For Ron and Mary, Christmas is not even on their minds

Christmas won’t be normal for many Australians this year, but for Ron and Mary, Christmas isn’t even on their minds. There’s no time to consider stocking fillers and Secret Santa, no head space to bake treats or put up a tree – the Dumas family are in full-on survival mode. Yet, their local church has been able to stand in the gap for them.

After taking their youngest son, Amos, to the emergency department for what Ron and Mary thought might be a one-week stay, the trip turned into six months of surgeries and other procedures. Amos is very sick, and the family have been living split between the hospital and their home. Mary is living on the ward full time with Amos, to be his carer; after giving up her well-paying job, instead of returning from maternity leave as planned. Their daughter Allira rarely gets to see her brother or mother, and requires speech pathology due to COVID-19 delaying her needed ear surgery. This has all taken its toll on their two-year-old daughter, who has struggled with anxiety and is not sleeping or eating properly.

These past few months have been some of the toughest they’ve had to face as a family.

Before any of this, Mary and Ron had debt they were trying to get on top of – and could never have imagined the immense financial pressure that was heading their way. Ron is now the only income earner, juggling work with looking after a two-year-old, running her between day care and the hospital to spend a precious few moments together. Between the high medical expenses and the loss of income, money is tight.

These past few months have been some of the toughest they’ve had to face as a family. As they need to live close to a major hospital, they’re unable to move nearer to extended family, so the local church are their main support. Church members are regularly making meals for Ron and Allira while Mary has been in the hospital.

And through their church, Ron and Mary are now getting help from Christians Against Poverty (CAP), who have been able to negotiate with their creditors through each shift in their circumstances. So, while the Dumas family are still going through a lot, they’re no longer under the thumb of financial distress, and can focus on caring for Amos and working towards bringing him home for good.

For many families, Christmas can bring the pressure of spending money on gifts, meals and, possibly, travel. Even without the uncertainty of an ongoing global crisis, it’s a time that can be daunting for many. There is so much hurt from the impact of COVID-19, the economic and emotional fallout will be significant and ongoing in our communities for some time to come.

As Christians, this is a season that celebrates the hope Jesus Christ brought us all those years ago; and I believe this hope, that only Jesus can bring, is needed for our communities more than ever.

You can bring hope to families facing the hardest of circumstances in your community.

Many churches are planted in the heart of our communities, so what better beacon of hope can we have? When Jesus spoke about a city on a hill and a light that could not be hidden, he wanted our churches, and us as Christians, to be a source of hope for our communities. Going out as one body, we are not only called to connect with people so that they can experience his love, but to also provide practical help to those in need.

Churches and Christians across our country can be the bearer of that hope this year by pursuing Jesus’ commission to serve the poor, save the lost and point people to his good news. Let us step in the gap for those who are struggling, reach out to the needy and be a shoulder to the grieving.

You can stand in the gap and bring hope to families facing the hardest of circumstances in your community. Below are just a few suggestions of what you can do to help someone in need during this season:

•    Offer to do a Christmas food shop
•    Pray for neighbours (leave a note in their letterbox telling them you are a Christian and offer to pray/help in any way)
•    Donate money and items to foodbanks and charities that care for the vulnerable
•    Regularly check in with your neighbours to make sure they’re doing ok
•    Display gratitude to service workers (mail carrier, supermarket assistant), who are likely to be feeling overrun and encounter a lot of stressed-out people
•    Offer to help single parents with childcare needs, or drop off a meal, a box of nappies or holiday activities for the kids
•    Cook a meal for a local family you know are just stretched for time
•    Send an encouraging text message to any of your friends who have been made redundant or are on JobKeeper, and offer to help them and their family
•    Invite someone to Christmas lunch to take the burden off their shoulders to buy and prepare food.
•    PRAY

Rosie Kendall is the CEO of CAP Australia and has been working for CAP both here and in the UK for 13 years. She loves the church and seeing the bride of Christ respond to Jesus’ call to serve and include the poor. Rosie’s husband Dave also works at CAP and they have three beautiful daughters, Esther, Lydia and Maeve.