Rick McDonald works in Cardiff as a Centre Manager for Christians Against Poverty. Chris Owens interviewed him for the Evangelical Magazine.
What brought you to Cardiff?
The short and simple answer is ‘the love of a good woman’. Naomi and I met in our home church. When she came to Cardiff to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama I followed (later) and we were married in Highfields Church in 2008. We subsequently moved to The Bay Church and we live in Cardiff Bay.
How did CAP come into your working life?
Our pastor, Ian Parry, was invited by CAP to attend a conference in Bradford to hear about the work. The result was that the church became keen to be involved and approached me. I reduced my working hours in my job in retail and was employed two days a week by the church to be a CAP centre manager. I have since given up my retail job and only work for the church.
What is CAP?
Christians Against Poverty is a charity that focuses on poverty and its associated problems. We help people who are struggling with debt, mainly through offering debt counselling to people who have asked for our help, and running courses to help people with budgeting and money skills. Christ is clearly presented at all events and visits as he is the one who has cleared the greatest debt of all time. The aim is always to lead clients to him and prayer is offered at the close of each visit.
CAP was founded in 1996 by John Kirkby, a man who himself had been in debt. The Lord used his desperation to bring him to himself and gave him a passion to help others. Since its foundation in Bradford it has spread to other countries, including New Zealand and Australia. The formula that John first used hasn’t really changed except that now the service is run out of the local church. This means that it is a community focused outreach, where the emphasis is placed on the area around the church.
What does it mean to be a CAP centre manager?
The ‘centre’ is me, my phone and my laptop so overheads are minimal. So I can be mobilised quickly to visit clients in need. The great advantages are that I am meeting new people every week who are in real need and I am offering them a concrete way out of their problems. The disadvantages are that the people are real people with real problems which means that things often don’t go smoothly. I have to do a lot of follow-up which takes a huge amount of time.
Did you receive any training before you started? Is support ongoing for you?
I had a week of training in Bradford. It was very intense but they really give you ‘the tools’ that you will need when you come back and start to see people. There is also ongoing support in the form of conferences and I can phone an area manager if I have any questions.
Could you give us an outline of your typical week?
Well there isn’t such a thing as a typical week when you are involved with people, but it looks something like this:
- Mondays are reserved for first visits with clients. I usually go at 6pm when clients have returned from work as many are in low paid jobs and are trying hard to make ends meet. But I must also mention that it isn’t just the low paid that debt can effect. Debt is a universal problem that people from any walk of life can be affected by. I introduce the service we offer and show a video that clearly explains the work of CAP and the freedom we can all have in Christ. I never do a first visit on my own and always take along a ‘CAP befriender’. This will be a man or woman from our church who will accompany me on all visits and try to stay in touch with the person more as a friend and support than in an official capacity. During the first visit the aim is to build a relationship of trust between myself, the client and the CAP befriender.
- Tuesdays are usually kept for second visits for clients who have made the brave decision to start the long journey out of debt. During this session I collect all the facts and figures that CAP need to help them. Staff at the CAP office in Bradford then build a budget around all the facts that we have collected and also come up with a solution to their situation. A third visit involves presenting the budget that CAP has built for them. This visit is decision time for the client. They say yes or no to the help that we are offering. If they say yes then we can offer continual support through the process but likewise if they say no, as a church we can still offer support if they want it.
- Wednesdays can be a completely different day when I visit Housing Associations, Job Centres and other government agencies. I am increasingly asked to present CAP money courses to staff in these centres. The money course is a budgeting exercise designed to help people get a grip on their finances. By doing these courses, they get an overall feel of who we are and then through this they are more at ease to refer people to the full CAP service. Personal contact goes a long way. Sometimes I set up a stand in local libraries and job centres; this is a great way to meet more people and for the name of CAP to be widely promoted.
Can you describe a typical CAP client?
The short answer is no. As I have already said everyone and anyone can be affected by debt so there is not a typical client. That is what is so exciting about this role, you never know who you are going to meet.
Is the rest of the week free for you?
Definitely not as I am studying on the EMW’s Theological Training Course. Studying, writing essays and preparing sermons is demanding and takes a lot of time. My young family deserve some quality time and as a foursome we all enjoy walking, swimming and visiting our families.
For more information please visit www.capuk.org