Written by Deane Gardiner
When, nearly three years ago, my wife died, I was wondering what the next stage of my journey would be like. I had largely looked after her during the last three years of her life and now that role had ended. What did God have in store for me now? It certainly was a time of change but I did not know that He would rekindle a vision that He had given me over 40 years earlier whilst at college.
As I was preparing to go round the world I became aware that a young lady called Helen was planning a project which sought to meet the needs of the vulnerable people in Shaftesbury. At college God had inspired a number of the Christians through Isaiah 58 as to His heart for the poor, the widows, the orphans and those oppressed. The more I heard about the project the more I felt convicted to support it both financially and practically.
Going around the world allowed me to spend some time seeking the next steps for me and Isaiah loomed large. Chapter 58 clearly tells us in practical terms what God wants us to do. Here it talks about the following – feeding the poor; taking care of widows, orphans and foreigners; providing shelter for the homeless; giving clothes to those who need them; helping those in trouble; letting the oppressed go free and removing the chains that bind people. It also clearly says don’t judge (point the finger at others) but look to the needs of others. Is this not what Jesus was talking about when He said ‘follow me’? This is the heartbeat of Open House – this is the vision we have of ‘letting God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. This is the ‘the good news of the kingdom’. This is what I decided I want to give my life to – building this kingdom with these values. So when I returned I volunteered to work one day a fortnight in Open House. Little did I know where it would lead!
Open House I believe is striving to meet those desires of God’s heart for the community of Shaftesbury highlighted in Isaiah. Recently the demand for it’s services seems to have increased greatly – to the point where we feel we have outgrown the existing facilities and commitments to be open one day a week. Regularly of late the team have been stretched to meet all the needs of those coming through the door and Helen in particular has been working well beyond Tuesdays, taking people to court appeals and health assessments and writing countless reports.
For the last nine months I have taken over the running of Store House which provides furniture and white goods free to those in need. During that time the workload has greatly increased to the point where last week, with the help of the interns, I collected and delivered furniture in the van for over three full days. I can’t express how much favour God has shown Store House with the vast number of people who seem willing to donate to the cause. In the last six weeks our 60 foot container has been continually full – despite equipping 6 houses with most of the furniture needed. (Two Syrian refugee families, two families from the refuge, a single man who had been homeless and a single mother of three children who was made homeless by her landlord as he wanted to sell the property).
Just yesterday I had a young disabled mother of three crying when I told her that whatever she saw in the container that she needed she could have. She could not believe me and when we delivered the goods later on I had a wonderful hug and managed to pray with her which made all the hassle of the last weeks work totally worthwhile.
So, why am I writing this article? For three reasons;
I believe we are in the process of expanding the vision, and that will require three things
- People who are willing and able to cover us in prayer
- People who catch the vision and are willing to volunteer
- People who are willing to support the vision financially by giving on a regular basis.
Having read this article if you have caught the vision, if you believe you can help in any way, or would like to donate anything to Store House, please contact me – Tel 07492054146 or firstname.lastname@example.org