Liz, CAP Exeter
I had the pleasure last March of visiting the city of my birth - Exeter in Devon - and staying with the wonderful Liz Camp who has been an Acts 435 advocate since 2013.
I had gone down to share at a Christians Against Poverty leadership forum which CAP runs in partnership with the Cinnamon Network. We have been hugely blessed through our connections with CAP and it is entirely down to them, that we had churches down in the South-West as early as 2013 appointing Acts 435 advocates. Going forwards, we are looking forward to working more closely with the Cinnamon Network and are excited to see how we grow through that partnership.
Liz is a CAP Centre Manager, something she did as a volunteer for three years but is now paid for two days a week. Before working for CAP she worked for Social Services and before that as an enabler with disabled people - helping them with money management. As such she was clearly well qualified for her current role, based at Exeter Network Church.
The sort of needs she sees revolve around debt and benefit delays. Debt can often arise due to a redundancy, an illness or even fraud. Through Acts 435 she has helped more than 150 people. A good proportion of those have been to get a debt relief order or help with bankruptcy fees (see here for information about these orders) and only recently there was a wonderful testimony from a donor who gave to one of her requests.
"It's just such a privilege to help clear a debt in this way. We've had experience of the generosity of others and spent much time and money helping close family with business problems (as a result of the credit crunch and similar macro-issues) so we know quite a lot of the pressure of big debt over time."
When I asked Liz which Acts 435 beneficiaries particularly came to her mind when she thought her ministry, her first answer was 'a new tooth'! She told me about a lady who was so embarrassed that she was talking to Liz through her hands because she couldn't afford to fix her tooth. She had retired and her husband had a bad back so he couldn't work. When the lady now recalls this, she puts it like this:
"suddenly you did something on a computer and within a week I had a new tooth!"
I love that. Yes, Acts 435 really is that simple. This couple had made a suicide pact and had the bailiffs at the house, threatening to take their bed. When they explained about the husband's bad back, the bailiffs said they would leave the mattress on the floor. They were at an all-time low with arrears of over £1,000 in council tax but amazingly the Christians Against Poverty team discovered there was an underpayment of housing benefit and that this was enough to offset the council tax debt which was causing them such distress. Since they met Liz the couple have been on an Alpha course and now got totally stuck-into church. They have also seen a restoration of relationships within their wider family, more than they could possibly have hoped for. Just wonderful!
Liz helped me see the many different reasons that lead people to get into debt. Lots of people have abusive partners who run up debts in their own name, then leave them to sort out the mess. One lady came in with paperwork for 10 different phone contracts taken out by her abusive husband! She also shared about someone who was suffering with bi-polar disorder and went on a spending spree over Christmas.
For me these stories are an important reminder not to judge people as we often do not know the true story behind why someone would get into debt. We at Acts 435 are proud to be part of the provision for those struggling with debt and bills, but who are trying to get back on their feet and start afresh. When you are in that process, on an incredibly tight budget, Acts 435 can be an absolute life-saver to provide a specific item so desperately needed, whether that be a cooker, clothes or even a new tooth!
Liz says of her work:
"It's great to see lives transformed, give a leg up to someone, bring relief and comfort."
Amen to that.