Bringing the Besom vision to South Africa

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Core team member Becky Lewis hopes to apply lessons God has taught her in York as she heads to South Africa.

Through the Besom in York, God has shown me that whatever someone’s situation, they deserve the very best. Not hand me downs or half-hearted help. Jesus never disregarded someone because of their position, in fact He sought out the people everyone else rejected. He never gave someone second best. So I’m taking these lessons with me, I’m going to (with God’s help!) give it my all whilst we’re out there.

God has also taught me that there are people in need right here in York. That I don’t have to go abroad to serve those in need. But it seems He is calling me to South Africa and has been for a while, even if it’s just for two weeks. So I’m excited for what he’s going to teach me out there and the lessons I learn, I’ll bring back to the Besom.

In a few weeks’ time, two other youth leaders and I are taking five of our young people from York Community and St Paul’s churches on an 18-hour flight.

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Becky Lewis

There’s a significant backstory to why this is happening and without sounding too clichéd, it started when I was around eight years old. It was Red Nose Day and I was watching the programme on TV with my family (mainly for S Club 7’s appearance…) Next thing I knew I was angry, crying and my parents had turned the TV off. This was my first experience of seeing absolute poverty. My lasting memory was seeing children my own age starving, orphaned and lonely.

This was the start of God breaking my heart for the poor, lost and broken. Throughout my life I’ve found God putting me in situations that have been uncomfortable but so necessary for me to understand poverty. From social action projects as a teenager, to getting involved with helping the homeless at university, to finding myself doing a Besom project two weeks after moving to York, to being on the core team at the Besom and helping people help those in need.

I first went to Soul Survivor (a huge Christian youth festival in Somerset) in 2009 when I was 16. It was there that two people called Tich and Joan got up to speak about a village they were building for orphaned children in South Africa. They spoke with a beautiful humility and passion for these children. They also couldn’t quite believe what God had called them to. It was the exciting start of LIV village.

Over the years I’ve been back to Soul Survivor and each year we’ve heard the progress of the village. Last year, we took York Community Church’s (YCC) young people to the festival and there were Tich and Joan speaking of God’s faithfulness. It is now home to 154 orphaned and vulnerable children and is on its way to becoming completely self sustaining.

liv-logoThere was also an invite to come with them at Easter to visit and give time to the project. Through the Besom in York, I’ve worked with people in poverty in this country. There is so much need, even here in York, but sitting on the floor with 6,000 other Christians around me, I whispered “God, can I go?”.

I didn’t tell a soul. A few weeks later three of our YCC youth approached us and said they wanted to go. Things sort of spiralled from there! Now there’s eight of us, and we fly to Durban in a few weeks time.

Please pray for us as we travel, serve and spend time at LIV village in April.

 

Blown away by generosity and commitment

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We’ve loved partnering with Bundles of Joy this past year. In this week’s blog, founder Rachel Kirkby reflects on their anniversary and what God has taught them during that time.

Isaiah 41:13 says “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you”.

I love this image. As a parent, I find myself saying phrases like this to Amara often when she needs an extra support or encouragement “come on, hold my hand, I’ll help you, mummy is here”.

And she always trusts me. She has learnt that the affirmation that “mummy is here”, means she can step forward into this new situation and trust that it will be okay even if she doesn’t know where it might take her. It’s her intuition to cling to me and let me guide her through, knowing that I will always provide what she needs (whether it be a drink to sustain her or a tissue to wipe the muddy hands after a fall).

Chewing on this passage, it struck me how much we need to have this toddler-like trust in our relationship with God. This has particularly been true for Bundles in our first year.

We were ‘born’ last January and in our first year, have had as many up and downs as any other baby!

But overall I feel as if we’ve learnt, like a baby, that if we cling to our Heavenly Father’s hand we can learn to walk in this big world with confidence. He never fails to provide what we need, and He never fails to challenge us to grow even further.

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Carly Price (right) met Rachel Kirkby soon after Bundles of Joy started and quickly joined her on the team

One major example of this over the past year has been the issue of where we could store the donations from our givers. When we started out, I’m not sure we were quite prepared for the volume of physical gifts that the Bundles vision would conjure up.

We have been blown away by the sheer generosity and commitment that people have to give. We are so thankful that this aspect of Bundles has been explosively abundant and we’ve seen God move in the hearts of the givers on a weekly basis.

 

However, it hasn’t come without its challenges! We’ve had points where we’ve simply had to say ‘no’ to givers because we’ve had no space, which has been really hard, and at times frustrating.

We prayed about this, we asked others to pray about it, but for a while it felt as if we were getting nowhere.

Our spare rooms were getting increasingly full, our husbands were getting increasingly questioning about the bags of clothes and toys in our hallways, and I’ll admit it was tempting to get increasingly frustrated about a lack of answer!

But, like a toddler, what we needed was God to take hold of our right hand and say “Calm down, do not fear, I will help you, I’m the Lord remember.”

One particular Sunday, this is exactly what happened. God spoke into my heart with both challenge and encouragement. Our preacher was talking on Luke 12, the parable of the rich fool, and used a quote from Augustine of Hippo who said (paraphrased) that the bellies of the poor are much better storerooms for excess grain than a bigger barn. My ears were pricked!

Of course this was true. Why were we praying for somewhere to put things, when we should have been praying for homes for these physical gifts to go to!

To summarise the week that followed this ‘pinpoint moment’  – we basically ended up with not only more referrals to send out gifts to, but TWO generous offers of space.
As always, our Heavenly Father knows what we need and provides it, in His perfect timing.

So this January, we started the year with an amazing space to store physical gifts, which has released us to have so much more time and freedom to make bundles and bless families in York through Bundles of Joy.

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Further on in this chapter of Isaiah, (verse 17) it speaks of the poor and needy searching for water, but there is none.

This fits with many of the stories of the families we have met doing Bundles. Families living in fear and anxiety about where their necessities will come from. A single mum crippled with worry in the lead up to Christmas. A young couple with no support network, who didn’t know where to turn to ask for blankets to keep them warm in a flat with no heating.

“But the Lord will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.” So true!
It has been so evident in the joyous giving that Bundles has facilitated, that the Lord hears the cries of the poor and has answered them through Bundles of Joy. What a privilege to be a part of this!!

As we journey into our second year, we are grateful for all the lessons we have learnt so far and look forward to learning to walk a little bit more, whilst remaining completely dependent on our Heavenly Father who takes our hand and provides all we need.

Thank you for journeying with us in prayer, please keep doing so!

 

The thing that struck us was the beautiful way they were given

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Rob Ainsworth, co-ordinator of the Besom in York, shares some new year encouragement.

It’s normally quite a hazy start to a new year in the Besom office.

Like most offices around the nation, each of us is returning after some time away and trying to re-engage our brains in what we do at 8am on a Monday morning.

Also there is the return to ‘normal giving’ after the month of December where we devote the full capacity of the Besom team to Christmas hampers. This year was no different – the team matched 203 hampers given by people in York and arranged for each one to be delivered to a grateful home in the city.

December is a month of full-on giving. We absolutely love it in the office. Phone and email communication triple and we see more givers than normal visit the Besom base.

It’s encouraging to have an increase in people and gifts, but the thing that encourages us the most is the sheer scale of generosity we saw.

Beautiful hampers, tailored to individuals and families in York:

  • A special hamper made for an elderly lady with a sweet tooth and an intolerance to gluten.
  • A huge collection of hampers (eight in total) made specifically for a mum & dad with six children in Clifton.
  • One group of givers were delivering to a family for the third time and have started to build a relationship. This resulted in a family trip to the cinema to see the Star Wars film.

Generosity is not something that is easily measured, but to us at the Besom it is evident when we see gifts given generously. There is a joy that comes with the gift given and a pleasure at seeing someone else benefit. It is not related to the amount of money that has gone in to a gift.

So it’s with this memory of generosity and giving that we started 2017. Within a couple of hours of switching the answer machine and email out-of-office auto-reply off, we had our first offer of a ‘normal gift’ – it wasn’t a Christmas hamper – it was a couple of sofas.

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Later on that day we collected and delivered the sofas to recipients in York. The thing that struck us was the beautiful way they were given. The givers – we’ll call them Mr and Mrs G had such a delight as they gave them.

Mr and Mrs G had had the covers cleaned especially and were really looking forward to see them go to a new home. They were keen to know who would benefit from them and they wished they had other things that they could give as well.

On one level their gift was just a couple of nice sofas that were a bit too low down for the givers to get in and out of, but on another level it wasn’t about the sofas at all. They started with the act of giving and then the object that they wanted to give followed.

Talk about God’s timing

This week, core team member Becky Lewis brings us some Christmas cheer.

Tuesday was one of those days. One of those days where I’m constantly reminded of how great our God is.

Richard and I were out delivering most of the day. It was our last day of deliveries, so we had all the hampers left piled into my car. Just before we left we received an email from a key worker for a family with a newborn baby who desperately needed some food.

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Richard takes a novel approach to hamper deliveries

They also lived right around the corner from one of our delivery stops. We had some spare food, so we packed some extra boxes and squeezed them in the car. Amazingly we’ve had one of Bundles of Joy’s bundles in our office which hadn’t been matched to a recipient. So we brought it along.

When we arrived, it was a moment I’ll never forget. Sarah* was completely amazed that we were at her door with the things she needed. And talk about God’s timing, she was just about to leave to go into town to see if she could source what she needed elsewhere.

She threw her arms round both of us. We asked her if she’d like the baby hamper and she was over the moon. Her baby was coming home from the hospital the next day – it was perfect timing!

At the end came one of the most special moments I’ve ever had whilst giving time at the Besom. She asked us to pray for her and her family. I couldn’t have been more honoured. I prayed for her and her partner, I prayed over her house and her other children and for her baby in the hospital. It was so special.

And she was just one of the recipients I had the privilege of meeting on the van run. I also met a wonderful dad with his 13-week-old baby, a woman who said “A hamper for me? Really?” and several children who would barely let us put the hamper down they were so excited for what was inside.

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One recent hamper included this Christmas cake – yum!

I’ll leave you with a story from another recent delivery run by a dad and his son. Financial difficulties meant a family were not due to have any Christmas presents until after the big day. But the generosity of our givers had a real impact.

Here’s a text from the recipient:

“At 4pm a man and a small boy knocked on my door with a hamper. As I sit and write this, I cry happy tears, so a big thank you. You can’t really put it in writing what it means. Thanks everybody who helped with this.”

Happy Christmas everyone!

* not her real name.

Here’s why beggars can be choosers

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Beggars CAN be choosers

So often when you hear people talking about charity and giving to the poor, you hear the phrase ‘beggars can’t be choosers’. It’s this idea that because someone has nothing, they should just accept whatever they are given and they have no right to say whether or not they actually want it.

People use this as an excuse to give rubbish – things that are poor quality or that they just do not want anymore – because they think that someone who has nothing should just be grateful for anything. Anything is better than nothing, right? But do you know what is better than ‘anything’? The best thing. And that is what we at the Besom in York want to give: the best.

At Christmas time, we remember Jesus – His birth and significance of His coming. He was (and is) the best possible gift we could receive. During Advent, we are flooded with hampers at the Besom and we love it! We love seeing boxes bursting with treats, gifts and presents – things that we’d love to receive ourselves. And even more than that, we love hearing the stories of givers’ enjoyment at the act of giving!

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The main reason we believe in giving the best, has EVERYTHING to do with the GIVER, rather than just something to do with the receiver. When we Christians give the best, we reflect God’s (the Giver of all good things) gift to us! The Besom exists for the giver; to see the heart of the giver transformed through the act of giving to someone in need.

Those who receive might be a family escaping domestic violence with just a few bags of clothes or those who are stuck in cycles of poverty, having only owned rubbish things or nothing at all. Undoubtedly they benefit hugely from receiving the best. They receive dignity, value and love. They are blessed and are shown God’s love.

When we say that beggars can be choosers, we offer a choice where previously there was no choice. There is the choice for the giver – to ask God “what should I give?” and there is a choice for the receiver – “what would I love to receive?”

So this is why when we’re offered a sofa that “will be alright with a throw on it” we’ll say no or a bed that will be “alright for a homeless person” we’ll politely decline.

We don’t just care about the object that is being given, but also the motivation behind it. We realise that in doing this we are asking givers to re-consider how they view people who are in need and what things that they themselves would want to receive.

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A lot of the people we meet have next to nothing; some have nothing at all. Many of them are coming out of difficult periods of their lives. We want to change that. We want to give people the good quality things that they deserve, because we believe that they DO deserve them. We want to bless people with gifts.

When we say and then act on the fact that beggars can be choosers, we have to be prepared for those who receive to say no to our gift. It is not just about giving the best.

This was illustrated to us recently. We were offered a really nice three-piece suite. It was one we’d seen and knew was great quality. In fact one of the van givers came back after delivering it saying he loved that we gave out the best and would have loved it in his lounge. We thought the receivers would love it too. But a week later they asked us to collect it and take it away to give someone else. At first we couldn’t understand why, but we now recognise it as them exercising the choice we so wish them to have.

We believe that everyone deserves the best and that beggars CAN be choosers.

The Besom in York core team

God answered these prayers in His time

God is always at work when His people seek to do His will. That is our aim at the Besom in York  and we are often amazed by God’s great provision and His answers to prayer. Here are just a few prayers that God has answered recently:

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  • Van time givers – We have been praying for a long time for new van time givers, specifically for someone to drive the van during the day. We recently met a new time giver who is able to drive the van and is free during the day! A giver who has given in the past has also offered his time to do van runs during the day.

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  • Christmas time givers – With the busy-ness of Christmas hamper season comes a lot of work, so we have been praying for a few extra pairs of hands to give time over this period. We have several individuals who have offered to come in and give time doing anything they can to help with Christmas hampers. We also have a church youth group who are going to give their time doing a hamper dash! One giver has also said that he would like to give time through the Besom on a regular basis, not just at Christmas.

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  • Storage – This one comes from Bundles of Joy. Since Bundles began Rachel and Carly have been storing things in their own homes, but they are quickly running out of space and so we have been praying with them for some storage. Recently they were offered not one but TWO storage spaces in two different churches in York. This is a great weight off their minds as they will no longer have copious amounts of baby things stored in their houses.

We have been praying for some of these things for several months now and at times it felt like we were never going to find a new van driver or storage for Bundles of Joy. But God answered these prayers in His time. He wants us to be persistent in prayer; not giving up when it seems like He hasn’t answered but steadfastly trusting in His provision.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Luke 18 v 1 (ESV)

Gluten free giving

Here’s core team member Kirsten Nott with our latest blog…

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the beginning of Christmas hamper season in the Besom in York office. Since then we have had quite a few referrals for hampers and we have also had lots of offers to make them from givers.

Here is one story to encourage you in your giving this season:

Yesterday my fellow core team member Katie Harman received an email from someone saying that this year their small group at church were interested in making a Christmas hamper for someone with special dietary requirements.

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We don’t normally get referrals that specify dietary requirements, so Katie was a little doubtful as to whether we would actually find a recipient to match their hamper to.

However, within half an hour of this email arriving, Katie received another one, this time from a referrer whom she had spoken with earlier in the day. The referrer said that the recipient they had put forward would love to receive a Christmas hamper but that it would have to be gluten free!

Katie was so excited to share this with the rest of the team and it was a great encouragement to us. This is nothing that we could have planned – only God could make this happen!

We love how God takes care of the small details. Even when it comes to dietary requirements!