Around twelve years ago, a young woman called Julie went to a Christian concert with her friends Donald and June. She fell fast asleep on June’s shoulder and only woke up when the concert ended.
Julie was addicted to drugs and alcohol. She looks back on Donald and June’s loving generosity as the start of her recovery and her faith. “People avoided me and things were difficult with my family because of my drug taking. Donald and June treated me like a normal person, and their willingness to sit down with me and get me whatever I needed showed me what transformational generosity looked like.”
The concert didn’t go so well, but June and Julie’s lunches were more successful. “June used to take me out to lunch and talk to me about reducing my drug use. One day I said, ‘I only eat the food to get the dessert.’ When you’re an addict, you crave sweet things. June laughed and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that before? I’d just have bought you desserts!’ She got me a massive pile of pancakes covered in syrup. She was instrumental in getting me on to Teen Challenge which changed everything.”
Julie headed off to Wales with Teen Challenge where she met another recovering addict, Ricky McAddock. He’d also been shown amazing generosity and through that had met Christ. After the outreach, Ricky and Julie went on a mission trip to Bucharest.
Julie started spending more time around Ricky and their relationship deepened. However, she was going back to Glasgow and he was heading down to East London for work. “I sought God and bought an engagement ring. Julie came down for her birthday weekend and we had a wonderful Saturday evening together. I was trying to find somewhere peaceful and romantic to propose, but I quickly realised that there was no such place on a London Saturday night.”
Ricky dropped to one knee on the Millennium Bridge by St Paul’s and proposed. He’d gathered quite a crowd who were watching the proceedings with interest. Fortunately, Julie said yes.
Generosity had played a vital part in Ricky coming to know Jesus too. He’d become a Christian through Teen Challenge in 2007, but by 2008 he slipped back into his old habits. He knew that God was his way out, but his life was chaotic and his church attendance patchy.
“There was an incredibly kind and generous elder in my church. He lived with his wife and three kids. Their oldest was away at university, and they knew I’d regressed into my old drink and drug-taking habits. They invited me to live with them. I was there for around six months and through that, God did something in me to bring me to a point of complete surrender. I could feel Him prompting me to go back to Teen Challenge, but I kept resisting. Eventually, I said, ‘OK, God, I’ll do whatever you want, even if it means going back to Teen Challenge.’ I did, and that’s where Julie and I met.
“That family showed me such generosity and real Christian love in action. We’ve shared our home with several people since. At times, I can be resistant to sharing our home, but Julie likes to remind me of the kindness I was once shown.”
By 2013, Julie and Ricky had started Street Connect, getting out on to the streets of Glasgow and connecting with those who were broken. One of the people they met was Andrew, a drug addict living in Possilpark, one of the city’s most deprived areas. Through a drop-in centre, he and his brother became involved with Street Connect. Strongly influenced by the generosity they’d been shown, Julie visited him in prison and told him, “You really need a family, not hostels.” She and Ricky opened their home to him, his first real experience of family life. Now Andrew is in one of Street Connect’s move-on flats and volunteers with them. He’s considering going to Bible College.
Another former addict, Adam, moved in with Ricky and Julie from one of Street Connect’s rehab units. He’s been with them for three months and is shortly getting married. He hadn’t lived in a family since he was young, and being with the McAddocks and their two preschool children gave him the chance to experience normal family life.
What would have happened without Donald and June reaching out to Julie with pancakes and concert tickets? Where would Ricky be without that family who generously opened their doors to him? Where would any of us have ended up without the Father’s love and care?
‘Freely you have received, so freely give.’ (Matthew 10:8)