Lent is a time of preparation. Recently, I have been thinking about how having the freedom and conditions to prepare is a premium. For those of us who have it, or have it often enough, it is something that we might sometimes forget to be thankful for.
Last night I polished my daughter's shoes so that they would be ready for her return to school this week. My wife prepared her uniform and her book bag. When she went off to school on Monday, there was no rushing around or scrambling for misplaced things. We were all able to eat breakfast together before cramming into the bathroom to do teeth, face and hair, and then my daughter was off out of the door with her brothers and mum.
Last week I started to prepare a room in one of our Boaz houses for a new refugee client to move into. I put new bedding on the bed and got rid of an old broken chest of drawers. The room was decorated for her arrival, making the space as homely and fresh as possible. The client, who had previously been staying in hostel accommodation, was finally able to move into this Boaz house at the weekend.
Thinking about Lent and this ability to prepare, I was once again struck that those who have had to flee their home countries and claim asylum in an unfamiliar, unknown, country, are rarely afforded the privilege of being able to prepare. Many will have likely had to leave with little notice, perhaps hurriedly packing a few possessions that can be carried, that feel important, impossible to leave behind. Some of these items will have been lost, or sold out of necessity, along the way. A journey not of one’s making is never what we would call plain sailing.
Living within the asylum system in this country is dehumanising. We listen as clients share with us what they have endured in a system that is set up to disbelieve them. When a client seeking asylum makes a fresh application and moves on to the Section 4 government-supported accommodation that they are entitled to, it is usually a bittersweet occasion. They will leave without any knowledge of where they will be taken. We have known clients who have been housed as far away as Glasgow, once again forced to start anew.
As we move through this season of Lent, I invite you to reflect on your ability in life to prepare. Thank God for it and let us pray that God will provide a more human and humane way for us as a country to extend sanctuary to those who need it.