Alan, Cleckheaton Methodist Church
Alan Littlewood, Cleckheaton Methodist Church
Where there's a will, there's a way.
I love that phrase and it is one I use with my children. It develops the kind of grit, determination and perseverance that are so important to our character as we face life's challenges.
This phrase also sums up advocate Alan Littlewood's approach to getting Acts 435 set up in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. If you are struggling to get your local community engaged in Acts 435, I hope you will take encouragement from Alan's story.
For Alan it started with a call from God when he saw Acts 435 featured on 'Songs of Praise' in August 2012. He tells what happened next:
I didn't do anything about it for a long time, probably because I'm not comfortable standing up in meetings. But over time I became more convinced that God wanted us to do something like Acts 435 to help the community. I asked God to show me and in no uncertain terms he did. I took it to my own church council meeting and they suggested taking it to a Churches Together meeting. They were all for it and a group of people was formed to take the work forward.
Alan signed up as an Acts 435 advocate and we supplied him with literature to help him spread the word. The team in Cleckheaton sent information to local schools, doctor's surgeries and set up a dedicated phone line but it never rang. They signed up to Acts 435 in 2014 and until mid-2017 nothing happened. Even when Alan read about a dreadful situation in the local press where a lady was living just on bread and soup and made contact with the lady in need, he was told she was managing and did not need charity.
During those seemingly fruitless years, Alan had conversed with a lot of people in support services who said it was interesting and that they would keep it in mind. It wasn't until October 2017 that a debt advisor from Kirklees council found Alan's details by scouring the internet for help for someone who had been without a cooker for two years. Acts 435 donors met that need and requests started to trickle in as the word spread to various local charities in the area.
Now they have a waiting list of needs to put on the website as each partner can only have Five Live requests at any one time. Acts 435 is making a difference in Cleckheaton and the surrounding towns and bringing more income into the local economy.
Alan tells me one of his early requests which really made him want to do more - giving him a boost to keep persevering in getting the word out about Acts 435:
There was a guy who had been sanctioned in November. I met him mid December and he had no food, gas nor electricity, and wasn't going to get any money until January. There is no Foodbank in Cleckheaton and he had nowhere to turn. There was a pile of unopened bills in the corner of his room and he sobbed at a table. Through Acts 435, we helped this man with three different amounts to get him back on his feet.
Another story that moved him was an Asian family where the daughter had been turned out of her home for marrying a person of her own choice. They only had a kettle, cups and saucers and then a mattress in the bedroom that the little boy was sleeping on. There was nothing else. As well as helping through Acts 435, Alan used his local Churches Together network to get loads of items of furniture for the family.
The Cleckheaton team has been astonished to see the level of need hiding behind doors in their community. It is wonderful to be able to resource this church group who also run community events to which they invite Acts 435 beneficiaries. Church leader, Reverend Ray Borrett, said he is in awe of the dedication of the team and that they have ended up helping key people in the community who spread the word to others.