Zeph Daily 73

Good morning from Jenny! I’m taking a break from the Psalms of David today, and shamelessly recycling what I prepared for our church youth group yesterday. As it was an in-person, socially-distanced meet up…. outside….. in the pouring rain, I’m not sure how much of the study they absorbed. I strongly suspect they absorbed more rain and pizza than anything else.

Anyway, here’s a picture of me as a baby. And here’s a question to get you thinking. What traits, features or habits have you inherited from your parents? My serious, thinking face…. ? That comes from my mum.

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I had decided (ambitiously) to look at John 3: 1-21. You might want to have a read of it now.

The passage starts with Nicodemus, who waits until after dark to go and speak to Jesus. From his statement in verse 2, its evident that he’s seen Jesus about, heard his teaching and seen some of his miracles. Yet he didn’t choose to speak to Jesus in public, in the temple courts. While seeing Jesus as someone sent by God, it seems he doesn’t want his mates – the other Pharisees – to know he thinks that. So he goes to see him late, and alone. The resulting conversation gives us the bedrock of our Christian belief. We have to acknowledge the Son, step into the light, be born again, and that puts us right with God.

The conversation, however, doesn’t result in any great conversion event in Nicodemus’ life. When Jesus said to the disciples, “leave everything, follow me”, they did just that. Each of them gave up his life and his job, and went with Jesus. It was single moment of decision for each of them. This passage in John just stops – seemingly mid-discourse. We see no moment of decision in Nicodemus.

However, that’s not the last we hear about Nicodemus. He pops up again in John 7:50, trying to ensure justice for Jesus when the Pharisees are discussing their failed attempt to have him arrested. And then, after the crucifixion, when the disciples had fled, and Peter had denied knowing Jesus, Nicodemus crops up again, accompanying Joseph of Arimathea to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body, so they could bury it. Just when the known followers of Jesus are hiding away, Nicodemus sticks his head above the parapet.

Was Nicodemus a follower of Jesus, in secret? Had there been a point of conversion? Or was he on a long journey to becoming a follower of Jesus? He must have, at the very least, had some communication with John after the resurrection for these stories to have appeared in the Gospel narrative at all, so I’m hopeful.

I find stories like Nicodemus encouraging. When I was born, I was not a follower of Jesus. By the time I was 14 I was certain enough in my faith to want to be baptised. There was no single point of conversion anywhere in those 14 years. No single moment when I metaphorically put down my nets to follow Jesus. I sometimes worry that I’ve missed an important step, and when I pop my clogs, God’s going to look in His big book, and say, “Sorry, you missed a step. You can’t come in. It was clearly stated as a requirement in the terms and conditions.” It’s sometimes good to see that coming to faith is a slow journey, taken step by step, stage by stage, rather than a single, thunder-clap revelation.

I think one of the reasons that we place so much emphasis on this single moment of conversion in talking about becoming followers of Jesus is because of this passage. You must be ‘born again’. Being born is a single moment in time. It can be pin pointed down to the minute. I was born at 9pm on the dot. There must be a moment at which we ‘become’ a Christian.

When I was preparing this passage for the youth group, a thought struck me about that. In verse 6 Jesus says, “Humans can produce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” When I was born, I had indeed been born, and was a whole human……. But I wasn’t the human that I am now. I couldn’t walk, talk, sit, eat solids, read, cook, sew……. The process of becoming me didn’t happen in a single event. It has been happening slowly for the last 40-odd years. Much of who I became was as a result of my parents and my upbringing. Some of those things were due to genetics. My small hands and feet? Thanks Dad! Others had more to do with the environment I grew up in. If I didn’t have a mum, and a grandmother and an aunt who were always busy with some kind of craft, whether knitting, embroidery or dressmaking, would I now be someone who has huge pleasure in craft herself, even training in textiles? But growing as a human doesn’t stop when we reach adulthood. Only last year, I learnt to ski. Not well, but I can get down a very shallow slope with only mild terror and a lot of encouragement. I’m still growing and learning. I’m still becoming me, as a human.

If that’s what it’s like when humans reproduce human life, perhaps that’s a more accurate picture of what it’s like when the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. Somewhere in those first 14 years of life, there must have been a moment of ‘birth’, but it was so small, so insignificant, I didn’t notice it at the time. The process of becoming the me that follows Jesus, becoming the person who God wants me to be, the person that lives in the light so that others can see what God is doing in my life….. Well, that’s still ongoing. Just as the genetics my family passed to me and the upbringing that they gave me shaped much of the person I have so far become, so the Holy Spirit passed on the genetics of God to me in that moment I was born again, but then continued to ‘bring me up’, and still continues to ‘bring me up’ as a follower of Jesus.

Being ‘born again’ is both a single moment of conversion, and a life long journey. I may not remember the single moment, but I am still in the process of being born again.

I hope Nicodemus also carried on that journey of being born again. His discussion with Jesus has blessed us with the best known verse in scripture. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” I was encouraged that at least one of our young people knew that one before we even started looking at it.

Just for a moment, reflect on your journey, and thank God for your spiritual upbringing. And just as we asked our parents for help – or still do – ask for help with the bits you’re finding tricky.

I’m VERY glad that I don’t have any outdoor meetings to try and lead today. Stay warm and dry Zephyrs, as you go about your individual journeys of being born again today. I hope its a good one.

Zeph Daily 72

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John here wishing you a good Arty Morning ! I take it you spotted the story from the painting?
Eularia Clarke’s “Storm over the Lake.”

Many years ago in a fit of ecumenism, I volunteered to write some songs for the Methodist Collection of Contemporary Christian Art if I could do a concert in the middle of the Exhibition at Saltaire (part of the Festival). This painting leapt out of the catalogue at me. I think it was the not unreasonable fear in the faces. But then fear keeps us alive. It stops us being run over by the proverbial bus, burned by the gas cooker, eaten by next door’s Rottweiler.

Listen to the song https://soundcloud.com/johnfroud/drowning while you read the story. Luke 8:22-25 Being in Luke it won’t take you long. He’s not like Julie is he? Luke takes all of FOUR verses to tell a big story.

I like to identify with the dramatis personae. Jesus is tired. He goes to sleep. I can do that.
The disciples panic. I can do that.
He does the teacher bit, gives the wind a good telling off and everything returns to calm. I used to be able to do that. (mostly!)
He’s a bit short of patience having been woken up. I can do that.
“Where is your faith?” He asks. I feel his exasperation.

What Jesus had said was: “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake”(v22)
Things Jesus didn’t say:
“Looks like a stormy crossing, we’d better not go”
“Let’s get out there and see what happens.”
“Let’s get into the middle and drown”
He said, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake”

I can do scared. I loved taking kids on school trips (see yesterday’s Zeph@10) but there were moments of cold sweat.
When there was a lot less of me I was scared of getting stuck crawling in a cave underneath the Ribblehead viaduct. Richard Lewis tweaked a knee that day, so perhaps not unreasonable of me. As we were walking from Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay along a fossil-rich beach, with kids excitedly finding huge numbers of interesting specimens, I was anxiously looking alternately at the tide galloping in under the north wind and the sheer cliff that we couldn’t possibly climb. Or above Ingleborough Hall when the mist came down (or we walked up into it), and being back for tea depended entirely (?) on my map-reading skills.

“Where does my help come from?”
Prayer here remembering when that promise, “I am with you always” has been demonstrably true for us.

The disciples actually did the right thing. They went straight to Jesus. It’s not like they had far to go. But that’s always true, isn’t it ? He’s always right there, whether we want to remember his presence or not.

I trust your day will go peacefully… but in those occasional moments of buttock-clenching fear, I pray you’ll remember where to go first. Amen ?

Zeph Daily 71

Morning Zephyrs! Julie here. Here’s a heart-warming video for your morning in case you’re missing school sports days…

That video clip has been around since at least 2016 and I still remember the first time I saw it because it made me smile. It’s a classic School Sports Day scenario with a lovely little twist of kindness. The boys in one class agreeing together that their classmate with Downs’ Syndrome should win the race while they run behind him, cheering him on! What a lovely moment!

I remember when I was around 9, going on a school trip to the Colne Valley Museum in Golcar. We dressed up as Victorians for the day, the girls in mob caps and shawls and the boys in waistcoats and flat caps, and we worked in groups to make firelighters and corn dollies and cook lunch. It was all done in character – we were the new workers for the Victorian owners and had to do what we were told.

The build-up to it was monumental. The trip was in year 4, which was the last year of first school (we had middle schools back then) and we’d been looking forward to it for years. As it drew closer, our parents had to source our costumes, the teachers put us into groups, then started sowing the seeds of the story we would role-play for the day. The anticipation well-and-truly built, we were excited! Then disaster struck…

Robin, a boy in our class, broke his leg. He missed a couple of days of school while the bone was set and the cast put on – and we all started talking… How would he manage the bus? How could he be a servant with a broken leg? What if the story got ruined? WHAT IF HE HAD TO MISS THE TRIP???

Luckily, our teachers were problem solvers of epic proportions (as most teachers are) and they had this in hand. Robin returned to school, in plaster and on crutches, and the teachers did some behind-the-scenes collaboration with the museum. The story was adapted and the trip went ahead – with Robin, the new chimney sweep, who’d fallen down a chimney and broken his leg. Genius!

Inclusion, done well, is a beautiful thing. Like the boys in the video, or my year 4 teachers, inclusion done well communicates “We see you. We value you. You belong to us and we belong to you. And because of that, we will adapt to enable you to fully belong. No question.” And to those of us watching, it says – “Look what you are part of – there will always be a place for you here, we value and include you too.”

Jesus was good at inclusion. He saw those who were excluded from society and he valued them, he stood with them, he let them know that he belonged to them. Fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, women and children, widows, the ill, the ostracized, the forgotten, the marginalised. He reached out and gathered them all in. Or rather, he didn’t. Rather than gather them in to the place that had already failed to embrace them, he went to where they were and gathered himself in with them. Inclusion, done well, changes lives.

As lockdown rules begin to ease and new regulations come into play, I’ve seen lots of little conversations all over my newsfeed about what will and won’t be allowed and how we can remember those who won’t be able to easily access the new normal. Conversations about how church has been done and new options opening up – those who have enjoyed accessing Zoom calls and those who have hated it, those without technology – and different ways of reaching out to them, those who will still be shielding. And I have seen lots of gentle consideration of different needs, different preferences, and gentle pointing out of those who may be at risk of being forgotten. And those conversations have cheered me because when we communicate gently and from a place of love, with respect and humility and an understanding of good intention, we can keep on learning to be more inclusive and do things better.

There are so many opportunities now to do things differently, to do things better, to do things more inclusively. To think through and ask tricky questions about what we want to pick up again and what we need to change.

How can we follow Jesus’ example and be instinctively inclusive by drawing ourselves to those the world forgets rather than trying to tempt them to come to us?

The real challenge lies in reconciling inclusivity with rules and regulations – to reach out to others like Jesus did, to include them as he did, means having flexibility, being relational before regulating – and that doesn’t mean throwing the rules out, but it does mean scrutinizing them to creatively adapt and apply them in a way that communicates love first.

What an opportunity to talk together, to communicate, to discuss, to hear and to learn from perspectives that are different from our own, as we are gifted a chance to remake things new – we make the path by walking and the path will lead us home…

Here’s to collaboration; to cooperation; to compromise; to inclusivity; to finding new ways of being that echo the old ways – may God open your eyes to new perspectives today, Zephyrs! Enjoy the sunshine – and may you find ways to stay cool!

Zeph Daily 70

Only 184 sleeps to go!!!!!

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Exactly 6 months and it’ll be just 1 more sleep!!!

So, on a scale of The Grinch to Buddy the elf, how excited do you get about Christmas?

Let me try a different question then – what do you love most about Christmas?

I love Christmas and most of what comes with it. I love my chocolate advent calendar – chocolate before brekkie; what’s not to love?! I love seeing houses all trimmed up, I love Christmas trees (especially the smell of a real one), I love all the food (mmmmmmm, sprouts!), I love thinking about what gifts to buy people. I even love wrapping presents!

I love Christmas movies; it wouldn’t be Christmas in our house without watching Muppets’ Christmas Carol at least once. There are some films I’ve watched so many times, it feels like I pretty much know them word for word.

But of course, Christmas wouldn’t actually be Christmas without THE story. The story that gets told year after year after year after year all around the world. The story that is absolutely the best, most exciting thing about Christmas. The story that tells of God coming to live among us, actually coming to live among us, as one of us, born as a baby in the most humble of circumstances.

Only 184 sleeps to go!!!

It’s a story of such utmost importance to us and even though some of the details of how we tell it are undoubtedly different to the reality of that night, that doesn’t matter. Did Mary ride from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey? We don’t know. Was Jesus born in a stable as we imagine a stable to be? We don’t know. Do these details change what lies at the heart of this story – God coming to live among us? No!

I love Christmas. Have I mentioned that already?

And do you know another thing I love about Christmas? It’s the names we give Jesus, that for some reason, seem only really to be brought out at Christmas. Wonderful Counsellor, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel.

That’s what Christmas is – Emmanuel – and that’s why I love it. Christmas is God with us. And you may (?) have been sitting there 25 minutes ago tutting at me and feeling all Scrooge – “Christmas? It’s only June!” But if Christmas is God with us (and it is!!!) then that’s always, not just in December. That’s why I love Christmas. And that’s why, in the words of Scrooge himself, I will honour Christmas and try to keep it all the year round.

And so, in keeping with this morning….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPqCP0UiPI0

Emmanuel is for life, not just for Christmas!!! God is with us always, every day. God’s love and hope and light lives in us and He calls us to let it shine out from us every day. And so, I bid you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Today and…….God bless us, everyone!

Zeph Daily 69

Morning, Julia here. Here is a short (1 question) movie quiz! Guess the film?

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The answer is: The Race to Witch Mountain (2009). I saw it for the first time late Sunday night. It’s the tale of 2 aliens, who look like human children, coming to Earth, and needing the help of a tough taxi driver and a savvy UFO scientist to get back to their spaceship and save both their planet and Earth. I think. I actually only saw the second half.

I loved it! One scene that I thought was brilliant involves two of the main characters, with Dr Alex Friedman chatting to taxi driver Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson about their current situation. It is a conversation that handily sums up their progress in the story, which is always useful in films with twisty turny plot development. I reckon Dr Friedman is pretty self-aware at this point, as she says to Dwayne:

“What are the odds that the aliens would crash near Vegas during a UFO convention. I’d get in your cab, then they’d get in your cab, and now we’re all in Harland’s mobile home with all his intel on where their ship is. That’s not luck. … That’s Chaos Theory.”

At this point I laughed, because I suspect that is not really what chaos theory is… but it sounded very scientific for the scientist to say and it provides a mild source of believability for anyone complaining the story was too convenient, so I’m all for it!

Dwayne asks Dr Friedman if she is talking about fate. As it happens, each member of their little party ends up being a hugely valuable member of the team, and they absolutely needed all 4 of them to join together to tackle their adventure. Dwayne called it fate, Dr Friedman (ambitiously) called it Chaos Theory, and I wonder if there might be people in real life who have experienced times when everything seemed to come into place at the right time despite all the odds, and called it God.

The day I volunteered at Re:Wind and John asked me if I wanted to work for Zephaniah, I was originally supposed to be working a shift at my job in York. The change of plan at the last minute put me in the right place at the right time, and I’m hugely thankful. As well as that, the conversation I had with Katie Jones about wanting to work for a charity was a really important part of it as well.

Thank God for the times you’ve been in the situations you’ve needed to be in. Thank him for the people who’ve been there with you.

To return to Witch Mountain, it is made very clear that each character in the team of 4 is needed to overcome their adversity. Dwayne is very good at punching baddies. Dr Friedman is very sciencey and good at plans. The alien children both have useful alien abilities.

In real life, everyone has purpose. Everyone has the capacity to do good, or to show love to other people. There are different things that come naturally to some people, and different things that people really enjoy.

The idea that we have a God who gives us purpose – a gift that provides us ways to have enjoyment, or to be fulfilled and have meaning – shows God’s love and attention to our wellbeing.

Thank God for things that you enjoy, and things that give you a sense of purpose.

Another aspect to the idea of God-given purpose, is how amazing it is that God wants to work with us. In John 15.15, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, for servants do not know what their master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father.” The nature of how God wants to work with people shows that it is all about having a close relationship with God.

God includes us and entrusts us with his important work of making sure people know they are loved, because it is important for us to know that too.

It all comes back to how much God cares. God provides us ways to work with him for things that are really important, and make a difference – both for other people and in our own lives. Here’s a song celebrating the idea of spreading God’s light. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UofzLKJzu7Q

Pray that God will help you remember how important you are to him, and the excellent things he has planned for you.

Amen! Have a good day!

Zeph Daily 68

Good morning!

We’re back to the musings of the Zeph team for Zeph@10am this week, after the excitement of last week’s guest curators. That means you’ve got Jenny again….. and we’re back to David and his Psalms.


One of my reasons for focusing on the Psalms of David each Monday morning is because I’m not very familiar with him as a Biblical character. I’ve looked and preached quite a bit from earlier in the Old Testament. I’m particularly fond of Abraham and Jacob. David, coming later in the chronological timeline has had less attention paid to him.

Like it sometimes is with really well known films, you know the major story points even if you haven’t see the film. I was pretty much an adult before I saw any of the Star Wars films, but it was no great shock to find out that Darth Vader was Luke’s father.

I was a bit like that with David. I was familiar with the major stories – the young David killing Goliath, David the musician soothing Saul, David and his deep friendship with Jonathan, David finally becoming king. I was less familiar with all the bits in between – David the leader of a large militia, David the refugee in Gath, David moving the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.

Today’s bit is one of the familiar bits – and would make for uncomfortable reading for David if he was sat here next to me.

While strolling on the palace roof, he spies a woman taking a bath. Here we see Failure Number 1. Instead of quickly removing himself, and giving her a bit of privacy, he sends someone to find out who she is. Failure Number 2 follows, as he invites her to the palace even though he has been told that she is married. Failure Number 3 quickly follows that and as a result Bathsheba (for that was her name) falls pregnant. By my reckoning that’s clocked up lust, covetousness, and adultery.

To try and cover up these Failures, David attempts Failure Number 4 – falsehood – bringing Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, back from war to try and make it seem like he is the father of the unborn child. When that doesn’t work out as planned, David moves on to Failure Number 5 – murder – albeit by the hand of the enemy.

Lust, covetousness, adultery, falsehood and murder all in one chapter. Yep, I’d be squirming in my seat too, David.

Nathan, the prophet, confronts David with what he has done. Sometimes we all need someone who has the courage to tell us when we’ve messed up. Stop and thank God for the people in our lives who are willing to tell us what we need to hear sometimes.

David’s response is Psalm 51. You might want to have a read of it now.

During lockdown my mum has been doing a lot of spring cleaning. Walls, skirting boards and ornaments have all had a wash or a dust. There’s been two particular occasions when she has made particular comment on how dirty something was. One was some silk flowers that had become really dusty. After cleaning each leaf with a damp cloth, she posted a picture on Facebook to show just how much the colours had been dulled by the dust. The other occasion was after she had washed the living room walls. She commented how much brighter the room was, and how she had forgotten that the wallpaper had flecks of glitter within it. The dirt that had built up had covered them, but now they could shine again.

David’s life had been covered with dirt, dust and grime. It probably wasn’t just those big failures. There were probably lots of little ones too. But the shine had gone out of life. He no longer felt joyful in what God had done for him.

Perhaps there’s things in your life (hopefully not the catalogue that David racked up) that are covering up the colours of who you are, that are taking the shine out of life. Take a moment to tell God about them, and ask forgiveness.

This Psalm is definitely not a cheery one – again – but actually there’s a huge truth in it that does make me smile.

God is even better than my mum at spring cleaning.

God can take someone whose sin escalates from lust to murder in a few lines of text, and forgive them. As it says in verse 7, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” God can deal with all that and make us clean and shiny again.

Have a listen…. And have a chat with God… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkqJHUJlKVM

God created us to be a bit like my mum and dad’s wallpaper. We’re designed with metaphorical bits of glitter that are there to reflect God’s light and love into the world. When we get overwhelmed by the things that we’ve done wrong; when we’re feeling distant from God; when we’ve been covered with the metaphorical dust and grime of life; we don’t do that so well.

Let’s be thankful for a God who cares for us enough to roll up His sleeves and clean all that dirt, dust and grime away, so we can get back to reflecting His light and love into the world.

Go, Zephpeeps, and be shiny!

Zeph Daily 67

Hi, it’s John here bringing you Will’s words.
That’s Will Sutcliffe from Beacon https://beaconbradford.org/ and City of Sanctuary https://bradford.cityofsanctuary.org/ ok, and a bit of Abigail Housing https://www.abigailhousing.org.uk/ too.

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We’re taught that the Bible is the living word of God. Isn’t it amazing that we can read it all our lives and still discover things that we have never noticed before? I love speaking with believers in their 80’s and 90’s who have read the bible their whole lives and have never exhausted its meaning for their lives.

I’d been a Christian for over 25 years before I discovered a theme that runs clearly and consistently throughout the Old and New Testaments* but had never spotted before. It’s the command to love, welcome, care for and advocate on behalf of ‘the alien’ – no, not ET or some 3-eyed creature from Zog, but those who have been forced to leave their own lands and seek safety in another. Or, in modern speak, the refugee. Leviticus 19:33-34 says:
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”.

It deeply troubles me when I hear people (and certain groups) talking about keeping migrants out of “our” country, as though we had earned the right to be born here and claim it as our own. I don’t know about you, but I had no part in the decision. If we were fortunate enough to be born in a free, democratic and prosperous country, we are immensely privileged.

So many key figures in the Bible were refugees – they had to leave their land, usually in crisis, and settle in a strange country: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel ….. Jesus. How differently might history have developed, had Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus been turned away at the Egyptian border?

I’ve been very encouraged over recent years to see churches across our city and the UK responding to the challenge to ‘welcome the stranger’. I wonder sometimes though if we find it easier to be in the position of giving, rather than listening to what God may be saying to us through those who have come to join us and recognizing their giftings? Hebrews 13:2,3 says “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it”.

So many who have come as refugees to the UK have proved to be ‘angels’ – bringing great blessings to our churches, communities, culture and economy. I believe that they also bring a prophetic voice to us. It was only through the extreme persecution of the early church that forced the believers to leave Jerusalem and take the Good News to Judea, Samaria and, in time, the rest of the world (see Acts 8:1ff). Could God, in His redeeming power, be bringing people to the UK to speak His truth to us? Faith that is tested grows stronger; by remaining faithful to God through severe persecution and deprivation, many asylum seekers and refugees have found a faith that makes mine seem pretty small. We need to listen to them.

On a separate but related note, so much has been said and shared online in the past few weeks since the tragic murder of George Floyd. I found this one of the most challenging:

Thank you Zephaniah for your wonderful Refugee Voices project that, over the years, has brought home to thousands of children and adults the lived experiences of the ‘aliens’ amongst us.

* Do contact Will (sutcliffe9@yahoo.co.uk ) if you’d like him to send you a list of some amazing verses. Likewise if you’re interested in finding out more about some of Bradford’s brilliant asylum support projects.

Thank you Will for today’s session and for all that you in our city. Go Zephteam into the world and be encouraged, be challenged, be thankful and be welcoming. aliens or not …

Zeph Daily 66

Continuing our Refugee Week of guest curators for Zeph@10, today’s thoughts come from Amy Harris, actor, adventurer and Zeph Associate, who you may have seen featuring in some of our Refugee Week videos.

Amy helped us to get Refugee Voices up and running in the early days. Thanks to her for taking the helm this morning!

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Many moons ago I worked for a creative arts charity called The Saltmine Trust in their family theatre company which went by the name of Red Balloon. A regular fixture in our diary was a couple of schools outreach weeks in Malvern and Weymouth. These generally consisted of 15 shows in 15 primary schools in 5 days which were followed up by local teams delivering a workshop on a topic relating to the play. Whilst we were hitting the primary schools, another team including people from the Zephaniah trust would be visiting the secondary schools. These weeks were always full on and I realised early on it would be laughing a lot that would get me through them! I knew I would be okay when I first met John Froud and others from Zephaniah. Laughter
was high on the agenda.

Following this first meeting Red Balloon travelled up to Bradford for a week of shows and workshops. This, I think is where I met Julie for the first time (I should add a disclaimer that Julie is very memorable but I have a terrible memory so this might not be true!) More weeks in Malvern, Weymouth and Bradford followed, and these have all been part of what has been a beautiful relationship with Zephaniah.

I am proud and honoured to be an associate artist, and to have helped out at holiday clubs, assemblies and workshops over the years, plus having the trusts support when bringing my own shows to the region.

All of this it to say that when Zephaniah ask me if I want to help out/get involved in something, I don’t have to think very hard about it. The only reason I would ever say no would be due to being unavailable.

Thank goodness I was available when a few years ago (how many Julie? – terrible memory see!), Julie asked me if I would like to be involved in her latest project; Refugee Voices. “Oooh yes”, I thought. “I know about refugees and asylum seekers, that will be a fab thing to be involved in.”

Julie sent me the script and I began to think about how we might put that on, and what acting exercises/games we might use with the children to get them bonding and working as a team, as well as giving their best rendition of the play at the end of the week. I confess to not doing much research into refugees and asylum seekers. I thought I knew.

Cut to a classroom of year 7’s early in the Refugee Voices week, and a ‘Myth Busting’ session.

‘Most asylum seekers will seek refuge in the country nearest them and it is poor countries not the rich west who take the majority of refugees.’

Oh. I thought I knew.

‘Asylum seekers survive on around £5 per day.’

Oh. I thought I knew.

‘Asylum seekers cannot work while they wait for their application to be decided.’

Oh. I thought I knew.

Later in the week we had a visit from a lady who was granted refugee status after 9 years of waiting. 9 years. Let me say that again. 9 years.

9 years she waited in limbo, not knowing if she was going to be able to stay or was going to be deported back to the country she had fled in fear of her life. She hadn’t been able to see her daughter in all that time.

This lady who you would expect to be angry and bitter and sad and hopeless shared her story with warmth, generosity, openness and even humour. I was in awe.

I had an incredible week during that first Refugee Voices week and learning alongside me were an amazing bunch of year 7’s whose minds were blown as much as mine on a day to day basis as we asked questions about our script and about how refugees and asylum seekers are treated and what we could do better. It was a privilege to present some real stories through the script, and a joy to see the reaction of the students who watched the final performance and also had their minds blown. I am so glad I got to be part of it again this year, all be it in a more remote way.

Refugee Week is a great opportunity to teach ourselves, to learn, to access resources for discussion and to think about what we can do as individuals and organisations to be more welcoming to those who through no fault of their own, have had to leave their homes, theirfriends, their families and their way of life. We are honoured to have them as our neighbours.

Check out some more of Zephaniah’s work and resources.

We think we know.

We don’t.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ***‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’*** All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 34-40

A huge thank you to Amy for making us think this morning – and for her other contributions to our resources this Refugee Week! Have good days, Zephyrs – and remember, one small thing can help to change the world…

Zeph Daily 65

Today’s Zeph Daily is written by Yashi, another greatly valued member of St Cuthbert’s Church in Wrose, Bradford resident and refugee. Thank you to Yashi for leading our prayers this morning.

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I want to pray for all those who lost their friends or family this days, for those children who lost their parents or grand parents,

God give them your wisdom, your patience,

God give us The power to continue living,

give us a love of your heart to be able to love each other and hold each others hands in this difficulties,

God I want to thank you that you are with us, in us, standing next to us in this situation,

God keep your children in this country and all around the world safe and well, I pray in the name of your great son Jesus Christ, Amen.

In Matthew chapter 10 verses 40-42, God says: We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the one who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help.

This is large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgsqfjRslzA&fbclid=IwAR1ZUPM6qTlP8DJyhq91IDCAqMeoUe9xfF24mMDfpxykE0tznHYxMZesYSI

God bless you all and have a lovely day and stay safe.

Huge thanks to Yashi for leading our prayers this morning.

Zeph Daily 64

Continuing with our guest curators for Refugee Week, today’s post is by Madhi, a Bradford resident and a much valued member of St Cuthbert’s church in Wrose. Thank you to Madhi for sharing his powerful testimony. [w: involves torture]

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Good morning! It’s Mahdi with an unbelievable story about my life.

I was only 19 years old and I was planning for my 20th birthday when I was arrested by the police.

I joined the protests in February 2011, Tehran – Iran
Later on, my life has completely changed.

I was sleeping at home, suddenly I heard my mom’s voice, she was screaming.
I got up to see what’s going on? I could only see the plainclothes police raided our house. They came to me, I was still sitting on the bed and shocked. They asked me to repeat my name & date of birth. They pulled a black bag over my head and asked me to follow them. My parents and sisters were still crying.

I was thinking if I could see my family again or not? Was a big question in my mind.
They asked me to get in the car, I couldn’t see anywhere. After two hours driving we approached the destination. I wish we never got there.

I was asked to follow the stairs and go down, I remember there were about 400 stairs. I could feel myself going to hell. They put me in a single cell and they took the bag off. I was alone there for nearly five minutes, I could hear other people are screaming and crying because of their Torture. The cell was so dark and cold. Smelling like a body was left there for a long time.

Someone came to me, perhaps Torturer. He didn’t speak to me but started with beating me. All torturers are agree with an expression which says: If you want your prisoner to answer your questions clearly, beat them first. In short time my nose started bleeding, he asked me to name friends who joined me in the protests and my reasons for joining the protest? If not, we’ll kill you. I stopped answering him but he started beating me again.

I remember first night, I asked for water but they started laughing at me and they told me we send you a glass of Urine. I couldn’t believe where I am. But you know the only things I remember, I asked god to help me, I asked god to see my family again.

Luke 12: 7 – Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

My father was trying to release me with bail condition, I found out later. No one could visit me during the time I was imprisoned. As my father used to work for government, he had a friend who was a Judge. He helped my father to release me with bail condition.

Finally, the day I was waiting for. Before they release me, I was asked to sign many papers, and I had to go to the police station for report every day as I am on bail condition. After being released, I found out, I was in Evin prison. One of the worst Prisons in Iran. I lost 13 kg in 16 days. My family was waiting for me outside the prison, and this is the time which I call HAPPINESS.

I lived with my family for two weeks and then I received a hearing date. A judge who was a friend of my father recommended me to leave Iran, otherwise I could be jailed for 15 or more than 15 years.

I was forced to leave my country just because of my views and opinions.

Psalms 118: 5-6
I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

I wish no one be imprisoned just for their opinions.

Have a great day.” – Mahdi.

We thank Mahdi again for sharing his testimony, and his incredible faith.