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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
And finally, happy Christmas from all of us here at YWAM York!