Friday, October 26, 2018

joining the fight, grabbing the plough

From the moment that Cammy, a Church of Scotland minister, called me back in September, his excitement over getting to host our DTS at his church in Edinburgh was contagious. He was brimming with ideas for us to do in our week of outreach with his parish. And his excitement was contagious - as he shared his heart with us on our first night in Edinburgh, we began dreaming of the change that could come when the people of Edinburgh hear about Jesus. 

You see, 97% of people in Scotland only enter the church to marry or bury. As we walked up and down the streets of Gilmerton, Moredun, and Gracemount, we saw many Buddhas, faeries, and other idols in the gardens and windows of the houses, but we didn’t encounter many people who knew about Jesus. When we asked Janet, one of the church leaders, about them, she said that they were cheap decorations, and when people saw their neighbours with them, they got a Buddha for themselves. I think that they don’t want to feel alone (after all, emptiness and loneliness are the human condition - we weren’t created to be alone!), so they try to fill that space with a innocuous looking idol in their garden.

The Church of Scotland churches in Moredun, Gilmerton, and Gracemount changed my perception of church. It’s odd how much of culture you don’t realise is specific to how you are raised until you encounter its opposite. Then you also have to realise that the way that you were raised isn’t necessarily correct. I’ve had ample opportunity of discovering this in YWAM, where we visit several churches around the world throughout the course of the year. I’ve been to an Ethiopian church in Glasgow, an Argentinian church in Italy, high Anglican and Catholic Churches, and churches meeting in warehouses and shop fronts. But I hadn’t realised that my expectations for church extended to the people. 

In the churches where we served, the people loved to make food for us.They made us haggis, a traditional dish, and it was delicious (so don’t let people tell you that it is disgusting!). There was one woman who is a whiz at whipping up cakes. There’s another who spends great chunks of time researching and implementing ways of saving the church money - through lowering the wattage of light bulbs to putting greenhouse plastic over the windows to keep the heat in. Many of the church volunteers have overcome drug addictions - recently. They are in a battle to regain their lives. There was one woman who is my age and has had five children, none of whom live with her anymore. She credits the church with helping her to have a purpose in life again - instead of sitting in her flat in a high rise building, thinking about what she’s lost, she has a family. She has people to take care of. And she dreams of opening her own cafe - she can do the baking, and she’s fabulous at taking care of people. 

Whilst in Edinburgh, we went door-to-door every day to invite people to the arts and sports workshops that we held in the evenings. Amazingly, many of the people that we invited came - and they came for more than one night! For a lot of them, it was their first time in the church. All of our activities (football, basketball, collaging, nails and make up, creative writing) were designed to let us spend time getting to know the people. We also hosted several barbecues, which are vital in a community that has so much food poverty. 

Scots are known for their friendliness and for being full of life. When they are living healthy lives, that is certainly true. Cammy had us rolling with all of his jokes and stories. At the same time, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and alcoholism are rampant in the community where we served. The United Kingdom has plenty of resources, but what people really need to know is that they are loved. They aren’t alone. God created them and longs for a relationship with them. And also, the churches are empty, but the doors are still open there for them. And the churches in Southeast Edinburgh are desperate to welcome them in. It was an honour to serve with these brave, loving people in their churches. They are warriors. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Autumn Catch-Up

It has grown cold in London.

I feel like I always begin with a weather update, which is true to our culture, so here it is: it is officially autumn.

I left a week and a half ago for a ministry trip to New York City to have meetings for the International Arts + Sports Gathering that we will be holding there from 7-11 October (check out here for more details and to sign up!), and when I left, it was still the end of summer. But I arrived back to 13 degrees and rain, so here we go!

Since it has grown cooler, we've transitioned from having our Hope and Anchor Community Church barbecues to giving out donuts, tea, and coffee outside during church. It creates a different atmosphere when you have a cuppa and hear worship music from the service flooding the street. I also found that we have a greater variety of people come for free teas and coffees than came for barbecue, and people are used to hot beverages being consumed in social situations. Sami, Lucas and I manned the table yesterday, and we each had deep conversations about God with the people that we met.

One man stopped dead in his tracks when he saw us, and he cried before he even made it upstairs into the service. He said he'd had a terrible day and turned down the alley that our church is on knowing that the only way forward was death. But when he saw us, he thought we were angels (which is flattering, but I think he actually encountered Jesus). He went to the service, then came down again to talk with Lucas and me, and we got to tell him about how God is pursuing him and loves him. We quoted Psalm 139, which he promised to read. I don't know if we will see him again, but it was still so beautiful to see God touch him.

As I mentioned briefly, Christian, Johanna, their kids, and I went to New York City for a week to meet with pastors and ministries about the International Arts + Sports Gathering that will be held next October. We went to NYC in March to hold the initial meetings, and this time, we saw God move in an incredible way. By the time we left NYC, we had both several locations to hold the various sessions in as well as housing and other details sorted. It is difficult to plan an event of this magnitude from so far away, but God has been very present in the details and in opening doors for us. But it hasn't just been us pursuing it; our friends and family have been connecting us to people and churches, as well. We've seen so much generosity. We always say that the Church is one body, but I've actually seen that put into motion through this, and it is really beautiful. We may lament what is happening to the church today, but the church is also alive in New York City. They are reaching the millions of inhabitants in different creative ways, and there are many of the churches that work together. It is quite something to see.

As for the rest of YWAM London Radiant, we have been as busy as usual lately! There is currently one DTS running that began in July, and they leave on outreach to Scotland, Spain, and Italy next week. I will be joining them for the Scottish portion. We'll be serving and staying in a church on an estate (think council housing) in southeast Edinburgh. It is our first time working with this church, so we are looking forward to our activities with the community there. For both Scotland and Italy, churches that we haven't met opened their doors for us. Could you pray for our DTS and staff as we make our way around Europe this autumn?

Chasm Magazine also came out with its first issue! Courtney and Carrissa have been working faithfully for over a year on this project, and there have been several crazy roadblocks in the way. They have definitely been learning perseverance, but it has paid off, and Issue One is here. Several of us contributed (I did a photography essay), and now we get to hold it in our hands! You can order a copy and have it delivered to wherever in the world you live - this is their website.

There's also a band working on their first EP (more on that to come) in our music studio, Lazarus Project planning a spa night for the homeless ladies of Kings Cross (our Instagram is here), our fashion ministry which went to fashion week, and our sports ministry running the Royal Parks Half Marathon. I am running the Half Marathon again this year, and I need to raise £150 for our charity (YWAM London Radiant). I am dreadfully behind in fundraising, so if you could take a moment to support me, even for just £10, I'd be so grateful. Here is my fundraising page. All of the money that I raise will go straight to our charity.

There are a dozen more things happening in our base and in Hope and Anchor Community Church, from a community choir on Thursday nights to our university ministry being started as one of the girls studies Human Rights at UCL to our creative writing ministry putting out a poetry book to our barista ministry and construction ministry creating a coffee cart and looking for spaces in markets around London. I hope that this post has given you a small glimpse into some of the things that we are doing this autumn - if you'd like to see more, you can follow our base instagram or my personal instagram. And you can always email me at if you have any questions or would like to chat. I can give you my WhatsApp via email, and we can keep in contact.

Finally, it was so nice to meet and spend time with several of you this past weekend at Calvary Temple, and to receive a card from the ladies of Second Baptist. Thank you so much for all of your care and prayers.