Havilah is a three-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week drop-in service open to anyone seeking company and non-judgemental listening. We offer simple food and drink – tea, coffee, biscuits, soup lunches – between 12pm and 3pm. We operate from Community Spirit, the community outreach venture of St Andrew’s which is just up the road from our church premises, right in the middle of the Fisheracre shops. Community Spirit is the home for Havilah and other activities of St Andrew’s Church, and also open for other community uses.
Havilah is the name of an abundant area of land, mentioned in the book of Genesis:
We want our Havilah to be a place of abundant goodness for those who visit, where they can experience the river-flow of God’s love and care for them.
Havilah began in 2006 in response to the desire that some of our number had to reach out in love to the many in our community who, for whatever reason, often find themselves excluded, isolated and unloved. Originally we opened on a Monday morning for 2 hours serving tea, toast, offering a listening ear and, most importantly, the love of our Lord Jesus. This quickly moved onto 3 days a week for 3 hours over lunch time, allowing us to add a soup lunch to what was already on offer.
In general terms, the first year was about getting started and though some people came, numbers remained low. By the end of 2007, however, there had been something of a breakthrough and the team was welcoming 12-16 men and women into our halls on a regular basis. This steady stream grew as more and more people began to find something of what they had been looking for. By the end of 2009, numbers had grown to the point that over 100 different individuals came in to spend some time at Havilah each month – which proved both that the need is great and that we have something to offer. In May 2010 we had days where over 40 people could be found in Havilah, and during July we had 308 visits.
Despite the small size of the team, the work that we have been able to do has at times been quite outstanding. This is due to the volunteers being fully committed to their ministry in Havilah, which God has placed in their hearts, and the love of Jesus that pours from each and every one of them. There is a tremendously positive atmosphere which is definitely charged by the Holy Spirit.
The work is supported by a small Management Group, led by our minister Martin Fair, to provide governance and focus on identifying and securing funds for the expansion of the work. Jim McLeod is vice-convenor of the Management Group, and Tracey McLeod as our Project Worker heads up a growing and very passionate band of volunteers who give time regularly to Havilah’s work. Karen Reaney is our part-time Administrator as well as being a volunteer at Havilah.
In addition to the support of St Andrew’s, we have attracted funding for our core costs from the Church of Scotland’s Parish Development Fund and from Angus Council’s Alcohold and Drug Partnership. As the work expands, we are seeking further sources of funding.
Though it doesn’t involve many of us on a day-to-day basis, as St. Andrew’s folk we have a share in the ministry of Havilah. We recognise that Jesus came not for the respectable folks, not for those who are well, but for those who are sick, for those on the very margins. And it is that ministry that Havilah continues, in the name of St Andrew’s Church. We are very grateful to the small band who are making such a tremendous commitment to this particular work. It is not everyone who would be suitable for it but we’re gladdened that there are those among us who are. Such ministry is not without its costs and hassles but to turn our backs on it would leave us very exposed on that judgement day when Jesus asks, ‘and what did you do for these, the least of my brothers and sisters…?’
Our team has shown levels of commitment and perseverance on an astonishing scale; with only a relatively small number on the team and the ever-growing numbers of visitors each day, it puts great demands on each one. But though it is demanding, it is also proving to be worthwhile and rewarding. Of course it should be; as the Gospels make clear, this is the kind of ministry that Jesus was involved in!! So, to be ministering in Havilah is to be doing as he did – in love, getting alongside those looked down on and despised.
If anyone feels they are being called in this direction, have prayerfully considered the implications of this work to those we are ministering to, and know they will be fully committed to this powerful ministry, please contact Tracey McLeod on 07906 275636.
Most churches don’t get involved with this group of people and generally such people are pretty clear in their minds that they wouldn’t be welcome in churches. But here at St. Andrew’s, we’re beginning to change that. It’s a costly business in many ways and some might say it’s the kind of work that’s more trouble than it’s worth. But it’s what Jesus would say that matters.
Taking a share in the Havilah ministry isn’t for everyone and that’s fair enough. We’re all gifted and called in different directions. But St Andrew’s members play a part by praying regularly for the work, by taking opportunities to encourage our members who are on the front line, and by providing a warm welcome to Havilah clients when they take part in worship. Members also support the work in practical ways:
The work and needs of the Havilah ministry are regularly highlighted in our monthly magazine, Quest, and also in our worship services.
“I have decided I am not going to waste this chance God has given me.”
“I am now a new person and it’s only through the work of the staff at Havilah.”
“They went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.”
“People listened and didn’t judge me. Always offered sound advice.”
“Since attending Havilah, the help I got from the staff has totally changed my life for the better. I have more confidence in myself and am able to talk more openly to others if problems arise.”
“I’m bouncing with life – I feel awesome.”
Many of those who come to Havilah are young men and women with drug problems – many of them living on the very fringes of our community. A good number get to the point of wanting real and lasting changes in their lives and, for some, that means a full-blown programme of rehabilitation. We are associated with Sunnybrae, the Teen Challenge rehabilitation centre in Aberdeenshire, which has several places in its residential programme available to men from other areas of Scotland. To date, we have had two young men finish their rehab programmes and returned here to Arbroath to get on with life – the life intended for them! One of those guys describes it as being like going from death to life! At least half a dozen others are currently in rehab and so, in the meantime, we will continue to pray for them and support others as they get ready to go. For women, there is a Teen Challenge centre in Wales, and one of our number is currently in rehabilitation there.
While it can be easy to focus on the young men and women who have had life-changing experiences resulting in them going to Teen Challenge’s rehab centres, the work of Havilah is far more diverse than that. Our volunteers work hard with all of those who come through our doors, including the following:
These are just a few of the many stories of the help that has been given by the volunteers at Havilah which show there is no special knowledge of the world of drugs required of the volunteers. The most important quality of our volunteers is in having the Spirit of the Lord so that they can see Jesus in everyone who comes through our doors, accept them, and do what they can to make everyone feel special, loved and cared for.