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!


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Resurrection Weekend

I received an email last week from a friend who said, "As you celebrate our Savior's death and Resurrection, I pray you find joy in the gift of life we have through Jesus' gift to us, His life."

I thought about that line from the email for several days. Easter is a celebration, one that we often meet through somber reflection. But I wanted to celebrate this year. The same day that I received the email, I found at that, as Hope and Anchor Community Church, we were going to spend Good Friday reaching out for Camden. What actually ensued was much better.

On Friday, we set out our large church banners on each of the corners of the Camden High Street so that all of the people exiting Camden Town Underground Station couldn't miss us. We brought drums, a sound system, stilts and face painting, and people began stopping to talk to us. We stayed outside until nighttime, celebrating in the streets. It felt a bit weird to be celebrating on Good Friday, the day most people commemorate Jesus dying on the Cross. But He died for the people of Camden, and they need to know, so we danced and sang with the people who stopped. And many of them stopped and stayed with us for several hours, chatting to different people and joining in when we all danced to Mary Mary's "Shackles."

Camden Town Community Choir singing to draw the crowds and spread joy

The musicians singing covers

Chris meeting people where they are

Melo painting faces

Federico made a new friend whilst drumming


On Saturday, we visited Camden Stables Market with flyers to invite people to our Sunday celebration. We combed the stalls, inviting tourists and stall workers alike. Then we went handed out food to the homeless and needy by Camden Town Station again, and our group was so large that we managed to send out a team to the alleys where we know the homeless normally congregate.

This couple asked the girls, "Who is this Jesus we keep hearing about? Is he around here?"

Henrik kept cars from hitting this man as he sat drunkenly in the street


Finally, on Sunday, after our service (at which we met many of our friends from Friday and Saturday again), we hit the streets to invite people to the barbecue and film-viewing that we were having. A lot of the more rough-and-tumble Camden crowd came, and as I looked up and down Greenland Street during the barbecue, I was delighted by the diversity. There was everyone from an 89-year-old Irish woman with her shopping trolley to two men who got stuck in the punk scene of the 90s, from the homeless to the families passing by. I love moments like that, where I look around at our church and see a snapshot of our city.

Camden Town Community Choir performed in church

Resurrection Sunday worship

Inviting people to our barbecue

In case they didn't look up to see the barbecue

Part of our eclectic bunch

Some new friends with Federico

Our barbecue in the streets of Camden


This weekend was a weekend of joy. And when I observed the people that gathered with us, I realised that joy attracts lonely people. So many of them started appearing at the fringes of our group on the streets, and the person nearest them would turn around and pull them in. And isn't that part of what Jesus came to do? He saved us, yes. He gave us family. And still today, He is calling the lonely to Himself, from the streets of Camden to wherever you are living right now. It was such a joy to get to welcome the lonely home.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

the other side

At Hope and Anchor on Sunday, Chris said that we often ask God for the promise, but when we get to the other side of the promise, we don't know what to do.

I've been thinking about that, and about the weight that comes with blessings, over the past few weeks as we've been working on the cafe. We were all focussed at first on finding a place, but once the papers were signed, we quickly realised we'd forgotten to envision the time that it would take for us to create a proper cafe. Now that we are two months into the building process, we are dreaming of the day that the cafe opens. But never in those dreams am I exhausted from early morning shifts or frustrated at customers or worried about supplies orders or a machine gone wonky. We've not gotten the promise yet, but we've also not gotten the responsibility that goes with it.

Chris finished his thought on Sunday by saying that we need to know Who brings us through the promise. Looking back on these past months, it is quite clear that God is preparing us for something big. We are trusting Him in the area of financial provision in a way we've not had to before. We need Him to provide for the countertops and other supplies so we can finish the cafe, not to mention all of the ways that we will need to see Him when the doors open to the public. But we believe Him and that He can make His dreams come to life. And honestly, it's exciting to live a life of faith together as a team in this area.

Anyway, I actually began this post to share with you the newsletter that we made for Lazarus. We've realised that Lazarus isn't always clear to people. Is it a person? A homeless feeding programme? An activity we do once a week? The answer is all and none to those, so here's our Lazarus Project newsletter (spoiler: Lazarus Project is the mercy ministry of YWAM London Radiant. To see what that means, click the link!).

So in short, we are still building, still trusting, still praying and seeking God. We are meeting with borough councils and members of the House of Lords and the homeless and pastors and many people in between and seeing God's dreams for London take shape in so many different ways. It feels like a fight on many different fronts this month as Brexit still looms and the people of London grow more worried and frightened - after all, we are a nation of immigrants with few native foods. It looks like we'll be eating cabbage and mutton for a while until this all gets sorted. But we are praying for our government as well and trusting that God's will will be done. And if His will is for us to have a hard Brexit and to learn what that means, then at least we are here, in the middle of London, ready to listen to Him and to share with our fellow Londoners what God is saying.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

hurricane days

I thought that January would be quiet, that a lack of students would mean time to be creative and slow down a bit. All of us at Radiant did. But boy, were we wrong. Within a few days of each other, two massive things that we were praying for came to life, and we had to start hustling.

In the beginning of January, we got the keys to an empty shop in Camden. For years, we have been praying and seeking God's heart for a coffee/tattoo/hairstyling shop in Camden. And over the past year, we've seen several different properties. Peri and Chris have been scouring the internet and the streets for locations that could work. We've even gotten close to having a few of them, but they kept falling through. But this former hairdresser on Camden High Street? It didn't fall through. So Chris and Johanna signed the papers and got the keys, and we got to work.

The building that we started with is not the one that we are working in now. We tore down walls and two false ceilings to reveal over an extra metre of height. We also found a leak, shoddy electrical wiring, a false front, and more. We've been spending our days in the shop together, clearing the old out and beginning to build the new. The layout has changed multiple times, and some days are slower than others, but I love that it is team-building in the most literal sense. We don't need games or ice-breakers. We just tear down ceilings and build new walls. It is also a time when I am thanking God for the men that He sent to the team - I remember building projects where the girls had to wield the drills and carry the heavy objects, but this time, we have several guys who are really good at construction at the helm. What an absolute blessing.

Many of us will be baristas in the shop (me included!), so we've also begun coffee training. And hygiene and food training (which I also needed for Lazarus Project and our homeless feeding programmes, so it's a win/win situation for me). I really love all of the training, because they are tangible tools for reaching the people of Camden. Chris always says that more blessings bring more responsibility, and he is definitely right. We have a lot of responsibilities now that we've not had to think of before, but God is training our muscles to carry these dreams.

If you'd like to know more about our cafe, Think, check out the Instagram or the Facebook. They share our heart for making a space for community in the centre of Camden and the different dreams and plans that we have for the space that God has given us. Please also pray for us, because this is our first time navigating the treacherous terrain of council permits and the like. We trust what God is asking from us, and we can't wait to see the cafe opened to the public soon!

Tearing down ceilings in Think.

All of the Radiant staff in the shop!



In January, we also signed the contract for Hope and Anchor Community Church to move into the Odeon Cinema. We use a 175 person screen for our Sunday meetings every week now. I know. It's massive. But we outgrew the Upper Room (which we still use for other activities), and after looking around Camden for a venue that was big enough for us, we were thrilled when the Odeon was keen to host us. When God said that it was time to expand the edges of our tent, we had no idea how much!

This past Sunday was our first in the Odeon, and while we had many empty seats, we are excited to be intentional in our community as they are filled. Because they won't fill by magic - they will fill as we share God's heart with the people of Camden. And we love doing that. We are already reaching out through the Camden Town Community Choir, which is searching for a rehearsal venue in the centre of Camden Town in order to be near the local residents. Our Connect Groups are also moving to the Camden area so that we can share together mid-week as well. So between the two church venues, the Radiant base flat, and the shop, we have four locations in Camden within a year and a half. It took seven years of praying in Camden and seeing no results, but God is moving in a massive way!





This week is also the first week of our February Arts Internship and our School of Leadership and Urban Ministry Development. I am staffing the leadership school and also getting to walk alongside and mentor two of our arts interns, so I've had the excitement of a lot of new things this week. But those aren't the only new things in the works - Chasm Magazine is releasing issue two in the next few days, and it is available for pre-order already. They ship to different countries, so please check it out! And the guys (plus Sara) have been working on recording the first EP for Tidal in our recording studio. I had no idea how much work goes into making on EP, but holy cow. I can't wait for them to release it so we can play it constantly.

So this has been a long post, but a brief overview of a crazy month. I will be back soon to share what's going on with Lazarus, more updates about Think and Hope and Anchor, and more. But thank you, thank you for being on this journey with me. Your prayers have hands and feet here in London.