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Reflection on our Anniversary Year
We are celebrating!
This year is Exeter YMCA’s 20th Anniversary and we will be celebrating 20 years of helping homeless young people in Devon. One in every 100 young people in England experiences homelessness. On the 24th September 1993 we opened our doors to our first residents; local homeless young people who had nowhere else to go. Over the succeeding 20 years we have provided over 500 young people with a safe place to call home and the encouragement, support and training needed to equip them to build positive and independent futures for themselves.
Anniversaries play a significant part in all our lives, for example wedding anniversaries and birthdays. At Exeter YMCA we have been looking at the significance placed on the Anniversary of the Biblical Exodus; where God freed the Israelites from slavery under the Egyptians. God gives the Israelites several reasons as to why it is so important to recognise these occasions.
Firstly, Anniversaries help us to celebrate. Often in the business of life we get so caught up in our day-to-day challenges we forget the bigger picture—the amazing things that have been accomplished. The Israelites certainly had day-to-day challenges to contend with after they left Egypt—wandering the dessert for 40 years and then when they eventually reached the promised land finding it rather occupied with scary and hostile strangers. It would have been easy for them to be too preoccupied with these hurdles to celebrate the amazing miracle of being freed from slavery and captivity. OK, so our situation at Exeter YMCA may not be quite as extreme as the situation the Israelites found themselves in millennia ago, but we still have our own hurdles to overcome on a daily basis which can stop us from celebrating what has been achieved. 500 homeless young people have been given a home and equipped to live positive and independent futures. That is an amazing! Whatever our daily problems may be 500 young lives have been transformed through the efforts of you and I. On Tuesday 24th September, 7pm, we have a celebration service at Exeter Cathedral marking our anniversary. Do come along and help us celebrate what we have accomplished together.
Secondly, Anniversaries give us an opportunity to pass on important first-hand memories to the wider community. In Exodus 12:26-27 God says “ And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony [or Anniversary] mean to you?’ then tell them...” The Anniversary of the Exodus was a time when parents would share with their children the story of their escape from Egypt. They would explain the pain of being in slavery and the exhilaration of that epic escape. Even once that generation of Israelites died, their stories and experiences lived on, passed down from generation to generation.
Already this year I have had the privilege of talking to a number of people about their memories of the Y. What has impacted me the most is the vivid excitement with which people share their memories of meeting together to first dream of a hostel to house homeless young people and the excitement of scheming, fundraising and watching the building take shape. Part of our Anniversary plans include an ‘Exeter YMCA History Project’ where we plan to record the stories of our pioneers, first young people and friends who were involved in our charity at its birth—and during the following years. Capturing these stories now will enable us to pass on these important first memories and visions to our community and subsequent generations. Where we come from is an exciting story and an important part of who we are.
Last but not least the Israelites are told on the Anniversary to remember God’s faithfulness. As we look back on 20 exhilarating years of working with the most disadvantaged in our city, we are poignantly aware of God’s faithfulness through abundance and recession, highs and lows, successes and failures. Not only God’s faithfulness but also our communities faithfulness to us in their generous support of our work. I am left feeling incredibly thankful in 2013.