This is a joy

It’s been a while since I properly blogged, apologies!

 

There has been BIG NEW NEWS since my last post and that is that I am now the official Youth Worker at Haywards Heath Baptist Church – of which I am employed 14 hours per week. This is incredibly exciting, a massive answer to prayer and a new journey I am beginning.

 

I begun my new role on October 1st, and it’s been a great start. Many of you know that HHBC has always been my ‘home’ church. I came to faith through the youth work there, and so it’s always been close to my heart. To be able to give something back to the church by working with the children and young people at the Church, is just a massive privilege and blessing to me, I am so grateful to God for this opportunity.

My prayer for this new season is simply that I will give my all to God, and that through this there will be breakthrough with the children and young people I work with. For them, things may change as I seek His will, and I hope that keeping it God-centered will be an example for them all.

 

Sometimes I just want to jump up and down with joy because of what Jesus has called me to do, firstly working with young people and where He currently has called me to at HHBC. This is a joy.

 

Just wanted to keep you updated on what I’m doing, and I will hopefully be blogging more regularly as I get settled into my new routine.

If you are a prayer please pray for me, the young people and children, HHBC and as I look for another part time job to go along side this one.

 

Advertisements

“Leaving Well”

When I first heard the phrase “leaving well” I had no idea what it meant.

Did it mean that the removal van turned up at the right time and there were no issues with my ‘stuff?’

Did it mean that I just snuck away, so I, or anyone else wouldn’t get sad by my departure?

Everyone was saying it, it was in all the articles I read about leaving. You must “leave well.” I begun to understood what it meant, and I begun to hope that I was preparing to do just that.

3 years is a long time, a long season, it means a lot of invested in relationships, which I knew meant a lot of difficult goodbyes. My leaving had been no secret, it had been discussed from the day I joined the church, due to the nature of it being my placement which was contracted for the length of my degree. The time had done a mixture of going really quickly, but me also feeling that I had been there a lot longer, in a good way! A couple of months before I was due to leave, in July, I begun dropping it into more conversations, talking about what’s next and mentioning to a lot of the regular young people I was working with. What I hadn’t recognised is that so many people would have missed all these ‘mention’s.’ The pastor announced my leaving picnic details around 2 weeks before and 10 minutes later when I took the young people upstairs for their session I had 4 or 5 young people gathering round me asking “Why are you leaving?”

Oops.

This is not “leaving well.”

I was quick to explain to them why and where I was going, which I had to do a number of times after the church service that day. It all seemed to feel a lot more real at the point, and being asked so many times was not the best idea for my emotions! Seeing as I didn’t have a job to go on to, this question was made a lot harder, many of the adults kept asking whether I knew what was next, which is a natural thing to ask, but particularly for the young people made my explaining why I was leaving a lot harder. For a good number of people the question they were asking in their heads was “If she has nothing to go on to, why is she leaving, why doesn’t she stay?” There were many moments I would ask myself the same questions, especially when I felt like everyone around me was thinking the same thing (only a few voicing it.) But I knew, deep down, I needed to go. It was the end of a season. A brilliant one, where I learnt a lot, and grew a lot, but it was time for it to end. I had a clear calling from God to work with the young people at my home church, and this is what I was holding onto, and this is the message I needed to tell the world!

From that moment on, I would, as I explained that I was leaving and why, add this onto the end. “I’m sad that I’m leaving, it’s tough, it’s not going to be easy, but I’m clear I am meant to be working with the young people back at my home church. I’m unsure of what exactly things will look like, I’m still looking for a job. But I want to be someone who when God says ‘Go’ I listen and obey.” I knew that it was right when 2 of my young people said along the lines of, “Wow, I love that you are just following what you think God says, we’ll miss you though.” What a response, and from the mouths of the 2 of girls I had been working with and investing in for 2 of the 3 years. I thank God so much for this clarification.

My “leaving well” plans were improving.

My last weeks were so difficult, I had a number of goodbyes to say, I had lot’s of “lasts” and it did NOT get easier. But again my comfort was found in that God knew what He was doing, even if I didn’t. In each group I worked with we had a send off, some combined with end of term outings or activities. 3 of my young people took me out to dinner to say thank you, and these moments will be forever treasured. 2 of the girls I had mentored cried at our last mentoring session together. Many people from my church family gathered to share a picnic together on my last Sunday, and it was so beautiful just being ‘family’ together. My final church service was tough. It was beautiful and tough, all at the same time. I received gifts, and I was prayed for, and I had kind words of encouragement and affirmation spoken over me, and a book made for me full of goodness and tear-jerker’s. I gave gifts, and I made the church a photo montage of the 3 years. (Which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clVW64rOCbI&feature=autoshare) There were tears, a lot of laughter and a giant church selfie (my favourite moment) but what I loved the most was the time that was being put in to say goodbye to me, and to encourage me, to love me and show me support. I am so grateful for each moment, during the time I was leaving, but also each moment over the last 3 years. I left less than a month ago, so even writing this has been tough. I’m still sad I had to leave, and I still miss all the friends and young people I spent time with but God showed me more of his goodness, grace, mercy, forgiveness and supportive nature to me this season. I learnt so much. So much that I’ve got to get out there and share!

Let this be my motivation God.

Leaving well meant communicating with those I’d been investing it, it meant being real and honest, it meant helping my young people to understand that I am still for them, I still love them and want the best for them and that God is the one who makes things happen, not me, it meant learning to love long (ish) distance friendships, it meant taking time out to thank all those who have been there for me over the last 3 years, it meant taking time out to encourage those young people that I’d been working with and it meant explaining that when we are serving and seeking God, it sometimes means change, it means moving on, it means goodbyes and hellos, it means new seasons, it means emotion, it means love and it means following and obeying.

 

I hope this can be a message that says ‘Yes things change, seasons change. But God is consistent, God is good, and God has an awesome adventure planned for each of us, wherever that may be. “

Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Lead me, I pray God.

Help me be excited and expectant for this new season God.

 

(And Woodford Baptist Family, if you think you’ve seen the last of me, think again!)

churchselfieleadmeGod

What it’s like back on home turf…

photo (8)

This week I moved back to my parental home, back in sunny Sussex after finishing my degree and time at Woodford Baptist Church (another blog to come about the topic of leaving.)

I’ve created a new hashtag on Instagram #perksoftheparentalhome and have been challenged to think about what moving ‘home’ means especially when I would also call South Woodford ‘home.’

What ‘home turf’ means to me:
1. It means fresh fruit and vegetables growing in the garden, courgettes and raspberries. Gorgeous.
2. It means 2 very different housemates! My mum and dad, who are not quite as Frozen obsessed as Courtney and not willing to join in with much singing, dancing, film nights, take away’s and zumba.
3. It means being able to walk one minute down the road and be at Lindfield Common, a big green space where I can sit, chill out, and have ‘moments’ with God.
4. It means being able to hang my washing outside!
5. It means the discovery of yummy food in the fridge and my Mum’s yummy cooking.
6. It means I can catch up with friends I haven’t seen for a long time or spent quality time with recently.
7. It means returning to my home church, who are loving and welcoming.
8. It means a beautifully decorated room thanks to my Dad.
9. It means living far away from some of my closest friends.
10. It means living far away from young people I’ve got to know incredibly well and grown to love, and having far less input in their walks with God.
11. It means leaving a church who adopted me, loved me, invested me and supported me.
12. It means (currently) a lack of job, and not knowing what’s next.
13. Which in turn means a lack of money.
14. It means a lot of question marks, a lot of ‘I don’t knows.’

Finally it means that I have listened to God. It means opportunities to work with and invest in the young people here, to show them God’s love, to walk with them on their journeys. To serve those in this local area. To show my family what God’s love looks like. To rekindle friendships. To create new friendships. To encounter God here, as well as there. To bring all I learnt about who I am and who God is and help others understand who He is, and who they are.

And although leaving and moving has been difficult, and will continue to be at times, this final point is what I’ve got to HOLD onto. Firmly, tightly, never letting go of why I have come here, who God is going to use me to bless and think of all the opportunities God is going to give me. I feel like God is calling me to work with the young people here, and that is what moving here means. I am ready, I am ready for God to break my heart for them. I am ready to feel compassion, I am ready to serve God. You said ‘Go’ and I’ve gone. Use me, I pray.

‘Home turf’ has never felt so exciting.

Starting the day with Jesus

I’m not a morning person at all. I try my best to stay in my warm bed until the last minute, in fact I have to set my alarm about an hour before I actually get up and sometimes get my flatmate to tell me how much I’ve got to do that day just to motivate me enough to roll out of bed.  Morning’s are a very much unloved part of the day in my household. 

Psalm 143: 8 says “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. 

My mentor recently challenged me about whether I start my day with Jesus, and I had to be honest and say no. Whilst I’m still in the waking up process I check my phone, I check my social media; Jesus isn’t what I’m thinking about. I’m 22, isn’t that what most young adults do? But it was a challenge, am I thinking about Jesus and being thankful for Him and all he’s done before 10am; most of the time, no. But surely I should be thanking him for the sleep that I’ve had, (or praying tomorrow’s night sleep is better), surely I should be asking Him to be in the day I have to come. My mentor suggested that when I brush my teeth to spend some time in prayer, this mean’s that every morning without fail, I will be putting God central to my day. I want my mornings to be what this Psalm says, to bring me word of His unfailing love, for Him to show me the way through the day, and for Him to know that He is my priority, I want my life to revolve around God, I want Him to be control, not me. 

Jesus set this example for us to, in Mark 1: 35 it talks of Jesus’ morning, where He went and spent time with His Dad. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” I’m not someone who is insisting that morning prayer is essential, and not everyone is a morning person, I will never be! But a morning is a beginning, and I for one, want to begin with my Heavenly Dad. 

I want to begin my day in God’s presence.  Isn’t that the best place? Are you with me?

A song that has spoken to me recently is “Your Presence is Heaven to me” and especially this live version by Darlene Zschech and Israel Houghton… check it out here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYfoptJxNWI&list=PLs9A2VszMZK97pzRl7y47TKvTMC52EhiT&index=17

God’s presence is just that, heaven, and I battle with the question why wouldn’t I want to start my day in His presence, connecting with the Heavenly Realms?

It’s an ongoing challenge, keep asking me how my teeth brushing is going! But it’s a challenge I’m desperate to pursue. I want to start my day with Jesus, nothing else but Him. 

 

“For when 2 or 3 gather in my name, there I am with them.”

A month or 2 ago I was in Spain for a short break with my good friend Ally, it was an amazing time of relaxation and sunshine for the both of us, amongst our busy lives. We were there over a Sunday and both Christians, and regular church attenders we sought to find an opportunity to “be church” whilst we were there. A search for an English speaking church nearby was unsuccessful so we decided to “do church” ourselves. With access to worship music and both of us engaging in that style of music, we listened to the powerful lyrics of worship music, we then read the Bible together and had meaningful conversation that shared testimony, story and struggle of our recent walk with God, and the conversation was real and honest. I thought; this can be, this is church too.

The Bible says in Matthew 18 verse 20 that “where 2 or 3 gather in Jesus name, he is among us, and that’s exactly true, Ally and I were gathered, and God was there, among us, with us. It was beautiful.

Sometimes I feel we can get caught up in what church is, and what it looks like, there are many expressions of church and none are exactly right, and none are exactly wrong, just different. For example the 24/7 prayer model of church, which can be found on http://www.24-7prayer.com/communities or there is small local church models, or large church models such as Bethel or Hillsong.

Often, however I feel we can get caught up in the rituals and routines of church, and the little things. We get caught up in things like what worship looks like, order of services, things that we need to consider how does this influence our view of church. Our nation is a nation who is scared of different, scared of thinking outside the box. We need to think of how we see church, what church is, what church looks life, what we would like it to look like… And why it doesn’t look like that!!

I challenge you to think outside the box and have a think today about church and the expressions of church you have seen, are part of, and would like to see!

Compassion Sunday

Apologies for the lack of updates, I had a bit of a crazy summer, not staying in the same place for very long, or if I did it was a muddy field with limited phone battery and internet access. The joys of youth work hey! (Secretly I love it!)

So yesterday was Compassion Sunday. Compassion is a Christian child sponsorship charity working with children in 26 poverty stricken countries, supporting the the overall child through their projects and the money you donate. 8 year old Maria’s letters never fail to make me smile, as they drop through the letterbox I open with excitement to see what she has been up to and to see some of her cute little drawings. She lives in Tanzania, and because of Compassion receives a good education, learns about God and is provided with food and love. I hope to one day go and meet Maria. The care people give to these children is overwhelming and is only possible because of people like you and me, those can reach out a hand not only financially but also prayerfully to strangers, but to their brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves you, and He also loves each and every one of these children world wide, whether they are in poverty or not.

Take a look at this short video to see an example of a child changed by Compassion, their sponsor and of course, God.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFJZJtkYIIg

Today, I challenge you to be part of someone’s story. To help a child in poverty know their full potential, know that they are loved.
With Compassion it costs £21 but what you gain, and what they gain is worth so much more.

http://www.compassionuk.org
Can you sponsor a child with Compassion today?

The togetherness of Churches

Last weekend we held a youth service, One, which was the first of hopefully many, the start of a new adventure of a joint church once termly youth service. Three churches youth pastors/ workers joined together to plan this event months ago, and it was kicked off to an incredible start. Other churches joined in on the journey and about 6 churches were represented on the night. We had a round 40 young people, which for the first event is a brilliant number. Matt Summerfield from Urban Saints spoke, and he spoke so well, with 17 young people responding to the message, another Church led worship, another hosted and we each took a different role. There was a lounge which involved a local youth pastor interviewing our guest speaker, we played games and ate pizza, united as a group of young people and youth workers from the local area. The atmosphere and vibe was amazing, we really sensed God’s blessing in what we were doing and in the unity that this event has bought to Churches locally.

When Churches unite together there is a visable declaration of a shared passion; Jesus. And this can speak volumes to those not involved in Church or on the borders of Church to show that Churches can and do work together, and that this can have an impact on the local community, it is also a reminder to those within Churches that we are family, united, ultimatley, because of Jesus. The little differences in the Churches beliefs and traditions do not affect us working together, and there is beautiful moments of togetherness created if we can put these aside. We, the Church, want to express that Jesus saves and loves everyone, and the events like One highlight this common message.

On Saturday there was also a huge kid’s event, with 110 children, which also bought together many of the local Churches, and their children. Although I did not attend, I have heard brilliant things, a really blessed time with unity at the core.

Church is a community, a group of people, and when the local Churches can look past tradition, denomination etc, new communites are formed and an example is set to adults, children and young people alike that we are all family, who love Jesus, and love people. The message version speaks of God being Lord in our community, it says “The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.” This is what these events are about, showing our community that the Church is one. That the Church love their neighbourhood.

Since moving to the South Woodford area I have sensed a really good vibe of togetherness between the Churches, especially with the youth workers, but even more so in the last few months, with monthly youth workers breakfasts and events such as One, and a The Big One, as well as joint work in schools, with Christian Unions and mentoring.

This togetherness is something we should be celebrating, as we see God’s blessing on what we are doing.

My challenge to you is what does the Churches unity look like in your town or area? What examples are you setting in your working together? Is there scope for local pastors or youth pastors to meet regularly or run events together?

 

Have a think, and a pray about it. Feedback is very welcome.

God Bless,

Steph x Image