On 29th-30th January members and friends of the Canterbury Stake, including students studying at the University of Kent, travelled to Calais to help with aid for refugees. For some of the group this was their 4th or 5th trip to sort donations in the warehouses and distribute aid at the camp. Several small charities are struggling to improve conditions for the 6000 plus displaced people living in the “jungle”. These committed volunteers finance themselves, staying in caravans or hostels for days, weeks or months at a time. The Canterbury Mormons added their contribution.
The bleak January weather miraculously gave way to sunshine as some of the group began to erect a wooden shelter, designed by a member with materials donated by the Church. After four frantic hours and with limited tools and resources, the group—spontaneously joined by some 10 or so refugees managed to complete a sturdy ‘home’ for a family of 8. Stephen Hunt, local Church leader, said later;’” or me, the enduring image is that of volunteer Danny Shillabeer—who at 6’4″ was still not tall enough to reach to work on the roof—standing strong, his arms braced against the outer wall of the shelter whilst one of the refugee volunteers stood atop his shoulders to work.
Together, members of the Church and the grateful recipients of the few resources worked to create a new home for people who had been spending their days and nights inside a leaky tent. This is the gospel in action. This is the sharp end of the self-reliance initiative, the absolute definition of the Lord’s imperative to search out the poor and the needy. We prayed with them, we built with them, we embraced them and we reluctantly left them in the knowledge that they will be a little warmer, dryer and safer in the future. As for us, we are beginning to see things a little more clearly now.”
Later, the women’s leader from one of the congregations received this message:
“Thanks a lot for building a tent but for us—it is a big massive house and we can’t forget that you came all the way from another country across the border just to help us. Thank you so so much.”—Sahir