When Jack Wakefield came to faith in his teens, his Christian parents were delighted. But then, a couple of years later, Jack had a second ‘road to Damascus’ moment. This one caught his parents, and everyone else, off-guard. It was a moment of clarity that turned his whole life on its head, as he explains.
When I was 13, I made a Christian commitment. I was at a Bible camp in Devon and I’d just listened to a speaker talk about Jesus’s care for us. Afterwards, I sat outside under the starry sky, which was crystal clear out there in the countryside. I was overwhelmed that the God who had made the night sky that I could see in front of me, could be interested in stooping down to help us in our plight.
As I understood it then, I was becoming a Christian to get to heaven – it was an entirely ‘spiritual’ transaction and it didn’t seem to have any bearing on the outside world. I knew there was more than this. As a young child I had performed in a school play about the Amazon rainforest and its deforestation. From an early age I knew these were important issues, but I couldn’t quite see how God fitted into all this.
'Seeking justice suddenly went from being a nice add-on to my faith, to something right at the heart of it.'
It all fell into place a couple of years later. I still remember sitting on a patch of purple carpet in a converted cattle shed at my first Christian summer festival. A speaker from Tearfund began explaining how God’s church isn’t simply a waiting room for eternity, but a team we are invited to be part of, a community with a mission.
It totally changed my understanding and really excited me. It was something I could really give my life to. I started learning about inequality and poverty. I learned about my life as a 15-year-old in the UK and how different it was to the life of a 15-year-old in Ethiopia.
Seeking justice suddenly went from being a nice add-on to my faith, to something right at the heart of it.
I couldn’t go back to normal after that experience, and so my adventures began. I spoke at school assemblies and church about Fairtrade, and I put little signs all over my parents’ house, from the thermostat to the tumble dryer, reminding them to use less energy!
My parents were very understanding about all this – I think they thought it was a bit weird at times though. But at the same time, I think they were excited to see my faith coming to life so powerfully.
Once, I returned from university and declared that we would become a ‘zero waste family.’ I told mum and dad I would do all the shopping and cooking and show them how it was done – they liked that!
I planned and prepared all the meals, with the minimum packaging I could. We put all the waste into a small jar. At the end of the week my parents looked at the tiny bundle of rubbish we had collected. They compared it with last week’s fat bin bag of discarded packaging and admitted, ‘you’re right, this really is making a difference!’ Now they’re actually better at the whole zero waste thing than I am!
At one point, I stayed with a family on a gap year. They knew I was a big fan of coffee but they saw that I wasn’t drinking any of theirs. When they asked, I explained to them that I was drinking their tea because that was fairly traded. They were lovely about it, and they ended up buying me a special jar of Fairtrade coffee, which sat next to theirs in the cupboard. From then on, every time they bought something fairly traded they would proudly show it off to me!
The long haul
I’ve left university now, and work for Tearfund full time. It’s been a real challenge to carry this commitment to live differently into my new, much busier, life. One of the things I’m trying to do is to cut down my meat and dairy, especially for environmental reasons, though I can’t think God sees thousands of battery hens crammed into a tiny space and thinks that’s good either!
At Tearfund, I’ve been helping to launch a brand new project called Restoration Story. It’s about those very things that brought me to life aged 13 and 15. It’s about God’s story; how the maker of the night skies, bends down to heal and restore his creation. And how he asks us to join him in doing this precious, sacred, work one small step at a time.
Restoration Story is about God’s story, but it’s also about our stories of change and transformation. Stories are powerful things, and we can use them for good.
So what’s your story? I'd love to hear it.
Join the conversation today: www.tearfund.org/jointhestory