Regulars at EBC will know all about our Storehouse Ministry, which is a big part of our Social Action work here at EBC. Storehouse helps people in lots of ways, whether it is sending a card or flowers to people or providing them with a whole vanload of furniture!
Storehouse depends on our Storehouse van and on places to store the items, like furniture, that we provide for people. As it happens, even as I write this, our big, beautiful van has just whizzed past the office as Kevin our Caretaker whizzes off on another mission! Above all, Storehouse is fuelled by generosity (OK, and a bit of diesel!) as it is the people behind the scenes that make what we do possible.
Within the church team, there is Kevin and Fay, our Social Action Team Leader.
Then there are one or two absolute stalwarts who regularly help Kevin with hefting stuff from A to B. Trust me, it’s hard work!
Then there are the people who kindly donate items of good quality furniture and other household items so regularly. Just as important are those who give so generously to our social action offerings, which help to keep the van on the road, as well as paying for items that people may be in need of.
And, once in a while, we are on the receiving end of grants. It was, in fact, a grant that paid for the van (thank you to Berkshire Community Fund for that one!) and this week I received a cheque for £750 from Benefact Trust.
This money has come in because we applied for some help towards our new Storehouse storage unit, which we hope to have onsite in the next month or so. As a matter of fact, we have had a grant from Benefact Trust (named Allchurches Trust at the time) before, which helped towards some building refurbishments some years ago. You can find out more about them here.
Of course I have written to thank them, but I wanted to share news of their generosity here too. It really is encouraging (not to mention helpful!) when we receive affirmation of what we are trying to do, in such a generous way. Do send a thank you prayer up for them!
I can’t resist sharing a couple of favourite Storehouse stories with you, so that you have some idea of the impact we can have:
I recall delivering a load of furniture to a man who had been in prison, lost his home and wrecked his marriage. He offered me a cuppa (always accept!) and explained, with remarkable candour, what had happened. It emerged he had already been helped by another local church, and that he had been baptised there recently! He was bowled over by the fact that two churches had been so non-judgemental and helpful as he tried to rebuild his life. He was keen to offer help in any way he could and we prayed together before I left!
I often think God has a great sense of humour and I recall one particular occasion when my own sense of humour was tested to its limit. I had previously delivered a bed to a gentleman who was being helped by the council. He was extensively tattooed and pierced and facially looked very drawn. His accommodation was pretty grim too. The walls were stained, the atmosphere was “dark” and what furnishings he had were litter-strewn. Heavy-metal posters hung on the walls and the place was thick with stale cigarette smoke. There was, thankfully, a key-worker present, and with me doing my best to keep things light and non-judgmental, the handover went smoothly.
On the second occasion I went there, I was accompanied by one of my friends, Rob - a fellow Elder at EBC. I told Rob I was sure I’d been to the address before and that it didn’t bode well that we were delivering another bed!
Things hadn’t improved at the flat and we quickly cleared as much space as we could, shifting furniture to get the bed out. I remember regretting not bringing gloves, as my fingers burned after getting some sticky stuff on them from the underside of a table. The bed itself was the one I had taken previously, but now the sheets were dark grey and the divan drawers had gone. I was losing my sense of humour – and godly mission – rather fast…
We got the bed up but as we carried it through the door, a cat suddenly shot out of the innards of the bed like some budget remake of Alien. We stopped in our tracks, startled to say the least. I looked skyward, closed my eyes and shook my head. This had put the tin hat on it for me. Reading me like the good friend he is, Rob waited until we were round the corner and then stopped again. “Just remember,” he said, “God loves him.”
“Yes, I’m sure He does…” I replied.
Rob was, of course, quite right, but had I not been carrying a bed at the time… This was one of those times – and there have been several – when I have wondered what difference we were making. The new bed would probably not last long and it seemed that the man needed a great deal more help than we could ever give. We prayed for him, as I do again now, and consoled ourselves that at the very least we had served the expressed – and very real – human need for a bed.
Much of our Storehouse work comes via other agencies, and we regularly receive requests for help from a local organisation, Berkshire Women’s Aid (BWA), one of which resulted in my very favourite Storehouse story.
Initially, years ago now, I had perceived that my contact person at BWA was a little wary of me. Understandably, the idea of a burly “man-in-a-van” visiting a recent escapee from an abusive relationship warrants caution. Thankfully, trust has been earned. In this instance, arrangements were made to meet a BWA rep, L, together with her client, M, at M’s new address. As is often the case, the accommodation was completely unfurnished.
Rob and I arrived in the van (“Thunderbird 2” as I like to call it!) to be greeted by L who then took us in to see M and her young daughter. It became clear they were Christians. We invited M outside to see what we had on the van – knowing she had very little, we’d crammed it full. Looking in, she asked what was for her. When we told her it was all for her she started crying and dancing at the same time!
Needless to say, we were very moved. I recall that L had offered us a cup of tea before realising she didn’t even have cups – only now of course she did! Subsequently, M sent us a quite beautiful email and posted a card to us that her daughter had made.
Praise God for inspiring us at EBC to do this work. I really believe it is important and special – and a little bit different! Pray for Fay and Kevin as they work hard at the forefront of this really important ministry on our behalf. Please join me, too, in thanking God for the recent gift we have been given by Benefact Trust towards our storage unit. I can’t wait to see it on site and it really will make it easier for us to help local people in need!
Love and Blessings
Simon Lace, 06/04/2022