Thursday, April 30, 2020

Life in the Time of Corona

So, what a season, isn’t it? We’ve been in lockdown for seven weeks now in London, with no end-date in sight, and people keep saying that this is our new normal. 

Covid-19 is an interesting challenge for a missionary. Our very life description, our life work, is to go out and reach people. But the government has banned that first bit, “going out.” Still, we quickly realised (perhaps from the jump in our own screen time) that reaching people via the internet was easier than ever. We went from moaning over constant phone use to championing it - it’s the first time in my life that I regularly go to bed with a flat battery. And let me tell you, that’s not from Netflix watching. 

Our team has wondered for a while what it would be like to make some of our activities more virtual. We’ve been looking into how to use media to send not only our preachings into people’s living rooms and smart phones, but also how to move training teachings that way, or how to incorporate technology into the way that we respond in various teachings and meetings. It’s the language of the generation that is coming up, so we knew that we needed to learn it. And now, it seems, is God’s time for us to do so!

If you follow any of our social media, you know that we’ve been far from quiet in this time. Our base is already structured in such a way that each ministry has its own online presence, and we’ve been reaching out to the people who follow us very intentionally. We have fitness videos available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, led by our very own fitness instructor, Larissa (Check them out here:  )

We also have church on Sundays and kids’ programmes that premiere twice a week, as well as occasional cooking tutorials with our team chef, all available on our church Youtube and Facebook:

And each ministry is reaching out in their own way. I’ve been working with theatre ministry, and we’ve made a series of tutorials on monologues so that actors can brush up on their skills in this time. It also opens us up to coaching acting via Zoom. If you want to see me in action, go ahead and look here:

What is truly amazing to me is the way that people in London are keen to help out however they can. Our food banks and other charities are literally turning away volunteers at the minute. As a team, we are helping our local Camden food bank to deliver excess food to people on estates around Camden. We have to be very careful as we do this, because our city is still on tight lockdown, and because we still have Covid-19 in our midst. But at the same time, it is a relief to finally be at the point where we can be physically present in the lives of our community again. 

We’ve been handing out flyers that share our Hope & Anchor information on our daily government-allowed walks, and a few days ago, I got to meet the across-the-street neighbours that I’ve been seeing from afar ever since moving here. It turns out that they go to the local Anglican Church and help to run the youth ministry, and once lockdown is lifted, we’re going to discuss partnering together. Our next-door neighbour is the pastor of a church that’s a bit further away, and they blast worship music throughout the day that keeps us grooving as we work. They even played a sermon at top volume last week, so I can confirm that our whole block knows who Jesus is!

It’s been so encouraging to realise that there are more Christians than we thought around. Hackney, our neighbourhood, has been written about in magazines as a place where witchcraft is growing, and whilst that is definitely true (hey, missionaries should be living in dark places, right?), there are also people fighting for our neighbourhood alongside us. 

And also, people have become so open to Christianity. I’ve downloaded an app that allows me to interact with people who live locally, and through it, I’ve been able to message back and forth with a local woman who doesn’t believe in God, but who is isolating alone and allows me to pray for her. There are others who protest that they aren’t Christian, but they still react to our posts offering prayer with their prayer requests. It’s amazing to watch the Holy Spirit move during corona, the very moment our movement is limited. It’s obvious, but it just reinforces to me that God is not limited by our limitations. He uses our limitations to show His presence so much more clearly. 

So anyway, what a weird season, but one that God’s prepared us for, and one in which He is still moving. Please do check out these different videos - they aren’t just for Londoners, and if they brighten your days of lockdown, or if they help you breathe deeply and trust a bit harder, then praise Jesus! This lockdown certainly isn’t going to waste!

Also, as a post-script, the DTS that was meant to begin in March has been postponed until May, which means we’re in a bit of a tricky financial situation as a base, since our rents on houses are still due in this time. Please pray for us as we deal with this unprecedented situation. God is a God of miracles, hey! And also please pray that we’ll keep following God into this strange new world or learning to reach out to people using the technology that we took for granted and often still don’t know how to use. But mates, won’t He do it!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Missions in Self-Isolation

You may have heard that London is essentially on lock down, and you may be wondering how we are doing missions in self-isolation. Or perhaps you're just wondering how we are!

YWAM London Radiant is doing well at the moment. We don't have the virus, but we are staying inside our houses to avoid infection as the count has sky-rocketed in London in the past two days. But that hasn't stopped us from keeping on! We are carrying on with our internship as usual. We have teachings via a group video call, so everybody still interacts and responds to questions. We also still have ministry times every day, and on top of that, we've been deep cleaning and fixing things in our houses.

I think that it's really amazing to be going through this in a time where we are all still connected to each other, even though we are separated physically. Through social media, I've been able to spend this time talking to friends that I've lost touch with in recent years. We're all stuck at home, so we're actually taking the time to go deeper in relationships that have gotten shoved aside by what is happening in the here-and-now.

But nothing's happening in the here-and-now, so we have the time to actually be here. Now. My housemates and I are working, eating, cleaning, and having fun together. We've planned a disco party for Meli's birthday on Monday, and we're going to dress up and wear make up and barbecue hotdogs. I've started an Instagram photo challenge that allows me to meet people who I wouldn't ordinarily interact with, even on the internet. And we're praying together and diving deeply into God's Word, which was a goal we had as a team this year.

In our retreat in December, we talked about focussing in 2020. We spoke about making our houses ecosystems that sought God together. We talked about what it looks like to form families in our houses across London. And now we are really having time to dive into it. No, we can't go out into the streets right now, but that's okay, because the people aren't in the streets. They're on their phones, or their laptops, just like you probably are if you're reading this. They're alone and scared by the statistics and lack of surety. And we're on our laptops and phones, messaging, creating content that brings hope back into the mix, and shouting loudly about Who our hope is. Because He's right here in the middle of this virus. It hasn't taken Him by surprise. We don't know when we will be able to leave our houses, but until then, we are going to reach out in any way that we can!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

throwing crowns

I thought it might be interesting to write a post from here in the midst of the pandemic of the corona virus, in the mayhem. And that maybe it would bring some hope. I have no idea what will happen in the next month, especially as the peak of the virus isn't meant to hit here until two weeks from now, but here we are.

The UK doesn't have as many sanctions as other nations in Europe, but starting next weekend, gatherings of more than 100 people will be discouraged (if not outright prohibited). We've decided that it would be prudent not to meet as a church or to do most of our church-wide activities throughout next week, so we are definitely giving it everything we've got this weekend, while we still can.

Let me tell you, the atmosphere over London is thick. As missionaries, it is always the crisis that make us think twice. While most people decide escape routes, we ask God for the wisdom in how to bring hope and light into situations. In the summer of the terror attacks, we had plans for if things went wrong, but we also decided not to evacuate London. We chose to stay, even had things escalated, to be where people needed Jesus most.

That leads us to corona virus. How can we be responsible, but not be afraid? Perfect love casts our fear, but God also asks us to be wise. So we scoured Camden for hand sanitiser and made signs to take out with us tonight that asked people if they wanted prayer for anxiety, health, mental health, worries, etc. And the turnout was more than we expected.

Before we even got outside, one of our longtime homeless friends stumbled into our shop, out of her mind with fear. We prayed and spoke with her for two hours as she said goodbye to things that had chained her and re-dedicated herself to Jesus. We even helped her get rid of some of a crystal that she was wearing to ward off evil spirits. Then we headed up to our yellow tent outside of Camden Town Station, where the rest of our Saturday night crew were spread out across the square, praying for people.

People are so open in London right now. Whether they want to lash out in anger or bravely admit their fear, they are open. So many people stopped who would normally have smiled and muttered something about the weather. We prayed, we invited them to church, and sometimes we even gave them a quick squeeze (and then doused ourselves in hand sanitiser). It's odd how people need so much reassurance when fear hangs so thickly in the air. And at the same time, it's a massive privilege to get to be the ones who reassure them. We have a hope (and an anchor...) that we can share with them, and here they are, ready to hear about him. Finally!

So yes, corona virus is a pandemic. It's frightening. But corona translates to crown, and I know exactly where I'm meant to put my crowns - at the feet of Jesus.

Monday, February 17, 2020

February 2020 Update

So I promised to tell you more about what we have going on right now, and a chilly, wet February evening seems like the perfect time. So here's a February 2020 update!

Right now at Radiant, we have two training programmes going on: the Leadership and Urban Ministry Development internship and a winter Arts Internship. I am a part of the leadership team of the internship, which has eight ladies from four nations: Germany, Canada, the States and France. It's only been two weeks so far, but we've already explored London, had two teachings and several days of arts ministry time as well as times of evangelism and serving at church.

We are also seeing Hope and Anchor continue to grow, with several new families joining to round out our children's ministry. Yesterday, we even had our first baby dedication! My Connect Group has also grown, and now we have over four nations represented, and nearly all of us own puffy black jackets, so we look like a girl gang when we leave Think after our Tuesday night time together. As the church grows, we are starting to have Friday night activities for the church in the Upper Room, the hall where we met until last year. Our evangelism times have also grown so that we feed and clothe the homeless on both Friday and Saturday nights, and people from the community have even begun joining us. I love it, because as we reach out to our community, we can share the love of Jesus with both those who need the food and clothes and with those who want to be a part of serving.

We are also planning an event called OneFest for 19 July 2020 in Trafalgar Square. That is the centre of London, and this is no small undertaking. It will be a free festival that is not overtly religious, but will champion young entrepreneurs and allow them a place to have a stall that reaches many different people whilst simultaneously allowing them mentors who are already (Christian) businesspeople. One of the main aims of the festival is to create a place for the church to meet with Londoners and for us to influence many different areas of society (religion, business, and arts/sports) in the centre of our city. We believe that 2020 is a year that will bring awakening in London, and while this is a massive undertaking requiring funding and planning that we have no experience in, we are so excited to see how God is moving. Everybody that we have spoken to are skeptical about the size, but we have been following where we feel God leading, and last week the Trafalgar Square management team put us down for 19 July! This is a massive prayer request (and something quite hard to explain), especially because we submitted the application last week and are waiting to see what more we need to include. So please pray for us, that God continues to bring us the right contacts and people to plan and host this event!

We also need a new house, because we have over 25 new students arriving in March, and we have begun the search in earnest. There is a housing crisis in London that makes it difficult to find houses, especially in the size and location in which we need one. And Think, our cafe, has been doing well recently (especially our hairdressers, who are booked full-up thanks to Groupon), but we still had a hard time in the autumn, from which we are still recovering. But we know that business is hard, and we see God move through Think. People meet God as they have their hair cut or as they enjoy a latte. When one woman inquired about holding a meet-up at our cafe, she said that she felt safe and at peace there. That's a high compliment for Camden!

Several new staff have joined the team recently, and it is amazing to watch ministries grow and reach into the different parts of society. Our fashion ministry dressed the models in one of the shows in London Fashion Week just last night, and Ina, the leader of fashion ministry, helped the designer finish up the collection in time to hit the catwalk! Tidal, the band Eric and Federico formed last year, is in the process of filming their first music video, and Chasm Magazine is almost finished with its fourth volume. On top of all of that, Micah spoke at a prayer meeting in Parliament last week!

At Hope and Anchor on Sunday, Chris talked about how we are meant to be all things to all people, from the homeless to the Members of Parliament, because God doesn't make distinction between them. I love watching as God moves us from Parliament to the streets of Camden in the rain, from classrooms to fashion catwalks. We live life at a crazy speed, it's true, because when God is doing so much, you have to run to keep up!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Cappuccino, please

We have a regular customer, called Nick -

No, wait. Customer isn't quite the right term.

We have a regular friend, called Nick, who has come to the door of Think and asked for a "Cappuccino, please," nearly every morning since we opened last May. I have no idea how he found us, but whatever the weather, whether we are busy or slow, he comes around, asks for a cappuccino, and downs it as he smokes a cigarette on our patio.

Nick isn't quite homeless. He has a place to stay. But he still begs, and his mental challenges mean that he has a social worker and can't keep a job. It was rough, at first, to explain to him that he can't come into the shop and beg. But slowly, our conversations with him changed from, "Sorry, Nick, you can't beg inside the shop," to something deeper. It's all of us together, whichever of us is on shift, morning after morning, who have grown with him, and now he stops for more than a cappuccino. When we bring it, he says, "Sit down. Will you pray for me?"

This past Monday morning, as I brought him his cappuccino, he asked me how I know that I can hear God. Then we talked about hearing God, about heaven and what that might look like, and several other deep musings that I only share with my close friends or, in a bizarre twist, with people that I meet on the streets of London. And it's amazing to get to share them with Nick, who some days can't remember my name, and sometimes says, "How do you know that you're hearing God?"

I thought that maybe you'd enjoy hearing about Nick, who is just one of the dozens of men and women we see every week. It's become so normal to me, but it's why I love Think so much. Every day, people encounter God at Think. They get to know the One who loves them so desperately that He gave His only Son. And they only expected a coffee!

In other news, we have an internship and a leadership school running at the minute, and Hope and Anchor is growing, and we are planning a massive event in Trafalgar Square for the summer. We need your prayers, not only for this, but also for the team (I am the latest in a string of us who have had the flu epidemic that is going round) and our health. We can feel the opposition against us, but we also know that when you follow God, opposition comes.

I will share more, post-flu, about the internship and Trafalgar Square and Hope and Anchor, but I wanted to take a few moments to share about Nick, and to say thank you, again, for all of your prayer and support. London is changing. Hearts are more open, and the church is working together across denominations and organisations. 2020 is going to be a massive year, and we are so happy to be here in the centre of it!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The best last night

As a charity, we receive food donations from grocery stores who have surplus food. On New Year’s Eve, we received food from Marks and Spencer’s, a posh grocery store. We decided to push back all of our plans in order to pull out our giant yellow tent and to spend the last night of the year giving back to our community by handing out the food donations that we received.

In the end, I know that the food helped those who were homeless or who don’t have enough, but I think that it impacted the people who were on their way to New Year’s parties even more. They stopped to see what we were doing (we had enough sweets and bananas to hand out to everyone, not just to the homeless), and we ended up having conversations with them about what they were doing, what we were doing, and why we want to give back. We spoke to everyone who wanted to talk, from the homeless that we see regularly to the police officers who were brought into Camden specially for New Year’s Eve. Some people we spoke to about Jesus, and some we just listened to as they shared. It’s amazing the things people will open up about if you’ll give them space. Some of them need that more than they need food.

And also, I think that it impacted us to give the food away. We were focussed on winding down the year together and on what is coming in 2020, but it gave us a few hours to think in the present about the people around us. I love the holiday season, and I think that it’s great to have a chance to reflect, but sometimes we get caught up so much in reflecting on what has happened or will happen that we forget what is happening right now. And on New Year’s Eve, before we counted down to a new year, we got the chance to give away what had been given to us. We closed the year by reaching out to the people who live (or party or work) shoulder to shoulder with us in Camden Town. 

We still had plenty of time to celebrate the New Year together, but I think the real celebration began the moment we put out that giant yellow tent. 

(Also, a special shout out to my mum, who is in the third picture and who came along to help!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2019 Update

A few weeks ago, Green Creek Baptist Church asked me to do a video update to share with their church. Throughout the week, I filmed in the different places where we do ministry throughout the week and made this wee video. Please feel free to share it, and if you want to know more about these stories, check out the posts in this blog!