The last few months have highlighted that the refugee crisis is not just happening in the Middle East, but just across the channel in Calais. The news today that 14 children will arrive in Croydon from Calais is also a reminder that what happens in what's been termed 'The Jungle' camp effects us in the UK too.
The refugee crisis is something we cannot ignore. Everyday we see the reports and images in the media showing the devastation and magnitude of one of the largest humanitarian crises the world has faced in decades.
When my church - Hillsong London - partnered with Christian social justice initiative Greenlight, I decided it would be a good opportunity to engage my services as a photographer in this call.
After completing the Greenlight refugee training and booking a slot to go out with the team, I was ready. My main objective was to talk with refugees and capture some images.
The team started to clean up around tents where rubbish had been dumped. The smell was pretty vile and I felt my stomach tighten as the rats came out from all corners.
One great idea was to take a soccer table which our buddy Henry carried in. This proved to be an excellent tool as an ice breaker to bring fun and help build relationship with people we engaged with.
I was soon inspired by the practical Christian faith that these volunteers displayed.
These guys carried a fearless heart with such joy and love even in the most difficult circumstances. When some rats came running at the girls who were volunteering, they screamed, but then maintained control and carried on as if nothing had happened!
Within a short period of time, a large section of the campsite was clear. The refugees carried on with their lives while the team worked around them.
After a quick team prayer, it was time to carry on to the next part of the camp.
I got chatting to a young man called Mohamed. He had a damaged knee after fleeing from his country. Thankfully the medical team at Calais hospital had operated on it and he was recovering. Like many others, his story and journey captured my heart as he fights to find purpose and health in his life and for his family. He appears extremely intelligent, speaking good English and studying while working as a chef in his country. He obliged when I asked if I could take his photo.
I found myself talking with many other refugees who didn't want their identity shown. This was mostly because they have fled their country to find work to provide for their families back home and didn't want their family to find out that they are stuck in a refugee camp.
I spent some time shadowing one of the amazing Greenlight translators. Being able to translate is a real gift and it certainly breaks down barriers of communication to ensure we get to talk and even pray with as many people as possible.
The site was much bigger than I imagined. The eating facilities certainly took a bit of getting used to, with no real kitchen to speak of; just a makeshift table and some frying pans.
It was only right that when it was time for the team to have lunch, we left the site and ate by a makeshift church and youth hostel nearby. However, my stomach was still very tense and I could only manage a banana while the others just ate as if it was totally normal. I guess this is something I will eventually get used to.
There was a fence where the difference between living rough and having some sort of clean living was apparent.
I saw very few women on site, other than volunteers. Most of the men appeared to be Muslim praying five times a day, which includes cleansing their bodies from head to toe each time with water.
We walked around with the team who maintain the containers that Greenlight had set up to provide water and sanitation to the refugees. These containers are an absolute necessity and an unconditional gift given to the camp as a part of the cleansing scheme.
We read in the Bible (John 13) that Jesus humbled himself to a point where he washed his disciples feet. I realised that Greenlight were actually performing this act in the form of the water containers while the team quietly cleaned around the refugees. Jesus' hands and feet were definitely on display.
The second time I went to the Jungle a few months later, we discovered we had a good problem. The camp didn't require nearly as much cleaning as previously. And I didn't see one rat!
It appears that people living in the camp were inspired to maintain the site to a higher level.
It is amazing the difference a bunch of committed volunteers can make in just a year to support others that so desperately need help.
We were certainly building good relationships with some of the refugees. Playing rounders and volleyball in a nearby field I saw the two worlds collide, of people with so much and people with very little.
The care, compassion and love on show was very much apparent.
Every smile I witnessed from a refugee, especially the younger lads, lifted my heart.
My time at the Jungle had gone quickly and there were some tired legs but happy souls.
We all met up and prayed before leaving the site and I captured an image of a group looking on into the distance and what may lay ahead for them as we returned to the comfort and safety of our homes in the UK.
As we left the site, I thought about how when we go on mission it means going outside our comfort zones. But the rewards of doing this are great, as we have an opportunity not just to see the world from a different view point, but bless others as we go.
Jez Godlonton is a wellbeing trainer, nutritional adviser and photographer
Greenlight is a social Justice initiative that sees a team of skilled volunteers go out onto the streets of London in the evenings on a medical van to offer minimal invasive medical care, and provide advice and a signposting service to rough sleepers. For more information visit greenlight.london