Friday, September 25, 2020

Setting Dates

Autumn is raining down around me in London, and we have finally set a (semi-solid) date for moving to York: 11 October. 

Now that it is only two and a half weeks away, everything seems very real, and I have begun packing and trying to stop myself from getting rid of all of my clothing (a bad tendency that I have whilst packing, only to find myself without anything to wear come next spring). 


Everything is in progress right now, and if everything goes according to plan, the girls will receive their visas back (they have sent everything in and are just awaiting the passports with the visas to be returned to them) and join me in York in October. 


I went up to York earlier this week to look at houses, and we are in the process of putting an offer on one - it is quite complicated to do, since I do not make enough money (as you all know) to be accepted as a renter, and agencies are often nervous about accepting charities as guarantors. 


There are also the different elements of a cross-country move during a pandemic: our restrictions seem to change daily as infections “spike” here (I put spike in quotations because they are testing much more widely, so it is suspected that we aren’t having a spike so much as uncovering more of the infections that already existed), so we are all praying not to have to go into another national lockdown. Local areas have been put back into lockdown, as well, so we are also praying that York and London don’t go into lockdown in the intervening time. Not to mention that we have been restricted to only meeting up in groups of six, all hospitality businesses shut at 10 pm, and we have to wear masks, but we are still encouraged to go to work and school. And we have been warned that more strict restrictions could be introduced at any time!


As you may have guessed, it certainly isn’t comfortable to live in all of these “what-if”s. Nothing seems solid, and even putting a date to moving makes me nervous, because everything is changing so quickly. And through it all, God is asking me if I trust Him. He is telling me that I don’t need to have solid answers or even definite plans, because He knows how this is all going to go and He is preparing the way. This goes against all of my logic, but I want to do this God’s way, so. Here we go.


Raya, my co-leader, and I are also raising money for the furniture that we will need for our new house. Houses in York don’t seem to come with fridges, washer/dryers, or anything like that, not to mention furniture. We are starting from scratch, and that’s both exciting and expensive. If you’d like to contribute to our furniture search, you can do so through the usual channels, or you can Paypal me personally using deborahestevenson@gmail.com. 


I also wanted to introduce you to the girls that I will be living with in York, so that you can put faces to the names.


First up is Raya. She is the co-leader of YWAM York, and she is from Oregon. She loves to write, and she creates crazy games for us to play all together. She tells stories and has an infectious laugh.


Next is Yvonne. Yvonne is from Alabama, and she is a dancer. She is one of the best bakers that I know, and she is super intentional in her relationships with people.


Then we have Renee. Renee is from Massachusetts, and she is also a dancer. She asks deep questions and always seems to remember to look out for others. 


And finally, we have Dave and Nicole. They have been a part of YWAM York for ages (they did their DTSs there before I was in YWAM), and they will be staying on to be a part of our team! They live in a beautiful little house across the city with their two small daughters, Savannah and Kiara.





Friday, August 21, 2020

come to life

So, I guess it’s time for an update!

When I last left you, I was preparing to lead a team up to York for outreach.


I can now confirm that the outreach has been completed (and quite successfully, if I do say so myself!). I spent ten days in York, eight of which the team joined me for, and let me tell you, the base there does not look the same as it did before!


I have some before and after pictures of the time there, but let me take a second to sing the praises of the team. There were seven DTS students and five staff that came along (one staff, Lucas, came to teach me many of the practicalities of electricity and plumbing, God bless him), and they worked their bums off. And at night, after working all day, they were still keen to head into the city centre to prayer walk (and stop for ice creams). 













Most of what we did involved cleaning out the various rooms and cupboards on base that have stored the remnants of several different YWAM teams that have used the space. We also plastered, re-painted, fixed some electricity and lighting, oh, and built a shower in a cupboard. Yes. We built a whole shower. I have never been to B&Q (The British Home Depot) so many times in my life. I swear, the workers all knew me on sight by the final day. And, thanks to Lucas, I knew how to connect pipes and do grout and all the other fun details involved in plumbing in a shower. 


I don’t think God has called me to a life of plumbing. 


Anyway, the time in York gave me a taste for what is coming, and I really enjoyed getting to spend longer than a few hours in the city to which I will be moving soon. The people there are so friendly (the north of England is a bit like the American South in this) that just walking out the front door led to conversations with postal workers and neighbours and babies and dogs. It is a small city that is full of families and artists, and I am really excited to move there and to start meeting people and getting invested in ministry.


There are just a few obstacles in the way, which aren’t unexpected when one is re-pioneering.


The first is that we need to find a house to live in. I am currently sitting in my house in London, which is a two-hour train ride from York, which makes viewing a bit difficult. 


There are also several details to be ironed out within YWAM England which require prayer for wisdom and easy communication on everyone’s behalf. We’re all walking in untrodden territory, and boy am I learning a lot.


Lastly, the girls who are re-pioneering with me are still trying to start applying for visas. There’s the small issue of an on-going global pandemic and the need to quarantine when they arrive, as well, of course, as raising financial support for living here. Raya, my co-leader, is particularly struggling in this area. You guys have all been so faithful to support me in prayer and giving over the years, but I remember the fear of the early days when I didn’t know how I would pay staff fees every month. But God came through, and I know that He can do the same for her! Could you be praying for this along with me?


And finally, as much as I am planning for York, I am also still in London, and it is time for Arise. There is no Notting Hill Carnival this year, and we aren’t staying in churches and building crazy floats for the parade, but we are still hitting a different area of the city every day for evangelism. We kick it off tomorrow with a Notting Hill extravaganza, where we are planning on drumming and dancing with pois and walking on stilts. Who said that we couldn’t have fun in the time of COVID? But if you have a chance, would you mind praying for our safety and also for the hearts of people to be open to hear about Jesus over these next ten days? This is the most full-on thing that we do all year, and especially after six months of pandemic, it is shaping up to be both exciting and the tiniest bit exhausting. But it also feels good to be a little bit back to normal. We see people saved and lives healed during Arise, and I expect the same this year. Maybe even more-so, since people have had lots of time to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to their hearts.


As always, thank you, thank you for the emails you’ve sent to me (deborahestevenson@gmail.com, if you’d like to send one my way!), for the messages sent on through my mum and grandparents, for the prayer, for the support. God is definitely on the move, both here and wherever you are. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this year!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

on the road again

I’m going to cut to the chase, then go back to the details, if that’s all right with you.

In September, I am moving to York (north England) with three other women in order to re-pioneer the YWAM base there. We will be joined by a family that has been a part of YWAM York since their own DTSs.

As many of you will know, I moved to London eight years ago to join an arts team that eventually became YWAM London Radiant. I never put a time limit on how long I would be here. Instead, I said, “I’m here until God tells me to go elsewhere.”

Well, guess what. God’s called me to go elsewhere!

Late last year, my leaders here at Radiant asked me to pray about leading a team to re-pioneer the base in York. God gave me a strong “yes,” and my leaders and I prayed together and travelled to York a few times (my mother even visited it with me whilst she was here!), and we asked a few other people to consider coming along. They heard God’s “yes,” and also agreed to be a part of this new adventure!

So long story short, the three other ladies are in the States renewing visas and raising finances right now, and I am in London preparing to lead an outreach team up for a week at the end of July.  The York base has a building, a community centre that holds a small cafe and a dance studio/meeting room space, and we are going to spend a week cleaning and organising it to prepare for September. 

Over the next two months, I am also going to be going through a process (which has already begun) of learning the different things I need to know in order to lead a base - finances, data protection, communication, health and safety, etc, etc, etc. I’ve never done this before, and there are certainly a lot of things to learn! Luckily, my leaders at Radiant, Chris and Johanna, are walking with me through the process. They will continue to be my spiritual leaders when I move to York, and the York base is being re-pioneered by Radiant, so we will not be abandoned in any way. 

There are a lot of aspects of moving to York and re-pioneering the base that are large and could be a bit intimidating: we need to do some work in the base to prepare it for the activities that we will run for the community and for future training schools. We (by we, I mean the four of us ladies who are moving) also need to raise money for a deposit on a house for us to live in, which will probably be around £2,000. And of course, we need to come together as a team, to discern God’s vision and heart for both the city and for the base. 

This is a big transition for me, and you lot have been with me faithfully for the past eight years, so I am glad to finally be able to share it with you. A lot of the details are still up in the air (global pandemic, etc), but here are a few prayer points:

  1. The visa offices are currently shut, and all three other ladies need to renew their visas to be in the UK. Please pray for the offices to open up and the girls to get their visas by September.
  2. For the outreach that will go to York next week to prepare the base/get to know the area.
  3. That I will meet the people, have the appointments, and receive the paperwork that I need as I prepare to move to York and the base.
  4. For us to raise the finances that we need to put a deposit on a house to live in.
  5. For the physical move from London to York.

If you have any questions about the move, you can email me at deborahestevenson@gmail.com. I am happy to share more with you about what is happening, or just to hear how you are doing or clarify anything I can.

Thank you all for your support, your prayers, your emails, and the way that you constantly surprise me. And thank you for being here as we transition from London to York!

a map of England including York and London (so you have an idea of the journey)


L-R - Renee, Nicole (who already lives in York with her husband and daughters), me, Raya. Yvonne, our fourth American lady, is not pictured.

York Minster at the end of a typical shopping street. It makes you want to come and visit, right?


A photo of York Minster grabbed from atop the medieval city walls (which you can walk round any time)

The tea shop where my mother and I had tea and scones

Inside the tea shop where we had tea and scones


Monday, July 6, 2020

together, we cannot be silent

Throughout June, I watched as the Black Lives Matter movement grew and swelled across the US and into England. Our protests were not as violent or as quick as the ones in the States, but age-old wounds were brought to light by our neighbours, and as a church, we listened and sought God's heart. And we weren't the only ones. Through conversations between pastors, the idea for a demonstration by Christians was born.

On Friday, we met with dozens of other churches and Christians from around the UK to have a time of peaceful protest and prayer in front of Parliament. There were no other protests happening; in fact, it was eerily quiet in Westminster. We all wore masks and tried to stay socially distant, but we weren't actually distant. Our churches have still not been able to meet together, and as we met across the street from Parliament and began to pray together, I realised that it was the first time that we've gathered together physically since March. It was such a privilege to get to be together to fight for God's heart in the midst of all of the unrest that is pouring across our planet.

We stood together for racial equality. In the past decade, several bills have been passed in Parliament that fight for racial equality, but they are not being upheld. We exhorted Parliament to uphold them, and we prayed that God would convict their hearts and ours as we learn what it means to fight racism, both systemic and in our own hearts.

Eventually, we made our way to Trafalgar Square, where we prayed together again and spoke to the few people who were out and about. I got to pray with some girls from Reading (a city near London) and to talk with men from around the nation. There was a little push-back from some men who felt that slavery should still be legal, but for the most part, COVID19 has made people much more willing to talk to strangers and to be more real about what is happening in their hearts. I was also walking on stilts, so I got to meet a few different children.

A year ago, a protest like this would have been an activity that was exciting, but as soon as it was over, I would have forgotten it. But everything is different now. I remembered an impression I felt last winter as our whole base prayed together in Trafalgar Square. We had been planning OneFest, an event for the churches to host together this month (which we had to cancel in April due to the pandemic). The impression was that what the noise that we made together would reverberate off of the embassies and offices that surround the Square and bounce across the UK and Europe. On Friday, our drums made just such a noise as we stood with other churches and Christians and asked God for His heart and to see Him move. I believe that God is doing something incredible in London this year. We have all felt that it is a year of revival, and God can do that as easily in our houses as He can in our church buildings and arenas.

So I have to tell you, four days after our demonstration at Parliament, I am still thinking about it and praying over it. And I feel expectant. 2020 has been full of so many surprises so far, but the one I am waiting for is to see how many people have met Jesus and had their hearts transformed in this time. Covid isn't all bad. I serve a God who can work all things together for good.




Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Like Riding a Bicycle

I want to share a story with you that isn’t big, maybe, but I think it captures what we are living right now.

Back in October, somebody sent a donation for me to purchase a bicycle. Cycling is probably the fastest way around London (although it is far from free. It has been eight years since I sold my car on the way to my DTS, and let me tell you, I had forgotten how much upkeep on vehicles costs! But at the same time, they are wonderfully grounding.), and I began cycling to work when weather permitted.

Now, in the times of corona, cycling or walking are the only two ways that I can get around. I cycle the four miles to Think (our cafe) twice a week, but more importantly, Meli and I cycle three miles to the City of London two nights a week to pick up donations from M&S, a posh supermarket chain that donates out-of-date or damaged food to charities. 

Every time we arrive at M&S, the staff smile and welcome us. The manager brings us out crates of food and helps us pack bags, and more often than not, some of the staff help us load it onto our bikes. We are slowly building relationships with the workers, all of whom act as if they enjoy having us in their shop, even as they are trying to do the intense sanitation regime required when they shut now.

On the way home, Meli and I keep a lookout for homeless people to whom we can pass out some of the food. It’s always fun to hear their genuine delight when they’re given such nice treats (seriously, the food we receive is amazing). Once, I stopped and gave fresh pastries to some girls who were hanging out on their front steps. They didn’t really know what to do (I guess receiving pastries from a stranger is a bit odd), but we still stopped and talked for a bit.

I know this is only a little anecdote, but to me, it shows how community-oriented we’ve become in London. We are still on lockdown. We can’t go into shops yet, because they’re not open. We can only get food delivered or take it away from the shops that are open. But people have learnt how to enjoy each other again. We can meet our friends for walks, and I have seen so many people do just that. We can meet in parks, and now, when we sit two metres apart on blankets with our friends, we aren’t constantly checking our phones or wishing we were at home watching Netflix. We are genuinely delighted to be together.

Who knows what is really coming out of this whole situation, but I am seeing community built again in a city that is often called the loneliest city in the world. When I stand in the window of Think to receive the takeaway orders, customers want to have deep talks. A quarter of people in the UK attended a religious service online in the first six weeks of lockdown (up from 6% normally). My neighbours stop and talk when they see me in my front garden. We are building relationships. We are becoming part of one another’s lives, and we are letting people go deep with us. And the real miracle of all is that it’s been sunny and warm now for several weeks, but when you ask people how they are, nobody seems to want to talk about the weather. They’re finally ready to start talking about what matters.

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: https://www.facebook.com/radiantsportsandfitness/  )

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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTbZFdg5m43zbUbnmvQfCag

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: https://www.facebook.com/tabootheatrelondon/

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!