Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Follow Up


Sorry for the long gap between updates!

The last few months have been full of challenges and growth for both me and for YWAM York. We have established local ministry more solidly in our community through weekly kids club and youth nights, as well as through Easter activities and a holiday club. Our relationships in our neighbourhood are going deeper, and we love getting to know our community better. We especially love our deepening relationships with our youth, who have started to let us into their lives more. In our most recent holiday club, we talked about heroes in the Bible, and several of the children initiated conversations about Jesus and God. It is amazing to get to be a part of those moments of discovery with them! 

We also saw somebody come to Christ on a recent evangelism that we did with a Brazilian DTS team that was visiting York, and a time of Easter evangelism, a Chinese man met Christ! In our unchurched nation, these are victories that we celebrate! 

However, there are also internal challenges that we are facing. Our team has gone down to three members now - Raya left at the end of June after praying and feeling that it was time for her to return to the States. Her departure was not due to anything in YWAM York or in our relationship with her, and we miss her! We are learning to do life as a three and not a four. We are also now splitting our rent and other costs between three instead of four, so we are trusting even more for God to show up every month!

The first weekend of July, we hosted a retreat for all of the bases of YWAM North England. Before you get too impressed, I should say that there are only four bases, and that each team has around 3 members on it (give or take a few for children!). We came together to pray, share vision and to get to know each other. We are already planning activities that we can do together, which are much easier to run with 12 people than with three! It's also nice to have nearby support from our YWAM family. During the retreat, somebody prayed that we would receive money from an anonymous businessman to help with the upkeep of our community centre. I decided that I would really trust God to come through in this way, instead of just agreeing with the prayer and keeping going. This prayer was prayed on 2 July. Three days later, we received a thin envelope through the post at the base. I opened it, and there was a cheque to YWAM York for £1,000 from an anonymous person, dated 2 July! To be honest, I was not surprised; when I saw the envelope, I knew there was a cheque. But it was tangible confirmation from God that He will provide for us in these next months! He is already providing for our building in the face of increased energy costs and maintenance issues!

We are also taking part in several festivals this summer. English people love a festival - the not terrible weather really encourages them to get out their tents and brave the rain in order to be all together. I will be at a total of four festivals this summer - three of them camping! This past weekend, Renee and I were at Cedarwood, a festival for northeastern churches. We represented YWAM England, and we even got to pray with some of the children and the youth who came to visit our YWAM England stand! 

In a few weeks' time, I head to SixtyOne, which is a festival for Christian young people. I have the privilege of creating the artwork for the venue (a massive shed that fits 1,000 people). This intersection of two of my passions - art and students - has me very excited! Some of the students that I know will also be at the event. I can't wait to see students from across the UK awakened for Jesus! 

A few days after arriving home from SixtyOne, I will head back to the same location for Satellites, a youth festival. I will both be representing YWAM England at the YWAM England stand and helping out with the youth from my church! I am so excited to be able to be there as they encounter God in a festival setting - something that hasn't been possible since 2019. 

Festivals are the time youth and young people generally make big decisions for God, decisions which we then get to walk out with them throughout the year. Could you pray for our youth and young people to feel encouraged to take those steps at the festivals this summer, and for us to be able to support them, not just in the coming weeks, but throughout the year? It takes enormous courage to be a Christian young person in England - there aren't so many of them, so just being Christian is a bold move. But they are also the ones who will reach their generation - it is a privilege to be able to walk with them as they influence their generation!

Could you also pray for YWAM York? Renee, Yvonne and I are doing well, and we want to grow in our communication and to create a healthy, good culture for anybody else who decides to come with us. We are spending time over the next few weeks to ask God how He wants us to move ahead in different areas of both our ministry and our community, and we are re-structuring accordingly. We want to be a YWAM base that moves in God's best way for us, that loves God and loves people well!

If you'd like to receive our team newsletter, which will be going out soon, send me an email at deborahestevenson@gmail.com, and I will sign you up for it!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Quick Visit

 Hello, and happy spring! 

I am travelling to the States this next week, and I can't wait to see some of you and to share with you what has been happening in the past few years since I was last with you!

I will be at two locations whilst in the States: at Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah, Georgia on Sunday, 27 March (sharing in the combined adult Sunday School) and in Laurens, South Carolina on Wednesday, 30 March. You may email me at deborahestevenson@gmail.com for more details if you would like to come along!

I also have a new prayer card, which I thought I would unveil here. I will be happy to give you one in person next week, but equally, please email me if you'd like one posted to you! 

I have also realised that it's been a while since I shared how to support me financially. I am a completely self-supported missionary, which means that I raise my own funding; YWAM does not pay me (or anyone else, for that matter. We all get to live by faith!). So here is how you can join me in missions in York by supporting me financially:

  1. Send money using Paypal.com to deborahestevenson@gmail.com (it goes directly to my personal bank account - there is no tax receipt for this.)
  1. 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. She can also tell you how to support me via YWAM Tyler in Texas, from whom you may receive a tax receipt. 
  1. If you are in the States, you can also give cash or a check to my parents or grandparents 
  1. Mail a check made out to Deborah Stevenson to: 

Susan Stevenson
49 Belle Gate Court
Pooler, GA 31322

And if you would support me in prayer, I would also be very grateful. If you sense that God is telling you anything, or if you'd like to share Scripture, songs, images, etc with me, please do email me at deborahestevenson@gmail.com. We all hear from God, and I would love to hear what He is sharing with you about York and my ministry here!

I can't wait to see some of you this next week!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Receive to Give

Last year, when we were praying together about what God had for our base, we felt that we were going to be a base of hospitality and generosity. Those are big concepts for a small team, but we know that York is the third most touristic city in the UK and that we are equipped with an amazing building and a beautiful home, so we have the resources that we need to live those two words out. But it can be challenging to live that out when financial resources are running low, or when you are hosting an outreach team of 12 and three of your four team members are still having to self-isolate after coming back from the States. 

That was the specific circumstance that I found myself in last week (if you couldn’t tell already). But whilst praying for the YWAM Urban Key London (the base where I did my training a decade ago!) outreach team, I felt like God really wanted to pour into them as they poured into our city. As the York team, we had also been asking God to show us new ways to be generous and hospitable this year. So the girls held down the fort with doing our mountains of admin work at home, and I got to be with the London outreach team and show them our city. 

The London outreach team came with a heart to serve. From the first day that they were in York, they prayed for ways to bless the city. They joined in our day of evangelism with The Belfrey church, even though it was a balmy 0 degrees outside. They helped us host our youth nights (vital since we were down 3 people), joined our weekly evangelism, and prayer walked the city with us. And in between our activities, they also served a local church and did prayer walks and practical work of their own. It is so beautiful to see people come with a heart to bless your city, and I think that we were all amazed by their willingness to serve York.

But for me, the most beautiful part was the way that the church of York reached out to the team. I have been a YWAMer for a decade; I know that it is our heart as YWAM to serve and to bless the nations, so I expected that of the team. But what we do not often see is the local church pouring back into a team. And this week, without me even asking or orchestrating it, that happened. Our local church, York Community Church, welcomed the team to various activities and took time to pray for them and to give them lifts home. Our friend Vanessa organised a worship night for the team, and the House of Prayer brought their team over to join in and to minister to and with the outreach team. Our pastor, Simon, prayed for the team at numerous activities and got to know them. Our neighbours, Ruth and David, showed up to the base many times with blankets, heaters and more to make sure that the team was taken care of and helped lead the first prayer walk. Our worship night carried on even after it had officially ended, because the outreach team and the Yorkies were praying and talking to each other, and they were enjoying being together too much to go home, even though it was late. 

I think what amazes me the most about this is the way that God orchestrated it all without us. We had a lack of manpower, but we still had the heart to host the team well. What we couldn’t do ourselves, God did. He brought together a team that had a heart to serve the city and the people of the city who were so grateful to receive a team. It was bigger than us as YWAM York - it was the body of Christ mutually loving each other and pouring into a place together. I’ve been reading a lot about that mutual love and how it will show people Christ (John 15). And over the past two weeks, God has been teaching me about it by letting me see it in practice. Now we will go back to being a team of four, but the way God has moved will continue to affect this city for time to come. He is so good. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas Outreach

 It is early in the morning here in York, and we are in the throes of a double pronged Christmas outreach (meaning that every day, we are reaching both the city at large through evangelism and our local community through specific community events), but I wanted to take a moment to share what we are doing!

Every week, we as a team have committed to do evangelism outside of the Minster (the Cathedral in York) and the Belfrey (the smaller Anglican church that is next to the Minster). Local churches know that we are there, and they occasionally come along to join us as we reach our city. For our Christmas outreach this year, we decided to do evangelism in front of the Belfrey every day and to invite all of the churches that we know along. On Wednesday, at One Voice, the pastors' unity meeting that we attend weekly, they commissioned us to go and reach our city this week. Several of the pastors and ministry leaders have also signed up to come along and join us over these days. 

Yesterday was our first afternoon out. The sun sets around 3:30 pm these days (that's how far north we are!), so we finish as the sun is setting. We have live music, carols, dance, testimonies and of course bubbles on hand to engage the throngs of tourists that have descended on York to visit the famous Christmas market. Whilst Laura, a local university student that I've had the pleasure of getting to know, played Christmas carols on the bazouki (an Irish folk instrument), I got to speak to several people, including a Chinese student who is studying in Leeds, the biggest city near us. She had gone into the Minster and encountered the Apocalypse Window, which recounts the stories of Revelation. 

Whilst talking to her, I had the privilege of being the first person to explain Jesus to her. I got to explain why Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter and what that means. Then we walked into the Belfrey, where I gave her a Gospel of Luke and told her a bit more about Jesus. I returned outside to continue the evangelism, and when she came out 45 minutes later, she told me that she'd already read about a quarter of Luke and that she would finish it at home. She has since messaged me on Instagram, indicating that she'd like to meet again.

It is amazing to me that God orchestrated it so that she went into the Minster, encountered stories of Jesus, and that I got to meet her afterwards to explain who He is. It can be difficult to explain Jesus to people who have no concept of Him, but it is also so good to remember why I love Him and how extraordinary faith is! It was even better to be able to give her a Bible, something that she doesn't have access to in her nation. We have been praying for weeks for the conversations that we will have over these next few days, that God would send us people who are ready to find out who He is!

Tonight we are hosting our community Christmas party in the Barnabas Centre. We have Covid precautions in place, but as the government is warning people off of meeting, we are praying that God still sends the right people to our party, and that they encounter love, community and God in our building. We are also praying for no Covid to be in that place, as the girls are meant to travel to their families next week and my parents are travelling here. 

Would you join us in praying for the people that we meet during this Christmas outreach? We want to see people meet Jesus and come to faith. We want to see the lonely caught up in family and the joy of Jesus fill our streets. And most of all, we want God to be glorified in York this Christmas season!

Friday, September 10, 2021

national hunger and thirst

 I know that it has been a long time since I have updated, and while I would love to fill you in on everything, there isn’t enough space on this page! Luckily, we’ve done a team update all together about our summer, which you can check out here: https://spark.adobe.com/page/vIc7qgBNpiajP/?fbclid=IwAR1PwdBnWnrZ6f2c0FrQcJ7R5qUl8ug4HrD40c0nKPNxG_cnBGJ3Ki-Lhpc

On to other news: I am a British citizen! I had my ceremony on Tuesday, which means that now I am a dual British and American citizen, so I can live and vote and have a job and raise British children here. This has been over nine years in the making, with a few bumps in the road along the way (you can read back through this blog to see those!), but it is amazing to see God’s faithfulness through all of it.

And now for what I really wanted to share with you:

On Wednesday evening, Raya and I went to a talk at a local church, the Belfrey, by Eleanor Mumford (she and her husband founded Vineyard Churches in the UK), and she said, “The church is not declining in the UK. God is calling people to Himself, and they are meeting Him.” 

At first I was skeptical, because I live in the reality of church here. But then, I realised that she is right. Something that I deeply admire about the church here is the way that Christians have to fight and be dedicated to God. There are so few Christians in workplaces, in schools, that they have to be willing to stand up and look different. It isn’t normal or expected to be Christian. The youth that we worked with at camp this summer talked about being the only Christians in their year groups at school, or having only one other Christian friend in the whole of their class. Everybody knows that they’re different!

I’ve also seen hunger for God and to be a part of the church that it so beautiful (and convicting)! Last week, I met with a young woman who is a Christian in a sleepy village outside of York. She has to get two buses into town every Sunday morning, and because of the bus timetable, she can’t attend her church’s youth and young people’s service; she goes to the family service with the young children. But she still makes it a point to go to every activity that she can, even though it means travelling longer distance and a lot of planning and effort. But she so hungers to be a part of a church family that she’s willing to do it! She can’t wait for the day that she lives in York, just so that she can be even more intentionally involved in the church than she already is.

We also have a young lad in our neighbourhood who is hungry for God. He’s a part of the “bad boys” group; he rides his bike round with them and gets up to all sorts of mischief. But he also hangs around whenever we have a worship night outside, sitting on the edge and listening to all of the worship and preaching. The other week, we were outside of the local church, meeting with our local councillor, and he and his friends came rolling out of the church in a flurry. It turns out that he had been trying to pray in the church, and he’d taken the other boys with him, but they’d started to be disruptive. He was so upset that they’d distracted him. So I took him aside, and together, we talked about how he could pray to God and what he wanted to say. In earshot of his friends, we prayed together. He wasn’t ashamed in any way; in fact, he wanted to take his friends on his spiritual journey with him.

This kind of hunger and boldness for God is the reality of the church in England. Yes, numbers don’t look great. But God is doing an amazing work in people’s hearts post-pandemic. When we speak to people in evangelism every week, we are amazed by their openness. And we are trying to remember that as we speak to people so that we are more bold in how we invite them to be a part of God’s family. But I think Eleanor Mumford is right: God - and the church - are on the move. 

Receiving my citizenship from the head registrar of North Yorkshire

Monday, May 24, 2021

Reaching an Unreached Generation

 Hello friends, and thank you for your patience with me in waiting for an update! Pioneering means there’s loads of establishing to be done in the worlds of admin, finances, emails, certifications and sussing out legal requirements, so when we’re not actually out with people, there’s a lot to do!

But I do have a praise report! We received our charity number just two days after finalising and submitting our application for it - and that’s a process that could have taken up to 6 months! That means that YWAM York is officially a UK charity with a board of trustees and the ability to get a bank account, have property, etc. It also opens us up to apply for grants, donations and other things like that. We know that God is the one who has gone before us in this, because the application was a steep learning curve (thank you to Carrie at Radiant for all of her help!). 

On another note entirely, I’ve just gotten out of a meeting with various YWAM Europe leaders in which we heard some appalling statistics that really shed light on what is going on in the UK right now. Fasten your seatbelts, because it’s grim: 

The church is increasing massively in Brazil, China and Iran (that’s good news!). 

But in the UK, 70% of young adults were polled as saying that they have no religion. Of the 30% of the total number polled that do, 10% are Catholic, 11% are Protestant and 9% are other religions (6% are Muslim). Of that 11% of Protestants, only 2-3% go to church. 

These young adults, Generation Z and the tail end of Millennials (my generation!) are heavy on my heart. When going into evangelism recently, all four of us have realised that we need a heart change. We can’t go in and expect everyone to hear about and receive Jesus in one day. So when we talk to different people, we need to be willing and ready to invest time in getting to know them and in welcoming them into our lives. Getting to know Jesus can be a process!

This is actually amazing, because God has been speaking to us about being a base of hospitality and generosity. We want to welcome people in to be a part of family and life with us, whether that’s for an evening or as a student for five months, or if they become staff members and join our family! COVID-19 has shown everyone the need that we all have for community, and God has placed us so well to provide that. 

We are still getting to know the youth in our community - next week is our first official youth activity as we host a holiday club during half term school holidays. We’ll do arts, sports and Bible classes with the children who come. But I’ve also gotten to know several artists recently, and through photo shoots, bespoke fashion workshops in our community centre and just doing photography round town, I’ve got to start building relationships with these women who have common interests with me.

I also joined my first ever running club this past week, and the girls are starting to attend dance classes in town from next week. It’s amazing to get to bring Jesus to people in these relational ways. All of this is in addition to the classic street-style evangelism that we do. This past Saturday, we played worship and did dance in front of the Minster, and we got to talk to and pray for the people who stopped to watch and listen.

Thank you for all of your prayers. It really is exciting to work alongside God as He gives us new ways of reaching the people of York. One of the great parts of pioneering is trying many different ways of doing things. If one doesn’t work, we just try again! And so often, as we pray and listen to God, He shows us where doors are open, where people are willing to hear about Him, and we get to follow Him into new activities and ministries. So if you are praying for us, please pray that we will hear God clearly and follow Him to the next thing, and the next! 

There are many other ways that we need prayer, from the finances to pay off the rest of the base building (£11,000 now - down from the £30,000 that it was when we moved here in November! God is so good!) to getting a bank account to receiving male staff when God’s timing is right - there are so many little boys in our community who would benefit from knowing Godly men! But for now, I wanted to share how we see God moving and our hearts for reaching the people of our beautiful city. It is such a privilege to get to serve God here. 

Flyers we put through all the mailboxes in the neighbourhood at Easter with John 3:16 on the back.

Vanessa, our friend who joins us for evangelism, praying for (and playing guitar at the same time!) a man who came all the way from Leeds and spent time singing along and talking to us!

Ruth and I met Tori during evangelism and have been doing fashion evenings with her in the Barnabas Centre.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Video Update

 I am so sorry that I've not updated this blog in so long; we are quite busy doing missions, as you may have guessed! Life in Lockdown 3 in England was not slow in the way it was in other lockdowns; now that we've cracked how to do much of life virtually or one-on-one in outdoor settings, our days were filled end-to-end. We started online workshops in February which filled our evenings with doing different arts (photography, writing and dance) with people both locally and internationally through Instagram and Zoom. We also started Zoom intercession prayer times with Christians from around Yorkshire, which became in-person last week. We finished the leadership course that we were doing virtually two days a week with YWAM Radiant in London (leaders from YWAM around the globe came online to teach us about different aspects of leadership), and best of all, we have spent afternoons in the park behind the base getting to know the local youth. 

But I will get into all of that in another post. I wanted to show a video that we filmed last week whilst a team of guys from YWAM Radiant was here to help in the base and with our local youth. None of the people we minister to appear in this video (since that is not allowed legally), but you can see some of what we've been up to!

And I am working on a longer update that will share more details of everything we've been up to!

Video Here