It’s the start of the last full day of New Wine. I woke up thinking about the street children of Latin America and wondering what would have become of my children if I’d happened to have been a poor parent in Guatemala City (or Lima or El Salvador…) working from early in the morning until last thing at night. Would my children have gone to school or hung out with “friends” on the street? These and other questions were provoked after I had a foot massage yesterday to raise money for Toybox, a charity set up in 1992 in response to the neglect and abuse of street children in Latin America. After my delightful foot massage, which was so relaxing it almost sent me to sleep, the Toybox representative gave me a little book with pictures and stories of a few of the “unlikely angels” on the streets of Latin America.
This isn’t the first time this week I’ve been haunted by heart-rending stories. On Monday night I went to sleep under canvas and woke up the following morning thinking about the 27 million people living in slavery around the world. I’d been to a seminar on “Human trafficking, slavery in our time”. The speaker explained the process by which people, and often whole families, can end up in trapped in terrible circumstances. Rescuing people from such bondage is a difficult, dangerous and risky business, he explained. But there couldn’t have been a person in the room who didn’t agree that it was always worth it for a human person to be set free – for Jesus came to “break the yoke of oppression” and to “set the captives free”. He showed a video of testimonies, one of which has stayed with me: the story of a young girl from Nepal, who travelled to India with a friend with high hopes, but ended up in a brothel in India. She thought she was in the “pit of hell”. Both prevention and rescuing are important, said the speaker. We can help by speaking out, volunteering our time and supporting organisations and churches that are working against human trafficking. The most important thing of all, though, is to pray, he insisted.
Social justice has been a theme that has run through many of the messages and seminars here. Other topics have included “Worry” and “Sloth”. I’m not sure anyone from Springfield could be bothered to go to the seminar on “Sloth” and my attendance at the “Worry” seminar caused some concern (ha, ha – I couldn’t resist that!)
Besides being challenged and moved, the traditional Springfield jollification has been much in evidence. Dave Henson’s birthday yesterday provided the excuse, if needed, for a Springfield barbie and Jean Grima’s gazebo has been an after-hours meeting place. The children have been able to play freely and safely. My eight-year-old daughter’s verdict on Rock Solid, the children’s programme, has been very positive: she’s particularly enjoyed seeing the leaders “pied” (with shaving foam, not custard, she assures me). She’s also enjoyed singing their anthem “Rock Solid” and having fun with her friends. I’m struck by the fact that the children can cycle safely around the campsite (cars are banned after the first day) and are able to leave their bikes unlocked outside the children’s venues.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all has been the glorious British sunshine. Who needs to go to the South of France for a great holiday?