other young people in his community now go to university, and his niece Martha is being trained in the Soppexcca youth-movement programme. She is taught to protect the environment, to learn new skills, to take control of her future and to be part of a community working its own way out of poverty. This is what Christian Aid Week can achieve. What we can achieve.
This year the Archdeacon’s Visitation will be held at the Cathedral at 7.30pm on Thursday 12th May. During this act of worship the Archdeacon, acting on behalf of the Bishop, will formally admit the Churchwardens to Office. This service is always an uplifting occasion and it would be very good indeed if members of our congregations were able to come to the service, to which you are warmly invited, to support the Churchwardens with your presence and with your prayers.
Usually quietly and behind the scenes, the Churchwardens do an enormous amount for us and for the Church as a whole. They not only look after the church and its contents, they also have legal, spiritual and pastoral responsibilities. They are actively involved in the whole life and work of the church and without them I cannot imagine how the continuing life of our parishes would be possible at all. We are very fortunate to have excellent wardens and I would like to express my grateful thanks to them all for their hard work and dedication.
With every blessing.