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Mark Johnston (MDiv Westminster Theological Seminary) is the Minister of Bethel Presbyterian Church (EPCEW) in Cardiff, Wales. He was previously Senior Pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church Bryn Mawr, PA and of Grove Chapel in Camberwell, London. He began his ministry as a church planter in Ireland. He serves on the Board of Banner of Truth Trust and has authored several books including three titles in Banner's Let’s Study series, You in Your Small Corner, and Our Creed.

Column: Resident Aliens by Mark Johnston

Who Cares for the Carers?

July 29, 2014 •

Who Cares for the Carers?

They are the unsung heroes of the 21st Century – an entire army of family members, friends and neighbours who just want to help. They are the ‘Carers’. Some care for disabled children and adults, others for those whose lives have been shattered through accident, war or addiction, for those with mental illness and for ageing family members and friends as the years take their toll. They are tireless, self-sacrificing in their labours. They quietly put up with the thanklessness of their task and even the abuse that so often comes their way from the very people for whom they care. They choose not to work so that those they love don’t have to go into an institution. They live to care; but the question is, ‘Who cares for them?’

The answer, sadly, is often ‘No-one!’ The Government makes loud noises about how wonderful these people are, but do little to support them. A meagre £202 a month (with lots of strings attached) is a hollow ‘Thank You’ to a workforce that saves the tax-payer billions every year. But even families themselves so often leave the carer to care alone. Support groups have their place and the Church offers token gestures; but the truth is there is little real care for those who spend a lifetime caring. It would be wonderful to think things might change for these dear people; but the reality is that they probably won’t. They will always be taken for granted.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope and comfort that comes from the Bible. It’s found in Peter’s words when he says, ‘Cast your care upon him [God] because he cares for you!’ God cares for carers and he will gladly strengthen all who lean on him. He proves that promise in may different ways. For the apostle Paul, he said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ The very fact that carers somehow find strength to face another day is evidence of God’s care for them. But it does not stop there.

God uses means to provide care and support for those in need. Supremely he has set his people in his family, the church. So those carers who belong to the church ought to find practical help and encouragement from their fellow-members in God’s family. The offer to look after an ageing relative or disabled family member for a few days to allow their regular carer time off for a respite break is a most tangible expression of care. Or simply to be there, to make time to talk, to be a shoulder to cry on, or just help with those little jobs around the house. Things that might seem small in themselves, but which can mean so much for those for whom ‘normality’ always has a shadow over it.

Jesus said that even a gesture as simple as offering a glass of cold water to one of the least of his children is a gesture towards him. Learning to care for carers is a blessing in the church and a witness in our communities.

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