I’m Laura Caldwell and I joined the team at Street Connect at the beginning of December 2023 as their Business Support Officer.  Prior to this I had spent the previous 4 years working for a small Falkirk charity which provided free counselling and bereavement support to anyone in the local and surrounding area when no other avenues of support were open to them and/or their mental and emotional wellbeing so devastated they required far more by way of support sessions than would be provided through our national healthcare.  It was a job that definitely prepared me for my role here at Street Connect as it gave me experience across charity business support from administration to fundraising, management to volunteer support as well as data recording, analysis and systems administration.

I much prefer a support role to being in the limelight and I take joy in helping those that are on the “frontline” and those in management, by taking as much of the administration as is possible, working alongside whether it be in training or simplifying processes so the “frontline staff” can focus on their key aim – or helping management spin the many plates their roles often involve.

 

Administration is something I “fell into”.  I left school with very little by way of education as most of my education from the age of 12-16 was on the streets with a local gang.  I was brought up in an alcoholic home and my mum’s death at age 12 saw me spiral out of control for the next 4-5 years.  During this time I was in constant trouble with the police, addicted to alcohol and pills, increasingly violent and suicidal.  In 1988 I lost a drunken bet and found myself in a Pentecostal church, to say I was right out of my comfort zone would have been an understatement and wished I was anywhere but there.  I had gone in with a plan to cause chaos and get chucked out but God had other ideas.  As I sat in that place, surrounded by people it was as if it were only me.  I suddenly saw the deprivation and chaos of my life in stark reality and saw the utter futility of my existence – in that moment I cried out to God, “God if you’re real – help me, I’ve tried all this world has to offer, help me” The Lord heard my cry and He answered me. 

 

Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to you and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin….You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble, you surround me with shouts of deliverance.  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you…many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord…”

 

That day I was miraculously saved and delivered.  My life turned around literally from that moment, and I can testify that as it says in this Psalm, I am blessed and forgiven.  All of it!  God has been my hiding place, He has preserved me through many troubles, He has delivered me.  He has instructed me and taught me the way to go and counselled me through this life.  It is Him that directs my steps and makes divine connections.

 

As I said, I fell into administration.  I was out of school and clueless.  A friend was going to college so I asked her if I could tag along.  I didn’t even know what she was going to do and so I found myself at a secretarial college in Glasgow and upon arrival was signed up for the two-year course.  Toward the end of my time there, a pilot programme was being run for National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and I was able to study business administration at no cost, in fact I was paid to do it.  It seemed that the Lord was directing my steps.  And so began the start of my administrative career.

 

Back to present day, my husband John and I planted Kairos Church in 2020 and following lockdown restrictions lifting, we were able to return to the city of Stirling.  John has a powerful testimony of God’s deliverance from drug and alcohol addiction as well as a life of violence. Today he is a full-time prison chaplain and teacher. Together we have a desire to see men and women raised up to be His hands and feet in the community, the city, the nation. 

Early in lockdown I saw a video of Julie McAddock on Facebook and when I looked up the charity I found Street Connect not only worked with those in addiction but there was after care once people were out of rehab.  At that time, whilst I was able, I supported the charity financially.  Kairos church became part of the Apostolic Church UK later in 2020 and there we met Ricky & Julie personally and a divine connection came into play.  Discovering the charity’s roots had quite an impact. 

 

Networking is one of John’s gifts and we were connected in with Connect2 Teen Challenge Forth Valley.  (They are a faith-based charity that works to help people completely break free from addiction and live fulfilling lives as contributing members of society).  We were blessed to have Jenny Nunn join us at Kairos and she “happened” to volunteer with Connect2. 

With both of us working full time with a family as well as church planting, time is limited, but John had such a strong desire to start a recovery meeting when another divine connection came along.  Lee Gow joined us at Kairos with a heart’s desire to start a recovery group in Stirling.  God is forever making provision for His work.

In 2021-22 we had run a term time drop in café for one hour after our Sunday service.  With those coming through Connect2, those who came in through street outreach and/or word of mouth we wondered whether a partnership with Street Connect could provide structure and support for those volunteering at our café as well as a consistent worker in situ.  In 2023 John and I attended the first Street Connect partnership conference and we were both so blessed by the team and impacted by the day.  I found myself saying to John “these are my tribe!”

 

I was, at that point, in the process of changing job; having been sought out by an emergency service recruitment specialist and invited to apply, I was successful in interview in early August.  Due to security clearance and vetting I was still in process.  I was looking forward to the move and it “felt” right.  In late October, on the day my security clearance came through our son was hospitalised and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  I spent the next 3 days at his bedside.  I had put in my notice at my current job although I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage this new emergency service job with this latest twist in our family life. 

The week after our son returned home, one of those “divine connections” asked if I would be interested in an upcoming role at Street Connect.  The joy I had experienced at the partnership conference came to mind and I knew that no matter what I had in process, I had to stop and look and I am so, so glad I did.  As I looked over the job description, I saw with the 35 years’ experience in administration across the private, public and third sector, each place and post has provided experience that could be put to use in the role at Street Connect.

 

The other job felt right but with this role – this wasn’t “just a job”. The timing, the detail, the connection, but more than that – I knew that I wanted to join this team because I had found “my tribe”.

Jan 30, 2024

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