Yesterday I attended a presentation, organised by a guy called Alan McQuade from Newtownards, on the amazing work of Betel – a work I have long admired! Sheila and I have been privileged to visit centres in Dublin and in Madrid.
In 1985 Betel (Spanish for Bethel) received its first destitute men and women off the streets of Madrid. Since that time more than 100,000 homeless and socially disadvantaged people have been helped in many countries across the world. Betel residences host more than 2,000 recovering men and women in 80 cities in 21 nations.
Betel of Britain started in 1996 and is based in Birmingham. That location reminded me of the above line from a poem called ‘Indifference’, written by George Studdert Kennedy who was a chaplain during the first World War. Like those who work in Betel, Kennedy felt God’s heartbeat for people and ministered faithfully, through practical love and through his poetry, to the ordinary soldiers living through ‘hell on earth’ in the trenches.
In his poem, Kennedy compares the behaviour of Jesus’ contemporaries with ours today towards the stranger and the outcast. Thankfully Betel is trying to fill that gap – ministering and showing the love of Jesus Christ to those still living through ‘hell on earth’ today.
Alan McQuade’s hope is that a Betel centre will be established in Northern Ireland, following on from the setting up of the Southlands centre in South Dublin by Betel of Ireland. The need is great in the North – let’s trust that this will happen and happen soon! Indifference is not an option.
When Jesus came to Golgatha,
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham
They simply passed Him by,
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die;
For men have grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them,
For they know not what they do!
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through;
The crowd went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.
G A Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929)