Christian Philanthropy & Barbara, 93
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In the meantime here's Abi Flavell sharing how a chance conversation with a local resident changed her perception of how workplace culture can become a multi-generational blessing to towns and cities.
Have you ever wondered what difference you will make with the time you have here on the Earth?
A chance encounter with a stranger, recently showed me the deep and lasting value of Christian philanthropy and the way we can all extend the Kingdom of God around us, in everyday ways.
Barbara caught my eye, in Asda cafe, a few weeks ago.
A friend and I had been sat asking Jesus who we should talk to while we were there, and I was drawn to a lovely older women whose white hair and radiant complexion stood out. She was alone and so I felt drawn to sit with her. As we talked she quickly opened up and told me her life story (that’s common where I live in Hull!).
To my surprise Barbara told me she was 93 years old. In fact, she looked more like she was in her late 70s. She also proudly told me she still had all her own teeth. When I asked her what her secret was, she gave a beautiful answer.
Barbara had worked in the same factory from being 16 years old until she retired. The factory is still here in the local area and is well known in the city. The company that owns the factory was founded by a wealthy Christian businessman named James Reckitt, over a hundred years ago. Reckitt was much like William Cadbury who started his business and aimed to improve the lives of his workers by building them homes that still stand today.
Similar to the Cadbury’s Village, Hull has its own ‘village’ within the busy city. My husband and I live in one of the ‘Garden Village’ homes and started our church plant there 7 years ago. The reason our village is called the ‘Garden Village’ is because James Reckitt insisted a garden was good for the soul and every employee was to have their own garden.
I had already known of James Reckitt’s contribution to our area and his desire to improve the lives of the workers he employed. What I hadn’t known until I met Barbara, was just how much difference one wealthy Christian philanthropist could make.
When Barbara started working for the company at 16 she was signed up to a pension scheme, enrolled with a Dentist that she was sent to see every 6 months without fail and assigned a local doctor (perhaps the one that used to live in the house that we now own, over 100 years later).
The company, founded on Kingdom principles, really cared for their employees. Barbara has been drawing her pension now longer than she worked for the company – 38 years! She joined the gym at 40 and has stayed strong and healthy throughout her life. Although now widowed, she enjoys the fellowship of a local church.
Barbara has known her great grandchildren and has enjoyed much healthy independance. She was off to catch the bus home when she had finished at the cafe! Still agile and very able, her life looked from the outside to have been an ideal one. As she reflected on her life with fondness and gratitude, it felt like I was seeing the fruit of one man’s deep generosity – an incredible example of entrepreneurial legacy.
Yet of course, Barbara’s good quality of life was never down to one man, she had benefitted from a whole company of people creating a culture deeply believing that every employee was valuable. We may not be the one that has the money to start a company but we can be the ones that come alongside the Barabara’s and enrich their lives for the long term, just by being good friends, family, or colleagues.
The churches, businesses and projects we start or invest our time in, really can go on to benefit generations long past our time on the earth. When we partner with the spirit of God in our town, city or village we partner with the Ageless One. The One that knows the Barbara’s that will flourish in the future, unseen to us but precious to Him.
May Barbara’s life inspire all you are sowing into your church, business, workplace, project, charity or other Kingdom venture.
May you be encouraged that the seeds you plant will grow fruit to be enjoyed by generations to come. Let us keep changing our nations for the better. May God’s will be done on Earth.
Written by Abi Flavell (River City, Hull) for the Catalyst blog, and shared with permission.