As I was looking up the theme verse for this year (Ephesians 4:1), I came across The Message version of Ephesians 14:1-3 and was particularly drawn to the urgency of what is written,
“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run! —On the road God called you to travel.”
In terms of my personal journey with Social Justice, I think that the way in which Paul writes these words is so vital in understanding the urgency of the matter at hand. In November last year, I went to see a film at the Grosvenor Cinema on Ashton Lane called ‘I, Daniel Blake’. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, perhaps a light-hearted film about the unity of humanity in the midst of difficult circumstances – however, the film turned out to be incredibly poignant and heartbreaking and no one left the cinema with dry eyes.
I left feeling challenged about my role in society as a believer to feed the poor and comfort the broken-hearted. How was this panning out in my day-to-day life?
As I turned the corner on my way home, there was a woman sitting in a doorway who asked me for some spare change. It was already freezing cold and just starting to snow. All I could offer her was a sandwich. I sat down next to her and felt so incredibly helpless but chatted to her for a while nonetheless. I began to question why it was her sitting in a freezing cold doorway on Byres Road begging for spare change and not me.
After reciting the night’s events to my flatmates and receiving some very sound advice, I applied to volunteer at the Glasgow City Mission Night Shelter. I have always felt called to social justice, but this was the first time in my life I had experienced such an underlying urgency to act, and I was so convinced that the way in which I was to do so was through volunteering at the Night Shelter. I wanted and felt entirely convicted to live out my faith on the most practical level and to fully practice what I was reading in the bible. The verse Matthew 25:34-36 comes to mind;
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”
I must admit, since the beginning of my volunteering with GCM, I have been totally out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t used to experiencing homelessness on such a tangible and first hand level. I volunteer there one night a week doing the Twilight Shift (9pm-1am). The Night Shelter provides beds for 40 people, as well as tea, coffee, food, and also offers help finding longer term solutions to people’s struggles through Glasgow City Council. It is a safe place and welcomes anyone looking for emergency accommodation, however it shines a light on the reality of homelessness in Glasgow and the mental, financial and relational difficulties experienced by many people in the city. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and saddened by this, yet I know that without organisations such as Glasgow City Mission and the Lodging House Mission a lot of homeless people would face even more troubles.
The Night Shelter has shown me that there is hope for Glasgow and that God has a plan for each and every person who walks through its doors. He brings the most unlikely of characters together to form surprising yet encouraging friendships and encounters.
I want to encourage anyone who is considering getting involved with something like the Night Shelter to do so and to do so wholeheartedly. I fully believe that God sees our openness and availability to serve Him and will use us to our full potential, knowing that it us only through His strength that we can achieve the seemingly impossible.
Words by Lauren McFarland
If you feel inspired to volunteer for Glasgow City Mission, and hear about what it’s like first-hand, get in touch with our Local Coordinator Megan Gurney (via Facebook of firstname.lastname@example.org). To find out more details about different ways in which you can help, you can also visit www.glasgowcitymission.com/about-us/what-we-do/.