Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Rich (04/26/12)
TITLE: A Kingdom Shift
By Rosamund Bunney
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Many of these Gurkhas settled in Aldershot, where they had done their military training. The population of this small community swelled by more than ten percent, as a result of which one in eight of the Aldershot population is now Nepali.
Aldershot had been in favour of allowing Gurkha families the right to live in Britain. Many of the signatures on the original petition had been from this area. But problems arose as the local health and education services were overwhelmed by so many new residents. Many of these families speak no English, so a translator is needed for every doctor’s appointment or interview with the Benefits Office. Gradually resentment began to arise in the town, not against the Gurkha families, but against the government for not allocating adequate resources for the influx of people.
The Nepali people are quiet, gentle and courteous. They live life at a different pace. Although they are hard working people, they are often to be seen ambling slowly down the road as if they have all the time in the world, the men chatting together in their traditional clothes, followed by groups of women in their beautiful and colourful saris. Despite the challenges, they have greatly enhanced the area.
However, the same cannot be said among the teenage population, and this is where Rich has stepped in. As the number of Nepali families settling in Aldershot increased, tensions began to mount between English and Nepali youths. Name-calling escalated into fighting. At the annual Aldershot funfair violence broke out between English and Nepali gangs with weapons. Subsequently some of the young people were convicted of grievous bodily harm and sentenced to a period of imprisonment. This merely served to increase the resentment between the two groups.
Rich had for a long time been using soccer as a way of getting young people off the streets and introducing them to the love of God. He was already running an English youth soccer team, and he set about organising a Nepali team as well. Once he had established trust with the Nepali boys, he took the bold step of integrating the two teams, so that instead of an English team and a Nepali team, he had two mixed-race teams. His desire was to bring the reign of the Kingdom of God into this volatile situation, and he described a “Kingdom shift” when two boys who had previously been fighting stood and shook hands on the soccer pitch, and then the whole group went out for a meal together at a Nepali restaurant.
A few weeks later Rich helped another man from the town to organise an event called “Best of Both” showcasing the best of English and Nepali culture. During the day fifteen hundred people came to see English and Nepali stage acts, sample English and Nepali foods and buy English and Nepali crafts.
The crowning moment came when a Nepali singer was singing a traditional song in his native language about his homeland. One of the English teenagers who had been a ringleader in the fighting went up onto the stage and stood next to him. The audience held their breath, wondering what he was going to do. Tentatively he began dancing to the music. Soon he was joined by a friend who only two weeks earlier had been released from prison after serving a sentence for wounding a Nepali youth. One by one the rest of the English boys filed onto the stage and joined in. Before long the Nepali lads joined them, and by the end of the afternoon English and Nepali youths were dancing arm in arm, just weeks after they had been bludgeoning one another.
Rich is not the only person who has worked to bring harmony to the community, but he has been one of the most successful. His secret lies in two things: he determines always to see everyone as God sees them – precious and loved; and he aims to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on every part of the community.
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