Sharing hope in Shipley

Anne Hyams from Bexhill-on-Sea is someone who has learned over a lifetime how to share hope in crisis. She is now 68, and describes herself as “fit and well, apart from some minor mechanical problems”.

Anne trained as a doctor and served for many years among the Zulus in a rural part of South Africa, where she experienced the challenges of racism and rural poverty. Returning to the UK in 2004, she retrained as a GP, and on retirement became a chaplain at Beachy Head. It was a great formation in chaplaincy, as she tactfully engaged with people at the lowest point of despair.

When the Ebola pandemic broke out in West Africa in 2014, she investigated volunteering, and so came across Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association UK for the first time. Though she did not sense a green light for West Africa, she still felt a calling which went beyond the people of Bexhill.

Anne volunteered to become a member of the Rapid Response Team and in January 2016 was deployed to Shipley, in Yorkshire, following the devastating floods. Initially she joined other chaplains going house-to-house offering support. “People were grateful for prayers and hugs as well as practical help such as warm clothing and food, and some cried,” Anne said. “Somebody wanted a wardrobe moving, and we were able to stay awhile and share the love of God. What was most appreciated was our simply being there and listening.”

Nigel Fawcett-Jones, the team leader, made contact with a woman from the local council, who was grateful for the offer of spiritual and emotional support and passed on the contact details of those who were requesting our help. The council had rehoused one woman in the hotel where the team was staying; Anne met her over breakfast and was able to listen to her story and pray with her.

Seeking to develop her skills further, she attended a Sharing Hope in Crisis seminar in Gosport, organised by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Anne was particularly inspired by the videos from Jack Munday, who heads up Rapid Response Teams in the United States.

In 2015 Anne’s home church, Beulah Baptist in Bexhill, had become a Lighthouse Church. This means that is it prepared to partner with the UK Disaster Relief ministry if a disaster strikes, providing volunteer support and local guidance.

The Gosport seminar so impressed her that she persuaded Beulah Baptist to put on its own Sharing Hope in Crisis seminar in October 2016. Over fifty people came, to the great encouragement of Nigel, who leads the Rapid Response Team in the UK. Nigel is himself deeply involved in crisis response through his role as a traffic officer in the West Yorkshire police, where he works as a Road Death Family Liaison officer.

“Increasingly I see Christians wanting to do more to support their local community,” he said. “It doesn’t take a disaster to come across those in need; the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, job loss or just the uncertainty of the times we live in, all take a toll on an individual’s resilience. We want to help the church respond in an appropriate way to the very real needs of a community that is hurting.”

So what hope does the team ultimately offer in crisis? “The only real hope is Jesus,” says Anne. “By serving people you demonstrate His love and so win the right to speak about Him.”

The next Sharing Hope in Crisis seminars are in Ebbw Vale on 26 November and in Doncaster on 25 February. You can register here. If you are already a Lighthouse Church, you can contact the team on 020 8559 0342 to arrange hosting your own seminar.