One thing I dread about my job is registering new guests on our database. This will come as a shock to my colleagues, who know how much I love systems and paperwork! The thing I dread is one small question: “Who is your Next of Kin?” This is such a loaded question. I always reword it to say Emergency Contact but I doubt that makes any difference.
Almost all of us experience distress and upset in our family lives – blood or chosen. It’s very easy to identify with the trauma many of our guests carry in this area: death, absence, prison, abuse, estrangement, anger, and pain.
In Matthew, chapter 12, we read,
“4While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
We are very clearly called to love each other as family – this is only one example from scripture. Thankfully, the Mission offers many opportunities to build better relationships around family.
Leeanne, our Women’s Project Development Worker, has built an excellent relationship with a guest, Iona. Iona recently suffered the loss of a close family member, and a few weeks later received a further blow: that she wasn’t listed as the next of kin. This news, understandably, hit her hard and brought up a whole array of emotions. Her immediate reaction was to phone Leeanne and say that she wasn’t going to the funeral. Leeanne was grateful for the relationship they share and was able to gently counsel Iona to rethink. She encouraged her to stop, to sit down and think, to process her feelings in a healthy way and not make a rash decision.
Another one of Leeanne’s guests, Veronica, has a turbulent relationship with her mother. They moved from Italy to the UK together – they are all the family the other has. Veronica recently told her mum about the help she was receiving from Leeanne and her mum immediately called us looking for reassurance. As they spoke, Leeanne was able to share from her own experience as a mother to a young woman, and they found common ground. Leeanne says with certainty, “God lined that up. She was in tears and I felt her pain. I told her I will try my best to help Veronica, I won’t give up.”
David, our Rehab Pathways Manager, supports people suffering from addiction. He thinks that many of his guests don’t have any notion of what family means. Their emotional states are often impoverished, their upbringings so traumatic, that they have nothing to hang on the word family. The beauty of the Mission is that we can offer, to those who choose to trust us, the beginning of family: of feeling safe, welcome, and looked after.
Every Friday, David takes a group of guys out to play pool. He reflects on this, “When he was still alive, one of the things that me and my brother enjoyed was playing pool or football: spending time in one another’s company, affirming each other, listening to problems and moans. That’s what pool is on a Friday: a chance for boys to come and be a wee family for the day, be brothers for the day.”
One of our International guests recently treated our entire City Centre Project team to cake, chocolates, and gifts after he received good news. He wanted to celebrate with us to “give something to his family”. We all sat together, laughing, eating, enjoying precious time with this man.
We are blessed to work so closely with guests who desperately need deep connection. Would you join us in prayer? We want to provide safe places, refuges, where our guests can begin to process the pain that they carry and work towards a happier future.
N.B. names and other personal details have been changed in this blog.