The mattress that meant so much

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Van runs are a staple of our week at The Besom in York as we collect items given and deliver them to our recipients. But what’s it like to be on the van team? Here, office time giver and St Columba’s URC York Intern Katie Golden tells her story.

The first time I went on a van run with The Besom, it was a bright sunny day. I went out with experienced van giver, Sam, and a new giver named Peter. Sam expertly steered us through the winding streets of York and out onto more open road towards Pocklington.

As a newcomer to York, I couldn’t stop staring out the windows at the beautiful fields rolling by and the clean, bright homes flanked by green lawns and lush trees.

I met recipients and givers over the next three hours, and was awed both by the generosity of Besom givers and the strength of the recipients. It was amazing to see how, in God’s sovereignty, everything came together on the van run, despite the many puzzle pieces to fit into place.

12961400_10154071496912436_1288486162611672837_oWe received an extra mattress in addition to the one originally offered, and by the end of the day it found a home with a family who really needed it. We pulled up to a recipient’s home and he wasn’t around yet. After we’d waited for a while, we decided to leave, and suddenly there he was, walking down the street. And we pulled up to Bundles of Joy headquarters, unsure of exactly where to go, only to see a Bundles giver walking in who gladly took our baby donations.

Though I spent a happy few hours in the van in conversation with Sam and Peter and enjoying the scenery, I was also shocked at how the beauty of my adopted country contradicted the severe need of people that we were serving.

In a tidy neighborhood filled with sturdy brick homes, a woman and her son lived without beds, mattresses, and other basic furniture. The son slept on a pile of blankets on the floor. It was meaningful to give this family a mattress, because it meant so much. But it was also sad, because we all knew they needed so much more.

I felt so at peace on the day of the van run and reflected on the fact that God loves us all – whether we are poor or wealthy, clean or dirty, needy or self-sufficient. God loves us in spite of our vices – our addictions, bad habits, and flaws. He loves us all equally.

The Besom seek to treat everyone they serve with dignity and respect and in so doing, they are acting in a way that reflects God. They are showing God’s love. Just as God exists in the sunny, green Yorkshire fields, He is there in a home filled with need. He is love, and He is everywhere.

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It was crazy to think that a few hours of my time could impact her life so much

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The G2 student team in action
We love it when churches give their time to carry out projects with The Besom in York. Here’s Mary Kangley’s account of what happened when she and a team of fellow students at G2 got stuck in to some decorating.
When the student worker at my church asked for volunteers for a local Besom project to help decorate a lady’s house, I knew I wanted to sign up straight away.
At university, it’s very easy to get stuck in a cycle of student culture, and suddenly you find yourself disconnected from the outside world, when you haven’t seen your parents or grandparents in months, and the only people you talk to are your own age. The only time I spent away from university and my studies was at church, and whilst that’s great, I still wanted a way to serve the community in which I live.
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When I turned up at the house, which is only down the road from where I lived in my second year at uni, I met the lady we were to help out, and her immediate gratitude was so fulfilling. It was crazy to think that a few hours of my time could impact her life so much.
We began with a prayer, not only praying for ourselves and the work we were about to do, but also for the home and the recipient of our service. She left and we began painting. It was surprisingly therapeutic and a welcome break from constant study!
After a few hours she returned to a newly painted house. We’re by no means professionals, but she looked past the imperfect edges and saw a house turned into a home by some willing students. It was an amazing opportunity, and I’ll definitely be signing up the next time I get a chance!

Service not services

A few encouragements from October.

It was great to help St Paul’s Church in their annual ‘Service not services’. Each year they cancel their regular Sunday services and spend the time helping those in need instead. This year, they made some beautiful bundles up for Bundles of Joy. They were full to the brim of wonderful gifts and looked absolutely amazing!

We’ve had Vineyard church giving their time again this month to help a mum unpack and move into her new home and help another recipient with his garden.

And some students from G2 gave their time to decorate for a recipient this month too! Look out for a blog about this soon.

And thanks to some generous money givers we’ve also been able to buy new curtains and homely gifts for a single dad in York, a V pillow for a recipient with arthritis, help a recipient with their heating bill and pay for a recipient to have their flat fitted with carpet and lino.

This week, some of the team are heading to the National Besom Conference in Witney – a great way to end October. We can’t wait. Stay tuned for a blog about it!

It was really great to see God orchestrating things for us

September was a busy month!

We’re really excited to have four new time givers in the office. They have been absolutely brilliant. Tara, Katherine, Catherine and Katie have together prayed, been on assessments, answered emails, facilitated giving and taken on the huge task of systematically going through the cupboards making sure everything is tidy and ready to give out! Absolute heroes!

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We’ve had several evening van runs – our great van team have been out as far as Tockwith this time, collecting people’s furniture and delivering them to those in need. Two of our team, on a car run one night, told us how they’d got chatting with a recipient about Jesus and had prayed with him too!

We’ve been blessed with lots of household items being given, including some beautiful new home boxes from York Vineyard. It has been real joy giving them out. We took one box to an assessment last week, not knowing what the recipient wanted. When she asked for a kettle, we were delighted to tell her there was one in box full of household items, all for her, in our car! She was so grateful for the gifts and it was really great to see God orchestrating things for us so that she could receive that box when she did.

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Money giving has meant that we were able to help two recipients out with their heating bill, a family in a homeless shelter with a food shop, a recipient who needed paint to redecorate, a recipient sleeping on the floor with a brand new mattress and a family with new school shoes and coats for their children as they went back to school.

We’re incredibly thankful and blessed to see God working each day. He’s doing some amazing things in York and we can’t wait to see what more He has in store as October continues.

Becky Lewis, The Besom in York co-ordinator

11 lessons from 11 years…

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This week our former co-ordinator, Rob Ainsworth, reflects on his time at the Besom. It is 11 years since he started to work at The Belfrey church and looked in to starting a Besom. We asked him to share 11 things he has learnt in that time…

  1. No where is too far to go for God, but don’t forget He might ask you to go next door.
    Making friends in Romania.

    The day I started working for The Belfrey, I’d been up all night – I’d travelled back from a mission trip in Romania early to join the staff team at the start of a new year. I had some amazing times in Slobozia and Bucharest – God taught me a lot there. But in my years at the Besom many more times over God has shown me the high value He puts on serving those right on my door step, on my street and in my neighbourhood. God might ask you to travel 1000s of miles, but have you asked Him about those on your street?

  2. A small answer to prayer is still an answer to prayer. We can easily write off a small answer to prayer as something tiny and insignificant, but it is still answer. It is God speaking, working, guiding, steering and reminding us of His presence, plans and purposes. I have learnt to spot these small answers and celebrate them. (and sticking on the prayer theme…)
  3. Prayer isn’t a secondary way to give. Many times over the years I have heard people apologetically say, I’m sorry I can’t give, but I will pray. If you are praying – you are giving. There is nothing secondary about prayer, it is at the forefront of giving – it inspires, transforms us and brings fruit in many places.
  4. You can always rely on God. It might seem like an obvious thing to say as a Christian, but I think we can forget it sometimes. Time and time again, God has reminded me of this: I have seen, heard, tasted, touched, walked alongside the faithfulness of God. We can always rely on Him. We can trust Him.
  5. Something going wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many things have gone wrong; accidents on Besom van runs, the office being broken in to, recipients’ stuff being broken on projects… in each situation I have seen God do great things! Much better things than if the bad thing hadn’t happened! I have learnt not to panic in the moment, but wait patiently.
  6. Decorating on one the first projects.
    Decorating on one the first projects.

    God hasn’t finished with the church yet. The landscape of the church in York has changed in these last 11 years. Some churches have stopped, new ones have started. The ways the church is serving the poor have grown substantially in that time. I’m still encouraged that whilst the Besom has been running we’ve seen many new things start – a food bank, a second CAP centre, a TLG early intervention project, Bundles of Joy, Restore, Street Angels, Never Give Up…. I could go on. I firmly believe that God has more plans for the church in York to make a difference in the city.

  7. Friendship is a brilliant place for God to work from. So many of the new initiatives I’ve mentioned above were started and are run by friends – they trust each other. Their relationships are not merely defined by HR policies or job contracts. I’m very thankful for the friends that have joined me, supported me and prayed for me in ‘Besoming’.
  8. Having faith is different to positive thinking. I’m a really positive person, my glass is very rarely less that 3/4 full… But even though I’m this way inclined I have seen that this is very different to having and acting in faith in God. The Message version of the Bible describes faith like this:
    The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. (Hebrews 11 v 1-2 The Message)

    What’s to stop us giving this a go in York today?

  9. It’s not what you know, or even who you know. It is about the relationship you have with someone that matters.
  10. The (hidden) poverty of isolation, marginalisation and loneliness is often the cause of the poverty that we do see. I’ve seen a lot of poverty in 11 years, a lot of people stuck in cycles of poverty; families who’ve suffered inter-generational poverty. The poverty that hurts the most is that of isolation, not having any support, anyone who cares or looks you in the eyes.
  11. It is not what you give it is how you give. We use the hashtag #WeAreAllAboutGiving a lot on our social media accounts. It sums up what I love about the Besom and one of the things I’ll miss the most. It’s the giving bit that is important, the heart/mind action, rather than the gift itself.

We call it faith on a plate.

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Last week we had a visit in York from Gilly Simmonds, who is the “map holder” for the Besom network. Gilly prayerfully keeps an eye on the bigger picture of what the Besom network looks like across the UK.

She told me a story from an emerging Besom that brought me right back to the roots of the Besom vision and how it works; or more precisely who makes it work.

The Besom in Brighton hasn’t launched out as a Besom yet – they are gathering a team, praying hard and have done a couple of practice projects. This story came from one of these practices.

The project was to decorate a room in a house of a mum and daughter. A team from a local church had offered their time to do this. The wider church knew what the group were doing and had been asked to pray.

On the morning of the project, before the team gathered, a number of people knocked on the team leader’s door with a gift. Lucinda takes up the story form here…

“One person came with some curtains. She said : ‘I have been praying for all of you this week and felt that God has told me to bring you these curtains – so here you go.’

“I was thrilled, confident that God had provided these curtains as a sign of His love for the recipient. She explained to her daughter ‘You know how were talking about God and how he provides? – This is what it looks like! You just wait and see how they fit the window.’

“Well you can probably guess what happened next. They did fit the window! Here they are:  a wonderful finishing touch to a newly decorated room.

We call it faith on a plate and how God cannot resist providing for His children!

“Also on the same day I said to the Lord please could you sort a kitchen table for this family by the end of the day?

“One of the givers on the day said she would like to go round shops and source items, so could I give her the list of needs? She turned up at the end of the day having bought one that fitted perfectly and multiple other items and the recipient was so, so, happy!

“The recipient could not believe she had her own bed and lamp and bedside table. She said to my husband, ‘This is now a home. Please thank your wife for the best day of my life!”

This Story really encouraged us in York. Let’s thank God for how He provides and let’s pray for the team in Brighton as the Besom emerges there.

Rob Ainsworth, co-ordinator, The Besom in York

 

 

I’m a little terrified to lead, but I’m trusting that God’s got it.

In September, Becky Lewis will take over from Rob Ainsworth as co-ordinator of the Besom in York. Here she shares her Besom journey so far and her hopes and prayers for the future.

img_0455Two weeks after I moved to York, five and half years ago, I found myself doing a Besom project. I remember it really clearly, I joined a big group of students clearing a garden and painting a bedroom in Tang Hall. I didn’t actually know anyone at all, I’d been visiting a church – heard ‘social action project’ on Saturday and signed up! Little did I know, this was the start of my journey with the Besom.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself as the University of York Christian Union’s social action rep. Sat in the very same office I now work in every week, I met Rob and Sam Tyndall (core team member) and chatted about how we could arrange for students to do some giving.

My time as social action rep was brilliant, I had the absolute privilege of seeing loads of students give up their Saturdays to help people in need in the local community. I saw students go above and beyond, filling cupboards with food, building relationships with recipients and I got to witness them going back to the houses they decorated, inviting people to church.

I heard a story the other day of one previous student who befriended a recipient to such an extent that she’d would drive her to church each week. My heart was happy seeing students making a difference and the Besom was a huge part of that.

In my final year of university,  I was getting sick of the question – “what are you going to do after you graduate?” My answer was always “I don’t know!” I didn’t have a defined career path ahead so I prayed and prayed and waited.

One evening, I got a message from Rob, asking me to consider the Besom internship. And that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from the Besom is that God always provides. I accepted the internship with nowhere to live and no part time job to support myself. I tried to sort this all out on my own and completely failed. But once I’d prayed, God gave me a job and somewhere to live in the same week.

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And that’s my testimony for having been part of the core team the last two and half years. Over and over again I’ve seen God provide in ways I could never imagined. My favourite story has been when we prayed for a van and not only did God give us one we also opened the post to find a huge cheque on the same day. God definitely provides in abundance.

I love working at Besom. I love seeing the church step up and help those in need, and do it well. I love seeing how God is working in this city.

I’m really excited for the next season. I had never thought I would end up leading the Besom but God has confirmed it through many different people, words and prompting. I’m also a little terrified to lead, but I’m trusting that God’s got it. Come September the core team is going to look a little different without Rob and Katie Harman is on maternity leave. But again, as ever, we are trusting that He’ll provide. If you feel God might be prompting you to join the core team and facilitate giving in the city then we would love to prayerfully consider that with you.

Please pray for us as we head into this new season.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” – Philipians 4:19