Saturday, November 26, 2016

walking with history makers

I love the International Arts Gathering. From emailing participants ahead of time and getting to know about them to meeting them at the Gathering to learning about their hearts as they share the triumphs and struggles of being a Christian artist in the sphere and place God has put them, it is always a week that changes me. It gives me a more global viewpoint - I take my eyes off of my belly button of art here in London, and I see what it is like to be an arts pastor in Vienna, like one of our friends this year, or to start a new arts base in northern Italy, which is what another of our friends is doing.

This year, we held the Gathering in Rome. It was a challenge to find a place to meet together in Rome, because the city is largely Catholic. But the place that God provided for us, an evangelical church in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods of the city, was even better than anything for which we hoped. The pastor told us that tradition says it is a place where Paul wrote one of his letters.

Even more precious than the location, though, was the opportunity to spend four days with other Christian artists who are fighting and planting and nurturing projects around Europe. We had participants from Norway, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Israel, England, and France, and those are just the nations where they are serving. There were several more nationalities represented. Several are pioneering new ministries or centres of artistic ministry, while others are going through hard circumstances in the places where they have been serving faithfully.

The worship transformed hearts, and not only our hearts. We opened the doors of the church and took the drummers and dancers outside, and we drummed with drumsticks on fire the dancers used fire pois to draw a crowd. Crowds gathered before we even began, and Christian preached to them with Sara, our Italian teammate, translating. I am used to crowds in London, who flee when Jesus is mentioned, and while we did have that reaction from visiting Brits, the Italians were keen to know more. We left the doors of the church open, and they followed us in and joined us for worship.

I believe that Rome is hungry for God, that centuries and millennia of religiosity have left them starved. The people are warm and open to talking, and they don't shy away from religious conversations. Or at least, the ones to whom I spoke did not.

We take the Gathering to a different city every year, and for this very reason. We often get so caught up in what God is doing in and through us that we have no idea how God is moving elsewhere. But for the Gathering in Rome, and afterward when we got to participate in a combined meeting of all the evangelical churches in Rome to celebrate the 499th anniversary of the Reformation, I saw how God is moving in Italy. I know how to pray specifically for the city and nation, and when I go again, I will have a better idea of how to talk to people and of what we are fighting against. Rome is often considered the birthplace of Christianity, and I think that it is a time when Christianity is being birthed there again.

Chris giving a teaching at the Gathering.

The Tiber with the Vatican in the background

Jonny sharing about the ministry in Norway

Juliette dancing with fire pois

the Colosseum at night

a typical street in Trastevere, where we stayed

Chris playing the drums with drumsticks on fire

Melody doing fire pois

The creative writers writing during evangelism (and taking a break to watch the performance)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

learning seasons

Several years ago, we began receiving words from people about multiplication. There were only a few of us in the ministry at the time, and for a while, we sat around the kitchen table and dreamt about what it would be like to have more people join us, to have more ministries and houses and locations.

Years later, we are in the season where we are learning to live out that promise that God gave us. And let me tell you, it certainly looks different from what we expected.

On 19 September, the team received our third house, which is in Kings Cross, the centre of the city. A few of the girls went to training with an organisation that works with women stuck in prostitution and sex trafficking, so we are going to start working with that in Kings Cross, as well.

Homelessness is also a big problem in the Kings Cross area, and indeed, around all of London. Last week, all of us had training with an organisation that works with the homeless to help us with our dinner club that we run at Notting Hill. The government is cutting benefits and help for the homeless, which means that more people are ending up on the streets. As winter approaches, it is dangerous for them to stay there. In London, there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get a spot in the winter shelters or to get other types of housing. It is something that weighs heavily on all of our hearts, and we wish that we could help them more than with just one meal a fortnight. But God is opening more doors for us to be involved with others working with homeless around the city.

In three days, we leave for Rome, where we are hosting this year's International Arts Gathering. We began working on the Gathering a year ago, but it took until last week for us to find a place to stay and to host the event. We must have talked to all of the evangelical church pastors in Rome by now! We had so many closed doors that we realised that God was going to have to do a miracle, and He has. It was certainly not in our preferred timing, but it was in the right timing.

Now we are running around to finish the final details before we go, from preparing videos and decor for the church to coordinating details with the participants. The participants are Christian artists from all over Europe, and meeting with them and hearing how they are influencing their countries for God is one of my favourite things that we do as a team. The more I travel around, the more I understand that proximity is not what is important in friendships. Having the same heart and desire, which we have with these artists, is much more important. Also, Europe is so small that we end up seeing each other throughout the year in different locations. On the one hand, I hate how small the Christian artistic community is in Europe, but on the other, I enjoy running into my friends in random nations, as well.

This is such a rushed update in the midst of everything else, but I wanted to let everybody know what we are doing so that you know what for what you can pray. Please pray for the Gathering, which is from 26-29 October in Rome. Pray for Melody and I, who are coordinating, along with the team that is going ahead of time to prepare the venue, and for our whole Discipleship Training School, who are attending this year. Please also pray for us as our base grows. God is opening more doors with us, and we are learning how to move in new ways. Walter, a friend from YWAM Argentina, spoke to us about having new wineskins for the new wine we are being given, and we want to learn to be flexible as God shows us what His will is in London.

Cancelo chatting with some of our homeless neighbours in the square outside our house.

Everybody's shoes in the front hall of the house on Friday, the day everybody comes to us.

St Pancras, the massive train station just down the street from the house

Saturday, October 1, 2016

shining brighter

When I heard that we were going on outreach to Brighton directly after Bones and the June internship graduation, I had mixed feelings. The first was one of exhaustion – I just wanted to go home to a bed. But then I remembered that I didn’t have a home yet (We received our third house, a house in King’s Cross, on 19 September, and that is the home that I am currently living in), and I also remembered that I love Brighton. Brighton is a seaside city just an hour south of London. It is full of artists and cafes and people who are keen to stop for a chat. Juliette and I led an outreach there in 2014, and it was the time when the team became a cohesive unit rather than a group of 12 individuals.

The week that we spent in Brighton this year ended up being warm and sunny. We stayed in a small church in Fishersgate, a town just to the west of Brighton and Hove (the technical name for the two cities who run into each other on the seaside) and worked with a church from Hove that was having an evangelistic outreach week. The church has spent a lot of time in prayer and doing evangelism in the area, and the difference in the city now, as compared to two years ago, is noticeable. They have been so faithful to do what God told them to do!

One of the most surprising parts of our time in Hove was the openness of the people to hear about Jesus. Whilst we were lingering after a time of evangelism, two people approached some of us to ask us about Jesus. We thought that evangelism was over, but they had questions about Jesus that they wanted answered. Several people were also saved during the evangelism times that we did with the church, and others were healed or committed to returning to church.

There is revival happening in some parts of the UK. People are returning to church in large numbers. While we have not seen this yet in London, it was so encouraging to get out of London and to see what God is doing across this nation. We have been praying for the hearts of the British people for so long, praying against the apathy that our generation has towards God and religion in general, and God is answering that prayer.

London often feels very self-important. There are so many different nationalities and religions here, and it is the centre of the UK (and, in some ways, of the world) for finance, business, fashion, politics, arts, etc. But a move towards Christ in the UK doesn’t have to start in London. In fact, it seems as if it isn’t. While we see growing numbers of Muslims moving to London daily, a church in Reading has seen over a thousand people join it since late spring. While we hit the streets of Camden weekly to invite people to church and celebrate when one of them shows up, churches around the UK are seeing dozens come home.

God is so faithful to us. In Brighton, He reminded me that He is the God of my seasons. He knows me. He knows what revives my soul. He knows that I pray for the hearts of English people to be transformed, to be radically changed by an encounter with Him. And He knew that, as much as I wanted to sleep in a bed, what would really restore me would be to watch people come to know Him. At one point during evangelism, I watched as the pastor of the Hove church led two women to Christ. I turned to the side and saw Carrie praying for a man, then turned further and saw Anna, one of our DTS students, praying for another man. Behind me, several of the other staff and students were playing worship and improvising dance. The presence of God on that shopping street in Hove was so great that all I had to do was turn in a circle to see Him moving. 

Anna talking to a woman in evangelism.

The pastor, Mario, praying with a guy who met Jesus.

The traditional beach huts of Hove

Carrie and Juliette leading us home from a DTS teaching we had by the sea.

Me with one of the girls I mentor, Brennan.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

we call out to dry bones

This year was my fifth Bones Camp and Notting Hill Carnival, and I thought that I finally had it down. I knew how to reduce my caffeine intake in the months leading up to Bones so that caffeine would have its full effect again. I knew which clothes to pack for all ranges of weather, which snacks to buy to have maximum energy, when was the best time to take showers. I felt prepared.

But Bones was different this year. It was part of Arise, our month of reaching out to all of London, which meant that we got to go on evangelism to different parts of the city each day. There were also a lot more of us YWAM Radiant team members there, and everybody carried different weights of the week so that a lot more of us got to focus on reaching out to people, which is my favourite part of Bones. The theme of Bones was worship, and we worshipped in different ways throughout the days and nights of Bones and Arise.

During the first weekend, the whole camp packed up and went to Shoreditch for a night to work with a church there. We went on outreach from our outreach, and we got to take everybody to touch a part of the city that we love. Our drummers were warriors, drumming through the streets of Shoreditch and declaring God's victory over the area. Their noise attracted a lot of people, and we got to have deep conversations with many of them who perhaps wouldn't normally stop to talk to us.

We also had Tred with us, a dance and percussion team from around the world and based in California. They traveled around the city with us, doing performances as we spoke with the people who stopped to watch. They had such a passion for meeting the people of London that it re-ignited my own passion.

The Notting Hill Carnival itself also felt different this year. It was quieter in some ways, and fear and anger from the Brexit and all of the terrorist attacks around the world simmered just below the festival atmosphere. We handed out promises of God on slips of paper, the same as we have in past years, and people stopped to express the longing in their hearts for a God that is bigger than what is happening in our world. A lot of people seem to feel hopeless at the course of events this year, at the violence and hatred and anger that is constantly reported in the news. They were so honest with us, and we found ourselves staying outside all day, because we wanted so much to share with them that the God that they long for is the God who Is.

I saw us shift this year. We shifted from focusing on accomplishing tasks and making things happen to truly worshipping God through all of it, which gave us a heart for speaking to as many people as we could. There were even two men who came from the Dinner Club that we hold for the homeless and needy of our area. They stayed all day and helped us build the last pieces, carry the massive animal floats that we had made, and stand guard during the times when we were out in the streets. They became a part of our family through the Notting Hill Carnival.

Now the coloured smoke is finally washing off of my shoes, and my costume t-shirt has faded in the wash, but the conversations that I had are still fresh in my mind.

So many people in London long for God. They want to rely on their minds, on their rationalism, but in their depths, they long for God.

And we long for them to encounter Him.

The drummers during evangelism in Shoreditch

Evangelism in King's Cross

Tred at work during evangelism

The whole camp before our parade through the Carnival

The men who came to help from the Dinner Club (with Ole).

Kneeling down during the parade

Letting girls drum during the parade

Guimel leading us all through the Carnival

The block party we had by the church

Praying for a man during evangelism

Handing out promises

Some of the promises that we hand out

The giant lion that we built - one of the four creatures before the Throne in Revelation

A drunk man and us cleaning up in the background

And here are some pictures of the people that we met during Carnival:

And finally, me:

Friday, August 12, 2016

a leg up

Summer is always a time of outreach for our team. We have an internship that begins in June, and we spend July and August traveling around Europe with them. This year, we spent July building a cafe at the YWAM base in Brussels and traveling to the north of Spain to visit a base that was pioneered a year ago - at the same time as ours - and is getting ready to have their first DTS. We didn't do a lot of art this summer, but rather, we supported other YWAM teams in what they needed.

I don't know how many of you are artists, but if you are, you probably recognise the predisposition of artists to focus on their own work and progress. This summer has been a season full of looking to others and seeing how we could help them. When we went to Brussels, I was painfully aware of my own inadequacy to build a cafe. But I had to face my own pride at not being good at construction and do it anyway. And in the end, our team's mix of skills and willingness to do it blessed YWAM Brussels with a new cafe space for their cafe AKA Zoe, which means "Also known as life." We spent the time sowing into conversations that will happen there, lives that will be transformed, encounters with God that will occur.

The time in Spain didn't feel like a missions outreach, because we were visiting our friends at the base that they started a year ago. The base is only a short walk from the beach, and we did Zumba evangelism most days on the beach. There are so many ways to do evangelism, and Zumba evangelism was definitely a way that I enjoyed. There was also a team of American teenagers visiting the base, and we got to show them a taste of missions life. It reminded me of being 16, when I had the whole world in front of me (I sound 56, not 26!). To be honest, I think that being 26 is easier, because I have already passed through the season of choosing a university and course of study. I have learned to listen to God's guiding in my life and that making decisions that don't make sense to others doesn't make them wrong decisions.

In late July, we came back to London and traveled south to the River Thames to stay at the Salvation Army in Chelsea. While Chelsea is perhaps the most posh area of London, the World's End estate, which is where we stayed, is not. It is a predominantly Muslim estate, and the Salvation Army just recently re-opened. It is the first time that our team has stayed in Chelsea, so we spent the weeks there preparing the ground by doing evangelism and praying in the streets and meeting children at the community centre on the estate.

Now we are back in Notting Hill, and the internship and staff have moved into the church alongside the DTS that began last week. There are over 40 of us here now, preparing for Bones Camp, our biggest outreach of the year. It will be my fifth Bones Camp and Notting Hill Carnival. I cannot believe I have been in London so long!

The cafe in Brussels before we began.

The cafe when we had finished.

Our team with YWAM Brussels

Working on the cafe

Zumba evangelism in Spain

Evangelism at a carnival in Spain

Our interns in Chelsea

Working with the Salvation Army in Chelsea

The photography DTS students