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I’ve just spent a morning with Amanda Edwards in the East End talking about what it means to be an Ambassador for Jesus Christ in her everyday life. It was particularly vivid for me because I spent 11 years around that area as a parish priest. Walking the streets today brought back many memories of ministry there, and also the huge diversity and pace of change that the area is experiencing as time goes on.
Amanda came to the East End as part of a church plant team at St Paul’s Shadwell in 2005. She was on the staff and lived in Wapping for many years in her role as assistant pastor. Amanda married Rupert whilst there, has had two children, and has chosen to be a stay-at-home mum.
She describes her primary calling, after following Jesus, as caring for her husband and her children. In this role, with its different boundaries to more regular jobs, she has chosen a less-travelled road in today’s society that comes with its challenges and opportunities.
I was struck by how thought-through Amanda is about this calling. She often finds herself defending this full-time caring role as something of great value, as it can be misunderstood or rejected by others. Her identity is regularly challenged because, so much of the time, our identity is bound up in what we do – whether it is our job, or our role, or our status. Looking after children full-time has a lower status compared to what it used to have for many reasons. Amanda finds her identity, not in what she does, but in who she is – a child of God, loved and cherished by God. With her security bound up in this identity, she feels free to pursue her God-given purpose, whether other people value it or not.
There have also been financial challenges with this choice. But she, along with her husband, feels that this is a small price to pay for the positives that such a choice brings. She described the need to trust God with their finances and their time, and that with that trust comes confidence in God.
That confidence in who she is shone today with great freedom. I noticed three things that flowed from this confidence: being available, being prayerful and being responsive.
Amanda uses this freedom to be available to be used by God in whichever way God leads her to be. She described how she felt she had more time for her children, her husband, and others, without being bound to a job. She’s met many people not connected with the normal “working hours” culture, and has had the time to give them when they’ve been in need. On the way to a local café, we bumped into someone Amanda knows, with a challenging life, children from a number of different marriages and relationships, and there was Amanda, once again, with an encouraging word, noticing her and making time for her, even though she was walking with me.
Amanda is prayerful, asking God to show her how to make that availability count. She’ll pray, “Lord, show me how I can be a blessing to those I encounter today,” and she told me of the number of times she’d met people and felt prompted to encourage, bless, affirm, or help them in some particular way. We met someone outside the school gates, who’d come to church with his family as a result of an invitation offered after a prompt whilst praying.
She is responsive to the needs around her as they arise. We had coffee with John who came to church from an addictive lifestyle and troubled background. He is on crutches with broken ankles and feet, from an incident where he jumped out of a third-storey window to try to kill himself. Amanda got to know John through an Alpha course and saw that he and his friends needed on-going discipleship and pastoral care. She talked to her husband Rupert, and together they invited John and his friends to come to a group meeting in their home. That became a key part of John’s recovery and discipleship, and now he takes a leadership role in AA groups and has moved on from the rehab centre that was home for many years.
I saw this confidence at work, though her being available, prayerful and responsive, to the number of people we met through the morning – at the school gates, people who’d started coming to church through her invitation, walking along the street, passing others who were unafraid to call her their friend, meeting friends in a local café where the owner, having been introduced to me by Amanda, promptly asked me if he could come to Amanda’s church.
In her context, this was an ambassador of Jesus Christ at work – confident in her identity in Christ, available, prayerful and responsive to the people all around her. This inspired me to follow Jesus Christ myself, all the more.