Acts 435 Giving to anyone who has need

It was a privilege to attend a Partner's Lunch recently at the charity Junction 42 up in Sunderland in the North-East of England. This is a Christian charity that is absolutely inspirational and really makes you see what can be achieved when there is a clear sense of purpose, determination, and trust in God.

It only started up in 2012 and the staff have to raise half of their salaries through their church, family and friends. These are UK missionaries in many ways, reaching out into some of the most challenging places in our country - prisons. The passion and energy they showed, not just in their work but in helping others see what can be achieved, was humbling. We were challenged by the Director, Joanne, as to how our perception affects our narrative which affects our mindset, our response and ultimately the outcome. She invited us to look afresh at offenders and told stories of the kind of lives some criminals have before they end up in prison.

One girl rarely went to school because both of her parents were drug addicts. In spite of no schooling, she knew how to weigh out heroin and take money from people through one of the windows of her parent's house. Drugs were all she knew - is it surprising she followed in their footsteps? Or the boy who witnessed his father kill his mother and then was rejected by the family members who took him in. Without any love or support, crime drew him in.

Junction 42's name comes from Isaiah 42, opening eyes that are blind, freeing captives from prison and releasing from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. The word 'Junction' refers to people having the opportunity at many times in their journey of life to take a fresh turn.

Junction 42 works with offenders inside a number of prisons in the North-East but also with ex-offenders, as they walk through the gate to freedom and beyond. They have an impressive success rate in getting ex-offender into work of 37% (far in excess of government expectations of 3-10%) and have set up church groups called Connect that cater for this unique group of believers.

When I arrived at the event, different members of staff were so pleased to meet me and so grateful for how Acts 435 assists them in what they do. For me it is pure joy to know that we are being useful and that we can give some additional help alongside all they are doing, to provide an essential item for someone who is making such great strides forward in their future away from crime.

Our advocate, Beverley Brooks, reluctantly posed for a photo but it is clearly a team effort at Junction 42 and Acts 435 is very much on their radar as they reach out to their clients.

The narrative of hope is so powerful and this small charity has harnessed this to encourage ex-offenders into entrepreneurship, using what skills they employed so successfully in crime to something altogether more positive. To this end Junction 42 also runs a leadership course.

One guy, called John, in his late 50s and rather grumpy was fed up of applying for jobs. Beverley told him he only really needed one interview and one job offer and that they would pray for that. He said, if he got a job, he would start coming to church. That next week he got one interview and Beverley knew he had been offered the job when she received a text saying 'what time's your church?!'

She shared at the lunch how Acts 435 had stepped in to help Alan get his utility meter re-connected and enable him to access electricity once more! Many of their requests have been for provisional driving licences or to get documentation to be able to get a job. Rent arrears is also a common one - so key since if they became evicted and ended up on the streets, the temptation to return to crime would be so much greater. Together we can keep hope alive and provide positive options and opportunities for people who should not believe the lie that they are destined to be a criminal for life and not have the right to a normal life.

Beverley Brooks