UK Christians Help Families Facing Hard Times

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SALISBURY, England - Many families across Europe are going hungry in the midst of the European debt crisis.

However, Christians are beginning to work together to provide support to those facing financial disaster.

Like many families in the United Kingdom, Sean and Mandi Clarke were feeling the bite of the recession sweeping across the country.

Sean was a long distance truck driver and was rarely home, so he took a major pay cut to work for his local council.

But as a result of that decision, Sean said their family's debts spiralled out of control until they faced bankruptcy.

"We couldn't afford to pay the bills accumulated from credit cards and loans from the bank, which we took a big dip in the money. And, hence, we got ourselves into a substantial amount of debt," he explained.

To add to this, Sean's wife, Mandi, suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. She says it was heartbreaking when they were forced to downsize their home and sell many of their possessions just to survive and feed their young children.

"That was difficult. We sold a drum kit, a few of the kids toys. Anything that could make us money, we sold it so basically we could eat," she said.

Their youngest child started being bullied, so Mandi tried homeschooling their children, but she became too ill to cope.

"I just can't do it," she said. "Sometimes I spend most of the day in bed. So now they're back in school. It seems to be a bit easier because I can do the school run with my husband's help and then if I need to I can come back to bed for a couple of hours."

The Threat of Secularism

The current euro crisis means these challenges are affecting families across Europe. In response, the European Christian Political Movement, along with the Christian Concern, recently hosted a conference in London to mobilize Christians to work together to engage in positive solutions to this crisis.

The delegates from across Europe say the greatest problems affecting their countries include increasing secularism, materialism, lack of ethics, and the breakdown of the family.

"The biggest threat is not Islam. The biggest threat is secularism. The biggest threat is materialism," one delegate explained.

"Ethics have been lost and people have forgotten why they are there and what they should do to help their neighbors, the poor," another delegate said.

"Marriage rates are actually plummeting, while the divorce rates are rising and we see that co-habitation is becoming more and more usual," a delegate added.

However, Alan Craig, the current leader of the Christian People's Alliance, a Christian democratic political party in the UK, said this conference was a major step forward in dealing with these problems.

"Well, this is why this conference is so important. The whole idea of being optimistic, having faith, look out and taking risks of compassion and caring for your neighbor -- all those values of are being lost in our materialists and self-centered society," Craig told CBN News.

"Those values put back in will put a new vitality back into our society," he said.

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

The Clarkes received help from the Trussell Trust food bank ministry, one example of Christians working together to deal with the current crisis.

"We came home Christmas Eve and looked at our doorstep and there was a big hamper," Mandi recalled. "And I'll be honest I cried because it was like, 'Oh my goodness. We can sit and eat as a family for the first time in probably a couple of months.'"

"And to get a parcel like that, I cannot thank the food bank enough. It was amazing," she added.

Sean said the support they've received meant the burden of knowing how they would feed their kids during Christmas was lifted.

"It was a great relief off my shoulders to be able to put food on the table, not only for my children but for my wife and myself," he explained.

Mandi said not only have they received this practical help, but have made many new supportive friends through their local church.

"Well, being a Christian and going to our local church, it did knock our faith quite considerably going through debt and everything," she said.

"Just practical support of people just phoning and saying, 'How are you we're praying for you,' it built my faith up a lot and it's much stronger now than it has been," she added.

As the help of the Trussell Trust means the Clarke family didn't go hungry durin Christmas, the challenge remains for Christians across Europe to work together to face this crisis with the compassion of Christ.

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