It is easy to overlook the stories of others when we do not have a name and a face to put to them. The power of getting to know others personally is indisputable and can completely change our worldview, but getting to know people who are radically different from us is a challenge. Oceans—both literal and metaphorical—separate us, preventing us from coming to a place of true empathy.
Voices of Hope is a collection of short testimonials from people whose lives have been touched by the work of Urban Neighbours of Hope (UNOH), a missional order of the Churches of Christ. As a celebration of UNOH’s 20th anniversary this year, Voices of Hope is both a celebration of past achievements and a challenge to continue in its transforming work. There are stories from UNOH workers, people who volunteer with them and people from the neighbourhoods themselves. It is the stories of the latter that really illuminate a brand new reality that is completely alien to the lives of many Christians in Australia. Of course, nothing is more powerful than face-to-face interaction, but the stories, photos and artwork contained in this book go some way to bridging the divide that separates us from one another.
A wide array of voices are represented here, coming from all sorts of cultural, religious and economic backgrounds. There are people from every city in which UNOH operates, as well as people who have come from further afield but who have come into contact with UNOH because they have been forced to flee their homes due to economic or political hardship.
At the centre of all the stories is the theme of hope, which is the driving force behind all the work in which UNOH takes part. Voices of Hope makes it clear that this is not a static hope, waiting for things to get better, but a catalytic, active hope which works toward a vision of seeing people released from the oppression of urban poverty. The ongoing transformation is apparent in each story, both in the lives of the neighbours and the workers themselves.
The challenge behind the book is that such a dynamic, self-sacrificial love of neighbour is asked of every follower of Christ. Although not every person is called to live in a Bangkok slum, every person is implored to be a transformative presence in the world. Voices of Hope shows how even small acts of love bring about this transformation, and how those that are affected in this way go on to further transform others.
You can order a copy of Voices of Hope through UNOH Publishing.