I’ve done a fair bit of travelling with work over the last couple of months, more so than usual. One of the added benefits of these trips (apart from the obvious ones of having a bedroom and bathroom to myself, and avoiding all domestic responsibilities) is that I have a lot of time to read, whilst travelling or at the hotel. The conference I’ve just got back from in Groningen was particularly good in this respect, as the one hour (ish) flight to Amsterdam was followed by a train journey – clean train, on time, excellent value for money, views of expansive countryside – of over 2 and a half hours.
I demolished one book on the way out – ‘No Ceiling to Hope’ by Patrick Regan, founder and CEO of the charity XLP. It tells the story of how Christians are bringing the hope of change and transformation to people and places which many would dismiss as beyond rescue, from the angry and disenfranchised teenagers of central London, to the homeless of Watford and LA’s Skid Row, the communities of Northern Ireland still segregated by ‘peace walls’, the drug addicts of South Asia, the ganglands of Jamaica’s Trenchtown, and those living in grinding poverty in Bolivia, Ghana, and Bangladesh… and several others. This list makes Patrick sound fairly unbearably do-goody, but he’s not; he doesn’t see the people affected as objects of pity, but very much as fellow human beings who deserve to be given the chances they have missed out on, often simply by being born into a particular family in a particular place and time. He is also refreshingly honest about his own struggles to pace himself properly and balance the demands on his time, and the problems he faces when communicating with non-Christian funding bodies, Christian churches, the media, and politicians from various parties. In some ways this book didn’t tell me anything new, but Patrick’s wide-reaching understanding of – and whole-hearted devotion to – obeying the Biblical command to “spend yourself on behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed” (and the rest of Isaiah 58v1-12) was deeply provoking and moving. It has caused me to move the needs of some of the needy I know further up my list of priorities, consider the impact of my busyness on my productivity… and join the Labour Party, with a view to influencing British politics from the inside.
I started Alexander Solzhenitzyn’s “We Never Make Mistakes” on the way back… but that deserves a post of its own.