Soul Food Advent Blog Series 2018: 'Room at the Table'
Guest blogger: Andy Bevan
The tables were set - rows upon rows of tables, enough to seat 1,000 people. People had travelled far for this meal, coming from 17 countries, covering 6 continents.
Next to me sat one person who had travelled from the Philippines, where just a couple of days before, he had been gathering evidence of some of the most depraved forms of exploitation you can imagine – the exploitation of children in cybersex trafficking. Another came from India. She had just trained more than 650 local government officials on how to spot signs of human trafficking following the recent floods in Southern India which left hundreds of people dead and millions displaced. A third person had come from Kenya. Two and a half years ago, she lost a dear friend and colleague and has been fighting for justice in the courts ever since. Her colleague had been missing for a week, only later to be found dead and washed up on a river bank – a victim of police abuse of power.
Hay bales accompanied the tables. Festoon lighting was hung ready for the fading light. Simple table decorations of white flowers, candles and cowboy hats were laid out... On one side of the tables was a stage playing music, on another mechanical bulls and on another a huge barbeque.
This was Texas and this was a celebration.
Now, the experiences of those sitting beside me and the party laid out seem to stand in complete contrast. On the one hand, we have examples of people coming alongside the most horrendous issues of injustice. On the other hand, we have those same people attending a celebratory meal with lots of food, laughter, music and joy. How can these things go together?
Isn’t life bizarre when joys and sorrows go together? You lose your job one week and you're invited to a wedding the next. You lose a dearly loved member of your family and another family celebrates the birth of a new baby.
At International Justice Mission (the organisation I work for), we believe the joy of the Lord is our strength. Amid some of the darkest situations imaginable, we take every opportunity to celebrate. Joy is a lifeline in the work of justice. For me - and others who were at the meal - it turns out a Texan barbeque shared with some people you know, and a lot of people you don’t know, was one of the most joyful experiences of our lives. This was during a week in which we shared many meals, met people from around the world and learned the power of joy.
As we approach the Christmas season, we will undoubtedly be coming into it with joys and sorrows. Joy is powerful to sooth the wounds of sorrow. Will you make room for joy at your table this Christmas?
Andy lives in Edinburgh with his wife, Charlie, son, Harris and his 4 weeks old daughter, Aila. Andy is part of the Mustard Seed Community and is the Scotland Director for International Justice Mission.