Spending time in prayer last night, I reviewed how my life and its experiences had equipped and led me to minister to “the marginalized” more often than not.
I missed a lot of school due to childhood illnesses, and my reports regularly showed lots of absences for this reason. This meant that I was always catching up on missed work, both at Primary and Grammar Schools. I would turn to solitary pursuits such as reading, writing, poetry and art for recreation.
I was also a somewhat lonely child, because my twin had been miscarried, and I felt this loss at a deep level. However, I often used these experiences to reach out to those I saw as lonely. This included an elderly man living alone, to whom I would deliver a present on Christmas Day; Tea and biscuits or a scarf to keep him warm.
Years later, returning from Bible College, I received God's call to “ gather my army from the distressed, in debt and discontented” (1 Samuel 22v2). Sometimes this would be interrupted pretty literally as I helped single parents get on a sound financial footing, and I had a particular concern that they would have adequate insurance cover. The need for this was borne out when the house of one such family caught fire, and the contents were lost. Thankfully they were all out at the time.
Over the years my own experiences of being marginalized has ranged from childlessness and divorce, to depression and mental breakdown. Each of these can result in loss of self-esteem and a sense of alienation from the main event going on around you.
Last night I reviewed Jesus' ministry to the marginalized and how my experiences so often draw me to those on the fringe of a group. Jesus healed those with physical disabilities; the blind, deaf and lame; He specifically went to those alienated by sex, race and religion, such as the woman at the well; He welcomed the sinners and despised tax-collectors, servants of the Roman occupation.
Jesus had a particular concern for those suffering through bereavement and illness, their own or members of their family and household; Jairus' daughter; The widow of Nain; the Centurion's servant for example.
Today I work with Adults with Learning difficulties, a job I find particularly rewarding. These people are often marginalized, but more recently due to Government policies of “inclusion”
their lives are being enriched with more and more opportunities for voluntary, and occasionally paid, employment. I find that my life is richer due to the inter-action with a group of adults who are essentially very different. Through their acceptance of one another, and their efforts to surmount their challenges, they teach us all so much.
In my Church and ministry, I find myself drawn to those on the margins; This can literally be someone standing alone during after-church coffee; it may include the bereaved and ill; the depressed and disabled; the newcomer/ alien; Those who find themselves on the fringes are often most responsive to Christ, because they recognise a need that He alone can meet.
My own response to Christ came at a time when most of my year group had left school, and I had
stayed on to study “A” levels; Some Christians welcomed me, first to their social events, and then to Church; I had been on the fringe, feeling marginalized and they reached out to me.
Today I continue with a renewed sense of direction, believing that God has equipped and called me to ministry on the margins, following the example of Christ.
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