In the first extract from his latest book, A House Built on Love, Ed Walker, Hope into Action founder, reflects on the power of stories and what he sees as essential Christian living.  

Not a year goes by where I don’t read a book about people who have been on the streets, on drugs, in prison or abused, who have come to know God and seen their lives turned around. I read them to understand more deeply the issues and lives of our tenants and also to encourage my faith. We now have a lot of such stories ourselves. At least once a month we share one internally and take time to stop, pray and celebrate. So many of our tenants’ stories deserve a book all to themselves, and I would love to write them all. When you consider their backstory, their strength and courage is amazing.

You have probably encountered such stories at Christian festivals, where someone gets up and shares for a couple of minutes about how they were once in a mess and now their life is in order. I find such stories a tremendous encouragement. Stories strengthen faith, and, to be sure, we can tell of people kicking habits, re-engaging with family, finding faith, converting, responding to altar calls. We rejoice with all of these.

However, we’ve also learned that sustainable success does not just happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a ‘moment’. Spiritual moments happen. But for the fledgling faith not to ‘quickly fall away’, ‘wither’ or ‘choke’,[i] —for the faith to be sustainable—it should be supported by people willing and committed to journey with the person over the long haul.

Indeed, in virtually every one of our best testimonies and the testimonies I have read, there are three key ingredients:

  1. A safe home: The person has to have a home. It is extraordinarily hard to sort one’s life out when one is on the streets fighting for survival.
  2. Grace: After a home, they need grace. Almost always there is someone in the story who has journeyed with them, and almost always that person has had to show grace because almost certainly the road to recovery has not been a straight one. (Show me a recovering addict who has not relapsed, and I will show you a liar.)
  3. Time: Probably not months, more likely years. It almost never happens overnight.

A home, a companion and patience—sometimes years of patience. This is what we try to bring. Many academic papers and studies have found something similar. While they use different language and ‘evidence’, essentially it boils down to those three elements.

Good grief, I hear you sigh. Is this really for me, then? To which we thunder back, ‘Yes! Being with someone who has spent some part of their life ‘in the shadows’ should be part of what Christians are all about. It should be seen as essential Christian living, taught in Sunday school and youth groups just after prayer, Bible study and fellowship. The poor should be built into your life and circle of friends—not projects for the poor, but relationships with the poor. We will be richer when this is the case. Why? Because God commands us so. There are only three places where Jesus says He will meet us: in communion (‘…this is my body’[ii]), in prayer and fellowship (‘… where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them’[iii]) and, finally, when we engage with the poor (‘…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’[iv]). That is it. It is noteworthy that in all three we meet with God when we are in relationship with others. We receive wine from another, we meet to pray and we meet God when we are with those in need. God commands us into community, and our religious rituals remind us of and draw us into relationship. Being with the poor is a religious ritual. We will meet with Jesus.

[i] The phrases ‘quickly fall away’, ‘wither’ and ‘choke’ come from the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.1–23.

[ii] Matthew 26.26.

[iii] Matthew 18.20.

[iv] Matthew 25.40, from the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.31–46.

If you are left feeling inspired, book on our conference for a day of sharing stories like this and to be part of the launch of A House Built on Love

Book Now