Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas Outreach

 It is early in the morning here in York, and we are in the throes of a double pronged Christmas outreach (meaning that every day, we are reaching both the city at large through evangelism and our local community through specific community events), but I wanted to take a moment to share what we are doing!

Every week, we as a team have committed to do evangelism outside of the Minster (the Cathedral in York) and the Belfrey (the smaller Anglican church that is next to the Minster). Local churches know that we are there, and they occasionally come along to join us as we reach our city. For our Christmas outreach this year, we decided to do evangelism in front of the Belfrey every day and to invite all of the churches that we know along. On Wednesday, at One Voice, the pastors' unity meeting that we attend weekly, they commissioned us to go and reach our city this week. Several of the pastors and ministry leaders have also signed up to come along and join us over these days. 

Yesterday was our first afternoon out. The sun sets around 3:30 pm these days (that's how far north we are!), so we finish as the sun is setting. We have live music, carols, dance, testimonies and of course bubbles on hand to engage the throngs of tourists that have descended on York to visit the famous Christmas market. Whilst Laura, a local university student that I've had the pleasure of getting to know, played Christmas carols on the bazouki (an Irish folk instrument), I got to speak to several people, including a Chinese student who is studying in Leeds, the biggest city near us. She had gone into the Minster and encountered the Apocalypse Window, which recounts the stories of Revelation. 

Whilst talking to her, I had the privilege of being the first person to explain Jesus to her. I got to explain why Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter and what that means. Then we walked into the Belfrey, where I gave her a Gospel of Luke and told her a bit more about Jesus. I returned outside to continue the evangelism, and when she came out 45 minutes later, she told me that she'd already read about a quarter of Luke and that she would finish it at home. She has since messaged me on Instagram, indicating that she'd like to meet again.

It is amazing to me that God orchestrated it so that she went into the Minster, encountered stories of Jesus, and that I got to meet her afterwards to explain who He is. It can be difficult to explain Jesus to people who have no concept of Him, but it is also so good to remember why I love Him and how extraordinary faith is! It was even better to be able to give her a Bible, something that she doesn't have access to in her nation. We have been praying for weeks for the conversations that we will have over these next few days, that God would send us people who are ready to find out who He is!

Tonight we are hosting our community Christmas party in the Barnabas Centre. We have Covid precautions in place, but as the government is warning people off of meeting, we are praying that God still sends the right people to our party, and that they encounter love, community and God in our building. We are also praying for no Covid to be in that place, as the girls are meant to travel to their families next week and my parents are travelling here. 

Would you join us in praying for the people that we meet during this Christmas outreach? We want to see people meet Jesus and come to faith. We want to see the lonely caught up in family and the joy of Jesus fill our streets. And most of all, we want God to be glorified in York this Christmas season!

Friday, September 10, 2021

national hunger and thirst

 I know that it has been a long time since I have updated, and while I would love to fill you in on everything, there isn’t enough space on this page! Luckily, we’ve done a team update all together about our summer, which you can check out here:

On to other news: I am a British citizen! I had my ceremony on Tuesday, which means that now I am a dual British and American citizen, so I can live and vote and have a job and raise British children here. This has been over nine years in the making, with a few bumps in the road along the way (you can read back through this blog to see those!), but it is amazing to see God’s faithfulness through all of it.

And now for what I really wanted to share with you:

On Wednesday evening, Raya and I went to a talk at a local church, the Belfrey, by Eleanor Mumford (she and her husband founded Vineyard Churches in the UK), and she said, “The church is not declining in the UK. God is calling people to Himself, and they are meeting Him.” 

At first I was skeptical, because I live in the reality of church here. But then, I realised that she is right. Something that I deeply admire about the church here is the way that Christians have to fight and be dedicated to God. There are so few Christians in workplaces, in schools, that they have to be willing to stand up and look different. It isn’t normal or expected to be Christian. The youth that we worked with at camp this summer talked about being the only Christians in their year groups at school, or having only one other Christian friend in the whole of their class. Everybody knows that they’re different!

I’ve also seen hunger for God and to be a part of the church that it so beautiful (and convicting)! Last week, I met with a young woman who is a Christian in a sleepy village outside of York. She has to get two buses into town every Sunday morning, and because of the bus timetable, she can’t attend her church’s youth and young people’s service; she goes to the family service with the young children. But she still makes it a point to go to every activity that she can, even though it means travelling longer distance and a lot of planning and effort. But she so hungers to be a part of a church family that she’s willing to do it! She can’t wait for the day that she lives in York, just so that she can be even more intentionally involved in the church than she already is.

We also have a young lad in our neighbourhood who is hungry for God. He’s a part of the “bad boys” group; he rides his bike round with them and gets up to all sorts of mischief. But he also hangs around whenever we have a worship night outside, sitting on the edge and listening to all of the worship and preaching. The other week, we were outside of the local church, meeting with our local councillor, and he and his friends came rolling out of the church in a flurry. It turns out that he had been trying to pray in the church, and he’d taken the other boys with him, but they’d started to be disruptive. He was so upset that they’d distracted him. So I took him aside, and together, we talked about how he could pray to God and what he wanted to say. In earshot of his friends, we prayed together. He wasn’t ashamed in any way; in fact, he wanted to take his friends on his spiritual journey with him.

This kind of hunger and boldness for God is the reality of the church in England. Yes, numbers don’t look great. But God is doing an amazing work in people’s hearts post-pandemic. When we speak to people in evangelism every week, we are amazed by their openness. And we are trying to remember that as we speak to people so that we are more bold in how we invite them to be a part of God’s family. But I think Eleanor Mumford is right: God - and the church - are on the move. 

Receiving my citizenship from the head registrar of North Yorkshire

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:

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.