I wrote in my other blog recently how I'm going to be helping at a pop-up winter night shelter over the next few months. It's not something I've done before and truth be told I don't feel that equipped to do it but I know that after I've attended the training I'll feel more confident and to be honest, with God by my side I'll be able to do anything that is required of me.
Whilst I'm focusing my (small) helping efforts here, others have it so much worse. Can you imagine having no place to sleep and then the temperature drops to minus 9 and stays at that temperature? Back in 2012 I travelled to Minsk in Belarus for a week with the charity campaign Operation Christmas Child. Our remit there was to deliver shoe box gifts to those in need and as such I saw a great deal of poverty and met many children living in orphanages.
As I read some of the stories that MissionWithout Borders (MWB) have shared with me for their Street Mercy Project I was transported back to my time in Minsk and meeting all those gorgeous kids who were living in homes with holes in the roof (literally) and having to deal with the issues of abandonment and neglect by parents who have been driven to binge on cheap home brewed 100% proof vodka.
All year through MWB are working with vulnerable families and those living on the streets and thank the Lord they are. People without a fixed home are still people, God’s command to love our neighbour holds true for all people but it appears the neighbours in one part of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria didn't think so as Victor and Dimitrina were moved on from their home in an underground sewer as they were considered a nuisance.
Now the young couple find abandoned buildings to sleep in and have to move from place to place as the police and state will not allow them to stay in one place for any length of time. Due to their unstable living arrangements their two children are cared for by relatives and they are unable to see them. Victor wishes he could work and support his family but there are no job opportunities for homeless people who have very limited access to washing facilities and clean clothes. He also struggles due to his poor education which came about from growing up in a state care institution and he feels shame that he and Dimitrina have not been able to get married because they lack identity documents.
Their story is all too familiar, particularly in many of the Eastern European countries. It seems the negative legacies of alcoholism and despair left from the oppressive communism that prevailed in those countries is incredibly hard to break. This is of course heart breaking but as I've said many times before we can't give up because it all feels too much, we have to pull together, fight harder and do our bit.
I'm really pleased to be able to do my bit. To play a small part in helping a homeless person or vulnerable family in Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova or Bosnia-Herzegovina during those harsh winter months. I'll be doing this through the MWB Mercy Street Project which provides a hot meal, emergency medical care and spiritual support to those in need. The £5 that I donate will go towards a pair of warm winter boots or other essentials such as fuel, blankets, warm clothing or household items. Just imagine trying to survive a winter, ten times worse than we experience here in the U.K. with no gloves to put on your frozen fingers. It doesn't bear thinking about, does it?
What I want to know is, will you join me please? Don't just dismiss it and start thinking about how it is Christmas soon and you have so many expenses coming up, please won't you consider buying one less tub of Quality Street (or Roses, whatever is your bag) and giving that £5 instead to MWB so they can continue with their excellent work.
Thanks for your time and love, Mich xx