By Ian White
On the coldest day of Christmas my true love sent to me ... a knitted hat, scarf and gloves!
Whilst the forgotten homeless in Havering, London may not actually feel like singing seasonal songs, they are certainly grateful for the efforts of Natasha Necati and her small knitting team, Knitted Together.
The faithful handful meet monthly at Costa Coffee for mutual encouragement in improving their knitting skills, while producing winter warmers for a homeless charity to distribute over the festive period.
"A few years back I was part of a group of friends who knitted scarfs and handed them out in December in London," Natasha says.
"While knitting for the London homeless was huge, I had a tugging on my heart for the local homeless who often got forgotten."
She was undeterred by the local authority who insisted there was no homeless problem!
But she had seen the homeless firsthand in her own town centre and, when a notice for a local shelter 'kept popping up', her knitting group formed through the support of Natasha's church in Romford. It now works with the Hope4Havering charity.
Scarves, hats and gloves are neatly folded with a knitted heart card attached containing words from the Bible and an understanding that Jesus cares for folks over the difficult Christmas period.
The 35-year-old was taught to knit by her mum when a knee issue kept her on crutches but as she improved the knitting stopped until all these years later.
Natasha adds: "I believe everyone needs to receive a gift at Christmas and more importantly everyone deserves to feel loved.
"I have gone through some real hardships of loss, and I have had moments where my heart and mind have fought, but as a Christian I have Jesus by my side to see me through."
So how did this journey of faith begin for Natasha?
"I was brought up in a religious home. My dad would take us to church which I enjoyed as there was a youth club and a lot of social things.
"It was the annual trip to a Christian music festival which was my favourite time, as I was away from home and gave me space as my parents were going through a messy divorce."
Natasha believes she "met God" at the festival after being challenged by the message that Christ had died for her sins.
But she was a "messy teenager" who became angry at life ... and God.
"In addition to the divorce, I had a lot of things going on.
"I knew there was a God, I just didn't think he liked me very much because of all that seemed to be going wrong."
She started clubbing and, along with a friend, briefly got into the House and Garage music craze.
When this came to an end they did not know what else to fill their time with.
"One Saturday we were shopping and were approached by a group around our age inviting us to a youth event.
"We went out of curiosity and I remember everyone was so happy and it felt really comfortable. I can't remember what the preacher said, but it felt like he was talking directly to me. I kept looking around, as I felt like there was a bright light shining on me and everyone knew he was talking about me!
"I can't remember how I got to the front when people were asked to walk forward to be prayed for, all I can remember is that I was crying, really sobbing."
That night Natasha committed her life to Christ, only to discover her friend had already done so a few weeks before!
Many years - and yarns of wool - later Natasha would be the first to say Christ is for life, not just for Christmas!
"Being a Christian isn't easy, but Jesus is our strength, protector and friend and I would be so lost without him," she concludes.•