Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Phoenix Community Care Story

The Phoenix Community Care Story

It was a sad occasion as Pauline and I visited Alan Pavey in hospital, we knew he was very ill and in fact dying, which he did not long after our visit.  But while there he turned to us both and said, “you need to be helping refugees.”

We both asked, “What do you mean by that?”

 He replied, “You just need to do something about them.” I guess we both saw this as some kind of prophetic word; the problem with prophecy is that you don’t always know how to react or what to do and at that time we didn’t!

A few weeks later we were watching the news together when, and some of you will remember it, a Norwegian boat picked up refugees in the sea off the cost of Australia, and then tried to help them to land, the Norwegians rescued the refugees from drowning. As I watched the news item, I thought how awful to risk your life in such a way just to escape from where you live and go to an unknown land.  The prime minister of Australia refused to allow the refugees to land and I think some of them subsequently died. This story had a major impact on Pauline, she wanted to catch a plane and punch the Australian Prime Minister for his inhumanity and lack of human concern.

As a couple we had fostered children for the local authority for 15 years, giving homes to around 30 children.  We had been wondering what we should do with our experience, the news item became a catalyst. While Pauline was angrily jumping up and down, I was protecting our TV from being attacked and trying to diffuse the situation. I said to her, “Pauline, there are many refugees in the UK, why don’t you start there rather than spend the air fare going to deal with the Australian Prime Minister, who might not see you.  Why don’t you start by phoning social services, they know us and perhaps they have some kind of refugee department?”

I listened to Pauline talking to the social services operator, she asked, “do you have a department that deals with refugees?”   By her smile I assumed they did have such a department, it turned out that the man to whom the call was eventually connected knew Pauline, they had worked together delivering training to the local authority foster carers. 

Once the call was connected he said to her, “we have so much need in this area, I am now managing the authorities’ refugee department, and if there is anything you can do to help we will be more than happy to have you on board.”

What to do? How to help? We did our research and discovered that the Muslim community in our area had already stood up to the plate and were meeting the need with many homes.  We turned to them for help and advice on to how to start and what was needed.  They suggested people who would advise us and we ended up using much of their expertise.  We were somewhat sad that there seemed to be no Christians on the block doing anything to help. For that reason, as we moved into this new arena with our  offer of help, we did not come with a ‘Christian’ agenda, or a church based view, rather we came simply as willing helpers; Phoenix Community Care organisation came into being.

The refugee department was very happy with our suggestions to help, but the programme we envisaged needed to be accommodation based. We were perplexed about how this could be accomplished, our daughter Carla, her husband and three sons said, “We want to help, I tell you what I will do, I will redecorate our house, and then move out and you can use that.” To cut a long story short, that’s exactly what happened and that house became our first property which we housed refugees .  There were months of jumping through fiery bureaucratic hoops and endless   regulations which often make it very hard to help  But we soldiered on and today we have ten houses and can accommodate over thirty  people.

We still remember, and actually are still good friends with our first ever client. The process works like this.  Our company gets a call from Social services saying, ‘we have such and such a person can you help?’  If we have space we usually say, ‘yes.’  We then arrange a collection, usually from a social services office, occasionally a police station.  On this first occasion Pauline went herself. These days one of our key workers would usually go. When Pauline arrived at the office the social worker pointed to a young lady huddled and slumped over   in a chair, on her knee she clutched at a solitary plastic carrier bag, she was pale and drawn, in fact she looked totally drained.   Once introductions had taken place Pauline drove the young lady to the house.  We have a policy of trying to make the accommodation as welcoming as possible, which we define as ‘having the wow factor’.  Pauline She showed the young lady the bedrooms, and the food in the kitchen, and said, ‘as you are our first ever guest you can choose your room from the whole house’.  The young lady chose her room and simply said, ‘may I now sleep?’ She then climbed into bed, coat and all and immediately dropped into a deep sleep.

Pauline drove the car around the corner, parked up, and wept bitterly about the terrible situation of the refugees. She then mopped her face, dried her eyes, pulled her mobile out of her handbag and called me. “Quick!” she said, “Get another house; we need to be helping these people!”

We have expanded since those early days, not only do we accommodate young people who are refugees but we also have our own foster care agency. This was initially conceived because although the refugees we deal with are aged 16 and over, there are in fact those who find their way to the UK who are much younger. Alongside that we formed another company, London Training Consortium, which handles the youngsters’ educational requirements, particularly ESOL, speaking English as a second language.

There is still a great need for people to help in this area, despite the fact that the government is always trying to discourage refugees from entering the UK. As we watch the news and see the wars and dangers that people are in, we can see that people are going to run somewhere, and some will make it to the UK. Often we can tell by the clients who come to us, where the latest ‘hot spot’ or war area is.

Incidentally although we did not announce that underneath it all we have the love of Christ constraining us, nevertheless social services did latch on to the fact that we were people who were ‘followers of the way’ and they often said of Phoenix Community Care and its placements, “you people seem to go the extra mile,” which seems like a good Scriptural principal Matthew 5:41 comes to mind.  We hope we still do.

Adrian Hawkes
For Mari
8th March 2011
W. 1216
Edit: Technicolour Text

From wanting to bash the Australian Prime Minister to care homes for refugees, the Phoenix story http://lnk.ms/33Nm6
From wanting to bash the Australian Prime Minister to care homes for refugees, the Phoenix story http://lnk.ms/33Nm6

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cheese, Wine, Coincidence, Hallucination, or God ?

Cheese, Wine, Coincidence,  Hallucination, or God ?

3 Min script

Well I think this will be my last time with you, at least on the subject of prayer.  Today I want to tell you about my book on prayer, it’s called ‘Hello is that you God?’  and if you buy it through UCB I’ll throw in ‘Jacob’ free, that’s another of my books; but this is not an advert, I want to tell you about the book if you don’t mind.

I wrote it because I believe, as I have been saying throughout these talks, that God wants to both listen to us and talk to us, but many people seem to get stuck at the first stage.  I also think that many people don’t understand when God is talking to them.

I also realise that some people don’t even believe that there is a God to talk to or listen to.  I feel very sad about that but I wanted the book to reflect the idea that some people do not think that God would really talk to them. So at the end of each chapter I pose questions, for example; what do you think is going on?  Was that God talking, and if not what was it?  In many of the situations that I describe I am hard pressed to think of anything other than it was God speaking to me. I really cannot put it down to cheese, wine, coincidence or hallucination, I believe God spoke.

There is a lady I know in my church community, let’s call her Mary, who had purchased a copy of my ‘Hello’ book and she was reading it on the way home, this is what she told me, ‘I was sitting on the bus enjoying reading your book and I thought to myself, it’s alright for Adrian to hear from God, but he never speaks to me. Then, do you know what, I heard a voice in my head that said, ‘That is because you never listen.’

Mary was more than a little shocked, and she prayed a quick prayer, ‘if that was you God, I’m listening now, is there anything you want to say to me?’   ‘Yes,’ said the voice, ‘There is a lady two seats in front of you, go and give her the book, she needs to read it.’  Mary told me that she just sat there somewhat embarrassed and a little unnerved. When the bus stopped, the lady got off.  ‘It was not my stop’ Mary continued, ‘but I jumped up and got off as well, and very timidly I went up to the lady who was walking in front of me,  and said, excuse me, but God just told me to give you this book.  I felt very self-conscious, but she didn’t seem at all phased by a stranger appearing at her side and offering her a book. She simply asked me what the book was about, I said it’s about hearing from God, and to my surprise she said she had been thinking about that for ages, and wondering if it was possible,  she said she would very much like to read it, thanked me and went on her way.’

 Another lady I know, I’ll call her Sue, received the book from a friend as a gift.  Sue said much the same as Mary, it’s alright for the author, but God doesn’t listen to me. Sue also heard a voice in her head which said, ‘Well, talk to me.’  Sue is a widow and to make extra income she lets out rooms in her house.  She had been trying for many, many months to get a new tenant but to no avail, the agency who had the room listed had not found her a suitable tenant.  She lay in bed one Friday evening  thinking about the book and then she spoke to God, ‘Dear God, if you can hear me like the book says, please, please I urgently need a new tenant for my room, can you please help me because this room has not been let for months.’  Sue then snuggled down in bed and went to sleep.   Saturday morning at 9am her phone rang, it was the agency and they said, ‘We think we have the perfect tenant for you.’  He was and still is.

Was it coincidence or was it God hearing and answering prayer?  I know what I think, what about you?

Thank you for listening to me talk about prayer I have enjoyed being with you.

Adrian Hawkes
Prayer talks for UCB
Editor A. Brookes
W 768
:"I never hear from God." God: "That's because you never listen." http://lnk.ms/33Nm6

Monday, 9 May 2011

God Loves To Surprise us!

God Loves to Surprise us!

Prayer 9
3 Min. Script

As we think about prayer and hearing from God there are some things that we should do. Firstly, remember.  Remember what God has said to us and done for us.  We see this ‘remembering’ frequently in scripture.  The Israelis continually remembered the good things that God had done for them, as they celebrated God’s actions.  If you have Jewish friends you will know that the many things that God did for them are still remembered and celebrated today.  It’s good to remember.

Secondly, be thankful.  God is with us, speaks to us and loves us and maybe we should say thank you. If you have done something for someone, and they don’t say thank you, it feels as if they are ungrateful.   I notice that people are ready and willing to ask God for lots of things, and I sometimes hear them complaining about what God is doing, or not doing, but thankfulness is in short supply. It’s good to remember what God has done for us and it’s equally important that we say thank you. We have a friend, the king of kings, the God who is there, the God who is willing to be in a friendship relationship with you and me.  That is a very good reason to say thank you.

Thirdly, we need to rehearse what God has done. I like stories don’t you?  My grandchildren pull my leg and tell me that they know all my stories and all my jokes.  The younger ones are not so sophisticated; they like to hear the stories again and again.   These stories rehearse and remind us of what God has done and that does us good.

Can I tell you a story about a prayer that was answered?  Thank you!  My children are now married with children of their own, but when they were about 7 and 9 they brought home a form for me to fill in, asking for permission for them to go on a school trip which would cost £5 each.  It was not a lot of money, but at the time we didn’t have much money.  We signed the form and they duly took it back to school.  A week later, they came home from school and said they needed to take the payment to school the next day.  I looked at my wife and she looked back at me with a shrug.  We didn’t have the money. In the morning as the girls were getting ready for school they kept reminding me that they needed to take the money in for the trip. I have to confess it was hard for me to tell them, ‘Sorry kids, I don’t have the money, but I have an idea, why don’t I come up to the school and ask if we can pay in instalments.’ 

That was just not good enough, they were very unhappy with my suggestion. The eldest looked at me with a stern face, ‘Dad we need to pay today!’  It was 8:40 in the morning, with the kids due to leave for school in five minutes, I only had one answer, PRAY!

I said to them, ‘I’m sorry kids, I don’t have the money, so we need to pray and ask God to sort this out because your Dad doesn’t know what to do and you won’t let him come and use his negotiating skills.’  There faces were defiant; they definitely did not want me speaking to their teacher about lack of money.

We stood in the kitchen, they in their uniforms, my wife looking on in desperation, recognising that this was something so very important to the children, and me trying hard to put a brave face on it as I prayed, ‘Dear God, my girls want to go on this trip, I’ve signed the form and now we can’t pay, we are embarrassed and it’s only £5 each, sorry God, we don’t have the money please can you help us?’  We all said a loud amen and stood looking at each other wondering what now?  ‘Let’s get you to school,’ I said, ‘and I’ll come back later and…’  I didn’t know what to say next. 

It was a very windy autumn day, I opened the front door to leave the house and a gust of wind blew into our hallway bringing with it a swirling heap of leaves, it was blowing them through the door like a mini whirlwind.  I shut the door again thinking I would wait a moment for the gust to die down.  My wife got busy with the dustpan to sweep up the load of leaves and I stood by the door, surrounded by leaves, then I looked down and there in the middle of the mess, was a £10 note.

You can talk all you like about coincidences, and question why, just as we finished praying, that the wind had blown it into our hallway. I don’t know the answers, but let me tell you my kids were very impressed with Gods quick answer, and I still remember that it happened, I am still thankful, and I still rehearse the story with those of my grandchildren who are willing to listen to me.

Prayer 9
UCB 3 min script
Adrian Hawkes
W. 893
Editor: A. Brookes
When you pray, expect the unexpected; quintessentially God loves to surprise us. http://lnk.ms/33Nm6