Sarah Green is a Christian whose faith was reignited by her experience living in the Middle East. Since returning home her faith and her experiences have motivated her to support CHARIS (Christian Help and Action for Refugees in Somerset) founded by three Taunton churches.
When I went to university, my faith was put on the back burner and I prioritised other things in my life. Later I went to live in the Middle East and studied for my masters researching the relationship between religion and state. I went to Yemen to learn more about the Muslim faith and it was here that my own religion was reignited. I saw in their society just how important faith and God is; it taught me that there is always time for God.
I remember walking back through the old part of a city in Yemen. It was about midday and all the shop keepers and stall holders had come out on to the street with prayer mats and kneeled to face Mecca. It was a beautiful sight. Everything came to a standstill and everyone prayed together and made time for God in their busy day.
The Muslims I met that day taught me that religion is acceptable and that we should all make time for God; to think; to pray.
During my time in the Middle East, my neighbours had always been hospitable and welcoming; they readily shared their food and their time with me. So, when the opportunity came to be a part of CHARIS I jumped at it. I wanted to give something back.
CHARIS was founded by Taunton Vineyard, Creech St. Michael Baptist Church, and St. Mary Magdalene, in response to the Government’s call for communities to sponsor a refugee family. It’s been a long process but this week CHARIS has been formally approved by the Home Office to be a Community Sponsor. This means we can welcome our first refugee family very soon.
The process has been testing as we have had to demonstrate that we have the facilities to welcome refugees; that our volunteers have been trained and checked; that school places are available; and not least that the refugees have a home in which to live.
Taunton Independent school Queen’s College have generously offered children of the refugee family places there and a local Christian couple connected with the church have offered a property they own for the refugee family to live when they arrive.
Through this process I am also keen to build cultural awareness between Somerset and the Middle East. There are very few ethnic minorities in the local area so it’s important that we integrate the family fully. My hope is that in the future we can help to bring more families to the area as more people understand how it can be achieved.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Jesus was very keen for his followers to welcome those who did not have much. In his own words in Luke 4, he said, “I have come for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger.” In an age where the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer we cannot afford to ignore Jesus’ call to action.
I believe we each have to play our part in welcoming all and cannot leave it to others. The work of CHARIS offers hope to those in need in a very real and practical way and gives us the chance of seeing faith in action.
We first shared Sarah’s story as part of the Bishops’ Lent Appeal 2017