2015 General Election: You can still make a difference!

With the majority of constituency results announced it is clear that we will be seeing a Conservative formed government.  The polls leading up to yesterday’s election had the Tories and Labour neck and neck but I was expecting that many of our population would put an X by their Conservative candidate within the privacy of the voting booth.  We’re a rich country which means those in work will always be fairly comfortable and it’s difficult for people to vote against that and to stick up for the vulnerable.

I’m disappointed.  However, political involvement is not limited to voting in a General Election.  We all have a new or a newly re-elected MP who is accountable to us, the same goes for our local Councillors.  Engage with your MP and with your Councillors, get to know them and ensure they make your voice heard.  Even if they don’t represent your political views they are still your public servant.

There are also opportunities for those who feel powerless in an election to come together and make a collected voice heard through marches, letter writing and other peaceful protests.  If you feel helpless now then resolve to continue to campaign for the issues that are important to you.

Personally, I am most gutted for those who are more vulnerable for various reasons – the young, the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the disenfranchised, the asylum seeker, the looked after children, the disabled, those with mental illness, the addicts…..  These categories don’t generally vote Conservative, if they vote at all, and will undoubtedly be further down trodden.  If this bothers you then get ready to serve these people in your local community.  They may not be able to rely on their government for support and empowerment but they must be able to rely on their neighbours.

We spend a lot of time talking about our politicians but even once elected they do not have to be the ones who direct and shape our country.  Stand up and make a difference!

The Kingdom of God is here…..in Wednesbury!

If you’re not from the West Midlands  then chances are you have not heard of Wednesbury – unless you are an Ikea anorak.  Even most people in the West Midlands don’t seem to know much about the place.  Wednesbury is a small town of about 24,000 just off the M6 in the Black Country, situated between the bigger towns of Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.  And only 20 minutes from Birmingham.

We have lived here for just over 12 months and we moved here because this is where God’s trail of breadcrumbs has led us.  We’re passionate about the local church have been helping to plant and lead Grace Church in Wolverhampton since 2011.  We are now beginning to gather a team to partner with us in planting a church here in Wednesbury.  It is a wonderful little town with a rich and proud heritage, a great community spirit and home to the tallest rugby posts in the world!

World’s Tallest Rugby Posts

At a first viewing it seems that Wednesbury’s rich Christian heritage is in it’s past but our perception is that the Kingdom of God is here under the surface.  The local church leaders are working hard but there is a great need for more Christian mission in this town.  There is a great need for those who follow Jesus to serve him and his church here in Wednesbury.

Are you passionate about Christian mission?

Do you enjoy getting stuck into local community life?

If so, why not give some prayer and consideration to making a big call and joining us!?  I can guarantee you would make a real difference here.  Do get in touch if you want to find out more.

Riots in Wednesbury at the preaching of John Wesley!

Boing Boing

When I came to work in West Brom just over five years ago the Baggies were one of my all time worst teams.  This was partly due to being a Villa fan. but I think mainly down to following Sheffield United on an away trip back in the mid 90s which started with the coach arriving way to early and having to kill a few hours as a 15 year old around The Hawthorns (really not pleasant at the time), and ended with a 3-0 drubbing for my second best team.  Bad day out.

However, since a big part of my life has arrived in West Brom I have developed a real respect and, sorry Villa fans, an affection for West Bromwich Albion.  They are a club that work hard, put back into the community, and really lift the local area when they are doing well.  I think in my first year here they got relegated but then came straight back up and it was great to be around the town when they got promoted.

But waking up this morning to the news that they’ve gone and sacked Steve Clarke is a bit of a shock.  I mean, come on West Brom, if you’re expecting to be a top-half team year after year then I think you’re a bit deluded.  Clarke has done a great job for you, you’re stable and had some great results and performances.  I know it worked great for Southampton dumping Nigel Adkins last year, the man who had got them promoted twice, but I must say it seems really cruel.  I just wish footballers got sacked after having 4 poor performances.

Anyway, I still want you Baggies to stay up but I’ll think it quite deserved if you do continue to struggle.  And I hope the board feel guilty for making a nice, hard working man unemployed this Christmas.

Buy Local

I know I’m a little late but last Saturday was “Small Business Saturday” where consumers up and down the country were encouraged to buy from local businesses.  We’ve just moved into Wednesbury in the West Midlands so it is a great opportunity for us to get into the habit of using local businesses.  And it’s not actually as hard as you think:

  • Meat – We’ve been to one of the local butchers already.  Yes, butcher meat can be more expensive but it is so much better than supermarket meat in so many ways!
  • Fish – I’m afraid we bought fish from Morrisons but the butcher has told me that Great Bridge market on a Saturday is great for fish.
  • Fruit & Veg – So far bought fresh fruit and veg from Aldi, Morrisons and a market stall.  Need to be more organised to use the market stall more.
  • Bike Repairs – Have avoided Halfords and had incredible service from Wardy’s Cycles in Darlaston.
  • Car Repairs – Haven’t needed them yet but have a couple of local mechanics in mind.  On moving day we used a local van hire rather than one of the international companies.
  • Online Shopping – This is one that we need to get away from I think but it is difficult because online shopping is so convenient.  Amazon have a distribution centre about 20 miles away in Rugeley but I don’t think that makes it a local business!
  • Carpets – We’ve been recommended a little place in Bilston.  Not made a final decision yet but they have just as much choice as any of the big companies.
  • Furniture – Rather than get drawn to the ‘sales’ at the big sofa, bed or dining table warehouses how about visiting a few charity shops.  That has come up short for us on this occasion but the carpet shop mentioned above also have an extensive catalogue of different furniture.  Ikea might be convenient but it ain’t local, even if we do have one quarter of a mile away.

It does take more effort but going round the local shops means you are more in tune with local life because you meet more people and your money is going into the local community.  If anybody has got any good ideas or local recommendations then I’d love to hear them!

Cultural Perspectives: Middle East on UK

The first guest blog in the Cultural Perspectives series is by a lady originally from the Middle East but now living in Britain:

For a person like me, who became a Christian from another religion and hated religiosity, it was difficult to find the right church that doesn’t make people run away!

I personally like Charismatic churches which are alive and where you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the atmosphere.  Also you can see the action of the Holy Spirit and the lives of people changed.  Also, the way of worshiping God is so important for me and a prayerful atmosphere.  Good preaching and teaching are important too.  When I lived in Germany I went to some churches that were Charismatic and I loved to be in that atmosphere.

However, the first time I visited a church in the UK I didn’t have any idea about churches here.  I chose the church because it was near my home, so I went there and found the people were really friendly and kind.  I only attended that church for couple of months because it was not what I had expected.

I tried to find out about other churches and how they differed so I attended some others but none of them were what I was used to.  I spoke to a lady who was from that first church and she kindly helped me and didn’t get upset about my decision to leave their church.

She sent me to the church that I am now a member of.  The first time you experience something is very important for someone, and the first time I went to the new church there was a lady who was so friendly and accepting.  She came to me and started to speak to me.  She touched my heart and I felt like I was at home!

I think it was God’s plan for me to find this church which now is my home and family!  Before that day I was so desperate and was thinking I couldn’t settle in the UK because church for me is like my home and it’s sooo important for me to be in the right one.  I am glad and thankful for being a member of this church and they bless me a lot.  Their kindness and mercy touch my heart, in fact they are good examples of Christians who I can learn from them.

Because I was a Muslim before, I had lots of fear that maybe God would leave me or get angry with me but by attending church in the UK I’ve learnt even more about our God and his mercy than before.  I feel free now from all of those lies which religion and society in my home country taught me!

Also, I went to some christian conferences which built me up and I’ve learnt a lot about being a community in Christianity.  I am still learning and love this adventurous life which Jesus gave me.  Every day living with him is like a gift and I love to find out what’s waiting for me in it.  Sometimes I can’t wait or be patient to find out his plan for my life but I trust in him so I know anything that happened to me was for a reason and I let him work on me to become that shape which he wants me to be!

Friendship gives cancer a good beating at the YMCA

Today was a wonderful day at the YMCA as staff came together to put on a great morning of fabulous food and even better friendship.

Sadly it seems more true each year that each of us is affected by cancer.  And  it was as a result of the wicked claws of cancer that three people at the YMCA wanted to put on a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  When they all found out what the others were wanting to do and once they had put their heads together the result was brilliant.  People came in early, cooked breakfast for the whole staff team and loads of home baked cakes were brought in and sold (and eaten).

But better than any amount of money that was raised for Macmillan, which really is a worthy cause, was the sense of community and friendship that pervaded the building at Carters Green.  It was fun and moving to be together.  Two of our colleagues and friends who are living with cancer at the moment were able to come and visit and there was a great feel of togetherness.  Tears were shed, jokes shared, encouragement given and I am sure all were inspired.  I really felt the love of God among us, bringing unity and sticking one in the eye for cancer.

Well done to everybody who took time to make today possible.  It is a privilege to be part of the YMCA community.

Smashed by my Old Man

So on Saturday, as part of the weekend excursion back home to Sheffield, I tackled the Graves Parkrun 5km.  I had warned my dad that I wasn’t particularly fit but I was disappointed to see him disappear into the distance as we ran down the first hill towards the ponds.  He got about 20 seconds ahead and I never got close.

It doesn’t say much about my physical condition that I was easily beaten by a 64 year old*.   However, I think it says a lot more about my dad’s supreme fitness and dedication.  To continue to be able to run 5km in 24 minutes is no mean feat once the years start ticking by.  Dad trains several times a week and is an example to all of us.

To say I’m proud of him is a bit of an understatement.  Not many people can say their dad is an Olympian, but he is so much more than that.  He has dedicated his life to helping children and young people achieve their potential – whether it is coaching athletics, teaching or putting on kids clubs for children or for young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds – he is even more committed to serving the community than he is to his own fitness.

OLYMPICS BRIAN ADAMS LEICESTER 20KM WALK ORIGINAL 1976 PRESS PHOTO

Not sure where this picture is from but this is dad back in the day.

 

* I was also soundly beaten by the latest superstar from my dad’s coaching squad – 12 year old Ana Garcia who ran the tough 5km course in just 20 minutes!  She was 6th in the whole field and first female finisher!