WYDAN and me

Listening to the other voices

Over the next few months there will be a series of articles written by members of the three congregations (Barwick, Scholes and Thorner) telling their stories of how God has impacted on their lives over the past years.  These voices are important to hear to remind us all that God is at work in all of our lives if we allow him in.

This first article is written by Beckie Briggs from ScholesChurch who was the co-ordinator of the WYDAN shelter last year, which is returning to Scholes this May.




WYDAN and me

This time last year the churches in Barwick, Scholes and Thorner were invited to find out about a project that had been going on in Garforth and Crossgates for a couple of years. I must admit as a busy mum and full-time teacher I did not havethe spare couple of hours to go and listen to a speaker, so I didn’t. 

But then I heard people talking and saw how enthusiastic Rev. Andy was and there was a real buzz of excitement in a church meeting, a rare occurrence! So, I investigated and discovered a project that would allow the Church to do what it does best,welcome those in desperate need with no strings attached. 

By the end of the meeting I had agreed to coordinate the WYDAN shelter.

The shelter is for destitute asylum seekers in West Yorkshire and is the only one of its kind offering shelter to men. Woman and children have access to other support and shelters. Having worked in Harehills and living in Kenya, this was a mission close to my heart. I say mission because I truly felt this was what God was calling me to do, to welcome those who have absolutely nothing and simply be kind and share. It was a mission because it would take dedication and hard work to get everything organised as well as stepping out of my comfort zone. I had never done anything like this before and nor had the church embarked on such a mission in our villages before. 

The project involved emergency glaziers, 97 hard boiled eggs and looking for false teeth in a dustbin, but it was the most amazing experience for myself and my young family. 

When I volunteered to take on the organising of a volunteer rota, I thought it would be difficult to recruit the volunteers and get other people enthusiastic about the Shelter, I knew it would take up time but ultimately it was just a spread sheet with a few names on it.  Little did I know that I would meet so many new people; from churches across all three villages, and local people who just wanted to help in any way they could.

Each week there were new donations of toiletries, hats, gloves, socks. Each time I gave a notice with a new request for donations, within hours the request was filled – tinned fish, nuts and eggs came flooding in.

We have had clothing and food donations daily, right up until the final day of the shelter. The guests were super appreciative of new, warm clothing - so thank you very much for all your donations. It may have been unloved by you, but you have spread love with your simple acts of kindness and amazing generosity.

Residents from across our villages helped to clean, set up beds, donated food, cooked copious amounts of food, made cups of tea, delivered fresh bread daily, spent time doing jigsaws, talked, listened, debated about politics, and shared the love of Jesus through their simple words and actions.

Throughout the week I saw a community working together to show what it means to live in a supportive, caring community.  I saw strangers being welcomed and respected. I saw the church step out of its comfort zone and reach out to residentsto help make this project a success. 

At times it was the most challenging project I have been involved with. Anger, fear and a lack of information can be scary, and words can be so hurtful and damaging. But words can also heal, and actions always speak louder than the words we use. 

Christ gave the Church a mission to reach out, to reach out to the lost and lonely, to reach out to those in need, regardless of colour or religion, and expect nothing in return. During the week of hosting the shelter I saw that mission being fulfilled. 

Throughout the week I was at the shelter every day. I ate the most delicious food and was inspired by the bravest men I have ever met.  I am humbled by the commitment of members of the church and from local villagers. I think the most inspiring meetings have been with residents, who had very little connection with the churches themselves but due to the negativity on social media they felt called into action. Those residents, who wanted to show that Scholes village is welcoming and kind and respectful.  To the unnamed lady who turned up with a gift bag for each guest; filled with plasters, tissues, teddy bear, hand warmers. No connection with the church and still an unknown stranger who went out of her way to help strangers. The power of social media calling her into action.

The challenge set by Christ is to love everybody as a neighbour. By hosting a shelter for WYDAN we showed that kindness and friendship knows no bounds and that will stay with me for a very long time and inspire me through our future involvement with this charity.

I will close using the words of one of the guests who felt so welcomed and respected and loved.

“You are just an ordinary person standing next to me but your deeds…wow...your deeds are what make you extraordinary. And that is your faith.”

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