Wednesday, June 28, 2017

in the fire and the flood

It has been two weeks since we woke up to the news of the Grenfell Tower fire. I found out by receiving a text from a friend who wanted to know if I was safe - she knew that I was often in the Notting Hill area and that one of our team houses was there. 

At first, we were shocked and didn’t know quite what to do. We have been investing in the Notting Hill community for years now, from attending church there to running Bones Camp at the Notting Hill Carnival to hosting a dinner club for the homeless and needy to many of our team members working in the cafes and shops in the area. We worked, celebrated, and made friends with the stall owners in Portobello Road Market, where we do weekly evangelism. So while we didn’t know what to do, we knew that we had to be there. 

We went down to the site of the tower. Latymer Community Church, a church that we occasionally work with, is near the foot of the tower, and they became the centre for food donations. When we arrived on Wednesday afternoon, donations were flooding into the neighbourhood. We jumped in where we were needed, from receiving and sorting donations to serving the residents dinner to cleaning the tables from all of the ash in the air. But what was needed most was a listening ear. 

As the days went on, I found myself by the tower every day. On Wednesday, the community pulled together to do whatever was needed to support those who had been displaced by the fire. However, by Thursday, tempers were raised, and answers were not forthcoming. I went into the area with my camera, but I ended up putting it away rather quickly, because it wasn’t the time to photograph people. It was the time to listen, to pray, to give hugs and compassion. To hear the people who were angry and weren’t being given a voice. You see, the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where the fire happened, has a massive gap between the richest and poorest people. It is dotted with celebrities and business tycoons, but it also has loads of council housing with people who are living below poverty levels. They literally live in the shadow of the rich and famous, but they are invisible. The very cladding that caught fire so quickly was put up because the rich of Notting Hill didn’t want an ugly tower block bringing down the value of their properties. 

With all of this happening, it was tempting to try to go down to Grenfell Tower to win souls. 

I know that it sounds like a controversial statement, because if there was ever a time when people were searching and hurting, it was in the wake of this fire. But we don’t love conditionally or give a listening ear transactionally. We can’t say, “Tell me what you are going through, but only if you will then listen to this Gospel presentation.” I am learning that loving your neighbour means choosing love over what I want for their lives. I want these people to know Jesus. It is why I am here in London. But I also know that to push the Gospel onto them when they are vulnerable could lead to conversions that aren’t true. It could lead to emotional decisions but unchanged hearts. And I want people to meet Jesus when it is the right time, when they truly want to give their lives to Him, and not just when they are scared and hurting for a few days. 

As a team, we want to make disciples. That is why we are here: to make disciples of all nations. Not to make temporary converts who we can check off a list. Because people aren’t numbers; they are souls and spirits and bodies that are desperately loved by Jesus. If Jesus died for them, then they are worth more than a ten minute “quick save.”

We have to invest in these people. We went down to the tower site and prayed with other Christians. We went to the multi-faith vigil and cried out to our Father whom we know heals and saves and loves and sees what is happening. We listened to the hurting and served with our hands and feet. And we aren’t abandoning them now that the media has gone away. We are committed to Notting Hill, just as we have been. We are learning faithfulness and steadfastness, which are two qualities that are hard for our generation to learn. But we can be faithful in Notting Hill. And with God’s help, and through this tragedy, we are learning to be.

Monday, June 5, 2017

when we are shaken

First of all, I would like to assure everybody that I am well.

As I write this, I am also aware that I will have to live anything that I write. The reality is that the city that I live in has been attacked twice in the past three months, and that the last attack occurred two miles from my house in a place that I regularly visit.

People keep saying that London will not be shaken. While that is a noble declaration, yesterday at Hope and Anchor Community Church, our pastor said that what God is shaking in London needs to be shaken. What will not be shaken is God’s Kingdom (and perhaps that is what people mean when they say that we won’t be shaken).

I don’t have answers for why these horrific attacks keep happening. I can only pray and try to listen to God’s heartbeat to discern what practical action needs to be taken. A dear friend reminded me recently that God does not give us the spirit of fear, but rather, we are given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I have found myself looking twice when crossing streets or walking down busy pavements, but I also know that I am where God wants me to be. I can only be obedient and try to walk with the power, love, and sound mind that are mine as my life is hidden in Christ’s.

This all sounds very brave, but please, pray for us. Pray for London. Not for the abstract city, but for the actual people who live here, the ones who pass each other in the supermarket and ride the Underground together and feel horror in our guts when we hear sirens race past our windows. Pray for YWAM London Radiant as we follow God’s direction for us in this time. We have several challenges in front of us. We have students coming from many different nations and continents for the internship that begins on Wednesday and the DTS that begins in July. Their families will be concerned for them as they come to live in this city, just as our families are concerned about us. We are also still planting Hope and Anchor Community Church in Camden, and we long to see the people of Camden come to find hope and love at our church. We would love to see people turn to God as they face the reality of these past few months. We know that God’s promises of salvation, of love, and of family, are for them as well!

At the YWAM England Family Gathering last week, many different ministries and speakers talked about their heart for seeing God’s Word brought back to common use in England. The Bible is readily available here, but many people consider it obsolete. It seems that God is putting a deep desire in us to see His Word communicated through many different means - a lot of my friends are writing songs that are pure scripture, or are studying the Bible deeply, or are distributing it in different languages on outreaches, or are creating art based off of it. How can we play our part in this beautiful movement? We need creativity and innovation to bring God’s Word back into the hearts of this nation!

I am excited for the season that God is bringing England into. He is the God of seasons, and He loves this nation. Churches are working together across denomination and generation lines to worship together and to reach out to those who are not yet a part of our family. Something is being mobilised, and it is such a privilege to get to be in this land for this time.

All of YWAM England at our Family Gathering last week