Have you ever walked into a room and been overwhelmed by how it feels? Not the temperature or how it looks or sounds, but the emotions that it invokes. That feeling when you come home after a long trip. That feeling of walking into a room full of friends. There are some spaces that just seem to overflow with a sense of joy, contentment, love and hope.
A couple of years ago I came across the term “pocket of hope”. It’s a term used by the Sisters of St. Martha in Antigonish to describe their community and some of the work that they do to bring hope to their small town. Work such as the Bethany New Grower’s community garden initiative or their partnership with Antigonish Community Energy Co-Op to source renewable energy. These pockets of hope seek to stand out from the world around them by penetrating the darkness with the light of Christ. The idea of a “pocket of hope” has captured my imagination since I first heard it, and I’ve had the pleasure of finding such pockets all around me.
I recently returned from a SENT experience with Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) in the Philippines. There I was blessed to enter into many pockets of hope. The one that stands out the most in my mind is the Libas Childcare Centre. Libas is an urban poor community on the outskirts of Roxas City, Philippines. Despite their hard work, many families in this community find themselves stuck in cycles of poverty. Families’ low incomes and rural location mean that many children do not attend school. This keeps children trapped in poverty and often leads to teenage mothers who raise their children with little support. In the midst of this darkness stands the Libas Childcare Centre.
From the moment that I walked in the door I could feel that this was a place of love and hope. During the week this centre operates as a learning centre for 3 and 4-year-old children. On Sunday afternoon Pastor Celeste, the pastor and teacher of the centre, runs a children’s worship service which includes songs, stories and crafts. The children sing passionately about how much they are loved by God and their infectious enthusiasm proves that Pastor Celeste has done amazing work, in word and deed, showing her love for them as well. Here the children are given a space to live as joyful, dearly loved children, leaving behind the burdens of their families and community. They are given a chance to dream of a different future, to be reminded of their worth, to begin to inspire hope in their community. By sharing Christ’s love Pastor Celeste has created a pocket of hope.
I think that pockets of hope are defined more by the people who are present than the place itself. It’s about the attitude of those willing to see the present good and the potential greatness of a place and its people. It’s about people like Pastor Celeste who are willing to follow God’s call to leave an established church to serve in a poor community where there is no church. It’s about people like the Sisters of St. Martha who welcome all community members to their land to learn and garden together. Pockets of hope are defined by people who take seriously Christ’s affirmation that we “are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
And if that’s true, then anywhere can be a pocket of hope. Any space that you enter with the intent to bring light, and the humility to walk alongside those who already occupy that space, is a pocket of hope. It’s a space that stands out from the world around it by the feeling of joy, love and hope that it elicits in those who enter it. It can be as simple as welcoming people into your home for warm drinks and conversation. Or as daring as striking up a conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop or that neighbour that you’ve never really met. It can be as big as a new social enterprise or justice project. Or as small as an encouraging note to a co-worker. Do things that inspire hope in others. “Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16) and you will be creating pockets of hope.