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




Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Missions (that isn't) Locked Down

 So, you may have heard that England is in another lockdown: our third lockdown. At first, we were all a bit despondent, especially when it came to light that we may be in a lockdown until the end of March. But now, we are involved in so many different activities that our days are filled end-to-end, and in some ways I am thankful that we have time to do everything!


Obviously, reaching out to people in the traditional sense isn’t possible in a lockdown which has the aim of keeping people from meeting together. However, as a charity, we have leave to continue our charitable work outside of our homes (the nation is under a stay-at-home order, which means you should only leave home for exercise or essential shopping). We have been helping our local food bank to collect food donations and to distribute food to our neighbours who are self-isolating. This has resulted in some amazing conversations with our neighbours. One neighbour overheard us worshiping in our garden, which opened the way for conversations, sharing a Gospel of John, and prayer. Please pray for him as we walk through this lockdown alongside him - there has been a lot of tragedy in his life recently, but his heart is opening to Jesus!


Radiant is also using this lockdown as an opportunity to do a staff leadership school, which we are all taking part in via Zoom. Not only do we get to see our London family twice a week, but we also get to take part in teachings with YWAM leaders from around the globe. As much as we complain about Zoom, there are so many conferences and meetings that have a global aspect now that wasn’t possible in person. 


We are also using this time to improve the Barnabas Centre, the community centre that belongs to the base. It is an old building that needs repairs, and while we are a small team, we are doing what we can! We hope that different outreach teams from YWAM England will come to York, both to take part in what God is doing in our city, and also to give us a hand in the building. Luckily, somebody (it was me…and Lucas from Radiant. Okay, it was mostly Lucas. Thank you, Lucas.) built a shower, so the building is perfectly suited to hosting teams. 


The challenge of the Barnabas Centre is that, during this year of COVID, it hasn’t been able to be rented out to dance classes, churches, and other activities, so we don’t have the income we need to pay the bills and to pay back the debt on the building. While there isn’t a rush to finish paying off the debt, it is something that we are consciously trying to be faithful in and to pay off. There are also different improvements needed - if we are going to continue cafe work, the espresso machine needs to be updated or replaced, the dance floor needs to be sanded, etc. If you could pray for us and send us any ideas you have for how we can raise funds for this, we would appreciate it. We have definitely thought of bake sales, but it would take a lot of bake sales, and COVID has made them quite impossible! But we so want this building to be a blessing to our community, to be a place in which people are welcomed and safe and can meet each other and, most importantly, Jesus. It is the only building of its kind in our neighbourhood. We are so blessed to have it! And we are looking forward to seeing how our God is going to move in this area - since we can't comprehend it in our logical minds, I think we're well poised to see Him come through in one of His amazing ways!


Another thing that we are starting in this lockdown is online workshops. We are all artists, so we are beginning workshops in our different art areas - Yvonne and Renee are doing dance workshops for children, Raya is doing story and character development, and I’ll be teaching photography workshops. The idea is to start them online and to create a little virtual community, and then to move them to real life when restrictions are lifted. People are desperate for community, so we want to reach them however we can. In order to do this, we do need a professional Zoom account, which is £120 a year. We have also begun hosting weekly Zoom prayer times with people in our community and across Yorkshire, and so far we’ve been using a basic plan, which is fine, but it does limit us to just 40 minutes. Having a professional Zoom account would definitely give us more freedom in our various online community activities!


A way that you can be praying for us is that we are currently in the process of becoming our own charity. Right now, YWAM York is a daughter charity of YWAM Radiant in London, which is amazing for getting us started. But in order for us to have a bank account, property, or anything of that nature, we need to be our own charity. I have begun the paperwork, and it is complicated to say the least. Luckily, Carrie from Radiant has been guiding us (thank you, Carrie!). Raya has also been tackling some budgeting stuff for the base property, which means sorting through vast quantities of paperwork from the past decade, and it is not easy! We are trying to put on our professional brains for all of this, but let’s face it. We thrive when we are with people, telling them about Jesus and walking through life with them. Paperwork is not our strength. So please pray for us as we do this, that our brains would be alert and that small details wouldn’t trip us up. 


A final way that you can be praying and fighting on our side is for finances. God is a God of provision - we have seen this in every way. Just this past week, a piano was given to us. I have been praying for a piano since before we moved, since it is my main instrument and having worship times with a guitar has not been going well. We looked at different options online, but nothing was really working. We were finally about to settle for a partial keyboard for beginners, since it was in our budget, when we were told that a lady from church was clearing out her mum’s house and had an electric keyboard that we could use. It has 88 weighted keys and a built-in stand, and it fits perfectly in our office. God has provided for us again and again, and this is only the most recent way! 


That being said, some of our team are still waiting to see full support each month. I’m just going to drop everyone’s Paypal info here, and if God puts it on your hearts to support them, they will definitely be blessed by it! I will also put mine there so that you can donate towards the Zoom account if you’d like. And if you can’t give financially (COVID has touched us all), prayer is not a second option. It is a first option, and one that we have seen change circumstances in our lives incredibly. We are blessed by the way that you fight for us in prayer!


Paypal Emails:
Yvonne: Yvonsip@gmail.com
Raya: Madsenray@protonmail.com
Renee: Reneeosborne410@gmail.com
Deborah: deborahestevenson@gmail.com


I would just like to finish this off by sharing that it is snowing in York today. That isn’t abnormal (we are in the North now), but it does remind me that God is doing a new thing in this time. He won’t let this season be wasted. There are some things that won’t come out of this pandemic. There are old ways, old mindsets, dead traditions that we will leave behind. And there are new things that He is teaching us that we will take out of it. It is so exciting to be able to follow God through this: our first year as a base here in York and in a global pandemic. I am constantly reminded of Isaiah 43:19: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” He is the God who guides us, who provides for us, and who will bring us through this season more covered in His glory, if we will continue to listen and follow Him. What a privilege it is to see His new way and to work with Him to make it our reality!


 

A room in the base that we re-painted!

What team meetings look like via Zoom + toddlers

We baked cookies for the local bus drivers

We also wrote cards to NHS (National Health Service) workers

Our Thursday Zoom prayer meetings with people from across the country

Cookies for the neighbours 

Delivering food to a homeless hostel in town

Delivering food to our wonderful neighbour

Doorstep chats with our neighbours

Prayer time with our neighbours on 31 December

We all four went to Scarborough, a seaside town, right before we went into lockdown

On Christmas Day, we got to celebrate (gasp: inside houses) with our whole team together


Naomi, my running buddy

Walks with friends (okay, this was back when we were allowed to be more than one-on-one)

Our Christmas bubble - YWAM York all together in one house!


Savannah is our childcare bubble, so we get to hang out with her, even in lockdown!

The video of our Christmas outreach to the city centre.



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Christ With Us

 As you can probably tell from the long time between updates, we are living life at full steam in York!


The lockdown turned out to not be so locked down for us, after all. We took part in prayer meetings for pastors and ministry leaders across the city, and through that, we were able to connect with many different Christians. We had Zooms or took walks with them and got to know our new city. The people of York are so welcoming! They took the time to share the spiritual landscape (and social and historical landscapes; it was amazing!) with us so that we would know more about the place where we are investing our hearts. 


One of the most amazing things about York is the way that the church is expecting revival. It’s not just a far off dream; the pastors and leaders pray together about it regularly, and they are preparing for it. I took a walk with one pastor who prayed that we wouldn’t see it in fifty years, but that we would see revival in the next few years. I’ve never seen expectancy quite like this; it is teaching me how to be expectant for God to move in this city, as well. I read a quote from the revivalist Gypsy Smith about starting revival. He said to go into your prayer room and draw a circle around yourself, then to pray for God to start revival in that circle. How convicting! So I am praying now that God starts revival in my heart, and from me, outward to our city!


There are around 210,000 people in York. Of those, around 20,000 are Christians. While the churches here are active, there are still so many people to be reached! For Christmas, as a team, we have devised two different outreaches. The first one focuses on our neighbourhood, the Leeman Road area. This is an area that is deprived by York standards. Many of the homes are broken homes, and there are a lot of immigrants who live with a low income. We have amazing neighbours, Ruth and David, who go to a local church, and we have been doing evangelism with them through the weeks. One day, Ruth and I were talking about Christmas, and I mentioned cookie swaps and how I wished it was a normal year so that we could do one. She said that it probably wouldn’t work in Leeman Road, anyway, because you have to have quite a stable home to do things like bake cookies. Out of that comment was born the idea to make cookie decorating kits for the children of our neighbourhood. 


Yvonne baked all of the cookies and prepared icing, and we put everything together into COVID-friendly kits for the children. We then recorded a video of Yvonne demonstrating how to use the kits to decorate cookies. In between the steps, she tells the story of Jesus. Each kit has a sticker with a link to the video, so that when the children have the kit and their conversation with us is finished, the real conversation is only beginning. We began handing out the cookie kits this week as the local primary school let out, and we got to meet several children and their parents!


Our other outreach is focussed on the city centre and on meeting people as they are out and about doing their Christmas shopping. We are expanding on Renee’s Leadership and Urban Ministry Development project and setting up a Christmas Craft Corner for children in front of York Minster (the big cathedral for which York is famous). We had our first afternoon out today, and we met many children, and whilst they played with bubbles, we got to know their parents. One of the best bits of COVID has been that some people are more keen on being real, and they’re more willing to be honest in conversations than they were at this time last year, when they thought that they needed to have it all together. It’s as if being locked apart from each other has made us realise that we are all human and all allowed to have struggles. I love having those deep, sometimes raw conversations with people on the streets. 


We will be in York for Christmas - of course we will, we’ve only just gotten here! We are planning on attending church at the Minster on Christmas morning (we’re so excited). It’s also such a good opportunity to spend time with the people that we’ve met these past weeks who are also staying here for the holidays. Most people aren’t flooded with a thousand Christmas plans they are obligated to keep this year, which means that they are happy to spend time around a fire pit in the garden (we are only allowed to gather in groups outside at the moment) with neighbours. We spent a rainy Sunday afternoon (after we got to go to church in-person!) huddled round a fire pit with some of our new friends just this week. The fact that they stayed out in the downpour with us was incredible. What hearts for community! 


So anyway, I am going to go prepare for outreach tomorrow now, so thank you for reading this update! You can always follow along with what we are doing on Instagram or Facebook (@ywamyork), or pop me an email over at deborahestevenson@gmail.com. 


And now, here are some photos of our first weeks in York!


These first photos are just to set the scene of York for you:












Local outreach at our community centre and handing out cookies to the local school children/giving a flyer to every house in the neighbourhood!








City Centre outreach by the Minster - Kid's Corner!







Friends that we've made in York!

 the Nevards, the other four that complete YWAM York


We got to play at the park with Kiara, the youngest Nevard, and her sister, Savannah.

Vanessa, an amazing Christian woman who works at a church and with youth in York.

Ruth and David, our neighbours who have beautiful hearts for our community

Debbie, a homeless woman we've gotten to know

Laura and Gracie (the dog), friends from home group






Daily Life for the Team
Evangelism in the market 

Preparing the cookie decorating video

Worshiping in person!

Preparing the crafts for Kids Corner






And finally, happy Christmas from all of us here at YWAM York!



Saturday, November 7, 2020

A Flooded Promise Land

We are in York!

I know, we are in as much shock as you are. 


Let me catch you up. 


England is in our second lockdown. That means that we can’t leave our houses unless we need to shop for essentials, go to school or work that can’t be done from home, or exercise. To be honest, this is already more lax than our first lockdown, which is amazing. We are even allowed to meet with one other person from our household as long as we are outside and stay two metres apart. 


We entered our second lockdown on Thursday. It is still possible to move house during lockdown, but it is not advised to use public transport, and it is unclear as to whether or not you can go between cities. On Monday, we found out that we had gotten a house in York. That is a miracle in itself, because the referencing company had rejected us due to insufficient income. But the landlady decided to go against that and to choose us anyway, and the letting agency let us know on Monday. That meant that we had two days to get to York before the lockdown. 


Raya, Yvonne and I were already packed, so with 18 hours notice, we left London for York. Our houses in London were already under quarantine due to illness in the team and the sheer number of COVID cases in London, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody except for our housemates. While that is sad, we are also looking forward to a housewarming party when the lockdown is over on 2 December and they can travel up here! 


(A side note: we had been tested and were negative for COVID, which was a miracle in itself. God is so good to us.)


So now we are in York, and we have the essentials to get us through lockdown, but we have the new challenge of preparing a house in a time when shops are shut and it is much more difficult to buy things second hand. We are also raising all of the funds for furniture ourselves, because our house is unfurnished. There were also some hidden agency fees that amounted to £616 more than we expected. So if you would like to contribute to any of that, you can via my Paypal (deborahestevenson@gmail.com) or in the usual method through the base in Tyler, Texas. I can even give you my British bank account info, if you want to use Xoom or another, similar app to send money internationally directly to my bank account. 


Now that you’re caught up, let me gush about York.


First off, it is only by God that we are here, and right on time. We arrived 36 hours before the lockdown went into effect, which was the perfect amount of time to buy the essentials and to have some final meetings before we were all separated again. And now we have a month to prepare our house, to deep clean and organise the base building (which is a three-minute walk from the house), to research churches, charities and the like in York, and to prayer walk the city so that we get to know it before we dive into ministry. Also, everyone is old hat at Zoom and virtual church right now, so we will get to visit churches online and still take part in city-wide prayer meetings. 


All of that being said, there are a few prayer requests that we have. First off, Raya, Yvonne and I went from living with many friends to being just the three of us. We are all stepping into new roles that we don’t know how to fill, so would you pray for us in this way? Raya and I have no idea how to lead a base! We are very blessed to have Chris and Johanna, our Radiant leaders, walking with us through the season of transition, and YWAM York is being covered by YWAM London Radiant as we become our own charity here in York. Like I said before, we are also trying to raise funds for the furniture, etc that we need for our house here. It is not just a house for us, but it is also a home where we hope to host many who come to visit. We also have three team members who are not physically with us at the moment: Dave and Nicole Nevard are here in York, but locked down in their own home. We’ve waited so long to finally be with them, and now we are waiting some more! And Renee is in the process of getting her visa and coming from the States, but we are unsure of how lockdown will affect that process. 


Isn’t God amazing? He taught us to trust in His timing, and we got here one day later than we’d been planning, but right on time. He provided a house when it seemed humanly impossible - and thank you for praying for that with us. We have seen God provide, and your faithful prayers were definitely a part of that! We can only praise Him. And now we are trusting Him to use this month to begin setting roots and foundations for us here in the city to which He has brought us. We want to have dreams born in this time and to have our hearts set for what He wants in York. But more than that, we are just so, so thankful to be here in our flooded (rain upriver means that York is prone to flooding) Promise Land. 


From L-R: Me, Yvonne and Raya in front of our new house


The flooded city

This is normally a park by the base.

York Minster

A new headshot of me for our social media

Yvonne cleaning the windows in the base