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Saturday, 20 May was a very special Christian Aid day at St Michael’s, Hathersage. We were delighted to welcome back forty five visitors from the Doncaster Conversation Club to our small church in the Hope Valley.  They had visited us last September and clearly we hadn’t done too bad a job in welcoming them and plying them with both breakfast and lunch.

  Our visitors were young people, refugees from Afghanistan, Albania, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, Vietnam, Pakistan, Ethiopia – and last but not least (and not quite so young) volunteers from Doncaster Conversation Club.

  It was lovely to see many familiar faces (and a very friendly dog) from last year and to welcome new friends.  The Peak District National Park did us all proud by providing five Park Rangers, dressed in red, to guide a walk and make sure no-one got lost.  Two young men, one on crutches and another in a wheel chair, put us to shame by completing more of the walk that anyone could have expected.

  The weather as always in the Peak District was not to be relied on.  A short sharp shower as the group set off, and another as they neared the end of the walk, could have dampened spirits but only dampened coats.

  There was fun and laughter and cups of hot soup, sandwiches and cakes as the coats gently steamed on the pews.

  These are some quotes from the group:

  “Going to the Peak District gave me the opportunity to enjoy one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  I wanted to stay there.  It was impossible to see anyone without smiling.”

  “The location of the Church is very pleasant and the beautiful situation seemed to make the people friendly and calm.”

  “The food was delicious and the people were so lovely.”

  “I liked everything and very good soup.  The hills are like Sudan…”

  “I’m happy today because good time.  I taste delicious foods.  Good people here.  Thank you so much.”

  These are lovely words but what our visitors maybe don’t realise is that they gave us much more than we gave them.  We had the privilege not only of sharing their stories and their anxieties but of welcoming them into our hearts and our church in the beautiful Peak District.  We so hope they will come again.

  Thanks must go to our Parish Priest, Fr Martin Clayton and to members of both Hope Valley parishes – Our Lady of Sorrows, Bamford and St Michaels’s for making all this possible.

Maria Kenyon