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RHS/LUKE MacGREGOR

18 May 2019 • WAR CRY • FEATURE 3 A visitor photographs flowers at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Flower power D

AZZLING displays of flowers will be opening in London’s backyard next week with the start of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on Tuesday (21 May). Since it first took place in 1862, the annual event has become well established. Every spring about 165,000 people wander round the grounds of the Royal Hospital, admiring floral displays and discovering the latest developments in horticulture. Among last year’s visitors were actress Joanna Lumley, comedian David Walliams and TV presenter Holly Willoughby. They saw gardens that explored a variety of issues, including forced migration, dependence on technology, and human interactions with the environment – which goes to show that the displays at Chelsea are designed to be more than merely decorative. Every year they encourage people to see the world from a different perspective. This year the Trailfinders Undiscovered Latin America Garden seeks to raise awareness of how rainforests are rapidly disappearing as a result of urbanisation, overfarming and logging. Featuring tumbling waterfalls and lush tropical plants, the plot showcases the biodiversity of the South American rainforest, and highlights the essential role that the

Gardeners spring into action with return of the Chelsea Flower Show, writes Emily Bright ecosystem plays in sustaining a healthy planet. The Duchess of Cambridge has also dug deep into her creativity by designing her own show garden. Her RHS Back to Nature Garden is a woodland space designed to connect people with nature, and to demonstrate the physical and emotional benefits that come from spending time outdoors. The garden includes a play den, a swing seat, and a waterfall and stream

In the Back to Nature Garden seeds were sown to provide nectar for bees for children to play in. But it is also carefully cultivated to sustain wildlife. Flower and fruit seeds were sown to provide food for animals and nectar for bees and butterflies. RHS directorgeneral Sue Biggs describes it as a place where families can ‘connect with nature’. We can sometimes forget the power

of nature in shaping our world. Seeds may seem small and insignificant, yet are the source of the planet’s bountiful array of flora and fauna. Nothing could survive without the oxygen plants produce. In the Bible, Jesus taps into an appreciation of the natural world to communicate the importance of faith, which allows people not only to survive, but also to thrive. He tells a story about a seed to explain how just a little faith in him can have a transformative impact on a person’s life. He says: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches’ (Matthew 13:31 and 32 New International Version). Jesus’ words tell us that, even if someone’s faith in him is as small as a mustard seed, they can still experience all the fullness of life with him. Our lives may not always be rosy, but if we are rooted in a relationship with God, we can flourish.


6 INTERVIEW • WAR CRY • 18 May 2019

Football coaches tackle refugee crisis Hillsong Church

Ahead of FA Cup final weekend, Sarah Olowofoyeku visited a football programme that helps young refugees to find their feet. The leader of the project RALPH BOER tells her how the organisers try to create a welcoming atmosphere

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SARAH OLOWOFOYEKU

OME top players from around the world will be going toe to toe at 5 pm today (Saturday 18 May) in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Tensions will run high as five previous rounds of knockout matches for the two teams culminate in the competition’s finale. By the end of today, either Manchester City or Watford will walk away victorious, cup in hand. Every Friday, on the other side of the capital, the stakes are a little lower for a group of boys who come from all over the world. A highlight of their week is a kickabout with Football United, a programme that exists to help refugees relax and find a safe space amid their difficulties.

Ralph Boer On a chilly night, I join this group on the grounds of a south London school. The atmosphere is buzzing as the boys and their coaches begin to gather on the artificial pitch. Greetings are lobbed through the air in numerous languages, and rough play and banter are on show. Some boys team up to practise their shooting and passing, while others catch up off the pitch. The coaches blow their whistles, and the scene that follows is nothing out of the ordinary: boys who just want one more attempt at scoring a goal, stragglers who still haven’t finished putting on their kit and boys kicking a ball at the other end of the pitch who show no sign of joining the huddle. Eventually, though, everyone gathers and the boys are put into teams. The volunteer coaches are from Hillsong Church in London, and the programme was initiated by the church’s


18 May 2019 • WAR CRY • INTERVIEW 7

We have boys from a whole range of nationalities

Coaches gather the boys at the start of a session refugee response team, which is headed by Ralph Boer. The programme started when he and his team were thinking about ways in which they could tackle the refugee crisis. ‘We had done some refugee projects out in Calais,’ Ralph says, ‘but we wanted to find out what we could do in the UK, so we developed a relationship with the children’s section of the Refugee Council.’ The Refugee Council’s Children’s Advice Project works with unaccompanied asylumseeking or refugee children. Some 90 per cent of asylum seekers are male. ‘We asked if there was anything we could do, and the Refugee Council told us that there was no sports provision for these children,’ Ralph continues. ‘We wanted to try to fill that

gap. So we suggested doing a football session twice a month for the boys. We got some coaches from our church involved and initially started running the session for two hours every two weeks.’ Ralph laughs: ‘At our first session, we had volunteers and pastors all ready to play a game, and nobody showed up. Then we had one boy from Eritrea who never came back.’ The volunteers’ initial challenge was to encourage the boys to attend the football programme. So they went back to the Refugee Council to get some more support. In turn, it began to refer more of the young people to the sessions. ‘When we had no one come, we were wondering whether we had done something

wrong,’ Ralph admits. ‘But over time we built our relationship with the Refugee Council.’ The improvement is obvious. At present, roughly 70 boys, between the ages of 14 and 18, attend Football United in south London on a Friday. Last September, another session was started in Tottenham and runs on a Wednesday evening, and is now attended by about 25 young players. ‘We’ve started partnering with Fulham FC Foundation for our Croydon project and with the Hotspur Foundation in Tottenham. They help with some of the funding and coaching and get us connected to a wider network of football opportunities,’ Ralph explains. ‘Some of the boys have now done coaching training with Spurs.’ Many of the young men and boys are living with foster-carers and are enrolled in either school or college. Their reasons for entering the UK are various, and many of them travelled thousands of miles to get to British shores. The boys have faced problems in their home countries because of issues including blood feuds, war, persecution and conscription. ‘We have a whole range of nationalities,’

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SARAH OLOWOFOYEKU

8 INTERVIEW • WAR CRY • 18 May 2019

From page 7

Hillsong Church

says Ralph. ‘We have boys from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Albania and Afghanistan as well as boys of Kurdish ethnicity. The majority are from a Muslim background.’ Although the football programme is run by a church, it does not include preaching, or Bible or church-related activities. But Ralph is motivated by his Christian faith. ‘I believe God loves these young guys and wants the best for them,’ he says. ‘To communicate this to them, we simply create an atmosphere where people are known and loved, where everybody is welcome, whether or not they speak English and wherever they’re from. ‘It’s a safe space where they can develop their football skills as well as their confidence in English. Our behaviour, our actions and how we work with these young people are an expression of the truth that God loves them and that they’re worthy of our time and attention.’ While he is sure of God’s love for the boys, he admits that sometimes he is angry with God over the type of experiences they have had to go through. Ultimately, though, he knows that humans are responsible. ‘A lot of the situations they face are manmade and are as a result of the evil that’s within humanity because we separated ourselves from God.’ alph had been aware of this and other R basic beliefs of the Christian faith from a young age, having grown up within a

Christian family and community in the Netherlands. But it wasn’t until he went backpacking in Australia that his faith became personal for him. ‘Today I know that Jesus is present with me in my daily life,’ he explains. ‘I know that I’m loved by him and that he gave his life for me, so it means that I can give to others – such as these young guys. My faith gives me a drive to live for other people that probably I otherwise wouldn’t have.’ His passion is alive and kicking. As I walk round the pitch, taking my own shots of the players with a camera, I can see Ralph talking and joking around with the boys, as well as ensuring everyone is where they need to be, welcoming new arrivals, and communicating with his team. There is a relaxed feel to the session, and Ralph and the coaches make certain that no one is left on the sidelines. I get the chance to speak to a few of the boys. They all tell me that they enjoy the programme and that they’ve made friends here. They are all smiling and laughing. But the story hasn’t always been so positive for many of them. One tells me of his journey to England. ‘It was difficult to come here,’ he says. ‘I came on my own and had to conceal myself inside a lorry to get to England. It was scary and dangerous.’ This lad is not the only one who will have a story such as this. ‘Some of the things the young people share are heartbreaking,’ says Ralph, ‘but one of the successes of the programme is seeing the boys become friends with each other and being able to have a good time.’

I believe God loves these young guys and wants the best for them


12 INNER LIFE • WAR CRY • 18 May 2019

Prayerlink YOUR prayers are requested for Debbie, who is very ill in hospital; and for Dorothy and Alex, who have unexpectedly lost their daughter. The War Cry invites readers to send in requests for prayer, including the first names of individuals and details of their ­circumstances. Send your requests to Prayerlink, War Cry, 101 Newington Causeway, Lon­don SE1 6BN. Mark your envelope ‘Confidential’.

Becoming a Christian There is no set formula to becoming a Christian, but many people have found saying this prayer to be a helpful first step to a relationship with God Lord Jesus Christ, I am truly sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong. Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Holy Spirit. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me for ever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen Extract from Why Jesus? by Nicky Gumbel published by Alpha International, 2011. Used by kind permission of Alpha International

Nigel Bovey gives chapter and verse on each book in the Scriptures

Psalms HYMN book used in Temple worship, A the Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs. Nearly a half (73) are ascribed to David, the shepherd boy who became a king. Some of these, notably Psalm 23 (which begins ‘The Lord is my shepherd’) and Psalm 51 (a song of penitence), are inspired by personal experience. Reflecting the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible – the collection itself is arranged into five books. The first book (Psalms 1 to 41) is dominated by themes of humankind and creation; the second book (Psalms 42 to 72) is concerned with deliverance and national identity; the third (Psalms 73 to 89) concentrates on the sanctuary and worship; the fourth (Psalms 90 to 106) is characterised by wilderness and wandering; and the fifth book (Psalms 107 to 150) focuses on worship and God’s word. Expressing a wide range of human emotions, the Book of Psalms contains some well-travelled themes. There are hymns of worship that extol God for who he is, what

Key verse ‘Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day’ (Psalm 96:2 New International Version)

he has done and what he will do. There are laments, asking God to reach out in times of personal and national sorrow. There are expressions of thanksgiving to God for his goodness and grace. There are festive songs to sing while making a pilgrimage to

Some psalms look towards the coming of the Messiah Jerusalem. There are also psalms – notably 119, the longest – that instruct the worshipper in righteous living. Significantly, some psalms look towards the coming of the Messiah – a divinely anointed Davidic king who will establish the Kingdom of God. It is the opening of Psalm 22 that Jesus quotes while being crucified – ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ This psalm also speaks of being mocked, having hands and feet pierced and onlookers casting lots for clothes. Other psalms offer prophetic insight that will be fulfilled in Jesus during his crucifixion. His bones will not be broken (34:20) and he will be offered vinegar to drink (69:21). Some psalms, such as 150, encourage collective worship, while others, for example 139, are prayers that reflect a personal searching for, and relationship with, the God of the universe.

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War 18 May 2019: selected articles  

War 18 May 2019: selected articles