Lent journey

This Lent, the Church of Scotland has partnered with Christian Aid Scotland, to bring you forty daily reflections from Christians across Scotland and around the world. Using prayers, reflections, images and video we will tell the stories of ancient saints and everyday pilgrims.

We invite you to visit our timeline every day and discover a new message to inspire you and help you reflect on your own spiritual journey.


27 March


26 March

A Litany for Holy Saturday

Kathy Galloway, Head of Christian Aid Scotland.

Politics and power
Occupation and collusion
Fear and faithlessness
This is his story
His story is our story

The unsought glare of celebrity,
Buried conflicts and open challenge
And the expectations of a hungry crowd
This is his story
His story is our story

The profiteering of the pious,
The exploitation of the poor
And the indifference of the powerful
This is his story
His story is our story

Private devotion and public witness
Preparation for death and anointing for burial
The strange calm before the storm
This is his story
His story is our story

Holy ritual and religious identification
Intimacy and service
Bread and water and love
This is his story
His story is our story

Betrayal and rendition
Kangaroo courts and officially sanctioned torture
Judicial murder
This is his story
His story is our story

The desertion of friends
The silence of the grave
The closing in of the shadows
This is his story
His story is our story


25 March

A cry for justice

Graham Philpott, Church Land Programme, Christian Aid Partner in South Africa. Abridged.

O God of life,
God of love,
God with us, Emmanuel.
Hear our cry.

Our lives are crushed.
Our humanity is being stripped from us
again and again.
We are laid bare.

Emmanuel, hear our cry.

In their rapacious greed and their self-serving drive for control and profit,
those in power have taken our land and all its blessings.
They have appropriated for themselves our rivers of life-giving water,
and polluted our springs.
Our crops have faltered and our livestock lie wasted.

Emmanuel, hear our cry.

They talk of peace and prosperity, democracy and development,
but deal with the sword and fear,
shattering our dreams and lives.

We cry for our children and their world, decimated before our eyes,
for our homes, stripped of dignity,
for our world, our home,
where we live as people who do not count.

Emmanuel, hear our cry.

Our God, we pray that we may have ears to hear
the cry of the one rejected,
the voice of the one silenced,
your whisper in our tumult.

O God, we pray that we may have eyes to see
your reality made manifest amongst the least of these,
the poor exalted, and the hungry filled,
the powerful brought down,
the landless inherit the earth.

O God, we pray that we may have hearts
that love you our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer,
that love your world,
that long for you, and your grace and light in our lives.
Emmanuel, hear our prayer.


24 March

The Kindness of Strangers on the Journey

Richard Frazer, Minister of Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh.

Walking a long distance pilgrimage is not everyone's cup of tea, but it can be transformative. I set off a few years ago to Santiago de Compostela, a place in Spain that has been a pilgrim destination for a thousand years.

I began in France where the route is known as the Chemin de St Jacques. I was so full of anticipation that I set off too quickly and within 3 days I was crippled by the worst blisters I have ever had. I hobbled into a hostel and clambered into my bunk utterly defeated. As I did so, a stranger spotted my feet and immediately said he could help. His name was Jacques.

With great gentleness he ministered to me. It reminded me of the night Jesus bathed his disciples' feet. He dressed my wounds and gave me lots of advice about looking after my feet and pacing myself if I wanted to manage my thousand kilometre journey to Santiago.

It felt odd accepting help from a stranger. I am so used to being self-reliant and hardly ever pace myself; I usually just go for broke.

Only three days in to my pilgrimage, I was already learning lessons that could help me in life. Maybe that is why pilgrimage has been so popular for so long. It isn't so much the healing wells and sacred bones that matter, it is the kindness of strangers along the way who teach us lessons about life. I walked the way of St Jacques, but I didn't expect to meet St Jacques!


23 March

Keeping going on the journey

Temitope Fashola, Christian Aid Program Manager Governance in Nigeria.

"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength". Isaiah 40:29

Nigeria is a rich country of poor people – poverty on a truly massive scale. It may have one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with vast oil wealth, but it’s also made up of some of the worst poverty on the continent.

The wealth of Nigeria is held in the hands of a tiny economic and political elite. Poor governance and corruption flourishes.

The journey to justice can sometimes take a very long time but it can also be very rewarding when we are able to weather the storm and face the challenges along the way.

Justice is the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps moving us forwards. A conviction and strength comes when it seems almost impossible to keep going. It requires faith, takes conviction and is about sustaining belief.

Christian Aid's work in Nigeria involves strengthening citizens and communities to have a voice in their own development. They learn how to hold duty bearers to account, and grow in confidence to take action for themselves.

Having knowledge, belief and conviction for their own deserved development doesn’t make things easier, it only makes them know it is possible no matter how long!


22 March

The journey to a safe home

Paul Valentin, Head of Christian Aid's International Department describes his journey to Nepal five months after the earthquake that occurred on 25 April, 2015.

'We finally reached our destination over a very long and very bad road and the devastation was clearly becoming very visible in the area. People showed us what they had been doing since the earthquake.

Christian Aid partners in Nepal had brought together people with an interest or skills in carpentry and taught them how to construct the basic earthquake-proof structure with wood, nails and metal wire.

Instead of delivering a ready-made little hut and moving on to the next community, we delivered them metal sheeting. People with their newly-learned skills and with the help of neighbours, built their own structures. They used the metal sheets for roofing and all the materials they could rescue from their old homes to make the walls.

I think the critical element in Christian Aid’s approach is that we look at what skills people have, what dignity people still have under the circumstances, and enable them to build their own homes. That, I think, goes to the heart of the Christian Aid approach.

We are not there to deliver something for people but we are there to work with people. We treat people not as victims but as actors.

Very quickly, people planted some flowers and painted the doors. They made it feel like home although people acknowledged that it would take them two to three years before they were ready to rebuild their houses, proper houses.'

As you Count Your Blessings today, you might wish to donate 10p for every year you have lived in your current home or for each time you have moved house, whichever is more.


21 March

Journey with ST TENEU (or Tenew, Tannoch, Thenew, Den-wy, Enoch...)

Lesley Orr. Historian, writer and activist. Duncan Forrester Fellow, Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Edinburgh University.

Hidden beneath St Enoch underground station in Glasgow city centre lies the site of an ancient well and chapel – an important place of pilgrimage and healing for medieval Scotland, for it was revered as 'the last resting place of the holy woman who had watched the infant steps of the great apostle of the Cambrian Britons, St Mungo'(18th c description).

The story of the young woman who gave birth to Glasgow's founder lies obscured beneath layers of cult and tradition, and behind a name which most people assume to be that of a male saint. For 'Enoch' was Teneu (or Thenew), by tradition the 6th century daughter of Loth, pagan warlord ruler of the Goddodin tribe on the southern shores of the river Forth. Legend has it that he was fighting to resist the spread of Celtic Christianity, although his wife had brought Teneu up in the new faith. The girl resisted an arranged marriage and was banished to live with swineherds. One version of the story claims she was tricked and raped by the man to whom she had been promised. But it was Teneu who was punished for her pregnancy. Loth commanded that she should be set adrift in a small coracle. With courage and divine support, she drifted thirty miles upriver to Culross, where she gave birth. Teneu and her son were given sanctuary and shared in the life of Abbot Serf's Christian community.

Like countless women down the centuries and across the world, Teneu suffered men's injustice and abuse, but was resilient and eventually found a safe home. At their best, our communities can be places of welcome and safety. Like Teneu's well, they can be healing places, where there is freedom to lament, learn justice, grow in grace and love, so that all may flourish.


20 March


19 March

Journey to recovery

Jim MacDonald

"I was part of that period where if you didn't get a trade you were basically on the scrapheap and the dole. My friends and I lived for the weekend and got into a regular lifestyle of drinking and drugging. It's quite sad, because that was my reason for living.

The next 8 years were horrible. I would try to stop using drugs; I would go to church for a while, but they didn't really understand - despite trying their best and being lovely people. Satan and the drug addiction had such a grip on me that I couldn't let go. I'd be reading the word of God and I'd be crying 'please God, get me out of this.' And then I'd be hustling for a few pounds to get more drugs the next day.

Spiritually, emotionally, financially I had nothing. But God works in mysterious ways and He answered my prayer: my sister knew about places that could help me and I got into a drug and alcohol treatment centre.

From treatment, I moved to CrossReach's Rankeillor Initiative. I was scared of being on my own, but I got support from CrossReach and I gained in confidence. Now I'm proud to work for CrossReach! I've come a long way.

If it wasn't for CrossReach I don't think my story would have continued. If I'd come out of the treatment centre on my own I have no doubt I would've gone back to using and become another statistic. CrossReach helped me build a good foundation. My recovery has been a journey and CrossReach is integral to it. Now I'm able to give something back by working at Cunningham House. CrossReach is all about hope - it certainly gave me that."

CrossReach is the Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland and operates over 70 care and support services.


18 March

Journeying Side-by-Side

Fiona Buchanan, Youth Development Officer, Christian Aid and Speak Out Coordinator, Church and Society

I recently travelled to Brazil to take part in Side by Side - a growing global movement of people of faith who want to see gender justice become a reality across the world.

Our journey together took place in one of the most unequal regions of the world, where many of those living in poverty are women from indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.

During their lives they face forced internal displacement; suffer the effects of militarization; carry the burden of domestic work, and earn lower wages for the same work as other groups. This is often aggravated by being silenced.

We must break this silence and speak out - and remember the responsibility of people of faith, and especially religious leaders, to revisit our sacred texts and promote values and ways of living that uphold justice and equality for all.

Gender should be seen as a gift rather than danger, a source of life and hope rather than oppression or fear. Where this journey of transformation is different is in Side by Side's commitment to engage men and boys in working for gender justice.

In the gospels we hear of Jesus transgressing accepted gender norms and relating to women in ways considered unconventional at the time.

As we move towards the end of Lent, take some time to read the incredible stories of women recuperating in a safe house in Brazil, part of Christian Aid's Easter campaign.


17 March


Christian Aid Scotland

'…and afterwards he was famished.' Matthew 4:2

It was after 40 days and nights in the wilderness that Jesus was tempted to turn stone into bread. Afterwards - when he was truly famished. On this penultimate week of Lent, Christian Aid's Count Your Blessings journey.

Towards the end of our Lent journey, when it may be more difficult to stick to our lenten discipline, our attention is directed to consider those who are truly famished. In Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi there are millions who are facing long term hunger and food shortages.

This regional food crisis is caused by El Niño weather conditions, which are closely linked to droughts and prolonged dry spells. The current El Niño is on course to be the strongest and longest for 35 years.

Its devastating effects have already hindered crop production and caused food shortages across the southern and east Africa region. The knock-on effects mean the food crisis will continue well into 2017.

Let us pray for and respond to those who are truly famished:

Lord, to those who are hungry give bread,
And to those who have bread, give a hunger for justice.

Latin American prayer.

Find out more about the El Niño Food crisis on the Christian Aid website.


16 March

Heart for Art

Lent is a time when people choose to give something up. But for Peter this choice was taken away. Alzheimer's had imposed another kind of Lent.

He had worked as a draughtsman since he was 19 years old. Drawing was a talent he had always enjoyed sharing.

A few years ago Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and he was devastated by this news. On his final visit to the psychiatrist, Peter was given an assessment test, during which he was asked to draw a hexagon.

Finding out he could no longer draw this previously familiar shape was a crushing blow. He had lost his drawing skills and in the days and months that followed, the feelings of failure consumed him.

In 2013 Peter joined a CrossReach Heart For Art group. To his surprise, he discovered his creativity was still very much alive and that he most definitely was not a failure. As he developed his flair for art and made new friends his confidence began to grow, reducing his stress levels.

The pleasure he experienced from his painting achievements was visible and contagious. Staff, volunteers and group members were enthused by both the man and his work.

To date, Peter is still unable to draw a hexagon but he does not worry about that anymore. And why should he when he is creating inspiring and beautiful artwork!

CrossReach is the Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland and operates over 70 care and support services.


15 March

A prayer for Syria

Wendy Young, Christian Aid Scotland

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Syria.

A prayer based on Psalm 126.

Living Lord,
Restore the fortunes of Syria, we pray,
Let squeals of laughter be heard again
on the streets of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.
Let the tears of grief, terror and despair,
be met with comfort, peace and hope.
Let those who dream of returning
come home with shouts of joy.
Lord, do great things for the people of Syria, we pray,
in the name of the Prince of Peace,



14 March

"It will get better."

Clare Le Fevre

St. Cuthbert is known for his ministry of healing. Today on our lent journey we read of the journey to healing by one young mother. Her experience of perinatal mental health problems (which can be experienced as anxiety or depression during pregnancy or after birth) was having an adverse impact on her whole family.

"The shock that this wasn't the normal kind of birth that I was used to with my other two children set me off a little bit. I felt a sense of numbness and sense of loss. I could feel myself being weepy and thinking that I'd destroyed my family's life. So you're in this awful situation where you think life's over and you think you won't be able to cope and you can't deal with reality."

"I called CrossReach and, in one of my darkest days, they made me feel human again just by talking to me on the phone. The thought I held on to through that period was that it will get better. Eventually I finally felt I could believe it and that there was life after. Somehow it's made me think differently. It's made me listen to myself and my body and those around me and has made me approach things differently."

CrossReach is the Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland and operates over 70 care and support services.


13 March


12 March

Journeying to the end of Fairtrade Fortnight

Carol Finlay - Twinning & Local Development Secretary of World Mission Council

Isaiah 1:17 : Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

I would class myself as a bit of a traveller. And I like to go to places where I can engage with local people and local culture. I am not that comfortable in a fancy hotel and in fact I have never spent a holiday in a holiday resort. Even visiting relatives in far flung Australia, I much preferred chaotic Darwin to the more sterile Perth.

But my favourite places to visit are India and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. I usually come home with tea and coffee, craft work and other locally produced goods. I love it when you can meet the person who grew or made the product.
How much better the pepper from Sultan Battery, a small town in India, tastes when I remember the women who walked with us through the trees to see their crop. Or the pride in Violet's voice as we walked through her small coffee plantation in the hills of northern Malawi to see the community well which was sunk with funds from the smallholders' Fairtrade premium.

Violet and others give a human face to Fairtrade Fortnight and help us to remember why we should put a few products with the Fairtrade mark in our shopping bags each week. You do not have to be a traveller like me to meet the producers or buy and enjoy their products. Meet them here at Fairtrade or Traidcraft


11 March

Journeying together

Pansi Katenga - Christian Aid Country Manager for Malawi

Our communities form a chain of beads. If one drops off, the necklace comes apart!

When Christian Aid started implementing projects on maternal and child health in Malawi, the journey was a long one. One of the biggest barriers to good health is the social and cultural norms that contribute to the problem.

We prioritised raising awareness among communities of how to stop early child marriages. We targeted everyone, including traditional leaders, who then created by-laws in their villages to stop this.

The journey is getting closer to completion and Karonga girls are slowly realising their potential goals through the commitment of traditional leaders. They are saying NO to early child marriages and working with communities to report any such cases.

It was therefore good to hear about a 12 year old girl who has gone back to school after her 78 year old husband was arrested for defilement. Communities, medical personnel, Ministry of Justice staff and chiefs are working together to support this change of direction.

Last week, I walked 1.6 km with our Senior Paramount Chief, Kyungu of Karonga, and the Minister of Health, Hon Peter Kumpalume, and others to support the commitment that has been made to ensure these helpless young girls can access justice.

But while our journey is long, we believe we are journeying towards the justice found at Easter.


10 March

Journeying in Solidarity

Valerie Allen - Convener, Church of Scotland Violence Against Women Task Group

Black. It's not really my colour. It seems so sombre, so associated with death and grief. I prefer brighter colours, ones that speak of life - red, green, orange, yellow, blue. Colours that remind me of the abundant life Jesus spoke about. So why is it that on Thursdays I, and women and men throughout the world, tend towards black?

The answer is simple. By wearing black we are supporting a worldwide movement called 'Thursdays in Black'. By wearing black we are journeying in solidarity with women who have experienced violence, horrific, unspeakable violence. By wearing black we are joining our voices in protest against the violence that continues to scar the lives of millions of women around the globe

'Thursdays in Black' was started by the World Council of Churches in the 1980's as a form of peaceful protest against rape and violence. By the simple action of wearing black on Thursdays, all of us can show our desire for a world in which women can journey through life safely, without fear of violence or abuse, threat or coercion.

Black is a colour associated with death and grief. Sadly, all too often this is what women experience. This Lent, perhaps you could wear black on Thursdays. Perhaps you could pray for the end of violence against women, for gender justice, and for the day when everyone - women, men and children - can wear bright colours in celebration of life!


9 March


8 March

Journeying the challenges

Christian Aid

On 8 March, International Women's Day, we both celebrate women's achievements and highlight the many challenges they still face.

Elineide is the faithful heart of the Casa Noeli dos Santos safe house in Brazil. Having seen her own sister suffer - her violent husband stabbed her seven times when she tried to leave him - Elineide felt called to create a refuge for women fleeing domestic violence.

She helps the women report crimes to the police - because the police station can be a frightening place, and the officers don't always want to help.

She makes legal referrals and finds schools for children who have fled with their mothers. When the women leave the refuge, she travels with them to help them feel safe.

Inevitably, Elineide is drawn into their lives. When she thinks about the things the women have gone through, sometimes the horror of it all threatens to overwhelm her.

But, she says, "I don't do this for money. I don't do this for recognition. I do this to see women rebuild their lives."

You can send a message of support to Elineide this International Women's Day.


7 March

Journey to education for all

Catriona Muckart - Clerk of the National Youth Assembly

Both International Women's Day and Mother's Day are celebrated this week. My mum has been a huge influence throughout my life, and was one of the first people to introduce me to issues of Gender Justice and Women's Rights. Another aspect of my life that has been influenced by my mum is education and it was her background in sociology that fuelled my own interest and subsequent choice of degree.

Both she and my dad were incredibly supportive of me going to university, and encouraged learning as a valuable activity in and of itself. Having been fortunate enough to live in a country that funds my tuition fees and with the support of my family, I was able to make the most of my time at university and the opportunities that came with it.

However as I hurtle, head-first and arms flailing towards the culmination of my degree, I realise that my situation could have been very different. Born in another country I could have been blessed with the same love of books but with no means to reach my potential, for reasons ranging from familial obligations to gender-based violence.

All over the world, girls from a multitude of backgrounds are denied the chance to learn. We, the global community, need to stop silencing the voices of half our population and work towards ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access an education.


6 March


5 March

May God bless you with discomfort

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you will live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
so that you will work for justice, equality and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war,
so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and
change their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with the foolishness
to think that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you will do the things that others tell you cannot be done.

A Franciscan blessing in Christian Aid Collective. Do Not Tiptoe: Issue 1.


4 March

Political journeys

Saint Columba was known for his political engagement in Scotland as part of his missionary work. Journeying as everyday saints, we can reflect today on how to do our political engagement well. The following resources may help us approach the forthcoming elections from a national and international perspective.

'As Christians we are called to play our part in building God's kingdom. One way we can offer our support is to encourage open and respectful debate on the decision that voters will be facing in May. ' Chloe Clemmons, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Officer.

Explore: Faith and the Scottish Elections 2016 is a briefing from the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office covering a range of local issues. It will be particularly helpful to those considering hosting election hustings.

'Christian Aid insists that poverty is political. Addressing issues such as climate change, corporate tax avoidance, gender inequality, conflict, migration, foreign policy, trade policy and many more is crucial in tackling the root causes of poverty.' Chris Hegarty, Christian Aid Senior Advisor, Policy and Advocacy.

The Christian Aid Scotland Manifesto Policy Recommendations and the Hustings and Candidate cafes happening across Scotland help us to bring a range of international issues to the election discussions.

A prayer of St Columba for the political journey ahead; 'Be, Lord Jesus,

a bright flame before me, a guiding star above me, a smooth path below me, a kindly shepherd behind me: today, tonight, and forever.' Amen


3 March

Journeying to justice in Zambia

Rev Suzanne Matale, Head of Council of Churches Zambia, a Christian Aid partner

I don't believe it's correct for me to preach the word on Sundays and tell the people that God is good if they didn't have a meal in the last few days. I have no message for the people if they are hungry and poor. As such, believers have no choice but to hold their governments to account, and get involved in politics.

In 2013, Zambia was the world's eighth-largest copper producer, but Zambians saw little benefit. The people living a stone's-throw away from the mines are desperately poor. Sixty-four per cent of Zambians live below the poverty line.

Often, the mining companies do not break any laws, but use loopholes in the tax code to siphon money out of Zambia almost tax-free. The Zambian authorities estimate that they lose $1 billion a year from tax-avoidance.

It is not just tax avoidance. Mining companies in Zambia are also guilty of allowing pollution into the soil and rivers, as well as forcibly relocating villages away from their ancestral lands.

The Council of Churches in Zambia has been travelling the country, educating local elders about tax avoidance and how it contributes to poverty.

These efforts are now bearing fruit, although the Government did not appreciate our activism. When we ask them why are the people poor in the midst of all this rich mineral wealth, they say 'Go back to the pulpit, you are interfering in our politics'. But I cannot preach the word without also taking action.


2 March

A campaigners journey

Sheila Merchant, from St. Leonards Church, Ayr, describes her long journey with Christian Aid. Including the journey to fair trade.


1 March

Journey to Fair Trade

Val Brown, Church and Community Action Manager, Christian Aid

Iona is world renowned, not only for being the cradle of Christianity in Scotland, but for being a place of pilgrimage, reflection and sanctuary. Scotland owes much to the legacy of St Columba who journeyed to Iona from Ireland in 563AD and spread the message of the gospel on these shores. That gospel message has at its heart a bias to the poor and a call for Christians to strive for a world where all are included, valued and allowed to thrive.

Christian Aid was one of the founding members of the Fairtrade movement, calling for small-scale farmers to be protected from devastating fluctuations in market prices by guaranteeing them a minimum price for their product. Now, Fairtrade is a well-recognised symbol thanks to the hard work of individuals, churches and businesses that have demanded that trade can and should be done another way.

Christian Aid partner Soppexcca is a Fairtrade collective of small coffee-farming cooperatives in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

In the communities where Soppexcca work, cooperative members have invested in schools, health centres and pharmacies.

Our funding has helped Soppexcca to grow from a small organisation working with 68 coffee producers, to more than 650 today. We have helped them to secure funding to build a processing factory including a coffee roaster and packaging machine.

We have also helped farmers to improve their coffee quality so they can reach more customers and get a better price for their beans.

Let's carry on our journey to Fair Trade as we celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight.


29 February

Names Not Numbers

Martin Johnston, Secretary of the Church and Society Council

Today (29th February 2016) sees the launch of Names Not Numbers, the latest report of Scotland's Poverty Truth Commission. Too often those who struggle against poverty are reduced to little more than statistics, dissected and analysed by those with power. In the Poverty Truth Commission, we are all flesh and blood.

My personal involvement with the Poverty Truth Commission, stretching back over almost 8 years, has been one of the most transformative and liberating experiences of my lifetime.

I have had the incredible privilege of walking with some truly remarkable people: strong women such as Donna, Carol, Jean, Tricia, Jackie, Ghazala and Maureen; tender men such as Blair, John, William, Jim and Darren. People, I am privileged to call my friends.

When people have names, our shared past, present and future can no longer be ignored. We are no longer numbers, someone else's problems. We are people. (I might also want to say that we are made in the image of God and we are beautiful.) We laugh and cry together.

We laugh.

We cry.

We recognise that we gain so much more from being alongside, or to put it more simply, from being friends.

What has this journey, for me a journey of faith, taught me? It has taught me that our passion to change the world is fundamentally shaped by the people that we choose to hang out with. And that we all have names. None of us are mere numbers.


28 February


27 February

Pray for the walkers and mountain guides who will hike up Ben Lomond today as part of Another Way

Kathy Galloway, Head of Christian Aid Scotland

O Christ, who entered into the lonely desert,
and who, facing hunger, danger and temptation
did not turn aside
but affirmed the way of self-giving love;
strengthen us to resist the false attraction of easy answers,
magic fixes,
abuses of power,
and the delusion that there is any way apart from justice
in which God's justice can be done.


26 February

Treasure in Unexpected Places

Helen Pope, Hamilton Presbytery New Connections Project

In the late 1970s, our family moved to Ferguslie Park in Paisley and joined the Church of Scotland congregation of St. Ninians. It was a decision that would shape our lives.

Ferguslie Park then, as now, was the poorest community in Scotland. Undeniably it had it's problems: huge dark tenements were awaiting demolition; the nearby Linwood car factory was about to close its doors. Across Scotland and beyond, Ferguslie Park was known for all the wrong reasons. However, we learned that in the congregation of St Ninians and in the wider community of Ferguslie Park, there was treasure to be found.

Over the last 35 years we have come across this same treasure in other unlikely places. It is found in the everyday, ordinary saints, who quietly use their gifts in often unseen and unassuming ways. Men and women freely give of their time, knitting for new babies, running local football teams, volunteering at community cafes and looking out for neighbours during rough times.

Although in the past there was a tendency to focus on the problems and needs of these communities, in more recent times there has been recognition of their treasure. Ann Morisy, in her book, Journeying Out, calls the church to join together with the wider community in "acts of venturesome love", in which the gifts of all are valued and utilised.

Across the world, "Asset-based Community Development" now embraces the same approach. But for me this journey began in the community of Ferguslie Park and in the little congregation there, named after St. Ninian.


25 February

The price of education

All over the world, poverty is the greatest barrier to education. In many developing countries, primary school is free but the cost of uniforms and books mean poor families cannot afford to send their children.

This short film from the Poverty Truth Commission show how school uniform can be just as much of a barrier in Scotland.


24 February

Journeying with Mary Slessor

Last year, people in both Scotland and Nigeria celebrated the remarkable achievements of Scots missionary Mary Slessor on the 100th anniversary of her death.

A working-class Dundee millworker, she died in 1915 aged 67 after spending 38 years working in Calabar, an area where no European had previously been. Despite illness and constant danger, Mary lived with the tribes, learned their language and traditions and earning their respect. She was instrumental in putting an end to the practice of the killing of twins, who were at that time believed to be cursed. She also worked tirelessly for women's education and human rights and developed trade links between tribes in order to combat the slave trade.

In Nigeria and the UK, there are many reminders of Mary Slessor: statues of her holding twins; roads, streets and hospitals named after her.

Mary suffered several bouts of malaria, and still today in Nigeria 97% of its 167 million people live in malaria-prone areas. Malaria is the number one public health problem in the country, with an estimated 100 million cases annually and over 250,000 deaths each year among children under five.

This week on Christian Aid's Count Your Blessings Lent Journey we are considering those whose education is limited by poverty and illness. Join us as we pray for all those affected by malaria.


23 February

Journeying with hope

Dr Rowan Williams, Chair of Christian Aid, describes the hope he found on his trip to South Sudan.


22 February

Unexpected journeys

Jo Love, the Wild Goose Resource Group and a member of the Resourcing Worship subgroup of the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland.

Some love affairs seem to begin from nowhere. Why do deserts fascinate me? Aren't they fierce and harsh? Why then the lure? The questions and the longings lived in me for decades before I tasted Sinai. It was a homecoming!

The beauty, the silence, the safety, the sheer joy, the hospitality of the Bedouin in their blue and gold, hot and dry, walking pace world. My silence-loving companions were significant too, not least Sara Maitland who led us.

In August 2014 I journeyed with Sara once again, making our way on foot from Glenluce Abbey to St Ninian's Cave, the hideaway the saint retreated to when needed or desired, so tradition says. For us, two glorious days of walking and talking provided soul food of another kind. Our pilgrimage ended among the bustle and noise of the annual celebratory mass on the shore, where the built stage and PA system jarred with the music of the sea and natural surroundings, and made for something of an anti-climax to our adventure.

I was set for returning to Sinai this April, with the daunting but delightful challenge of leading a retreat. The trip is now postponed due to the ongoing flight cancellations on grounds of security fears.

Journeys often don't go according to Plan A. Expected harshness became unexpected happiness. Anticipated calm became actual commotion. Hoped-for return has become halted reunion. I sensed home in a strange and far off land but Ninian's haven was right in his neighbourhood. Perhaps I'll find myself back by that seaside cave in April. As Marcus Borg said, "Whatever helps open our hearts to the reality of the sacred, we should do it." Whatever increases our love, whatever reduces our fear. However the journey unfolds.


21 February


20 February

Journey for Justice

Dan Gunn, Church of Scotland Church and Society council.

There is much 'journeying' in the Bible, literally and metaphorically. In the Old and New Testaments we have numerous travellers. Above all we have Jesus and his journeys.

One of his parables involved 'journeying'. We know it as 'The Good Samaritan'. In today's terminology, a victim of a violent crime is left abandoned at the roadside. Two important people of means pass by on the other side. It is a foreigner who stops and helps. This parable was told in answer to the question 'Who is our neighbour?'

We are called to answer that question daily. The Samaritan concentrated on meeting need not checking the ethnicity of the victim. Today given the massive scale of human migration we reflect on these journeys within the umbrella of justice.

The popular response is largely one of fear which is deep seated and multi-faceted and therefore hard to address. Locally, nationally and internationally Christians are sending out a message of hope, support and above all inclusion. We journey for justice together.

My life's work was spent in prison - the epitome of exclusion. Society sees help for the offender as lack of help for the victim. The community often views its own offenders with fear. Our neighbour is both. Justice is an elusive term. We rail against 'injustice'. We actively promote social justice, community justice, youth justice, criminal justice. Justice is a journey we are all on, individually and collectively. Our starting point is to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

Dan Gunn retired from the Scottish Prison Service in 2014 after 38 years 'inside' and is on the Church of Scotland Church and Society council, the Joint Faiths Board on Community Justice and Chair of Stirling Interfaith Community Justice Group.


19 February

Journeying to hope

Amy Merone, Christian Aid's Communications Officer for the Middle East.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life!" Proverbs 13:12

It's been more than two years now since I sat in the office of our partner's education centre in Lebanon and met 13-year-old Elaf and her aunt; refugees from Syria.

My most vivid memory from that day was watching Elaf - tearful - pick apart the tissue she held in her hands as her aunt recalled the desperation of a war that had led to their flight from Syria to a sanctuary of sorts in Lebanon.

I came to London and joined the communications team at Christian Aid three years ago, at the time of the second anniversary of the Syrian conflict. Since then my own life has grown and flourished. I've been able to build a life in London, develop and nurture new friendships and a relationship, study, travel, and hope.

But what of Elaf and the other 4.5 million Syrian refugees, or the 13.5 million people displaced within a country torn apart by war? What of their lives, and their opportunities to grow and flourish?

Thinking about the refugees, I was reminded of the proverb above. Our lives are centred on hope. Hopes we have for our loved ones and our relationships, our dreams and aspirations, our health and happiness, and for our communities. When those hopes and desires are fulfilled, our lives flourish and we flourish, too.


18 February

Long and difficult journeys

Frances Guy, Head of Middle East at Christian Aid. Formerly Head of UN Women in Iraq, and British Ambassador to Lebanon.

I was reminded this week of long and difficult journeys when I was listening to the Syrian delegates to the conference on Supporting Syria and the Region: London 2016. Some of the Syrian agencies had come from Aleppo, via Idlib and long complicated routes through conflict areas and across borders before arriving in the relative luxury of the Royal Society buildings in central London.

They had started their journeys in pain and suffering, watching comrades die. They heard about more pain during their journey as the conflict around Aleppo intensified this week. But they persisted because they believed it was important to get their voices heard.

When they arrived in front of the delegates to the conference in London, it was hard for them to hide their disappointment and their anger. The distance between their places of departure and arrival was too great, even if the subject was ostensibly the same. These other people talking about Syria seemed not to understand what today's Syria is really about.

We can understand their frustration. Was it worth leaving behind the opportunity to help save lives to bring that story to others who talk about saving lives but do little to make it happen? I can only answer yes. The passionate pleas from Syrians who had just travelled from Syria were the highlight of the conference. They were the personal reminder of collective agony. Without their journey those words would not have carried the same weight.


17 February

Journeying with Gergish

Gergish's reflection has been provided by Saint Andrew's Refugee Services, StARS Cairo.

My name is Gergish, I am Eritrean and I belong to the Christian Pentecostal church. We are not accepted by the government and are hated by the community. My father and mother threw me out when they found out that I am member of the church.

I depend on God and trust in Him. My faith helped me through this difficult time: I finished my education and got married in 2004. My parents threatened to kill my husband and the government sent us letters asking us to stop our jobs. So we decided to leave Eritrea in 2009 and went to Sudan. We spent seven years in Shagarab Refugee Camp where life was very difficult. But I have a strong relationship with God which gives me hope. I worked there as a social worker and with a small garden we survived and collected money to pay a smuggler to get us to Egypt.

In October 2015 my husband, five children and I arrived in Egypt. Here in Cairo I was connected with St. Andrew's Refugee Services. I am now working again as Psychosocial Worker for unaccompanied refugee children with StARS.

Throughout my journey I often worry and wonder when it will get better, but I am not afraid. We are facing a lot of challenges in Egypt. It's not safe here, but other people are having tougher times than me. I am living in the present and God knows my path for tomorrow. I am praying for the situation to change. Good things come from heaven and this journey is not over yet.


16 February

Welcoming refugees

Theodore Davidovic describes how he was welcomed to Scotland and the beginnings of Christian Aid.


15 February

Journeying with refugees

David Bradwell, Refugee Co-ordinator for Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees

We don't know much about St Andrew. But then we don't know much about the millions of people currently fleeing war and oppression and poverty. We see their faces on the news and we weep with them.

Andrew was a fisherman. He would have known his way around a boat. He'd have had to cope with stormy weather and treacherous water. More than 22,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since the year 2000. But there are search and rescue missions and some folk welcome people as they arrive on the beaches. There are those who bury the dead with dignity. We can offer them our solidarity and support.

Andrew had a brother, Simon Peter. And we know that they were close. The brothers are mentioned in the Gospels as the earliest followers of Jesus – and that he would make them fishers of men. For many refugees, families are separated in the chaos of fleeing and during the difficult journey to a place of sanctuary.

Family reunion is often like finding a needle in a haystack – there are now more than 4.5 million Syrian refugees registered by the United Nations. But there are organisations like the Red Cross which reunite family members. We can celebrate with them the joy bringing loved ones back together.

Andrew's relics were brought to Scotland (according to the legend). As asylum seekers and refugees come to Scotland, what will we do to make them welcome?


14 February


13 February

Journeying with everyday saints

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer at the Church of Scotland

Sixty is a turning point in anybody's life. And if life itself is our biggest journey, then it may be a good time to pause, to reflect on what has gone before and consider what is yet to pass. Robert Burns found the prospect unappealing...

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I cannot see,
I guess an' fear!

On the other hand, turning sixty can be a time for a celebration with friends or family; a meal or a party or an even more radical endeavour. I have seized the opportunity to turn the metaphorical journey of turning sixty into a pilgrimage.

Scotland's ancient history of pilgrimage is now being rediscovered but in Spain the tradition never went away. Along the Camino de Santiago, ancient saints are commemorated in shrines or churches, culminating in the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Those who have walked the route talk of finding Christ in other walkers, of meeting everyday saints on the way.

The reasons why anybody would be attracted to an arduous pilgrimage of nearly 800 kilometres are complex and, as with so many impulses of the spirit, not always easy to put into words. But the reasons are real and powerful enough to lead many of us - including me - to pilgrimage. So wish me luck!

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer at the Church of Scotland . He is planning to walk the Camino de Santiago after Easter 2016.


February 12

Donald Smith, Scottish Storytelling Centre

St Margaret was the first Scottish Saint whose way I tried to follow. I had read that Margaret was an Angliciser and reformer, set against the Celtic culture, but I found that her journeys touch many of the ancient holy places.

It is remarkable that a woman of those times, like Margaret, who was garbed with royal wealth and status, should love so wholeheartedly the way of the Gospels: the words and the life, with even the book a precious possession.

Margaret desired solitude and contemplation with a simplicity of heart and purity of will. Her devotion was to charity, both internal and external. She took action on education, social care, refugees and prisoners.

I think of other women in other times. Of women like my Great-Aunt Bertha, born with physical disability, yet radiant with kindness and goodwill. She is with the Saints and Angels, now. But, walking with Margaret brings her back to me from childhood.

I realise that I am not alone on this path. There are saints behind, ahead and beside. It is only a year since the unexpected death of Andy, friend and companion on the pilgrim journey. Now barriers dissolve, and we can walk on towards Easter, in hope.

Donald Smith is a storyteller in many media, founder of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and author of 'A Pilgrim Guide to Scotland' (2015).


February 11

Journeying With Christian Aid

Kathy Galloway, Head of Christian Aid Scotland

To be in the wilderness has never been an easy experience. For the people of Israel after their exodus from slavery in Egypt, it was a time of being lost with no signposts or maps, homeless with only a dream to keep them going. It meant vulnerability to all the dangers of the wilderness, exposure to the elements, with nowhere to shelter. It meant having no resources, with only God to turn to.

This desert experience, of course, has not gone from the world. It is sometimes also our experience when all our maps are torn up. It is the experience of millions of displaced peoples, of refugees and asylum seekers, of stateless people and those dispossessed by climate disasters or political oppression and devastating conflict. It is the calling of Christian Aid to accompany these wilderness journeys; to hold out the possibility of another way: the way of justice, the way of faith, hope and love.

Perhaps at first, when the angels came and waited on him, Jesus, like us, wasn't sure that they were indeed angels, and not more demons! Yet he had to go forward, out of the desert to the sea, to call those everyday saints, the fishermen of Galilee, his first and last companions, and to take the long road to Jerusalem. He had to go forward in trust, with all his doubts and fears, on a journey whose outcome was still uncertain.

Just like us. And that's the whole point, really.


February 10