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!

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!