Jean Simmonds: June 2015
The Turning Point Trust
Preached by Revd Jean Simmonds on 28th June 2015.
Exodus 3 verses 1 — 12
Luke 15 verses 15 — 16.
THE STORY OF THE TURNING POINT TRUST.
This charity was established by our daughter and son-in law, Jo and Jon Parsons, who, as a recently married young couple, were asked to do some research for a charity on Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, which is in Nairobi. While there they found hungry children, sometimes with little adult input into their lives. They were so concerned that they alerted all the major charities to the need.
However their response was that they could offer no more than they were already doing on this especially needy slum. Kibera is huge, dangerous, disease ridden and lacks all amenities but there are some incredible Christian people living there!
Jo and Jon prayerfully made the decision to address the need themselves. They learned Swahili, prayerfully developed a strategy for what they wanted to achieve, went on a course to learn about Kenyan culture and tradition, found out how to set up and register a charity, and gathered a board of trustees. Then, in 2002, with their first baby just 2 months old, they went to live in the city of Nairobi and work on Kibera. They had the support of family at home, friends, their trustees and a couple of churches — but not the safety net of working for a big organisation or recognised charity.
However, 13 years later Jo and Jon employ about 40 Kenyan Christians, some of whom live, or have lived on the slum and this is what they have achieved together:
1 They have 3 project centres on the slum. Children are fed during the week, have medical checks and treatment as needed and are prepared for school. They are cared for as they play, sing and learn in a safe space and they are taught that they are all loved by God.
2 In school holidays Turning Point runs a holiday club to keep them safe and occupied.
3 There are Turning Point football teams, including a girls' team.
4 Once a year they take young people away for a holiday, staying in a boarding school and experiencing life outside the slum.
5 The have set up a micro-finance scheme which has enabled nearly 400 families on the slum to have basic training and start their own small business providing an income and dignity.
6 17 single mothers, among the most vulnerable adults on the slum, have moved with their 53 children to a beautiful area north of Nairobi and, having learned how to grow vegetables, they now each have their own home and acre of land. They live independently and their children go to the local school.
7 Turning Point has opened a primary school on the slum. The classes in government schools have up to 90 children and teach a limited range of subjects. Slum children get overlooked, parents cannot meet the demands for money and the children who most need education to escape poverty, get sent home. The school is small at present but gradual growth is planned.
8 A number of the children have been able to go to secondary school with help from Turning Point. A lot of children on the slum leave school at 14 when they complete primary school. One Turning Point lad has graduated from Nairobi University and another is in his final year at college training to be a nurse. This is a huge achievement for youngsters who have grown up in dire poverty, living in a small mud shack about 10' square with no water, sanitation or electricity.
9 A library has been opened with books for children and adults. There is always someone to help children with their homework as most of them have no books at home. About 60 children come here on any day during the school holidays and adults are really appreciating it too.
The school has an African name: CHEMI CHEMI YA TUMANI which is Swahili for FOUNTAIN OF HOPE. Education is the route out of poverty and, through your prayers and gifts for the Turning Point Trust, you are part of the fountain of hope.
More details available from
THE TURNING POINT TRUST, c/o CHRIST CHURCH, TOWN SQUARE, WOKING, SURREY GU21 6YG Registered charity number: 1091025
READINGS: Exodus 3 verses 1 — 12; Luke 15 verses 15 — 16.
A single moment in time can be life changing. You and I have experienced that — we accepted a job or a marriage proposal, smiled at a stranger who became a friend...and life took a different course because of it. I want us to think about this experience in the lives of 3 people.
Moses had already experienced this once. He'd grown up as a privileged man in Pharaoh's court and then, in a moment of anger at how the Egyptians treated his fellow Israelites, he'd committed murder and life changed. He ran far away and was making a new life, married to Jethro's daughter and caring for Jethro's sheep. Everything seemed settled and calm — until the day he glimpsed the burning bush and had another life-changing moment.
The wording of this story is both important and challenging. God had prepared Moses for an important role and now he wanted to catch Moses attention — but he didn't do the obvious thing, God didn't put the burning bush right in front of him! We read that Moses said 'I must turn aside'. He could have just glanced at it and said, 'that's unusual but I'm busy with the sheep, I'll look tomorrow' and then he may never have known what God intended his life to be about; but Moses turned aside, gave time, wasn't ruled by the busyness of the moment and he heard the call of God.
A call that, in spite of all his arguing and excuses, changed his life and the future of God's chosen people for ever. Moses was not expecting to be entrusted with this responsibility and he didn't think that he matched the job description. He wasn't looking for anything out of the ordinary, he wasn't looking for God — but God sought him out and waited to see if he'd turn aside from the new life he thought he had!
Turning aside is important in the life of faith. Too often we can go to church with our mind full of a list of people we need to talk to about seemingly important things or we sit down at home to have a quiet time of prayer and Bible reading and our body may have turned aside but our mind hasn't. Jobs to do and problems to solve race round in our head and it can be quite hard to have that time of openness and reverence when we put everything down and turn aside to just meet with God — we can't still our minds and concentrate Or maybe we're so set in our routines we seldom do anything out of the ordinary — we don't turn aside from the pattern of our usual days.
We read that it was a priority for Jesus so it must surely be a priority for those who are his disciples. Like Moses, we often find our place in the purposes of God, our calling to service, our part in the mission to build his kingdom when we pause and turn aside. God doesn't always put it right in front of us, He waits for us to turn aside.
Let me tell you about the second person, Godwill who works for the Turning Point Trust. What a wonderful name! Apparently he was named after a famous African general — but when you hear his story you may agree with me that Godwill has a deeper meaning than that!
Godwill grew up in a home where his father practised black magic and witchcraft. He was the youngest in the family of several children and money for education ran out while he was still at primary school. For months on end he was out of school, bored, lonely because his friends were at school and he invariably passed the time just kicking a ball around, so he became very good at football.
A Roman Catholic priest saw him one day, stood and watched, asked why he wasn't at school and then made Godwill an offer. The priest would sponsor him until he had completed secondary education at a Roman Catholic boarding school if Godwill would help with the school's football programme. He was very grateful both for the opportunity to go to school and the trust placed in him to work with the football teams.
While at the school he learned the story of Jesus for the first time and that school did great deal for him. When he left he was signed up by a professional Kenyan team — not a high flying club but Godwill was working, earning and doing something he loved. While he was there someone else came into his life. He was helped by the club trainer who was a committed Christian man who when he learned about Godwill's background, kept a fatherly eye on him.
Just as when he was at the school, he saw again that God made a difference to life; Christian faith was more loving and powerful than the black magic and witchcraft he'd grown up with and he committed his life to Christ. Then, the chance came for a better contract with a good team, this could lead to financial security and really open the door for a better future — the way ahead, the course of his life seemed very clearly marked out — but Godwill couldn't get out of his mind the fact that there were still boys in the situation he'd been in for all those lonely, empty months. He'd learned the importance of prayer so he wouldn't sign before he'd prayed and when he did, he felt that God wanted him to help other boys find the new life he'd been shown and he decided not to sign contract but to find a way of using his skills to help lads who were likely to get in trouble because they were bored and poor, just as he had been.
So, to cut a long story short, he turned aside from his own plans and found a bigger dream than that of becoming a top-class footballer. He dreamt of changing lives in the way his had been changed by Christian people and became the Turning Point Trust football coach, caring for several teams in the Nairobi Junior league, building relationships and bringing hope and faith to the lives of boys — and girls — who'd faced the same poverty and similar experiences that he'd had.
Turning Point encouraged his leadership skills, his gift of relating really well to young people and he's happy knowing he's being obedient to God — though his friends in football have left him far behind. He's been very involved with work with vulnerable teenagers as well as sharing his football skills, he moved onto the slum to be with the young people he felt called to serve, helped set up the library and he loves what God has called him to do. God found him, called him and he turned aside and found new life and all that happened because a RC priest turned aside, watched him and cared.
Moses, Godwill and I said I wanted to talk about 3 people, but actually there are lots of person number 3, it's all of us. You know your story with all its ups and downs, joys, sorrows, mistakes and successes better than I do — and I know that lots of you think you're not equipped to change lives at all.
Not all turning aside involves great actions, some of the most valuable life changing moments come through prayer or conversations. They don't just come to the clever and the confident, the young and the brave. I remember a story told some years ago of a disabled, elderly lady living in a flat near the top of a tower block. Just nearby there was a building site, another skyscraper block was being put up. From her window she saw every day the man who sat high in the air in a small control cabin and operated the huge crane. He seemed so vulnerable, it looked so dangerous and so she decided that every day once she saw he was in the crane, she would make a point of praying, placing him in the hand of God.
The work went on month after month and every day she turned aside and prayed. One day someone from the church she could no longer attend called just as she was going to pray so she told them what she did and asked if they'd join her in prayer that morning. Back at church it turned out that someone knew the crane driver and told him the story and although he wasn't a church goer, he was deeply moved that someone was praying so faithfully for him. He went to see her, then decided to go to church one Sunday, then became part of that church and found faith for himself.
The call to follow Jesus is a call to mission, to sharing good news and God's love. We read that the crowds turned aside from daily lives to listen to Jesus and that Jesus regularly turned aside to pray...and that's a vital part of discipleship.
Not many of us are challenged as Jo and Jon were to give up everything and work in a dire place like Kibera — but we are all called to turn aside, to give God time. God knows your limitations, your doubts, questions and fears but if you turn aside like Moses and like Godwill you'll find he has a role for you.
For Turning Point and a million other needs even you and I can be a fountain of hope and it starts with us turning aside from our plans for a moment and meeting God sometimes where we least expect. Mission is a privilege and a blessing. May that be the experience of each one of us.
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