Serve the Poor, Save the Lost
Above Bar Church in Southampton opened a debt centre in October 2014 and it’s been a great opportunity to serve the city and share the gospel. The centre is managed by Ros Briggs and we asked her to tell us a bit more about it.
It all started from reading Nevertheless – a book written by John Kirkby, the founder and International Director of Christians Against Poverty (CAP). In the months that followed and in discussion with Above Bar Church, I felt that I was being called to leave the teaching job that I had (and enjoyed!) to become the manager of our CAP debt centre.
During the time that we have been open I have seen 46 clients and families. So far seven have become debt free with many others still working through their plans to achieve this. And it’s been a joy to see five clients pray prayers of commitment after we shared the gospel with them. As a church we are following these up; either with individual Bible studies or in small groups.
How does a Debt Centre work?
In order to access our service, the client rings a free 0800 number. The call is answered in Bradford at CAP’s Head Office and an appointment is made for a local centre to see the client. I usually see each client 3 times, although sometimes more often. In general the first visit explains the debt counselling service we offer and the paperwork that the client needs to collect, the second visit goes through detailed income and expenditure with supporting evidence. This is then sent to head office in Bradford where the casework team prepare a budget and advise on the best way out of debt for the client. On the third visit I go through the advice and budget with the client.
CAP will negotiate with creditors on behalf of clients and will support clients throughout the process until they become debt free. If clients receive letters demanding payment, they send these up to head office in prepaid envelopes that we supply. This is a huge burden lifted from clients. We then offer client events such as family fun days and meals with a chance to hear about what a difference Jesus has made in the life of a Christian.
Our clients are often among the most vulnerable in society. The top five reasons given for debt in 2014 were: low income (22%), problems with budgeting (18%), relationship breakdown (17%), unemployment (15%) and long-term illness (13%).
In meeting clients as the debt centre manager, I have been so struck by the difficulties they face. Not only in dealing with debt, but often a range of other problems as well. In so many cases, people are weighed down by the burdens they are suffering and so often we see a huge change over the three visits I have with them. Finally they experience someone caring for them and sharing the love of God with them.
Since opening I have linked-up with other agencies in the city who might refer clients to us and to whom we might refer clients. This has been a great joy as it gives me a chance to promote Christian work from a professional stand point. For example, CAP has a partnership agreement with the Department of Work and Pensions which has been really helpful to underline the professionalism of our services.
I have also linked up with other agencies and groups that seek to help those in the city with low incomes. In the future I plan to develop some more links with referral agencies because I want everyone to know that CAP exists so clients can make the choice to access our service if they wish.
I am also keen to develop our outreach and discipleship of those who pray commitment prayers. We want to draw as many people as possible into the church and give them opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel. We also want to support individuals who may be very new to church in understanding the basics of living a Christian life.
CAP exists to serve the poor, save the lost, with the church, across the nation. What an exciting privilege to be involved in this work, seeing people at some of their lowest times and being able to offer hope and share the love of God with them.
Please pray for our clients to come to know Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Please pray for boldness to share the gospel.
If you’d like to know more about supporting CAP, getting involved, or how CAP can help you, then visit their website at capuk.org