Last week a small team from Coventry went with 12 asylum seekers and refugees to the Quantock Hills in Somerset – to explore both the beautiful countryside and some of the life-changing promises found in the Bible. Julia Faire writes about their experience.
IT’S 10:30am on Thursday and we bundle our bags into the back of a van – clothes for the unpredictable late English summer, blankets and bedding, torches, a football, and most importantly, plenty of food. Our master chefs have been shopping and will soon provide hoshmarzé (Farsi for delicious) food from their amazing Iranian cuisine.
We land at Burnham-on-Sea for a short stop, some of us wading into the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel before we head to our destination: the low-cost self-catering Campbell Room scout hut in the hamlet of Aley, surrounded by the breath-taking beauty of the Somerset Quantock Hills.
After unpacking, we walk along the racing rivulet that threads its way between hills of bleating sheep and forested footpaths and back to our new home and a massive plate of Gormazabsi.
Tonight . . our first ‘Jesus time’ … we explore Apostle Peter’s advice: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you” – relevant to us all but especially to our dear friends, some traumatised by harrowing experiences in their home country, all away from close family members and some playing the waiting game – a decision from the Home Office. Then, an amazing exercise, we all, in our own language write a letter to God, telling Him of our anxieties and our dreams.
The sun has set now and it’s dormitory style tonight as we bed down on the mattresses provided. Down our end, the women’s end, it’s certainly cold!
Friday, after a cooked breakfast, we are all sent out – this time in silence – quite a struggle for the chatterboxes amongst us – to see what spiritual lessons we can learn from our beautiful surroundings – the sheep, the lush fields, the racing stream and waterfall … again, our dominant theme is: if God, our Father, made all this beauty, surely He is able to take our anxieties in His hands and look after us!
Now some of us head out to the oak forests of the Quantocks – to see the heather and wild horses and an exquisite view over the Channel to Wales. F, the artist amongst us, made a garland of wild flowers. With pride, back at the hut, we place it the middle of the circle of dining tables. The promise in Isaiah is that Jesus will bring “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting…” How appropriate is that in our present company!
The ‘Jesus time’ in the evening begins with Ray banging so hard on the kitchen door that we thought he would break it – but actually he was demonstrating the words of Jesus: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends”. In the quietness we all invite Jesus in; God’s presence is here, no doubt.
The bonfire is lit; a barbeque is on the way. ‘A’ is master of the barbeque and he looks pretty roasted himself but now, the feast is ready, it’s 10pm and we all sit down. A feast it is too, not only of food but friendship; our friends are appreciating us. The din, the singing, the banging is .. well … I’m just glad there are no neighbours out here in the wilds!
Last night was not so cold and today, Saturday, we read the psalm: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:18)
Again, this is relevant to us all but, yes, so, so relevant to our dear friends and what promises are here! Then we all go off on our own, to think to pray, to write a poem or perhaps a prayer before coming together again.
Again, all expressed such gratitude and love for us helpers; testimonies flowed – ‘I want to continue to open my heart to the Holy Spirit when I get home’; ‘I cast my cares on God’; ‘I feel so close to God’; ‘here in this peaceful place I really slept’.
So we came home, via Evesham and a picnic by the river there. Bundles out, baggage unpacked, we tumble out, exhausted but happy.
This trip will not be forgotten: ‘Can we go next week?’ Well, perhaps not next week but let’s wait for warmer weather again. Two days in Somerset has been so worthwhile!