Indeed! There is a Spirit at Fatima House!

8th July 2017 - by Gertrudes Samson

Fatima House is a collaborative project of different agencies of the Catholic Church in Birmingham that offers emergency-temporary free of charge accommodation to destitute asylum seekers women in Birmingham UK.


I wrote this article not to scare anyone like in horror stories, but indeed there is “Spirit” at Fatima House! I do not have third eye but I could sense it whenever I am there, whether I am alone or with other people. But definitely, I would like to assure everyone that it is a “Good Spirit”, one that would invites and draw people in and not that one that would repel people to run away. Actually the spirit I am referring to is the “Spirit of God” to be exact.
You would probably ask why did I say so or when and how I could sense it. Well here were just few of some of my personal experiences. I am sure my other co-volunteers would have more to add to these or might also have some similar experiences with me.

At The Door
Fatima house relies on donations, throughout the day, someone would ring the door and bring something to donate out of their generosity. Sometimes they are individuals donating whatever little things that they could give which you could sense even out of their limited resources. Sometimes they are representative of a certain group or organizations donating what their members pitch in together and contributed to come up with bountiful hampers or several bags of donations. Some of them are people that I knew before, some are totally strangers and some even want to keep their names anonymous. Many times I will never see them again.
I wonder if some of those were angels, because in the Bible, there are stories wherein God sent his angels to help for various reasons. Maybe that is why it is also said in the Bible, we should welcome strangers, for you never know if you have entertained an angel.
Anyway, God knows who they are and I am thankful to God for each and every one of them. As a volunteer they give a warm smile in my heart each time I meet them at the door. I am sure God will return to them the blessings they share by many thousand folds.

At the Kitchen Table
The kitchen table of the house is the place where people usually congregate to have a meal or a cup of tea. I love coming to that space and having my meals with Fatima House residents or guests as we call them. So I bring my food there for the whole day from breakfast even up to dinner sometimes. They do not have common meal time but chances are I would have a meal with various resident living there in each occasion. Sometimes we also taste each other food, sometimes we cook together and learn recipes from each other. Most of all it is great opportunity for us to talk comfortably about almost anything about life, needs, challenges, sadness, joy, memories about home, longing for loved ones, things that puzzled our minds, questions about the mysteries of life, faith, experiences, relationships, etc.
Sometimes our eyes end up teary and sometimes we have a good laugh together too. Some of them have limited English but I think as long as a people would listen with their hearts, you could still get the gist of what they are saying through their gesture and body language.
But something I noticed, at the end of our every conversation, regardless of the diversity of our faiths. Spontaneously we usually find God’s inspiration to share from somewhere. It could be from what a friend shared with us, a story we read, a story from the scriptures we heard, a homily or sharing of religious leader or preacher, etc. So in the end, we feel somewhat nourished not only our stomachs but also our hearts and souls. The spirit of sharing is indeed so evident. As one lady from other faith once said, “God is happy when we share”.
One time I cannot help but say to them “I think God is happy because we talk about Him instead of any rubbish things. One of the ladies also said, yes I think we made Him happy and probably He said “Oh my children, they are learning from me”. It also made me wonder sometimes, perhaps that is how the early followers of Jesus have their Holy Eucharist. They gathered at the table, sharing food, share their experiences and stories, and then together they try to recall the stories of the prophets and what Jesus taught to them, from there they draw the strength for their spirit to remain in their faith in spite of persecution and challenges.

At the Meeting Room
The meeting room is the place where we usually meet together with the residents for various activities such as weekly house meeting, crafts session like jewellery making, bag making, knitting & weaving, card making etc. It is also the place where we have the community meal and celebrations too.
One time I lead a jewellery making class, when one of the residents cameand was a bit silent, I heard her case had been refused again. But then as we make some jewellery for her, she began to smile more and more after her every piece of accomplishment. At the end of our session she hug and kissed me, she said, “You know when I went out of my room this morning, I feel so sad, so I thought of joining the session when I saw the post, and now I feel better”. I was surprised to see what a simple sharing of time and knowledge could do for someone who was facing difficult challenges in life. So I just said to myself, “Thank you God for the talent that you gave me and the opportunity to share it especially to people who need it the most”.
Last December we had our simple Christmas celebration together at the meeting room too. Fatima residents and volunteers came from different parts of the world. And so we had international buffet. Each one prepared food from their respective country that they want to share. We also receive some donations from various groups and people, so we also equally divide those into bags and distribute those to them. The small special ones I wrapped up for the British traditional game called “Pass the Parcel”. It is a parcel with several layers of wrappers and each layer has a surprise gift underneath, music is played and the parcel is pass on to each person around the dining table then when the music stops the person who has it in her hand will open one layer of the wrapper and get the surprise gift underneath. Everyone had a good laugh on what each person got as a gift. They were very thankful for the generosity of the people who extended to them their resources and support in various ways.
All of them said they enjoyed the celebration very much. Some of them even said it is their first time to experience Christmas celebration. As we leave the room when the celebration ended, one of them even sang a hymn of praise to God as she walk going back to her room. These women who live in Fatima house are in difficult destitute situations, but thankful heart is always evident with them.

The Spirit is active and listening
The Fatima residents stay with us for maximum of six months or as soon as they receive accommodation from the British Government.
One time one of them was about to leave Fatima House since she received accommodation from the government. With her limited English, she said she was very thankful to all the people involved in Fatima House and even mentioned the name of people one by one, but her eyes were teary. She said I will be taken to a far city I do not know anyone there, I do not have any friends there. I told her, “Do not worry, God will help you find new friends. That is the experience of other people that I know”.
She is also worried that it would be difficult for her to start there all over again because the transport arrangement called on the phone and said she could only bring 2 bags. She said please help me convince the driver to allow me to bring all of my things. I said to her, of course I can try to help you explain but be ready too to choose 2 bags only in case the driver said no. Let us pray to God that the driver have a good heart and could understand, and that there is no other passenger in the transport arrangement. She said “Yes, let us pray that the driver have a good heart”.
We all thought that it would be really impossible for the driver to allow her to take all her things, especially if there were other passengers.
After waiting for almost 4 hours, the transport finally arrived and I saw that there was no other passenger inside, I immediately asked the driver, “Is she the only passenger? Can she take all her stuff with her? The driver said yes she is the only one, and no problem, she can bring with her all her stuff. Thanks be to God! Indeed the driver got a good heart. We are all very happy for her. After we load all her things inside the vehicle, I said to the driver, so are you taking her to a far city? The driver said no, just in the city beside Birmingham. So when she heard that, she became doubly happy. All her tears turn into joy. As she hug and kissed me goodbye she said “Oh Yes, there is good tram there”. So I said “Oh! So you could easily visit us then!” God indeed listen to her tiny prayer that day and actively respond to it.
As Saint Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9”… brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”.
I do really believe that God’s Spirit is with us in Fatima House, our tiny place of peace in the world where Fatima residents could take refuge. He is there in every generous person who come to its door to supports the project in different ways. He is there at the heart of every resident. He is there at the heart of every volunteer and support organizations. He is there with us in our every meal, conversation, and sharing. He is there listening, guiding us all, helping us and responding to our needs and request. So indeed, I do believe, there is Spirit at Fatima House! And that Spirit with us is the “God of peace”.