Life is strange! Three years ago I started to volunteer with the SVP in my local parish. Our first initiative was to set up a Foodbank that would also be a place where people could just pop in for a tea, coffee and a chat on a Saturday. We operate a rota system for the volunteers so that we do not have to give up all our Saturdays! I became, what we call, a Session Leader and I would be in charge on any given Saturday.
Because of this role, which really came about by accident I guess, I have been privileged to work with some wonderful volunteers and I have been equally privileged to help some really wonderful people in need. I have gained so much from talking with these visitors, learned so much from listening to these people and I feel that I have, unbeknownst to me, grown in my understanding of the Holy Spirit. None of this was planned. It all started by accident.
I have recently been wondering, sub-consciously, what the point is of me gaining all this wonderful experience at the Foodbank and SVP. I feel that it really is a valuable and unique experience, completely different to what my friends outside of church gain. Why am I given the opportunity to have the privilege of helping the needy, why me? As a practical and logical Civil Engineer I have struggled to understand why I do what I do. Life is strange, I said to myself!
Then, I came across JRS and became aware of people being held indefinitely in immigration detention. It was like a ‘Eureka moment’. Is it possible that, over the past three years, in the Foodbank and SVP, I have been in a formation phase? All in readiness and preparation for becoming involved with JRS? Has the Holy Spirit mysteriously been forming and training me to be a JRS visitor to the detention centre? I feel really conscious, now, that I am just an instrument in some great plan – accidents don’t happen by accident.
The Holy Spirit’s formation phase for me, if that is indeed what it was, has been absolutely perfect in every way. My listening, talking and understanding skills have all improved beyond recognition. I have recently started as a JRS detention visitor and felt very comfortable right from the start. Meeting a stranger, striking up a conversation, keeping it going for an hour and a half, all came so naturally to me. I’m very happy with how it is going!!
The Holy Spirit leads you along a funny path, or so it seems to me. Life is strange alright!
Every month JRS UK produces a prayer resource through which we accompany those held in immigration detention.