Easter build-up

As I write this it’s the Wednesday before Easter and I have finished work until Tuesday which is nice. But am I ready for Easter? It is so easy to lose the important in the midst of the ordinary.

A couple of things that I have kept going constantly over the months are the Bible box and the gift box. I often find it interesting how reluctant people are to take something that is free. But this week things have moved-a couple of bibles one day and the gift box ๐ŸŽ has completely emptied which has never happened before. It struck me how reluctant we often are to accept something that is free. We suspect either there is a hidden cost or we don’t think that we deserve it. Easter is a reminder that we get something very special free but there was a great cost behind it.

There will be more cooking and planning of other activities this weekend. Meanwhile, I mentioned in the last blog that Easter is often a dangerous time for persecuted Christians. It is two years since the Sri Lanka ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Church bombings while last weekend a suicide bomber attacked a church in Indonesia ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ. Easter is a difficult time for many….do remember them.

Having said all that I hope you have a very Happy Easter. Thanks for your support and interest.

Palm Sunday

This is an old palm ๐ŸŒด cross I have on my shelf but I thought as today is Palm Sunday I would include it. The crowds hailed Jesus that day but had turned against him a week later. How much do our expectations influence how we respond to situations (and to Jesus)? And how often do persecuted Christians fall from grace when they reveal who they are…

Saturday evening at 8:30 was Earth Hour. 60 minutes every year where lights on some of the world greatest buildings are switched off (and in homes too) to highlight the impacts of climate change. Just lighting my home with candles for an hour reminded me of two things 1) It is the poorest in our world, many of whom are persecuted Christians, who suffer most from the effects of climate change 2) Persecuted Christians are light bringers into some very dark places and to people who sometimes want to snuff the light out.

As part of “Cooking with them” I baked Nigerian Cinnamon Buns this week. I followed a recipe by Veronica who is a cook at a trauma counselling centre and who herself has seen her village burned down twice by militants. It is not easy to be a Christian in Northern Nigeria… your donations bring help to those who so need it in that area.

May the runup to Easter be a special one for you. And do remember our persecuted family at this time; Easter is often a time of heightened tensions.

Reflection…

This week we had the National Day of Reflection to remember the first anniversary of the declaration of the first covid lockdown. A reflection on what has occurred and how it has impacted us and others. A chance to pause from our busyness and take a deeper look…

Remembrance and reflection is so important to the human condition. We need to remind ourselves of what has happened and influenced our lives and reflect on its significance. In the old testament Joshua was told to assemble a pile of stones after the people of Israel crossed the Jordan as a remembrance of what God did. A memorial to recall the past but also a reminder that the same God who was active previously was with them in the present. I have my own pile of stones as a reminder of my visit to Holy Island last year…

Reflection and remembrance isn’t just a recollection of the past and it’s importance. It’s about now too and influencing the present. 60@60 is very much about remembering those currently making a stand for their faith and the implications this brings for them. Then it’s reflecting on what this teaches me but more importantly what can I do to help stand alongside and being support. True remembrance and reflection honours the people impacted and where it can, brings change. Let’s not forget them.

Preparation…

Yesterday I ate chocolate ๐Ÿซ and it tasted so good. After 7 days and eight nights of one bowl of soup and bread per day it was a real treat to savour orange juice in the morning again; to literally “break fast”. It makes me think of the many simple pleasures we take for granted. The partial fast wasn’t easy but was worthwhile.

Lent is historically a time of preparation for Easter. We are also reminded that Jesus spent 40 “hidden days” in the wilderness then had to go through temptation before He started his ministry.

Virtually all things worthwhile in life require preparation and waiting. This is often “hidden”. This is at odds with our “instant generation” but frequently there is a price to be paid, for anything from a career to a relationship. A self-denial to be gone through; a training to be undergone. For many persecuted Christians however being hidden is a permanent part of life.

I was reminded today that a grain of seed has to “die” before it can bear fruit. Fourteen days ago I had a small dry hollyhock seed; a few weeks ago my daffodils were hidden underground. But from the ground there blossoms life.

21st of March is the Spring equinox and in Persian speaking countries, Nowuz, the celebration of new life. Iranians in particular meet together to celebrate this. For those who have a Christian faith it is a chance to share the hope they have, sometimes at great risk. But if something is important it’s worth sharing, right? This clip is a couple of years old but I think it’s still worth sharing as there are still others like Maryam in jail…Thanks again for your interest and support.

OMAD

OMAD…or One Meal a Day to you and me, is apparently a recognised and popular form of weight loss programme. It is not without its dangers though, as without careful management it can create health issues.

In contrast approximately 700 million people in the world go hungry every day, not because they want to diet but because they can’t afford food. They have no choices about healthy diet. Covid added around 100 million more to this figure. Hundreds of millions live below the International poverty line figure of $1.90 per day. This is just wrong and should stir our hearts to action.

North Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ต is one of the countries with extreme poverty and lack of food but it affects much of Africa and South East Asia. I remember meeting two farmers and a pastor in Vietnam ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ณ and they were obviously desperately poor, trying to eke a living from small plots of land after being driven from their village for their faith.

I am now five days into my one meal a day of soup and bread. Butternut squash soup made with leftovers is delicious. Having said that you feel full for the afternoon but by the evening and for the next morning you physically the hunger pangs. I have kept the same work and running ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ routine to relate to North Koreans but it does slow the metabolism and make you lethargic. Living this way permanently would be draining at the least, especially if you have to do manual work and have poor living conditions. It’s only by accident of birth that we are blessed to live in the west.

Open Doors makes such a difference around the world. Food and medicine is somehow smuggled into North Korea. I remember meeting refugee families in Iraq who were so grateful for the food parcels they were receiving. The pastor from central Asia who was visibly pleased to receive a cow to supplement his income. It makes such a difference. Your gifts via my justgiving page helps to transform lives.

v https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Thank you for being change makers. This is the difference Open Doors supporters are making in Syria ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ after 10 years of civil war.

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to all you Mums out there. You do a great job, often in difficult circumstances. Thank you. I still find it strange over 5 years after my own Mother’s death not to be buying a card and some chocolates/flowers.

The horrendous killing of Sarah Everard has emphasised again the vulnerability of women here in the UK. In world cultures where women are commonly regarded as having less value than men the situation is even harder for Christian women, whether Mothers or not. They suffer both for their faith and their gender. The Open Doors See.change campaign seeks to make a real difference, drawing attention to the often hidden, frequently complex and deliberately violent nature of women’s suffering. The attached video is Amina’s story from Nigeria.

My “Live like a North Korean” food experiment is now in its second day and I’m already feeling tired and hungry on one meal of soup and bread daily. It’s funny how much of life fits into a rhythm based on mealtimes too! But my desire for a piece of cake or chocolate is nothing compared to what so many around the world are going through.

The slight upsides are more time and the opportunity to try new recipes-today was a new variation of broccoli ๐Ÿฅฆ soup. For you cooks out there, you are not supposed to puree the florets hence the lumpiness. Have a good week!

Could you work on one meal a day…?

We take for granted here in the UK ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง that we will be able to eat 3 square meals a day, though I realise that for many turning to food banks has become the only way forward.

As you know I have been doing lots of foody type stuff for 60@60 and have now cooked my 40th recipe; Moroccan Squash and aubergine tagine. (see below)

For Lent I am doing some food related things related to the persecuted church. Part of this is to go back to basics. North Korea ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ต is the worst country in the world for persecution and is also desperately poor, especially outside the towns. The state of the economy and the need to support the military means that there frequently is insufficient food for all. Many live on one meal a day and are required to work extremely hard on top of this. For those in labour camps they are lucky to get some rice and thin soup each day and often have to catch snakes and rats to survive.

I plan from Saturday to eat like a North Korean for a week. So for me it will be a can of soup and some bread once a day. Nothing like what they go through but a big challenge for me as I like my food!

It will be good to symbolically stand with them. Open Doors helps to get food and medicine into North Korea to support those most in need. And when North Korean Christians get food they share it with others in need-the concept of “Holy rice”. It’s challenging for us to give from our wealth but they share gladly out of their poverty.

For Christians the Bible is like spiritual food. That is something North Koreans cry out for but to be caught having one lands you in jail or worse. Physical food and spiritual food-both hard to come by. This little video speaks of the many hidden bibles…

Who am I?

Over the last week I have gone from having a multicoloured beard; two variations of upper lip hair (the 60 hour moustache) and today I have for the first time in my life entirely shaved my head. It feels quite cold and exposed!

So, who am I? Which photo is really me? We can alter the externals but who are we really, underneath it all? As Neil Sedaka wrote in a song decades ago “Why can’t you see whats on the other side of me”? We each long to be really found, to be fully known but it’s a vulnerable place. I want to be like a stick of rock, with identity and integrity stamped through me so that what people see at work, at home, at church, wherever is the same wherever I am. That can be challenging! How about you?

I have always loved a quote which paraphrased says “I am afraid to show you who I am because you may not like who I am and that’s all I’ve got”. That’s powerful psychologically but for persecuted Christians who you are can be a matter of life of death. In countries like Afghanistan; Somalia and Libya ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡พ to say that being a Christian is integral to who I am is effectively a death sentence. For 22 year old Sozan in Syria ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ becoming a Christian meant men from her community coming to see her Father demanding her death for bringing shame to the area.

Monday is International Womenโ€™s Day and countless women in the world suffer both for their identity as female and again for identifying as Christian. Open Doors is seeking to stand with them. Will you? Please go to the See.change section of the Open Doors UK website for more details. And of course any donations to 60@60 go to this and other key work with vulnerable people.

The 60 hour moustache..

The coloured beard certainly got some attention and over 70 hits but sadly only two donations. Nevertheless what I did receive took me to the 60% mark of my target which is another 60 figure reached. Thank-you!

The 60 hour coloured beard that followed the 60 days of growing a beard is now followed by the 60 hour moustache. At the moment I feel like a refugee mexican baddie or an extra in a Jesse James movie. Or even like my Uncle in the 70’s! It will metamorphose into another style for Sundays blog though.

Other news on the activities front is that I have started booking accommodation for the final stage of the Pilgrims Way walk in mid May. Getting some of the places is a bit challenging but I’m making progress.

This week is International Womenโ€™s Week. Open Doors has been running a campaign called See.Change since last year. In countries where Christians suffer persecution, women suffer twice; first because of their gender and secondly because of their faith. They are often denied education, life chances and much more because they are women. As Christians they can be kidnapped, raped and rejected. If their husband leaves or is killed they often have no means to support their family. Please go to the Open Doors website or watch the OD Facebook Live interviews with a different MP every lunchtime this week to find out more. Definitely worth writing to your MP about-go to http://www.opendoorsuk.org for a template letter. Underneath is Peninah’s story from Kenya, a country where I once lived ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช

The 60 day beard..

It’s hard to believe that the 60 day beard has reached its target but it has. Uncut, untrimmed, just a little shaving around the bottom. It’s certainly been a bit quicker in the morning! Some folk even like it and it shows I can grow hair somewhere on my head!

The next escapade can be blamed solely on the Rev Duncan Keys who said he would sponsor me if I dyed it like a rainbow ๐ŸŒˆ So I spent quite a bit on hair dye and here is the result. Sadly the blue, indigo and violet all seemed to turn into a dark mass and the red, orange ๐ŸŠ and yellow decided to be pretty similar too. I’m sure you ladies would have made a much better job but I tried. Any sponsorship appreciated!

This will last a couple of days (it will be interesting to explain it to colleagues from 6 other authorities at a meeting tomorrow) then it will be the 60 hour moustache.

All this is for the 340 million who don’t have the same freedoms we do. Who might be imprisoned in their own homes. A multicoloured beard will make me stand out; their faith makes them stand out out for all the wrong reasons. I can wash this out (eventually); for them being a Christian is a dangerous and permanent label. Being different for them isn’t good. But our standing alongside them makes a difference. Thanks for supporting them and me ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜ƒ There is a justgiving link on my webpage or type https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060 in Google.