Saturday, December 27, 2014

in the fruit business

I've been reading a lot lately about fruit. We received donations from Waitrose, an upscale grocery store, this week, and as I eat a medley of berries, I've got fruit on my mind.

In the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, there is a lot of talk about fruit. Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. We are told that they will know that we are God's by the fruit that we bear, that we will be pruned, that we are here on Earth to plant and sow seeds, and the metaphors extend on and on. Bearing fruit doesn't just mean evangelism. We bear fruit whenever our actions bring more glory to God.

This holiday season has been a fruit-cultivating season for Taboo Arts. We are running a discipleship training school, which means that we are investing in lives right in our home. God told us to open up our lives and hearts to those He wants to draw nearer to Him, so we built more beds and welcomed them in. But at the same time, as missionaries in London, we are also called to influence our city. For us, that means going to the neighbourhoods that He has given us: Notting Hill and Camden. We do our arts out of Notting Hill, and we go to Camden to invest in the neighbourhood through prayer, worship, and evangelism (relationship-building) weekly.

This year, we also got to partner with the YWAM team in Earl's Court (west London), the Earl's Court Community Project, to help with the drop-in that they do for the homeless and lonely of that community. We rehearsed for weeks leading up to the days of the drop-in, and for the two days leading up to Christmas, we got to join them in serving our community.

My favourite part of the outreach was that we got to both serve and do arts. We are God's hands and feet on Earth, which is not just a nice saying, but means that God with Us, Emmanuel, Jesus Himself is in us. When we interact with people, if we allow ourselves to be led by God, we are the interaction that those people have with Jesus. Jesus can touch their lives through us. That is what we were doing in Earl's Court; we were doing Jesus's work in the lives of the people who came to eat dinner and sing carols and talk to us. That was their Christmas, and some of them have been coming to the drop in for so many years that it is their family that they visit on the holidays.

It wasn't always easy to serve them. Some of them smelled, or came with the intent on arguing with us about God. However, when I asked God to let me see them through His eyes, I noticed how their eyes lit up when they talked about their children, or I saw their gleaming minds full of philosophy that I've never been able to comprehend. The homeless and lonely of Earl's Court have aspects of God's character that are beautiful to see. They love each other. They take care of one another. I watched them serve each other through getting each other teas and coffees, or moving so someone else could sit down, or listening to the heart-wrenching stories that they needed to talk out over the course of the evening.

I don't have photographs of the aspects of Earl's Court that God used to minister to my heart and show me more about His character, but I have pictures of the performances that we got to do. I just want to let you know that God blessed us as we served at Earl's Court. I left the Project full of joy and thankfulness, and I finally felt like it was Christmas. That is how I know that bearing fruit is what I was created to do. In that pursuit of God, of loving my neighbours as myself, I felt the Light of life alive in and through me. Even better, I got to watch that Light pour out of my teammates and nourish the hearts of the ones that are so often forgotten in this season of celebration of Joy come to Earth.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sent -->

I have heard several messages lately on the topic of being sent to be God's Kingdom here on Earth. That is something that has been on our team's heart recently, as well. We are artists and missionaries here in London, but we also have a heart to reach the other cities in Europe. With the DTS that we are running right now, we are focusing on visiting artistic cities in the United Kingdom.

In November, we took the DTS to Brighton and to Bristol, both in the south of England. The outreaches were short, with the primary purpose of scouting the arts scenes in the cities with the aim to do longer outreaches in the future. One of my favourite parts of outreach is the realisation that our time in any given place is limited. We only had a few days in each city, so we put all of our effort into talking to as many people as possible. We let go of the inhibitions that can make evangelism and building relationships seem daunting in London. I love seeing the freedom and zeal that come with knowing that we have kingdom work to do and a limited amount of time to do it.

I was struck by how open people were to talk to us. I went into a lot of arts shops around the cities and just started speaking to people that I found inside, and more often than not, I'd end up talking with the people for a while and praying with them. This was not unique to me; a lot of our team had the same experience. We came together after times of evangelism with lists of names of new friends.

At the church in Bristol, the pastor talked to our team about being willing to be Jesus to the city of Bristol. He told us that often, Jesus did not tell people who He was; instead, He showed them. He challenged us to show Jesus to Bristol instead of focusing on forcing the Gospel and a decision of salvation down their throats. He reminded us of the passage in the Bible that talks about God's word not returning empty. It was almost more challenging to go into the streets with that in mind: how do I let my actions shout loud for Jesus, even if I don't get the chance to tell a person how they can be saved? To be honest, that is a challenge, because it means watching your own behaviour instead of trying to force new behaviour on another person. It means that I actually have to love my neighbour and do good to those who hurt me and show others that they are more important than me. I can't rely on quoting the Romans Road or John 3:16; I have to live the love of God and let it pour out of me. I have to become less of my fleshy self so that more of God's Spirit can pour out of me. After all, I go to these cities so that the people in them can encounter God. I don't go so that the people of Brighton and Bristol can encounter me.

On the outreaches, God also impressed upon me the privilege that I have to travel around this land in His name. I spent Thanksgiving in Bristol, and even though I ate (delicious) pasta instead of turkey and dressing, I got to do the work of my Heavenly Father. I got to live the life that He created me to live. My mother texted me to tell me that she is glad that I wasn't home, because it meant that I was where God wanted me to be. She's right. I am so thankful to be right here, living in London and travelling around Europe and getting the opportunity to be God's hands and feet and kingdom here on Earth.

Our DTS students in Brighton!

I got to play a mountain dulcimer (which my grandpa taught me) and talk to the shop owners in a shop in Brighton

One of the guys gave food and his coat to this homeless man.

Andy, a new friend in Brighton

Evangelism in Bristol

A new friend in Bristol.

                                                    Performing songs in Bristol.