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Gorleston’s cabbie chaplain listens and prays

Michael Clarke 400ATTaxi-cab driver Mike Clarke from Gorleston offers a taxi chaplaincy service for fellow colleagues who need someone to share their problems with.  Tony Rothe reports

Mr Clarke became a part-time cabbie and started working for Great Yarmouth-based taxi firm Compass about five years ago, having retired from his job as a gardener. He was inspired to launch the service after speaking to taxi drivers with various personal problems.  He realised the nature of the job meant that drivers often bottled up their emotions and rarely had anyone they could reach out to and share their issues with.
“Despite interacting with the public on a daily basis, being a cabbie can be a lonely job and drivers are rarely asked how they are feeling” explained Michael.  “Working as a taxi driver can be very stressful because a lot of drivers are self-employed, meaning that if they do not have much business, they cannot pay their bills. A lot of them have to work really unsociable hours and do not get to spend as much time with their family as they would like to.
“All I try to do is listen to their problems and help them out in any way I can. For some of them I will say a little prayer, and for others I will recommend going to church or even suggest counselling. Every case is different but whatever the problem is, I will give them my time.”
He says he probably talks to four or five people a week, and tells how his chaplaincy work has already helped to save one colleague’s marriage.
“A driver came to see me in distress” he said. “I asked him what was up, and he told me his wife had left him. I listened to how devastated he was and said to him I would say a little prayer for him. The following week I bumped into him, and he told me his wife had called him to have a chat. They got back together and are now in a happy marriage. It was great to see”
Mr Clarke prayed for another driver who was laid up with a bad back. A week after praying for his friend, he was back in a cab earning a living for his family.
“I do not have any power. I am just there for people to talk to” he said. “God is the one who makes the real difference and because of that I do not deserve praise for what I do. Just talking can have a massive effect on someone’s mental health. I am simply there to offer a service and if it benefits people, then that is great. God is the one who is doing all the work”
Since Michael’s story appeared on the Eastern Daily Press website, he has received some encouraging feedback. “I received a positive reaction after the article came out.   Some good-natured ribbing and banter, yet people said it was good” he told Network Norfolk. “Out of that, a couple opened up about things that were of concern (eg paying the taxman!).  Also, some regular customers remarked on the article. It has been a good start to the chaplaincy.”
Michael first came to Jesus whilst an inmate in Norwich prison just over 50 years ago, and is now a charismatic Catholic, regularly attending church in Gorleston. It was meeting John Wright at a Full Gospel Businessman’s meeting that inspired Michael to start his outreach. He says he is very ecumenical and has contacts in St Andrews Church, St Peter’s Church and Cliff Park Community Church in Gorleston, Kingsgate Community Church and Great Yarmouth Minster.  Sometimes he will send people there for help and/or prayer.
So, where does Mr Clarke see his chaplaincy initiative going in future? “Most cabbies do not come onto the ranks. most are in private hire cabs employed by 2 big firms” explained Michael “To reach them I put posters and flyers into the offices. I see this developing into a couple of us hitting the ranks at decent intervals talking and listening, maybe with a small newsletter with a good mix of stuff in it to appeal to drivers. I would like a couple more people to come on board to keep it going. I have even wondered about reaching out to bus drivers next!   Who knows?”  
For more information call Mike on 07810 124064 or email michael.jean777@yahoo.co.uk

The photo above is courtesy of Kev Bridgewater.

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