The Hope into Action story is of a Christian charity enabling churches to house the homeless. It begins with housing two men leaving prison. Prison and its near neighbour, homelessness are themes running through Ed Walker’s latest book, A house built on love.

At the book’s launch, Ed will be in conversation with Jonathan Aitken to discuss providing homes and support for those leaving prison. You are invited to join them on Zoom on 13th October at 7.30 pm– you can find the registration link here. 

Our blog this week features reflections from them both. Who is best placed to provide the love that those on the edge of society lack?

Why Jonathan Aitken you might ask? A Conservative MP and Cabinet minister. Yes, but he also served seven months in prison for perjury. A Christian, and now an Anglican priest and prison chaplain,Jonathangave the keynote speech at the 2017 Hope into Action conference. He shared this with us:

“One of the biggest concerns of any prisoner is ‘What am I going to do when I get outof here? Where am I going to live when I’m released?’ 

I know how difficult the problem is. I know how scary it is. Hope into Action is fulfilling a great need. The State doesn’t do this kind of thing well, because it’s so personal. Governments can do the ‘machinery’ bit, but they don’t have the ‘hearts’;they don’t do the listening and love. Lots of prisoners have no role model, no father figure, no support; they haven’t had any experience of love.”

Ed expands on who best to fulfil this need in an extract from A house built on love:

Few things bring me more joy than meeting someone in prison.I usually enter the gates a little anxious and almost always leave oncloud nine, having had a truly powerful, honest and impactful conversation.I can recall many such encounters now as if they happenedyesterday, so seared are they into my memory. I think of the prostitutewho told me her life story, so unerringly tragic that it changed me. I remember the drug addict who informed me,The thing about druggies, Ed, is that they accept you completely for who you are,without judging you. You cant say that of church people. Ouch!

I am reminded of the words of a South American prison chaplainthat I heard at a conference: I thought God called me into prisonministry to tell people about Jesus. In fact, he called me there so Icould meet him.When God incarnate meets you, you tend not to forget the experience.We meet Jesus in the poor, and when we engage with them,we are in fact engaging with the very person we choose to worship.In doing so, we will grow in our knowledge, experience and love ofChrist.

In this way, we believe that both our tenants and church volunteerswill grow in the knowledge, experience and understanding ofChrist when they meaningfully merge. We will meet Jesus who residesin them, and they will meet Jesus who lives in us.There is atbest, therefore, an emotional and spiritual transaction. When thathappens, we have succeeded in our mission because we define successas church volunteers getting out of their pews, striving to love,and tenants feeling loved.