Hope Breaks In - The Message
09 Apr 2024

Hope Breaks In

Battling anxiety and depression, Sarah found herself almost housebound until a leaflet about a Community Grocery opening nearby dropped through her door. Today, her life’s been transformed by God. This is her story.

‘From a young age, I’ve struggled with depression but was always able to carry on with ‘normal’ life, until Covid hit. As the world locked down, my anxiety grew and things I’d found hard before became almost impossible.

‘As lockdown rules eased, I found my worries just increased and I was almost housebound. The only thing I left home for was to go to my mum’s or do the food shop, but even then Jess, my teenage daughter, had to come with me. I couldn’t leave the house alone.

‘This went on for longer than I want to remember. And over time, Jess had to do more and more for me. She was amazing and never complained, but I didn’t want this for her, I just couldn’t see a way out. I felt more alone than ever, had no friends and the only people I saw were Jess and Mum.

‘Money was tighter than ever too. I only had benefits coming in and these just covered the bills, before I even thought about food. As the prices started going up, I found I couldn’t afford the food Jess and I needed, I had to start borrowing money from my mum just to put food on the table. I can’t even put into words how hard that was. Something had to change.

‘At this time a leaflet dropped through my door. It told me about a new Community Grocery that was opening just round the corner. As I read about the affordable food it was going to offer, I knew I needed to be part of it, and that it would offer the support I desperately needed. But the thing that surprised me most was that I felt that I wanted to be more involved than just shopping there, I wanted to help out if I could.

‘Even now, I’m not sure where this thought came from. I could barely leave the house and there I was thinking about volunteering somewhere I knew hardly anything about! But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

‘So one day, whilst Jess was at school, I put my coat on and headed to the Community Grocery. It took all the courage I had, but I knew it was what I had to do.

‘When I got there, I spoke to Pete, the manager, and immediately felt welcome. He talked me through how the store worked, how it could help with our shopping, and told me more about the support courses that were going to be running too. As Pete explained this, I nervously asked about volunteering. He said I’d be more than welcome, telling me that anyone could volunteer, no matter what experience they had, and about the different ways I could get involved. I felt excited for the first time in ages.

‘When Jess finished school, she called to see how I was, and I told her I was at the Community Grocery signing up to volunteer. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing and was speechless… that never happens!

‘I started volunteering on the opening day. It was nerve-racking and I’m still not sure how I did it. I’d hardly left the house for 18 months and there I was serving members and chatting to them. But right from my that first shift, I loved being part of a community and was hooked. I couldn’t stay away and was volunteering in the store three times a week, as well as going in for my shopping too. As I shopped, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, I knew I could go to the Community Grocery and get the food I needed for a week, and it was really affordable. I no longer had to borrow money from my mum to put food on the table.

‘From the day I got the leaflet, I knew that the grocery was run by The Message and my local church. Every morning before the store opened, the team got together to pray. But I wasn’t part of the church and, if I’m honest, didn’t want to know anything about God. If anyone mentioned Jesus to me, I just told them to ‘shush’. So, as they prayed, I stood by the door and waited for them to finish before getting on with my jobs.

‘But over time, I started to listen more when they prayed and wasn’t as quick to shut down the conversations about Jesus. I’d been volunteering for a few weeks when one of the team asked again if I wanted to go to church with them. Instead of ‘no’ coming out of my mouth like it had before, I found myself saying ‘yes’. I didn’t know why, but now know it was God!

‘That Sunday I found myself in the church service, and as I heard more about Jesus, I felt a shift in me. I suddenly realised that I wasn’t alone, and that, even though life was tough, and that anxiety and depression were something I was battling every day, Jesus was in it with me. It gave me a hope and peace I’d not experienced before. Over the next few weeks, I kept going back to church, asking the grocery team questions about Christianity and just knew what they told me was true. There was only one thing I needed to do, and that was give my life to Jesus. It was a day I’ll never forget.

‘Looking back, I can’t wrap my head around what God’s done in my life. It’s amazing and I’m living the life I always wanted. I recently got baptised and was able to get up in front of people and share my story! I love chatting to people and telling them about Jesus. Jess laughs as we can’t go anywhere now without me bumping into someone I know, and stopping for a chat. It’s her that’s asking to go home!

‘Jesus means everything to me. He’s changed my life completely, and it all started with a leaflet.’

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Watch Sarah’s full story at message.org.uk/sarah