Esther Smith, senior pastoral admin-istrator of Caring For Life (CFL) writes: CFL is supporting an ever-increasing number of extremely vulnerable people, and right now, some of the youngest are having a really tough time.’
They are simply lost, due to a dire shortage of safe housing and ongoing cuts to the welfare support available to the young, who are, for whatever reason, alone in life and unable to find or hold down work.
Being alone at a young age is bad enough, but feeling that society views you as of no value, as a drain on society, is a dark place to be in, if you have mental health problems, learning or physical disabilities and no one to fight your corner.
CFL is finding its resources stretched on every level, but is seeking to respond to the need, and is privileged to be able to share the love of Jesus with those who have known so little love.
CFL’s excellent work is well illustrated by this account from Cath, manager of CFL’s Being There team, of ‘an incredibly special holiday’ in the beauty of the Lake District, with a three-day stay at Bassenfell Manor.
This summer, a group of 20, with 12 vulnerable beneficiaries supported by eight staff, set off in the minibus and cars, to wind our way through the fells surrounding Ullswater and Bassenthwaite Lake.
On arrival, we settled everyone into a bedroom and had fun and games making up our beds — I’ll say no more! We then all enjoyed tea together, before ice-breaker games. We had a few anxieties to deal with; for some, this was their first ever holiday or trip out of Leeds and their familiar surroundings.
There were a few tears, but it was lovely to see the way everyone supported each other. It was much less, staff and beneficiaries, more of a family feel, everyone pulling together to be there for each other.
The next day started early for those on breakfast duty. Everyone had their name on a rota to help at some point, which was taken very seriously, as everyone wanted to do their bit. Then off to Ambleside for a boat trip.
The sun shone and everyone was in good spirits and ready to take on the challenge of being on water. For some, this was their first time on a boat. The night before, several had said that they were too nervous and wouldn’t go, but on the day everyone overcame their fears and had a wonderfully scenic boat ride to Bowness.
We then spent the afternoon exploring. Some enjoyed hunting for bargains in the charity shops, and buying gifts for friends. Others enjoyed fish and chips and feeding the swans, before we all returned by boat back to Ambleside.
A quiz on the second night had us all in a competitive mood, as we shouted and encouraged our own teams to victory. We also had a time of testimony and a short time of prayer during our stay, and most were happy to join in, which was an encouragement.
We had some very vulnerable folk with us this year, whose issues don’t end because they’re away on holiday. One lady had the funeral of her sister while she was away, but because of a breakdown in family relationships, hadn’t been able to attend.
Another lady heard the sad news that her mother had passed away. Another, whose partner is in prison, struggled with being part of a larger group. And one young man who had a very unhappy childhood, and who had never been on holiday in his life, had never spent a night away from Leeds; his only time out of the city having been on day trips with Caring For Life. He usually finds socialising difficult, but he managed really well, and was accepted and befriended by the group.
We get to know people in a different way on holiday. They open up and share at a deeper level. For example, Paul, who spoke of happy memories, of time with his parents as a child. Or some of the ladies discussing what life had been like when living in a hostel.
Some found sleeping in an unfamiliar place impossible and literally stayed up the whole time we were away. Others who have always lived alone and were not used to socialising, were exhausted with being in company and having a structured day.
For all the difficulties faced, these were outweighed by all the highlights; it really was a blessed time. We’ve had some lovely feedback from those involved: ‘the best time all year’; ‘thank you for a good time’; ‘thank you for a very lovely holiday’; ‘thanx for everything, ur great’; ‘thank you to all the staff, loads of love’.
We feel privileged as a team to be involved with such special folk, whom God has entrusted to our care.
Esther Smith writes: Christian young people who love the Lord Jesus and would like to help this ministry can do so in a number of ways:
(i) pray (ii) sign up as a supporter and receive our monthly bulletins (can be an eBulletin) (iii) look CFL up online — www.caringforlife.co.uk — and follow CFL on Twitter or Facebook, then spread the word (iv) fundraise for us; do a sponsored event and have a slot on the Justgiving website; contact CFL for ideas and support (v) look into applying to give a year of your life to Christian service by applying to become a TFJ (Time For Jesus) volunteer here at CFL.