The Besom is an organisation which helps people make a difference. It provides a bridge between those who want to give time, money, skills or things and those who are in need. It ensures that what is given is used effectively. The service is provided free.
The Besom was founded in London in 1987 and now has an expanding network of some 30 local Besoms across the country actively helping church members to reach people in need.
The ethos behind Besom is that everyone — whether a student or over 80, whether working full-time, part-time, in between jobs or retired — can get involved.
By giving time, money, skills or things, church members help those who are in real need and make a long-term positive difference to their lives.
There are a number of ways that this can be done. These include giving good quality household items, working with others doing gardening or decorating a home (often in a dreadful condition), giving and helping to sort clothes and kitchen items, offering DIY skills, or cooking meals for families.
Through its relationship with local community workers, such as social workers, health visitors and local hostels, Besom aims to place this giving to those who can really benefit.
The story of the Guildford Besom provides a typical example.
Guildford may seem like a prosperous town, but behind the surface there are many who are vulnerable and in need through isolation, poverty, ill health, homelessness and domestic violence.
Over the last eight years, givers have visited nearly 500 homes in Guildford and the surrounding areas. Their simple acts of kindness have touched many lives. Our hope is that this demonstration of neighbourly love is helping some of the brokenness in our community and laying seeds for God’s kingdom.
How this helps people is seen in the many stories that can be told.
Recently we met a lady with two children, who had come out of a women’s refuge after escaping domestic violence. She told us: ‘It’s very easy to become homeless, it’s much harder to get back again’. A church group spent a day clearing her overgrown garden and in the time spent together experiences were shared.
We took good quality clothes to a mum and her young daughter and it was just wonderful to hear comments on how beautiful they thought they were. The daughter immediately picked out a hat and wore it from the moment we arrived.
Our initial visit to a lady a year ago to give five beds was the start of an ongoing association that gave us a glimpse of the difficulties of being urgently re-housed without any possessions.
‘Beth’ (not her real name) is a single mother with four children under the age of ten. The whole family had been living in bed and breakfast accommodation. They were given a three-bedroom house with only one week’s notice to the move date. Beth had no means to get any furniture apart from the wardrobe and some kitchen items that came with the house. So there was a very real chance that they would all be sleeping on the floor. It was heartbreaking to see them in such a dire situation.
Amazingly, we had been given five beds at different times, the last two just days before. We very rarely get given so many beds at once and it meant that we could give them to the family on the actual day that they moved into the house.
A few weeks later we were able to deliver a sofa suite to Beth as her lounge was completely empty and the family had all been sitting on the floor for the previous three weeks. It was a joy to see the look on their faces each time we arrived with some household items — they were so grateful for everything that we were able to give. Beth had no one else to turn to, and through Besom her home was completely furnished.
And at Christmas time we were able to give her family several Christmas hampers and a bike as a Christmas present for one of her sons.
In describing the kindness that had been shown to her, Beth, of a different faith background, said that ‘Christians are the only people that have helped me’, and tears welled up in her eyes as she mentioned the hampers.
We were delighted to hear that since then a lady from a local church is helping her on a regular basis.
These encounters are also transforming for the givers who meet the families. Whether it is visiting on the van, or decorating, gardening or cooking in groups, it is inevitable that hearts are stirred as we see the brokenness of people’s lives, and with this our compassion grows.
People in need
So, in these current times of austerity, how is life in the Besom world?
Our thoughts go first to those who are most affected. There is already much poverty around us, even just around the corner from where most of us live. Although the full impact of the recession may not yet be clear, it is likely that there will be more people in need, and, in this time of cutbacks, more pressure on the resources available to support them.
For the people in need, the burning, perhaps even desperate, question is, as it always has been: ‘Where does my help come from?’ And then there are our own personal responses to the recession and its aftermath.
Perhaps our first response is one of gratefulness as we come to appreciate more deeply what we have and the things that we really value. When our stability is looking a little more fragile, or we see friends or family facing the consequences of bad times, we can reflect thankfully on what God has given to us.
We also become more mindful of the needs of those in difficulty around us and, as we hear that desperate question, we, too, start to ask what our response should be.
As we look for answers, a good starting point may be those inspiring passages in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 where Paul reminds the Corinthians to ‘excel in the grace of giving’ and that God loves a willing and cheerful giver.
The right time
It is, of course, important for us to give when the time is right and, for many, this is taking place in relationships already.
But there is also an opportunity for us to seek God afresh about what he is calling us to do at this time.
Our hope is that each one of us, individually and together, as part of our local church, can do something to make a difference to someone else’s life and, as we seek to bring the love of God through our giving, can be a source of true hope for those in need.
Our experience is that prayer is key to this — nothing can be done in our own strength, it is only when we pray that God provides the people, the things, the time-givers. He opens doors that without prayer would have remained firmly shut. Indeed, one of the most exciting things about giving through Besom is seeing prayers answered before our eyes, time and again. God sees the bigger picture and brings all the pieces together. Beware — the very act of giving changes us too!
If you would like to know more about Besom, please visit http://www.besom.com and discover a Besom near you.
Simon Chedgy & David Sigsworth