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!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Welcome to New York





When people hear that we went to New York City for three weeks, they say, “Must be nice.” They picture us on a tourist bus sightseeing, watching a Broadway show, eating loads of pizza.

They’re only right about the pizza bit.

We went to NYC for the ninth International Arts and Sports Gathering, which Melo and I coordinate every year. It’s for Christian artists and athletes to come together and discuss how to use our arts/sports in different areas of society, for us to come against individualism and to pray for and help each other. We’ve held it in most of the capitals of Europe, so we knew that this year it had to travel to the little brother of those cities: a ferocious beast called New York.

I have been on two different planning trips to NYC over the past year and a half. One of the most stressful parts of planning the Gathering is always securing accommodation for the team. In our previous two trips to NYC, we met with several churches in order to find a place. We also prayed and decided to hold the Gathering across several different venues, which meant coordinating pastors and schedules and the Gathering events. Three weeks beforehand, we had a church that had been confirmed as a venue for a year back out. It was typical Gathering shenanigans. But in spite of that, we saw God’s faithfulness in an incredible way with another of the churches that we worked with this Gathering.



I’ve been learning a lot about the longevity of the promises of God. In the song “Way Maker,” it says, “Even when I don’t see it, You’re working. / Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working. You never stop, you never stop working.” Johanna, our base leader, walked past a church called 2nd Avenue Church in 2011 and thought, “I’d love to have an activity out of this church.” Fast forward to 2018, when contacting them from across the ocean hadn’t gone so well, so we had to hit 2nd Avenue and knock on the door. A homeless man saw us and helped us ring the doorbell, and we met one of the pastors. In our second meeting, he told us that God had told them to give us whatever we asked for. So we asked for accommodation (they have a shower and a flat in the top floor!) and to hold the Gathering there, and they said yes!

We not only held the Gathering in the church, we also held a Discipleship Training School outreach there after the Gathering was finished. During the outreach, we took our drums and stilts (which we’d dragged across the Atlantic) to Washington Square Park for evangelism. Each time we went to Washington Square Park, people approached us to talk about what we were doing. We got to pray for people and tell them about Jesus for ages; hours passed, and we didn’t even notice. We were too caught up in the new friends that we had made.





This is just a quick update on three weeks in which God moved in crazy ways. He moved in people’s hearts in the Gathering. He taught us about His faithfulness to put dreams in our hearts and then to bring them about when we’d forgotten about them. And when we go back to NYC to work with this church again, I know we’ll see how He has worked in the interim time. It wasn’t the Gathering we pictured, but I believe that it was the one that God wanted. And I’m learning about that, as well: how to have hopes in God, but how to learn to leave space for Him to move. And to follow Him when I see Him going in a direction. I love our God who links churches and hearts from across the Atlantic, how we go to prepare the ground and invite people to a church we’d been dreaming of for ages, and now that we’re back in London, they can continue the work of introducing the people we met in NYC to our Saviour. 


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

the whirlwind summer

I have gone radio silent, and I am sorry for that! The London summer is short, and on our team, it is our busiest season.

July turned out to be a manic month. After searching long and hard for a new house to accommodate some of our 31 students in the July DTS, Rebecca, Meli and I moved to Hackney, East London in the first week of July. As a team, we've been praying to move to and be more involved in East London for a while now, and God came through (as per usual) in His perfect time that felt quite tight for us, which meant that we moved in only a week before nine new students arrived. But the team pulled together and built beds, assembled the makings of a kitchen, and helped us break in our new barbecue grill that came with the house.

I am still completely overwhelmed by the goodness of God - I've been praying for East London for several years now, and I see how He especially prepared me for it throughout the spring. On my birthday, I asked God to use my year straight to the edges. And let me tell you, He has been faithful to do just that! With all of the different ministries that we are up to, the events that we get to host and take part in, the schools and other training programmes, and with Think (our coffee shop) and Hope and Anchor, time is being stretched in new ways. I feel like we shouldn't be able to do it all, but God has been building our muscles over time. We don't want to miss any blessings that He has for us or any ways that He wants to use us, so instead of putting our own limits, we keep trusting.

Our current Discipleship Training School started the second week of July and has 31 students - it is the largest DTS ever in YWAM in London! We have six houses strung like pearls on a necklace across London, from West London to our house in Hackney, East London. When I look back three years and remember how excited we were to get our second house, this feels absolutely mad. Several teachers and pastors that came to visit us in the early years of Radiant said that it was time for us to stretch the edges of our tent, and they were right!



A couple of weeks ago, we held a community barbecue in the alley next to Think, and we had somewhere around 100 new friends come through. They were everyone from homeless to gypsies to families to our regular Think customers. At one point, I put down my camera and looked across the crowd to see all of our different ministries in one place: the barber from Think was giving a free haircut to our homeless friend Nobby, and our regular cafe customer Saranya was chatting to a woman from Hope and Anchor. Our DTS students sat on the dirty pavement in order to have conversations with some homeless that we'd never met before while one of our Hope and Anchor ladies made jollof rice (a Nigerian speciality) for everyone. And the next Sunday, some of our homeless friends even came to Hope and Anchor for the first time since we moved into the cinema location!





In two days, we begin Arise London/Bones Camp, our outreach to the city of London leading up to Notting Hill Carnival. If you've been on this journey with me for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with Bones. I love it, because it is our push all together as a base. We put other activities on pause in order to reach out to our city in a massive way. Could you pray for us as we step into it, that God would prepare the hearts of our team, of the campers who come from outside to join us, and for the people that we will meet in the streets? Will you pray for health, safety and for God to move? We saw many people get saved last year, and we are trusting that many more will encounter Jesus this year as we hit the streets! So that update is certainly coming up!

And finally, my Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is nearly fully funded - thank you so much for giving so extravagantly! I will be applying for it when I return from the International Arts + Sports Gathering in NYC in October. So I will be back in September with an update on Arise London/Bones and to share about the Gathering (which I get to help organise, and which is one of my favourite events that we hold as a team).

But once again, thank you all for your prayers, for your support and for your faithfulness. We are in such an exciting time as God is opening up new sectors of life (business primarily!) for our team to touch, and the places that we find ourselves are always surprises. I couldn't have dreamt all of this for myself, so I'm so glad that God dreams for all of us and enables us to move as a family through it together. So thank you for being a part of this family with me, for loving God and trusting Him along with me. You guys are incredible!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

ice lollies on a hot day

This is just a tiny update, because it delighted my heart and I want to share it with you.

We got a donation for Lazarus Project this week, and we decided to use it towards the food and coffee/tea that we give out to the homeless and needy on Saturday nights at Camden Town Station. Today is the hottest day of the year so far (34 degrees Celsius, so about 92 degrees Fahrenheit - with no air conditioning in sight), and we knew that the homeless wouldn't be hungry so much as they would need something nice to cool them down. So we went to the shop and bought ice lollies to go with the soup and bread that we already had.

One of the gentlemen is regularly quite gruff with us and refuses help, but when Josiah took him an ice lolly, he broke into a smile that he couldn't wipe off of his face. I hope I never forget how he looked.

Here's a picture of Paul with his ice lolly. A few weeks ago, Paul collapsed under our tent after consuming too many substances (I'm unsure of whether it was a combination of drugs and alcohol or just one or the other), and we had to call the ambulance. He's gotten into numerous scrapes since, but tonight he seemed content to just eat his ice lolly and chill.


So anyway, have a lovely evening, and I hope that this brings some joy to your weekend!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Indefinite Leave to Remain


It is a day of change in Great Britain today. Our Prime Minister has stepped down, and we don’t know who will emerge next week as Prime Minister of our nation. But change is not unusual these days, and if you don’t understand the Brexit, don’t worry. We don’t, either.


It is also a day of change for me. Or rather, a day of realisation as I come back from my scheduled holiday time and sit down to look at the rest of the year. This summer and autumn is dedicated to procuring my Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (the irony of it being the day our Prime Minister stepped down is not lost on me), amongst my regular YWAM and Hope & Anchor Community Church work. 

So what does Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) mean? It means that I will go through a rigorous process that will allow me to live and work in the UK indefinitely. It is easiest to call it the equivalent of the USA’s green card. And it’s what I’ve been working towards the past five years that I’ve been on a Tier 2 visa (my first two years in YWAM were on a Tier 5 visa, which is easier to get, but which does not count towards residency in the UK). ILR means that I will be a permanent resident of the UK, which is difficult for the government to revoke. That means a lot, since we have been through several scares in these past five years when it looked like the government could potentially revoke our visas. The worst of these was in 2014, when all of the religious organisations except for YWAM lost their visas for overseas workers. ILR is a permanent step in doing what God has asked me to do, which is to be a missionary in London. 

To be quite frank, I need your help. 

The minimum cost of all of this (not counting printing costs, the National Health Service fee, travel costs, materials, initial Life in the UK test, etc) is £2400, or about $3000 at the current exchange rate. It is more expensive than any of my previous visas, and rightly so. It is the last visa type of qualification that I will need, and after a year of ILR, I can apply for citizenship (to hold dual citizenship with the USA and UK). Or I can wait as long as I need to in order to apply for citizenship, because I will be able to live and remain in the UK for as long as I like. 

For the past seven years, you have all partnered with me and made it possible for me to live in London as a missionary. But here’s why this is a challenge. Many of you send your support via Paypal straight to YWAM to cover my rent, in order to be able to have a tax write-off. For legal reasons, YWAM cannot receive the money for my ILR. I need to pay for it from my personal account. So if you feel that God prompts you to give towards my ILR, would you please consider sending your support to my personal account so that I can put it towards my Indefinite Leave to Remain application? 

I also need your prayers in this process. I feel the weight of what I (and not just me; several of the other girls on the team are also applying for ILR this year) am doing in saying yes to what God has asked of me. It is like making a further commitment with God to give Him my future indefinitely. I love what God has called me to do. I love telling the people of London about Jesus and discipling them as they get to know Him as their Saviour and Friend. I don’t think that the enemy is happy with the commitment that the other girls and I are making as we apply for ILR.

That being said, there are several different aspects to applying for ILR. The first criteria that I must meet is the Life in the UK test, which I am taking on Tuesday morning (28 May). This is a series of questions on all aspects of life in the United Kingdom, from detailed information on the history of the UK to laws, customs, traditions, and religious beliefs, right down to the sports that were founded here and the famous architects from the past millennium. I have been studying for the test, but as with any official test, I am nervous. Could you please pray for me on Tuesday morning (or the middle of the night, for some of you)? After I pass this test, I have to begin an application that concludes with me paying the fee and sending in my passport for up to six months as I await the government’s decision. 

I know that this is a lot of information, and if you are still reading, thank you. If you have questions for me about this process, please feel free to email me at deborahestevenson@gmail.com. And if you’d like to send support to me for my IRL, here are some ways you can do it:
  1. Send money using Paypal.com to deborahestevenson@gmail.com (it goes directly to my personal bank account.)
  2. If you are in the States, you may also contact susancookstevenson@gmail.com, since my mother is a co-signer on my bank account and helps me conduct my finances State-side.She can help you use the apps Xoom (a Paypal method of sending money to my bank account) or Zelle to transfer money to my Bank of America account.
  3. If you are in the States, you can also give cash or a check to my parents or grandparents 
  4. Mail a check made out to Deborah Stevenson to: 
Susan Stevenson
49 Belle Gate Court
Pooler, GA 31322


And once again, thank you for your faithfulness for so many years. I have been completely supported here by all of you, and it is the reason I’ve been able to be a missionary in London for so long. I feel that God is asking me to grow in trust in this process, since I immediately quail at the immensity and want to scheme and pinch pennies and try to make this work in my own strength. But I can’t. That isn’t trust. I can only obey and keep doing what He is asking me to do! So thank you, each of you, for everything that you have done, from praying for me to squeezing my neck when you see me to inviting me to your homes to stay when I am in town to supporting me financially to sending me clothes and cinnamon chewing gum. You are all the best.

Oh! You can also email me if you’d just like to chat about what I’m up to in London. If you prefer texting, I also have WhatsApp. I love sharing about what God is doing here in London. It’s pretty incredible!

Bless you!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

as a man Thinks





“What does Think mean?”

Introducing Think, our new cafe! The name is inspired by Proverbs 23:7, which says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” We want it to be a spot that encourages people to stop for a moment and think about their heart. We want them to find God in their searching, to realise they were created intentionally for something great.

But let me rewind a bit. We began building Think (referred to on this blog as “the cafe”) in the middle of January, and on the first day of May, we held our grand opening. I have the absolute privilege of being a barista at Think, which means that I went from construction on 30th April and the morning of 1 May straight into on-the-job training. We didn’t stop for a moment, but we discovered that our three months of building developed muscles and authority in the space that we will need to steward this space well.

My roommate, Liz, at the till
 
Part of our beautiful machine

Think is located on Camden High Street, just a few blocks from the Horse Stables that attract thousands of tourists each weekend. It is right in the middle of the neighbourhood where we’ve been praying and investing for years, and it marks the third leg of our ministry there. The first is the base house, where Chris and Johanna, our base directors, live with their family. The second is Hope and Anchor Community Church. And the third is this cafe, a place where we not only welcome the community in, but where we hope to build community. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I haven’t worked in the hospitality industry in a while, but I haven’t forgotten those plastered-on smiles or how efficiency was the most praised practise. Think is entirely different. We are encouraged to have conversations with our customers, conversations that go deeper than the surface. And if one of us is in the conversation, the others cover and handle the practicalities of the cafe so that we can stay in the conversation. It is the opposite to every business model I’ve seen, but of course, this isn’t a business for us. This is a ministry. We talk openly about God. We offer to pray for people. We invite them to church. We hold our Connect Groups for church at the back tables. The coffee culture in London is booming, and we are welcoming people into our space. And our space is Kingdom space, so we don’t play by the normal rules. We get to play the King’s way.

Neil, the first customer I made a coffee for and my mate who runs the homeless drop-in I volunteer in on Tuesdays

But we aren’t just a normal cafe space. We want to give back to the community, as well, through using our hairstyling space to give the homeless free haircuts and eventually enable those coming out of prison or off the streets to learn a skill and hold down a job. Whenever one of us brings in somebody off the streets to talk more deeply, they get free coffee. Eventually we hope to use the outside wall of the shop to teach graffiti workshops so the youth have something to do other than sell drugs or play on smartphones. And more than anything, we want everyone who walks through the doors to encounter Jesus Christ.

The view from outside our shop, looking in.

Liz making coffee on opening night.

So would you please pray for us, family? We’re in a whole new game here in the business world. We need favour with the borough council, because they aren’t keen with what we’ve done to the outside of the place. Our hot water boiler has also just broken (turns out it was 15-20 years old), and it will take around £6000 to replace. We’re also keen to build up regular customers so that we can have deep relationships with them and disciple them as they meet Jesus. Basically, this is an all new endeavour, and we need a lot of wisdom from God on top of His grace.

And thank you, as well, for the prayer that you spend on us. Thank you for your faithfulness. We see the fruits of it here in London.

and finally, me!