At the beginning of this year I was busy preparing for a celebration on 4 July. No, not because of American Independence Day, but because that was going to be my wedding day.

However, as March came to an end and April moved us deeper into lockdown, it became more and more apparent that this was unlikely to happen. It was difficult and painful. My hopes and dreams for my wedding day were unravelling as quickly as new coronavirus cases were rising.

We’ve all had our lives turned upside down in one way or another since the start of this year: plans have changed and aspirations have shifted. The rearranging of my wedding was, whilst incredibly important to me, just one small part of something so much more significant for many people.

Daily we hear staggering reports of thousands affected by job losses and financial insecurity. We hear of the uphill battle to find new work with a single job vacancy receiving as many as 4,000 applications. We hear of the anxiety, isolation and fear that millions are struggling with as they try to plot a course through a foggy, uncertain future. Yes, this pandemic is national, it’s global, but it’s also incredibly personal.

Redundancy or financial insecurity could be something that you have experienced at this time. You may know of a friend having to cope with a sudden obstacle to their lifelong career goals, or a student at university looking ahead to beginning a career in the aftermath of a recession. 

You may have members of your congregation trapped by feelings of anxiety and worry, where even leaving the house is a challenge. It is likely that we can all think of somebody in our family, community or congregation who is facing a drastically different future following the coronavirus pandemic.

Perhaps you know someone struggling financially, grappling with growing debt after a sudden and unexpected dip in their finances. Someone like Elias.

Elias’ story

The day we were put into lockdown I was made redundant. I didn’t have a job and I didn’t initially have money coming in. I’d applied for universal credit but I had to wait for that to come through. I wasn’t able to pay for my flat that month. The money I had in the bank from my last salary covered my costs but two of my direct debits bounced back.

I didn’t know how much I would be getting. I didn’t know how it worked. It was my first time claiming a social security payment. It was quite embarrassing for me. I’ve worked consistently for 40 years. I was applying for jobs and not hearing anything because everything had gone quiet. I was on my own – I live in secure living accommodation for people aged 55 and over. I’m in a studio apartment with four walls around me. 

All I did during the day was go to the country park on walks and then listen to gospel music, read my Bible, talk to the Lord and read books. That’s what kept me going. I just had to cope. It’s a mindset I had to put myself in. I knew that the Lord was for me and with me. I was in a really bad space a couple of months ago but I’m doing a lot better now. Christians Against Poverty and the church have been a pillar of support, with the prayers, foodbank and everything else I’ve received from them.

An invitation

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has spent more than 24 years partnering with hundreds of churches to help people in poverty, especially those weighed down by debt. Throughout that time, we have seen that for many struggling on a low income, isolation is all too common and social distance is the norm. 

A few months ago, we published a report about our clients’ lives and found that before seeking help 71 per cent felt isolated; 36 per cent couldn’t visit friends or family due to the cost; and 24 per cent didn’t leave the house for a week or more.

Most spent at least a year in this situation, a situation that now feels painfully familiar to us. Painfully familiar because we understand and empathise. You may never know what it is to be in unmanageable debt, but since 23 March you’ve probably learnt how it feels to have your world turned upside down, or to hardly leave your home.

Through Jesus, God shows us the power of empathy. He fully entered into the joy and pain of what it means to be human. As a result, because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Now, as His followers, He invites us to do the same – to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Kick Start

Kick Start is part of CAP’s response to the needs we know will exist in communities all over the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is designed to equip you, the local church, to help people in your community get their lives moving along following the impact of the crisis.

Kick Start features nine bitesize sessions that can be delivered as a series, or just as they are, via video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, so that you can bring hope directly into people’s homes. The sessions act as a conversation starter, packed full of practical tips on job searching, money management, habits that harm, and the emotional challenges of worry and loss.

Anyone can run a Kick Start session; there is no need to be an expert as all the expertise is contained in the video. All you need is a heart and desire to help people like Elias get back on their feet at this time.

These resources are designed to give a solid base on which people can rebuild the areas of their lives that need attention. We hope that as you respond practically to the needs of your community, you will build new relationships, lift people out of the depths of isolation and also take the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.

How do I get involved?

We’d love for your church to run Kick Start. Even if you’ve never run a CAP service before, you’re welcome to take part in this. We’ve made the whole resource free, so that as many people as possible can access it. Simply go to capuk​.org/​k​i​c​k​start to register your church for free and get started. We have a long road ahead in recovering from this pandemic, but we can all start by bringing hope and the love of God to those who are facing what feels like a hopeless future at this time.

Remember how it felt to be separated from those around you. Remember the everyday struggles you faced. Remember how a home can become a prison. Then recall those who are still stuck in that place, where social isolation is their ongoing reality. Let your memories of lockdown lead you to acts of love and generosity towards others.

You may have members of your congregation trapped by feelings of anxiety and worry, where even leaving the house is a challenge.