Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reaching Out to London

We are doing outreach in London! For the past month, and for another month to come, the internship and some of us staff are living in churches in London and doing outreach, which we usually do somewhere else, here in our own city. It has been truly amazing to get to invest our days in this city, to sleep on floors, yes, to go to different churches, to do evangelism and go into schools and feed the homeless and participate in community festivals and do gigs in cafes.

It is Easter Week this week, and we are staying in Notting Hill Community Church. Last year, Notting Hill Community Church (NHCC) began doing an Easter art competition with some local primary schools, where the students created art pieces about Easter and exhibited them in the church. This year, we got to be involved. We went into schools and taught the students about the Christian celebration of Easter before helping them with their paintings and drawings and teaching them some songs and body percussion.

The schools that we went into had predominantly Muslim students, most of whom did not know what Easter is. It is interesting to explain Jesus rising from the dead to children who have no concept of it; most of them ended up thinking that Jesus is immortal with super powers, the ultimate Roman god/super hero crossover. One of the boys even asked, "So Jesus is a zombie?!" Admittedly, he was a little bit disappointed when he found out that being omnipotent and eternal does not mean being a zombie.

When the students came into the church this week to see the exhibition of their artwork, they had a chance to ask us questions. One of the little boys asked, "Does Jesus even appear to Muslims?" We got to explain to him that it says in the Bible that Jesus came for everyone. For those of us who are American, it was entirely odd to be able to talk about religion and Jesus to children in schools. It is something that I never thought we would get to do, but it happened nearly every day for two weeks!

We have also had two gigs in cafes, where we have performed covers and original songs. One of them was in Kahaila Cafe on Brick Lane, where Carrie and Peri work, and they manned the espresso machines for us and served us cake. I really enjoyed watching them move through the cafe with such love and confidence. The barista track begins in the summer internship, and they have carried the passion for it with them for so long that knowing that it is actually coming makes us all excited.

That, and knowing that they will be practising making coffee, which somebody has to drink!

All of this can make the outreach seem rose-coloured, but it isn't. Because we are in the city where we always live, it can be easy to fall into the patterns that we are used to. But outreach is about stretching, about going past the limits of comfort and our own understanding. The base has a financial challenge right now with the need for more space (which is a good challenge to have, admittedly!), and many of the students and staff are facing financial needs as well. We are also used to the enemies of London: isolation, the need to be completely independent, striving to be seen as the best, comfort. We are being challenged to let go of those and to walk in a new way. We are being challenged to go into the streets in the opposite spirit - to be united, to keep listening to God, to champion and serve each other.

Most of the interns who are with us now have been here since August and the DTS, and we get to watch them step out and grab this city with both hands. Yesterday, in evangelism, I watched them walk up to people boldly, confident in who they are and in the joy of Jesus that they bring with them. I watched them volunteer to clean for each other, and to do it while laughing and making jokes. They are working tirelessly, fighting for this city, fighting for the hearts here. Outreach in London is a challenge, yes, but it is also a joy. We love to fight for, and live in, this city.

Peri serving us in Kahaila Cafe.

Maddie singing in Breaking Home, our night of acoustic music at Kahaila Cafe.

Ina helping year 3 with their art.

Eric praying for a man on drugs in Soho.

Our friends, old and new, who came out to Breaking Home at BRT Vinyl Cafe on Portobello Road.

Moa and Andrina on stilts at a community festival in Willesden Green.

Carrissa serving food at a homeless lunch.