A small leap of faith in the shape of a house group project four years ago led to Jo providing a vital lifeline to her community through the pandemic.
Though church was a childhood staple, it was in her early 20s that Jo first began to discover faith for herself. Living in Sunderland as a young woman from the south presented Jo with some challenges.
“It was the 80s, when all the shipyards were closing, the miners were on strike. It was a very tough time for them, and I ended up there on my own thinking ‘What have I done?’”
Jo found solace at St Andrew’s Church, and watching Billy Graham speak live in 1984 was a powerful moment in her faith journey.
The end of a relationship brought Jo to Winslow, Buckinghamshire, where she explored two churches with very different worshipping styles. Though initially drawn to charismatic worship, Jo found a spiritual home in St Laurence. A teacher with young children at the time, Jo was asked to run the children’s Sunday group and was dedicated to the “huge responsibility” of children’s ministry, something she still plays a big role in today.
It was at Jo’s house group a few years ago that the St Laurence Food Cupboard was born, after a conversation with the rector. “He was getting people phoning saying they had no food... The first year we had four calls, the second year we had 12. And then we went into Covid.”
As need skyrocketed, the food cupboard became bigger than ever anticipated, and Jo felt a physical pain as she saw more and more people in dire need. Her heart for people is deeply rooted in her faith.
“Constantly in my mind is that Jesus said, ‘love one another as I have loved you’. I feel so passionate about that.”
The lockdowns forced Jo, a self-proclaimed “bustler”, to slow down. Recalling a poignant moment from an On Fire Mission event, Jo shares the personal importance of the words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” With peace and service at the forefront of her mind, Jo was able to rally the community of Winslow together in the hardest of times.
Many of Jo’s stories of the Food Cupboard stem from everyday conversations, and Jo’s advice to anyone noticing a similar need is to start small and let it grow. The Food Cupboard’s offerings now stretch far beyond food, supporting those seeking jobs and helping settle a local refugee family.
As she plans ahead, Jo, who recently received a British Empire Medal for her work, is confident that God is leading the way. “My prayer every day is to be guided in all that we do.”
What small steps could you take to address poverty in your area? Watch our How To... series for some practical ideas.