CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT: Help to handle financial woes in Inverness can bring some joy
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Colin McLean tells me: "I’ve had people almost dancing out of this room. They’re saying: 'I feel great! I feel the pressure is off'.”
He manages the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) team in Inverness, based at the Culduthel Christian Centre. He is describing the sense of liberation people struggling with debts have as they realise someone is on their side, working on their behalf.
Colin explained how the CAP centre, one of 300 across the UK, works. Supposing I were in debt, I could self-refer to this service which, funded by churches and individual donations, is free-of-charge to clients. A debt coach and a colleague will meet with me to explain the process. If I want to go ahead, they will collect information about my finances and debts.
The team covering Scotland at CAP’s Bradford office will prepare a recommended budget for me, advise on any benefits I might claim, set up a repayment plan, liaise with the people I owe money to (no more of those dreaded calls and letters!) and keep in touch as I’m paying off my debit. They will then advise me on remaining debt-free in future. I imagine I’d be the one dancing out of the room with relief!
In a small number of cases, CAP may advise that sequestration (bankruptcy) is the best route.
Colin has personally experienced hardship. His Scots-born father’s retail business in South Africa went bankrupt due to political and social unrest in the 1980s. During Colin’s teenage years, his family faced poverty, and for a while homelessness.
And after moving to Scotland with his wife, a motorbike accident left him unable to walk for three years. During these hard times, he says ‘so many things weighed heavily on me’. But faith made a significant difference – ‘In my darkest moments I found the Lord was still there’.
The CAP team are unashamedly Christian. ‘The reason we do what we do,’ Colin says ‘is because God has shared his love with us’. I was a little concerned that clients, out of gratitude to CAP might feel pressurised to explore Christian faith, but Colin assures me the team fully respect the beliefs of the individual. “We love to share our faith,” Colin tells me. But only ‘if people are open to hearing it’.
It seems to me that CAP reflects the life of Jesus, who came ‘to proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.’
Colin’s clients ‘react with joy and sense a new start’ when finally debt-free. Christians believe Jesus is still a liberator and that with him there is no repayment plan for we are loved and forgiven and accompanied: the slate is wiped perpetually clean.
CAP can be contacted on 0800 3280 006.