On her first visit to church, Jo’s response to an invitation to pray with the person next to her was short and fairly final.
But a few years on, Jo and two of her sons come to church every week. ‘You’re family to me,’ she says.
For the first six months that Jo came to church, she didn’t smile. She had built up a protective wall around herself.
Over time, as she and sons Josh and Jake got to know the church and the Thrive Team members who live near them on the Barton estate, that began to change; ‘I had a barrier up for years, but when it comes down, it comes down.’
Trust grew as Josh and Jake took the opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities, from designing and building a skate ramp to gardening, boating and cinema trips.
For years, Jake struggled socially and lacked confidence. But now he is playing an active part at church and Army Cadets, and is looking forward to a summer of different camps and new experiences. He says of cadets; ‘I’m basically friends with the entire place.’
Your support has made these breakthroughs possible – and what makes them even more special are the many challenges the family has overcome along the way.
Reflecting on how life has improved for her family this last year, Jo is thankful that social workers no longer see the need to check in with her family. She puts much of this down to the unconditional love she’s received from her local church:
‘I’ve promised I’ll be here for my boys, and I’m being supported and loved to do it.’
A Birthday Surprise
One of Jo’s recent memories of church was on her birthday last year. After the church meal, someone switched off the lights and a candlelit cake was brought out of the kitchen.
As the first notes of “Happy Birthday” rang out, Jo saw the cake. Looking around, she wondered; ‘Who has the same birthday as me?’
As the cake was carried towards her table, she noticed everyone looking at her. Only then did she realise it was all for her.
‘I haven’t had a birthday cake since I was a little girl. It was totally unexpected, and I got quite emotional. I’ve never been treated like this. You make me feel loved and at home.’