When I came to the UK in 2001, I barely had enough money for accommodation and tuition fees. I was expecting to work during my studies to earn supplementary income to live on; However, things didn’t pan out as planned. On arrival, I met with adversity as the family that I had planned to live with could no longer accommodate me. Furthermore, I faced deportation by the Home Office unless I could show proof of financial support. During that time I met a family who were also in the midst of adversity as their business was failing and their house was about to be repossessed by the bank. I joined with them in prayer. That week a breakthrough in their business came which enabled them to pay all their debts and go on to give proof of income to say they could support me through my studies.
Leap of Faith
Moving to the UK was a leap of faith. Despite encountering difficulties initially, I learned that you can still show kindness to others through your weeping season and God will remain faithful. Psalm 126:1-6 (NIV) says: “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
I would walk three and a half miles and back
When my year of study came to an end, I needed to change my visa to remain in the UK but the process was more difficult than I had expected. I had to go to court, where the Judge said he believed God had called me here and that I should be granted a ‘Missionary Visa’ to remain. A ‘Missionary Visa’ however, restricts one from undertaking ordinary paid employment. This was really difficult as I didn’t know what to do other than to live by faith. I didn’t expect at that time for it to be the beginning of a sixteen year journey. I started to volunteer at my church and helping people in their homes. At that time I met a lady with terminal cancer for whom I offered to iron and clean since she could no longer manage such household chores herself. As she was so ill, I did not ask for payment, so I would walk three and a half miles to her place and back. That’s why I was so skinny! When the lady passed away, her husband gave me the gift of a brand new TV as an expression of gratitude for supporting his wife through those final months. He also told me that she had said I brought peace with me when I visited her. When some elderly people at church heard about the support I had given her, they too asked if I could help them and said they would pay me for my services.
Consequently, local social services heard of the work I was doing and they began to ask if I could help other elderly people as they could see my willingness to help others as well as the trust people put in me.
I learned that you can show kindness to others through your weeping season. And God will remain faithful.
One particular man who had served in the army, was angry and neglected. He had limited mobility and needed a wheelchair to get around. Social services asked if I could help him with practical things such as trips to the bank etc. He didn’t trust people, including myself initially, yet through the kindness I showed him I saw his hard exterior soften. He hadn’t spoken to his own family for many years but before he died he was able to reconcile with them. When he passed away I had the privilege of meeting his two nieces who said when he spoke about me he had a smile that they had not seen before and he had said of me that “Isabel is as strong as a wild ox”. As a gesture for the help I gave to their uncle, they gave me a cheque with which I cleared some of my outstanding debts.
Sometimes people comment that they wish they had my ‘glamorous’ life as I’m ‘always traveling’. They seem to think I’m a ‘celebrity’ of sorts. Sharing with others what I had in my hand marked the beginning of my journey.
For instance my connection with Scotland; in 2002 a youth pastor was looking for accommodation for one of the girls in her group. I volunteered to give her a bedroom while I slept in the living room. In return, the youth pastor offered to accommodate me at her home if I wished to take any holiday in Scotland. Through that connection I met a couple who I would babysit for when they came to work in Bradford. They too have included me in their family holidays once a year. I have now visited many places in the UK that I probably would have never been to, as I still have no fixed income from employment due to visa constraints.
I expected nothing in return
When I arrived I was alone but my world has grown larger through the work I have done and the people I have met. I regularly visit London and while generally this is an expensive place to visit, the students I have accommodated at my house have in turn opened their homes to me when I visit. Without asking anything of them, people have been generous to me because of the support I have given them. When I showed kindness I wasn’t expecting anything in return. God’s principle is that of ‘sowing and reaping’. As l continue sowing, l am also reaping what l have sown. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 (AMP) says: “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, [be diligently active, make thoughtful decisions], for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even [divide it] to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth. If the clouds are full [of rain], they empty themselves on the earth; and if a tree falls toward the south or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it lies. He who watches the wind [waiting for all conditions to be perfect] will not sow [seed], and he who looks at the clouds will not reap [a harvest]. Just as you do not know the way and path of the wind or how the bones are formed in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle with your hands in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening planting will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
Random act of (kitchen) kindness
I never sit down and watch the clouds. Cooking for people during conferences is another way I have sown seed, and often, I don’t know what money I will have coming in or when. I am so grateful for the people God has placed in my life who have been a huge blessing. People have given generously to me at Christmas and birthdays so from that I am able to buy clothes. Just last month, through a spirit led idea by a men’s home fellowship in Bradford, my name was nominated for a “Random act of (kitchen) kindness” (see ‘YouTube’ video). My friends conspired with them to take me out for the day, while my entire kitchen was being renovated with a brand new one. Local companies assisted by providing items at no cost, some as a donation of ‘community service’ while others gave their services for free. Much of this was said to have happened because of the kindness I show people through my daily voluntary work. Before this, most of my kitchen utensils were second-hand or donations, most of which were mismatched. Now it is equipped with brand new matching items. The story has been shared via social media and also by a US TV channel’s social media outlet. There has been a much bigger ripple effect to this act of kindness than it just being about blessing me.MT