Along with his wife Paula – Joe has been a long-time faithful supporter of Habitat’s work being involved for over 20 years through International Volunteering Teams and in Habitat’s local work. Joe has worked for Youth Link – an organisation bringing churches together to build excellence in youth work and ministry for 14 years and currently serves as Director of Youth Link. Read his Advent reflection below.
Twenty years ago, I was inspired by a young woman called Paula, who was speaking at a youth event about her experiences on a Habitat Build in Nicaragua and sharing stories of beautiful spirit of the people in Managua. She challenged me to consider how I am connected to my brothers and sisters in Christ and more importantly, how do I serve those who are less fortunate than me. I said ‘Yes’ to signing up to a Global Village team. Her challenge has led to me working interdependently with local people building homes and communities in Belfast and throughout the world. She modelled a way of paying it forward which meant nobody would be forgotten about or left behind. Her ‘Yes’ to God and ‘Yes’ to her first Habitat Build had created a ripple effect of change, not just in my life but in those around her. Saying ‘Yes’ has allowed me to experience a world that I did not know that existed, to show solidarity with those who are suffering, to challenge oppression and injustice and pursue the common good. Inspired by the example of Paula, I asked her to marry me and thank God she said ‘Yes’! We have now set up our own family and home and now our children will get the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to God.
In this Advent season we cannot underestimate the significance of Mary’s ‘Yes’, as she agrees to become the Mother of Our Lord. Her enduring Spirit as she journeyed through the treacherous roads and the hills of Judah to help her pregnant cousin Elizabeth in her home. Leaving her family home in Nazareth, she journeyed with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem where she gave birth to Our Saviour Jesus Christ, in the humble surroundings of a makeshift shelter for animals. Mary, Joseph and the new-born Jesus fled to a foreign land as asylum seekers under the threat of death by Herod and his armies. As they journeyed through the backroads and pathways of Gaza and the countryside avoiding any danger, they made their way to Egypt as a family of refugees and made a temporary home. Eventually, they made it back home to Nazareth and Jesus grew up in safe home and community.
This story of finding a place to live during times of great adversity resonates with us today. As we look at how war, famine and conflict has made many homeless and displaced today, it is not hard to see the correlation to the experience of the Holy Family. In this season of Advent, as we are reminded of the joy that came into the world and changed history forever, let us not forget the experiences of Christ as a child. Jesus Christ, God who walks with us, knows poverty, has experienced homelessness, has experienced the hardships of being a refugee understands the pain and suffering of those who have no place to call home. This Christmas as we enjoy the warmth, safety and security of our homes, let us take a moment to think, pray and show solidarity with those that are experiencing what Christ experienced. Let us consider how our next yes could have a positive impact on others.
Lord this Advent Season, Let us act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with you, and we make a home for Jesus in our hearts and walk throughout this Global Village sharing the Good News.