Did you see us at the Suffolk Show ?
MU – A visible presence at the Suffolk Show, 2017
We made it! After a gap of a few years, it’s taken a lot of hard work and networking, but finally it’s happened. We had a space at the Suffolk Show – a visible presence, courtesy of the Rural Coffee Caravan, to whom we extend our grateful thanks. Several of their supporters, mainly the mums and toddlers, came to the stand and told us how much they appreciated the visits of the caravan to their different communities. Do continue to remember Canon Sally Fogden and her team, in prayer, as they travel around Suffolk supporting and encouraging those living in more isolated places.
The Suffolk Show took place at the showground in Ipswich on 31st May and 1st June, the week of “Thy Kingdom Come” (between Ascension and Pentecost). In his message at this time, the Archbishop of Canterbury was saying that we “should be speaking blessings out into our local communities”, so I thought I would try this at the Suffolk Show, and in so doing, found myself to be the one who was blessed! Some people were easy to speak to, others I just prayed for as they passed by. I’ll never know in this life what effect this has had, nor the outcome, but for me, it felt like a good way of putting my faith into action – at least I was trying to do something – and besides, we were having a great time together anyway!
Welcomed aboard by the Rural Coffee Caravan, to share their pitch, and situated next door to the Good News tent (our Diocesan Tent a little further down the avenue), we set out our table with flyers and booklets, leaflets and information, back issues of Families First and Families Worldwide, Pathways and prayer cards, student cookery books, examples of the knitted baby clothes, and the wedding hearts…. It all made a great display. We also had our pop-up banners displayed advertising where we were, and people found us! Friends and families, members and strangers, the old and young and everyone in between… The sun shone, but we also had to contend with windy episodes retrieving loose papers blowing around on the grass. A lot of time was spent chatting to people about all kinds of things, spending time with the caravan folk, networking and building relationships. We also enjoyed eating fresh strawberries and orange segments, visiting the other exhibits and stands, entertaining friends and relations, and enjoying an ice-cream or two, and meeting members of the general public too - it was fascinating engaging with them. Three examples:
One father dropped by, and we established that his daughter was setting out on a path of freelance writing – she had won competitions, and her particular speciality was writing about the families of characters in the Bible. The father went off with a copy of Families First, delighted, and primed to tell his daughter about the work of the Mothers’ Union, and maybe one day she will get in touch with the editorial panel – watch this space for a story about Mrs Zeberdee… Another conversation arose from a chap who was to be baptised by total immersion on Trinity Sunday. I asked what had brought him to this point in his life and, as he talked, he began to share his “testimony” about his spiritual journey – something he had never done with anyone else before, let alone a stranger, and as his confidence grew he was obviously encouraged to know that there were others who understood what he was talking about. What a privilege to be able to listen to his story. Were these the kind of things – blessings – to which the Archbishop was referring….?
Another family - Jane, her husband Paul and daughter Naomi - visited our spot several times. Jane has had a difficult and troubled life, encountering many problems along the way and asking questions like ‘why do sad things happen in life?’ And ‘why do some people seem to suffer more than others?’ It is the difficulties and struggles she has encountered that have led her to write and self-publish the book, a chronicle of her family life experiences entitled ‘One Day I will Understand’ (by Jane Turpin, (ISBN 978-1-36-456913-6), costing around £7, from Amazon).
Jane told us that she had taken her book to many Christian book shops and libraries, and asked us, as the Mothers’ Union, to help her get her message “out there” because she believes that there are others who are perhaps feeling the same way, travelling a similar path, and struggling with the same kind of issues. Initially, I wasn’t particularly interested in her book – I too, had had my share of problems in life and encountered similar major difficulties. But on reflection, I recognised how hard she had worked (not a natural writer), how vulnerable she had allowed herself to be, and how much of herself she had poured into the book, in obedience to what she believed was God’s prompting. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but she writes from the heart about how her faith is sustaining her through these difficult times, and one day, in the future, she hopes she will understand why these things happen. Jane is searching for meaning and trying to understand God’s plan for her and her family, how to make sense of it and work out how it all fits together.
The book could be considered to be required reading for all MU members who are called to show Christian care for families. It shows how vulnerable a young woman can be, not only to self-criticism, but also to the fear of not conforming to social expectations. The book underlines how we need to build patterns of acceptance and friendship across the generations. It is not enough to respond by saying ‘I wouldn’t want to get involved’! – that just compounds the problem. As you read the book you can ask yourself the questions: ‘How would I have helped?’ ‘How could I have provided a window of hope in this situation at times when everything seemed so bleak?’ And then we have to realise there are many people who feel trapped by circumstances and who are waiting for us to show kindness and to offer friendship.
All in all, we had a great time at the Suffolk Show, wearing our MU badges, flying the banners and raising the profile of the Mothers’ Union telling the ordinary folk out there that there are 4 million of us worldwide, that there are over 1,100 locally relevant projects, that we live in 83 different countries, and have more than 500,000 beneficiaries from various projects and initiatives - and that after 140 years since its beginnings, we are still alive and well and wanting to continue to show Christian love and care for the families where we live. Perhaps we can do this kind of thing again another time… Linda Ginn