If you live in the UK, or France, you probably heard about the girl who went missing this week. Megan Stammers is actually from my end of the country down in the south-east, and failed to turn up to school last Friday morning. She was believed to have been abducted by her maths teacher, Mr. Jeremy Forrester and taken by ferry to France. See the BBC report here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19686056. Today, I am very happy to hear Megan has been found along with Forrester in France and that she is safe and being brought back to the UK and Forrester has been arrested.
Stammers and Forrester on the ferry to France
Before I say anymore I want to make it really clear that I am extremely happy to hear that she is on her way home safe and think that the media coverage and the spread of information through twitter was brilliant and probably had an impact on eventually finding her.
What I want to point out is that surely she isn’t the only girl to have gone missing or been in danger in the last say 3 months or so and yet this is the most coverage I’ve seen in that time over a single person. Megan’s case also wasn’t as serious as others are. She left, apparently voluntarily with her teacher and from what I hear there’s not any suggestion of abuse. Again, let me be clear, this shouldn’t happen and contact needed to be made with the family but Megan was relatively safe. Her life and, it seems, wellbeing wasn’t at serious risk. Meanwhile girls are in trouble in this country, especially in our cities. This article compares Megan’s case to one such girl, “Suzie”. www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/why-do-we-care-about-megan-stammers-from-eastbourne-but-not-suzie-from-rochdale-8190274.html
Wouldn’t it amazing if twitter could come alive for girls like Suzie as it did for Megan? Raising awareness for such problems across the country could really mobilise the public and the police to more actively combat what is happening around us. Then there’s the slave trade and human trafficking that still exists in our world. Young men and women being abducted and sold to others in a different country from anything varying from domestic service to sexual slavery.
My question here is more certainly not “Why did the country, the media and twitter mobilise itself for Megan Stammers?” but “Why doesn’t the country, the media and Twitter mobilise itself for other girls and young people like it did for Megan?”
What do we think?
Is it down to the family to kickstart a campaign?
Should we make it more normal to campaign to help people like this? Or would that devalue the publicity?
- ‘Pure elation, pure relief’ – stepfather’s delight at Megan Stammers being found safe and well in France (independent.co.uk)
So I’ve been here just over a day and I’m already running very low on sleep so I’ll try to be short.
All 25 people who are living in my corridor have now arrived and I’d say they’re generally not a bad bunch, I’ve been doing my best to get to know people, everyone collects in one of our two big kitchens regularly throughout the day and in the evenings. I’m with them when I can be but as the night draws near it seems inevitable that the drinks and drinking games come out and I have to take a step back. I watch from the side or retreat to my room because I don’t want to deal with the awkwardness of being the one who isn’t drinking. Then there was the bright idea to join another floor tonight, about 30 people were squashed into a kitchen close to all with drinks in hand with random calls for people to down the drinks, no one actually looking like they were all that happy (even those who had had quite a lot already). Once someone starting going round to find people who were drinkless to thrust drinks at them, I decided it was time make my exit and returned to my room.
In the name of being sociable both last night and tonight I went out to the uni’s club and had decided that there I would have a drink or two but not before. This seems to work quite well so I’m going to use it throughout this week as I think I should be expected to be dragged out every night. If you’ve read earlier posts you’ll know clubbing isn’t really my scene but the last couple of nights, especially tonight I did actually get what was fun about it and did, in fact, enjoy myself. The main issue has been, however, that the club gets full to overflowing while the night is still young leaving you very little room to dance and making it so easy to get separated from your group if they go somewhere. Clubbing isn’t as fun when it’s only 3 half-hearted clubbers I’ve found, so we came back to the flat, feeling very old and just went back to our rooms and instead of catching up on my missed sleep I thought I’d catch up missed tv instead and write this!
If you’re a Christian and are or were at university, how have you or did you deal with other people drinking so much, especially in freshers week?
Did you join in events you weren’t really interested in to be sociable?
It can be unfortunate that it is imperative to tell people your course as I am the only computer scientist in the flat I have become the go-to guy for computer problems. This doesn’t actually bother me, I help out everyone the best I can and enjoy it; it’s also an easy way to be liked by the people you’re living with! Unluckily there are campus-wide problems with our internet and without giving too many technical details both the wired and wireless connections have issues which I am powerless to solve completely and can only do with a bit of luck (mine worked within half an hour). I promised lots of people last night that I would help them today but it occurred to me before I went to bed (already very late!) that I would be getting breakfast and then doing CU church search in the morning. This is where representatives from different churches advertise their church and then you can follow who you want. Many churches also offer a free lunch of some description or at least discussion for students after the service, so I realised even if everyone else gets up a lot later than I do, I won’t be around to give them a hand for a while. Determined to help these new friends out I looked up the instructions for connecting and wrote them out (I don’t have my own printer!) twice, one for each kitchen and put a note on my door to tell them where to find it. I said on the instructions where I was; which I feel in many ways was a cop out but it was an easy way to make clear that I am a Christian to everyone. When I got back the instructions had worked for some people but not others, as I expected, but everyone was grateful I had taken the time to write it out for them. This is a way I’m showing love to the people around me and I’ve let them know I’m a Christian at the same time, something I’m pretty happy with. Also not being shaken from my principles over drinking while still showing I can have fun is a bonus. I find it hard to make sure I talk to the people that often get left out which is something I’m trying to work on.
For anyone else in a similar position to me, how have you gone about letting people know you’re a Christian? Have you at all?
If you’ve been through it in the past how did you do it?
And for both sets of people how have you found/did you find a way to show love to your flatmates?
Any answers or other comments please do comment!
Thanks for reading and I’ll back to you later in the week with how freshers is going! 🙂
This is a continuation of my last post but there is no need read the last one to understand this one as it’s about a different events. After a few weeks of doing very little at home I was off to Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset for New Wine CSW (Central & South West). If you don’t know what it is, it is a Christian family conference that runs for 6 days where there are numerous seminars throughout the day, with main morning and evening meetings with what you could call “headline” speakers. There’s also various cafes on site and a marketplace with stalls of various charities and resources. This was my first time but I got a bit lucky in that I got to go for free and have meals and accommodation provided! This was, of course, not in exchange for nothing. At my home church I am a sound technician and have been for a few years. Our church has connections to a Christian recording studio so I got asked if wanted to go and record and duplicate seminars to sell onsite (there are also available to order or download online afterwards). I really loved serving in this way as I enjoy “technical” jobs (no surprise I am studying computer science!) but love them even more when I’m serving God while doing it. It also meant I was in various seminars that, given the choice by looking at their titles, I may not have attended. Generally was glad I did. I wasn’t able to get too into the main meetings as the team was needed to be duplicating and packing the discs but it didn’t bother me. I was there to serve and I got a lot out of doing exactly that. And I got to work with a great team of fellow volunteers too!
Another reason why I wasn’t too worried about not being able to go to many meetings and seminars was that I knew that I’d be coming home, getting a day and a half to recover and be heading back to the exact same place with my youth group for Soul Survivor. And those 5 days were for me and God to connect. Soul Survivor is very similar in structure to New Wine but it is aimed at youth (in fact it was the youth of New Wine becoming so big they needed their own conference!). Again, I won’t give you a breakdown, just some highlights.
Rend Collective Experiment led worship at a couple of the main meetings and they were AMAZING. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live and you want to hear some really real worship from the heart then do it. They are band of Northern Irelanders who get together with 20 or so people and make music worship praising the Lord, then a bunch of 5 (I think) take the result around the country (and the world) and record it! Since coming home I have found it hard to stop listening to them actually, although I much prefer their live performance – the recording just doesn’t seem to do them justice. Some highlights of theirs are Build Your Kingdom Here (awesome anthem for the church), You Are My Vision (best update of Be thou my vision I’ve ever heard), Second Chance and Desert Soul. Check them out! And if there’s any other cool worship bands you’ve seen or heard put them in comments!
My other highlight is more than just a cool thing that happened or I saw or heard. God gave me a mission through this – he told me what he wants me to do through my life.
There’s this quite awesome guy called Patrick Regan. He founded and runs XLP, a charity that runs in London, working with the young people who are lost, rejected and unloved. He and his team (and their buses!) go into the estates the authorities think are too dangerous to reach out to those who have no one to look to, or worse who are in right in the middle of the gang culture that exists there. Check out their work at www.xlp.org.uk. I’ve been interested in him since he couldn’t make it last year because he was talking to people like Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Ed Miliband about what to do about the London riots. It said to me if they are looking for his advice, he is right in there with those people who aren’t reached by social services or community support officers. It struck me that that’s exactly what we as Christians should be doing. Over the year I looked into XLP’s work and Patrick himself a little but ashamedly I sort of forgot about it all. This year he was there and was down to do three seminars over the weak all looking at this theme of reaching out to the marginalised and the unloved. I got along to two of them and felt I was being inspired. But yet the desire to act wasn’t strong enough. Sure, I’m meant to do something… I guess I should sometime…
The killer came when he took the stage as a guest speaker in of the evening meetings. He built on the same themes and also gave us stories of where he had been around the world and saw people in different situations from different cultures. Yet these people who didn’t know where their life was going and so got involved with gangs or sold themselves or lived on the streets all lacked one thing that would change their lives. Hope. If a person believes their life has meaning and they can achieve something through it and that someone cares for them, they can do amazing things.
How do you give them this hope? Well I’ll let Patrick’s words tell it because simply, they’re the best:
“The greatest poverty is lack of friends. Would you let your best friend live in a cardboard box? Would you stand by and watch as a friend slowly killed themselves with drugs? Of course you wouldn’t! Drug abusers need friends, homeless people need friends; young people with no parents need friends… they need people to love them, to stand up for them. It’s only when we’re willing to step out of our comfort zones and love people like we would our close friends that we can fully demonstrate the kind of life changing love that Jesus so radically taught.”
I find that Patrick’s way of talking is just so real. He’s seen this happen and seen how the work he does changes lives. It’s not theory it’s purely practical. While he was speaking about his experiences and what he had seen and the state of our world I felt something boiling up in me. It was like an aching in my chest very much like you feel when someone is annoying you so much you feel like you want to punch them. But this anger wasn’t aggressive in that sense. It was a righteous anger. It’s why I believe God gave us the ability to feel angry. When we see something in our world that isn’t right righteous anger is what gives us the passion to act on it and to go do something about it. As Patrick was speaking I felt God was saying “This is where I want you to go, be a friend to the friendless, the unloved and the marginalised.”
Wow. I’ve got a mission from God.
Woah, woah, woah, hang on a sec, I’m meant to be going to university in a month – should I be going somewhere else? Do a year with XLP or another charity doing similar work? I prayed and thought over this and within a couple of days I understood. Go to university as planned – there’s people there who need you.
So today I make the journey and move in and I have no idea where to start. But God’s got it. He’ll show me and I’ll be ready. Ready to love my fellow students, whoever they are and wherever they’re at. It’s going to be hard but I’m not alone.
Mike Pilavachi (founder of Soul Survivor who usually does the evening talks) then came and added on how the Bible is full of, well, orders really, to do exactly this work. Apart from not worshipping idols it is what is demanded most in the Old Testament and is also the most mentioned in the New Testament and specifically is what Jesus talks about (and does!) the most. So Christians have no excuse!
Has anyone else felt like they’ve been given a mission from God? How did he do it and how has it affected you?
What do you think about hope and having it being a driving force of a person’s life?
If you are a Christian do you feel this is an important ministry to be involved in anyway? Do you already do it? If you’re not Christian did you know how central it should be to the faith? Does it surprise you?
There is a part three to my summer but it is likely that it will be put on hold due to me arriving at university later today and I will post soon about how I’m settling in!
Thanks for reading!
This summer I’ve been around a bit, probably the most I have any summer. This was mainly because I had a longer summer due to finishing A-Levels and having 3 months to spare, I also got more opportunities to go places. I will avoid giving you a narrative and rather just give some highlights from my adventures, generally in the UK and generally Christian events except the first one. I’ve decided to split this up a bit as I don’t want the posts to get too long!
So since about last October or so my college friends and I started talking about a summer holiday together. As the year went on it took shape and in the end eight of us booked a holiday in Spain near Barcelona. Weren’t staying at a hotel but on a camping park in two mobile homes, one with the four guys and one for the four girls. Despite none of my friends being committed Christians, most not being religious at all, I was lucky enough that they were not the type of people to go out drinking too often and wanted nothing to do with drugs etc. (For me, looking at people at college generally, I really was lucky). So I was confident that we wouldn’t go crazy and stupid things. I had been praying for opportunities to talk about my faith during this intense 6 days with my friends.
The flight was fine, not everyone had flown before and some just didn’t like it but we didn’t have any problems and managed to find our way out of Barcelona airport to the train to take us to the town of Vilanova and then a bus to the camping park. The mobile homes were small but not too small and had decking outside with table and chairs where we ate our meals. Over the week we took advantage of the swimming pools and other facilities onsite (there was adventure golf!) and went to the beach in Vilanova one day, to Barcelona another and to Aqualeone (a water park with safari – who would think to put those together?!) another. We also had our fair share of arguments; mainly between the girls, which unfortunately has led to a more permanent breakup of friendship between one and the other three.
But anyway it was the evening of day four and I had had no clear opportunity to talk about God and my faith, so naturally I was thinking “Come on God I prayed for this, why haven’t you delivered?” I really believe God has a sense of humour because that evening what was to become the centre of conversation between me and the other three guys but religion! And I had nothing to do with steering it that way. We had a pretty open discussion for about an hour where I could really put forward my beliefs and justify some of them and could really hear where they were at. We decided to call it a night but when we went to bed I spent another hour talking to the guy I was sharing my room with (who happened to be my best mate) about his faith journey from atheism where he found there was no hope and nothing to look forward to, to searching for more meaning to his life. I talked more about my faith and how Jesus fulfilled that need for me and he is now genuinely looking to explore the Christian faith more. Afterwards I did say a little “thank you” and “sorry” to God for doubting Him! It’s a real pity I won’t have a close relationship now that we are off to different universities but I am happy to know I helped him on his journey.
Has anyone else had an experience of having a deep conversation with a friend that you think has been really constructive? Or maybe been on the receiving end and it really affected them? Or really not for that matter?
As a general note, I think it’s easy for Christians to think they should shy away from situations like this holiday because they don’t want to fall into temptation. But if you can trust your friends not to push you into doing anything you don’t want to, I say go for it and be an example to them and find ways you can unforcefully tell them about what you believe, it really works!
Next post about my two adventures in Shepton Mallet (Bath and West Showground) where I was lucky enough to be at both New Wine and Soul Survivor!
So on Saturday I’m leaving my hometown where I’ve lived all my life to go and live somewhere that I’ve visited only once, and even then only the university campus, for the next four years. This really dawned on me on Sunday evening after being at my last service at the church I’ve grown up in and realising I won’t see it again until Christmas. All the “goodbye”s and “good luck”s from many people I don’t even know have felt surreal but I have accepted that I’m leaving.
But don’t get too worried, I am extremely excited and can’t wait to get stuck into university life and enjoy it. I also, possibly ashamedly, can’t wait to leave home and my parents, due to some issues that they have mainly with each than with me, but details on that are for another post. I’m looking forward, not to reinventing myself, because I’m not changing who I am, but reestablishing myself, making clearer who I am and what I live for to people who have no knowledge of my past.
The feeling that I will be soon having to live independently, sharing a kitchen with ten other people, with four bathrooms between us, none of whom I’ve ever met is also quite a scary prospect. Lots of things my friends going elsewhere have been saying are: What if I don’t get on with the people I have to live with? What if their attitude to life is really different? What if they’re really messy and leave stuff all over the kitchen? What if they don’t clean up after themselves in the bathroom? I’ve got to live with these ten people for the next year (or 9 months anyway) and I reckon it’ll be okay, and if the testimony of the majority of students I’ve talked to is to be believed; there’s nothing to worry about. And I’m ready just to jump in and try it despite all the possible problems. Freshers week in many ways has me scared though, as it seems the centre of it is getting drunk, which isn’t what I do, and clubbing, which isn’t my scene; I just kinda find it boring. I have a friend from my church who is a couple years ahead at the same uni who has already been through it all and she has reassured me it’s okay especially when you stick by what you say you will or won’t do. It’s really cool having someone around I know who looks at things the same way as me. It’s even better that her boyfriend is basically my best mate from church who regularly comes over for visits!
Also my Christian faith and belief in God is probably the most important thing for me and it’s probably quite likely that none of the people that I’ll be living with are religious, let alone Christian, and it’s also quite possible there’ll be someone who will be staunchly atheist, looking to attack faith. Just to be clear, this doesn’t worry me because I think anyone will shake my faith, I have no doubts about what I believe. What I am worried about is how I behave and how I project the image of a Christian to these people. Because actually I’m not going to university just to study and get a degree (I hope!) but it’s a mission field. It’s where God has sent me to spread his incredible word. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be preaching to anyone (in fact that’s extremely unlikely) but the first step is to show a real representation of Jesus Christ in my life. Hopefully if that is successful I will have opportunities to tell others why I act differently. Meanwhile the first thing I want to make sure I do is get involved with the CU at the university and find ways that it does outreach in the university and get stuck in! As well as that I want to find a church that does mission in the city and serve the people of it. I feel God has given me a real calling to serve those who feel unloved and marginalised, and for a short time I wasn’t sure university was actually the place he wanted me to go but I then understood that’s where he wanted me to carry this out – more on how that came about in the next post. This leaves me excited for how God will use me during my university life and I honestly can’t wait for it.
I reckon that’s good place to end this post, in the next day or two I’ll post about my adventures over the summer. Please comment and share if you liked it!
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10b NIV