Result happiness

14 July 2009

Stephen Parsons looks at a bold effort to lead debtors out of despair

Journeys of Hope: 12 lives changed by God

Christians against Poverty £5.99


THIS book is a series of stories about 12 individuals whose lives have been blighted by financial hardship and debt, and who have been helped by the work of the organisation Christians Against Poverty (CAP) (Features, 8 May).

The stories told are all a vivid reminder of the way in which chronic debt is every bit as devastating to the human spirit as drug addiction or other forms of abuse and trauma. Into situations of utter despair CAP workers have been invited to enter, bringing order out of chaos and hope in the place of emptiness.

There appears to be a pattern in the help that is offered — budgets are drawn up, and creditors are contacted and negotiated with. Sometimes, when bankruptcy is the only option, the CAP worker stays alongside the client through this painful process.

A Christian dimension becomes apparent when the CAP worker requests the opportunity to pray with a client at an early stage in the process, as well as offers spiritual help throughout the period of support. On the face of it, this might appear a forcible intrusion at a point of extreme vulnerability. But there seems to be a recognition that when, as in the healing ministry of the Church, an individual asks for help from another person, he or she becomes potentially receptive to new spiritual resources of strength and transformation. The 12 stories chosen tell of initial resistance and finally incorporation into a living church community.

This book helped me to recog-nise that debt and poverty have not only social consequences, but also spirit­ual ones. CAP has much to offer to this place of spiritual deso­lation, and we must hope that it continues to offer help that com­bines practical support as well as an acute, non-coercive sensitivity to the enormous vulnerability of their clients.

The Revd Stephen Parsons is Rector of St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh.

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