The Besom in Thurrock is a non-denominational ministry helping Christians to give and poverty to be alleviated. Transformation Thurrock caught up with Besom’s local co-ordinator Andrea Peters to find out more.
TT: What is Besom all about? How does it differ from other Christian charities and ways of alleviating poverty?
AP: Besom is a bridge that enables people who have plenty to reach people who are poor. It is not driven by the needs of the poor primarily, although poor people benefit, but it is driven by the heart and compassion of our Heavenly Father to envision His people to be His hands and feet to show His love and outrageous grace to the world.
TT: Isn’t a besom a witch’s broom? How comes it’s the name of a Christian ministry?
AP: A besom is a broom made out of twigs and has been around for a long time when everyone used this type of broom to sweep their houses etc. It’s meant to express sweeping away suffering that the injustice of poverty brings to people.
TT: How did you get drawn to Besom? What attracted you?
AP: A leaflet fell into my hand advertising the first Besom Conference (right) to be held at Holy Trinity Brompton. My husband John and I attended and listened to the founder James Odgers, who explained the Besom work and ethos. Besom had been going since 1987 and they were launching ‘Besom in a Suitcase’ which would enable Besoms to be established around localities in the British Isles and beyond. We were convinced God was in this initiative as it expressed the heart of God for the poor and needy. I realised that God had given the responsibility to His people to care for their needs. We took groups of people to the Besom Warehouse over a period of 2 years to experience and catch the vision. At the end of those 2 years we were in a position to launch Besom in Thurrock.
TT: Besom is not just about giving people what they need, but giving them what they want. Please can you explain the philosophy behind this.
AP: Poor people don’t have the luxury of choice. We believe that because this work is God’s initiative He wants the poor and needy to know that He loves them and that they are special in His eyes. Therefore, we pray and ask God specifically to provide not only the thing they need, but to give them the colour and style that they would choose if they could afford that luxury, regardless of who they are and what they have done. This is how God treats us – He gave us His Son, so great was His love, regardless of who we are or what we have done.
TT: How long has Besom been going in Thurrock now? How many people have been helped in that time?
AP: We launched Besom in Thurrock on 8th November 2005 and since then there have been 76 people who have given their time in various ways on a Tuesday, which is mainly when we operate. This isn’t including the groups who give time to projects.
TT: Where do your volunteers come from? How many do you have? How often do you go out?
AP: The Core Group (8 people who make the decisions) is made up currently of Christians from three churches in Thurrock. Other time givers are Christians who also live in Thurrock or are visiting from other places in Britain or abroad. There is anything from between 6 to 15 people on a Tuesday when the van goes out to collect and deliver furniture, etc.
TT: What is a typical day at Besom?
AP: People gather for a 9.30am start the day with thanksgiving, worship and prayer until 10am. People are allotted to their tasks and the van is prepared with furniture to take out for the morning’s deliveries and/or collections. Those who are working on a project (decorating or gardening) are delivered to the site with necessary items, eg. Ladders, paint, spade etc. Some people may be sent out to assess furniture to ensure it is of a high quality, while others work in the garages where furniture is kept until it is matched with a recipient. PAT testing is carried out on all electrical goods and white goods are cleaned, furniture polished and occasionally a screw may need fixing, etc. We have a room where clothes are sorted, home starter boxes are put together and gifts are prepared with loving hands to make someone feel special. Administration takes place in the office where the accounts are brought up to date, thank-you letters are written, telephone messages are taken and van trips are arranged. We all come together at lunch time to eat, relate our stories, laugh and relax before it all starts again for the afternoon. The day generally ends around 4pm. People are of course, free to give an hour, half a day or a whole day – there are no expectations other than those to which people commit.
TT: What story do you have that brings particular blessing to you?
AP: There are many, but I will never forget the day we delivered a nearly new bed to an alcoholic lady who was sleeping on a mattress she had pulled out of a skip. She lay on her new bed and said, “I’m in heaven! No one has ever given me anything like this before.” I told her it’s because God loves her and thinks’ she is special. I asked her what else she needed and we made a list of basic items, which included a fridge and sofa. I said we would ask God to supply them and when we delivered them a week later she was overwhelmed again. She said someone had given her a Bible some time ago and she was going to read it.
TT: What’s been Besom’s most unusual request for help?
AP: A recipient once needed help to get her cat to the vet!
TT: Have you had any frustrations? If so, what has been your biggest obstacle to overcome?
AP: My only frustration has been to get the word out about Besom to the many churches in Thurrock. I have written to all of them and even arranged an open day last year for Christians and Support Agency workers to meet each other over lunch and a short presentation. Many Support workers turned up, but only two Christians! A few churches have invited me to speak at their churches or small groups, which has been very positive and I am very grateful to you, Tim, for this opportunity to share on TT. Besom is non-denominational and is there solely to facilitate all Christians to meet the needs of the poor. I am always delighted to share the vision of Besom to inspire churches to get involved.
TT: How can local Christians and churches support Besom?
AP: By being involved, eg. Give time, things, skills or money. Two local churches give money to Besom regularly, so that we can keep the van on the road and buy much needed white goods and beds when people are desperate, and fund the Projects carried out. Prayer is essential for the recipients who have other needs apart from being financially poor.
TT: How would you like to see Thurrock’s Besom progress in the future?
AP: At the moment Besom mainly operates one day a week, but this isn’t enough to meet the demands we receive regarding poor people on our own doorstep. I would envisage Besom be active in our community three to four days a week to make a greater impact on sweeping away suffering.
See www.besom.com/local-besoms/thurrock for Thurrock Besom’s page on the main Besom website, www.besom.com.
Andrea’s office number is 01375 541106. The Thurrock Besom office and warehouse is currently located at Thurrock Christian Fellowship in Chase Road, Corringham.
Andrea co-leads TCF’s Tilbury Congregation with her husband John and also works at Thurrock Parent & Child Project, which is a Hostel for pregnant teenage girls and their babies in Grays.