God's generosity extended | Jo Whitehead

Last Sunday I was woken up at around 4am by the ‘ping’ of my mobile phone – my friend Ella had just sent me a “Happy Mother’s Day” WhatsApp message from Delhi in India. I was a bit tired and grumpy when I read it; firstly I’d forgotten to switch my phone onto silent, secondly she’d clearly forgotten the time difference between the UK and India and thirdly we celebrated Mother’s Day weeks ago.  When I’d woken up properly a few hours later, restored to my less grumpy self , I remembered that a number of other countries celebrate Mother’s Day in May whereas we celebrate it in the UK during Lent, before Easter.

This Mothering Sunday we tried something new at St Werburgh’s, we collected toiletries for the women of Derby who were facing difficult times.

It was the first time we tried this so we weren’t sure what the response would be.

The response was incredible, the table, set out at the front of church was covered in bottles of deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, moisturiser etc by the beginning of the morning service, and it didn’t stop there, there were full carrier bags beneath and around the table. I took them home that afternoon and Ellie Hatcher and I began making up gift bags.

The same thing happened at the evening service and by Monday morning we had made over 60 gift bags to distribute and then contributions brought in during the following weeks took our total to 96 gift bags of toiletries to be gifted to women across the city.

Over the years I’ve organised a number of collections, and I have to say, I expected there to be lots of re-gifts – of Christmas and birthday presents – and there’s nothing wrong with that – I have a box of gifts under my bed ready to be re-gifted. My Mother’s church have a standing joke within her group of friends, whenever there’s a “raffle” someone donates a bottle of talcum powder and one particular bottle has been going round the group as a raffle prize for the past five years!!

The wonderful people of St Werburgh’s exceeded all of my expectations. There were no years old bottles of talc in the collection, there were a few re-gifts – lovely ones and there were the essential items we’d asked for and so much more. People had carefully made up their own gifts bags, the children made mother’s day cards to put in the gift bags and the toiletries weren’t just the ones that were on offer at the supermarket, they were top quality, thoughtfully selected treats.  I have to say; I found our church’s response very moving – THANK YOU!

Thank you for responding in this way,  but more important than my thanks – thank you from the women the gifts were distributed to:

The women at The Padley Centre who visit to have a shower because they are homeless or can’t ‘afford’ the luxury of hot water.

The women at Derby Women’s Centre who join together for company and for free counselling as they re-build their lives, regaining confidence and self esteem after being victims of abuse and neglect.

The women at “Re-build” and the Safe House who have been trafficked, victims of modern slavery living in our City in this century – years after the slave trade ‘ended’.

The women the Police took me to meet at their emergency Shelter. Women who had found the strength to speak up about the abuse they had suffered, sexual, emotional and violent and the children living with them, scared and confused as they were discovering that what had going on and that their ‘normal’ life had been broken and wrong.

I cannot express how grateful these women and the people who work with them and support them were to receive your gifts. I think they expected a few bottles of talc too! It was a privilege and a blessing to deliver your gifts to them, to meet them, hear their stories and share God’s love to them in this practical way.

We cried together, laughed together, drank tea and talked. Some women asked me to pray for them and every single one of them asked me to say THANK YOU for blessing them.

I hope we do this again and build a team of people to make and deliver the gifts with me. If you would like to do this please let me know.

There are men in Derby who also need support. Those who are homeless, in need and victims of abuse. Should we do a similar collection for men on Father’s Day in June? Let me, Phil or Andy know what you think.

“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” 1 Chronicles 29v14

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” Proverbs 19v17

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STW Derby