This week, Becky Lewis, a core team member with the Besom in York, reflects on the danger of assumptions.
Carrying out assessments never ceases to humble me.
Last week I had two booked in back to back. As I pulled up outside the first house I did what we all do. I assumed. I assumed that because the house looked lovely on the outside, there probably wasn’t much need on the inside.
I honestly think our assumptions about other people’s lives cause us to avoid questions like “how are you really?” And “do you need anything?”. Questions that definitely could have helped both the women I met that day.
Inside, the house was bare. Her baby was crawling on a hard floor with no carpet. There were no curtains. She was clearly finding things hard. All this as a result of domestic violence.
Sadly, the second woman I met was much the same. She had just moved from a refuge. We stood in her living room, no carpet, no table, no TV, no curtains. She’d only just managed to get somewhere to sit. Again, all due to escaping domestic violence.
Two women in the UK die every week due to domestic violence. A horrific statistic that doesn’t seem to be very well known and the amount of people who are referred to us because of it saddens me.
But the joy of doing assessments, the joy of seeing people give through the Besom, is hope. It’s amazing to go back to the office, check the emails and see people want to give the things these ladies need. I can’t wait to see their houses become homes as people give time, money and things to help them. I love seeing God provide for His children.
So a challenge for you. Ask people how they are. How they really are. Don’t assume. The more we look out for the people around us, the less the need will be.
From time to time we like to devote the blog to small but significant answers to prayer & ways we’ve seen God provide in and through the Besom office. There is no particular story to follow or specific givers sharing their story but rather small snapshots of God’s great story working out in York.
One morning we had a phone call asking for some double bedding. Kirsten checked the cupboard to find we didn’t have any. A phone call a couple of minutes later offering double duvets and sheets.
Last week on the van we were offered a microwave we weren’t expecting, only to find the next recipient on the van sheet needed a microwave.
Two weeks ago we had one fridge and two homes, later that morning we offered a fridge that was pretty much brand new. The recipient said, “it’s really nice to be helped out”.
We had been offered a freezer and didn’t have a home for it – after some prayer, we met a new recipient who had the perfect spot for it in his kitchen.
We were asked for a triple sleeper bunk bed by a large family. Another family offered a bunk bed that turned out to be a triple sleeper – exactly what the recipient asked for – we look forward to delivering that one very soon.
Recently we’ve been praying for links with new churches – so far we’re booked into speak at 4 churches in the Autumn term.
The Bundles of Joy team bought a new stroller for a recipient (for £50). Less than an hour later £50 cash was dropped in an in-tray to be used for Bundles of joy!
We’ve been praying for a whole load of furniture for a recipient – Matt*. Last week we delivered a wardrobe, microwave & freezer. This week he’ll receive a chest of drawers, TV stand and a washing machine.
We’ve prayed for a recipient who’s had a really hard time recently. Last week a group of time-givers went to continue working on her garden – she was overwhelmed by the love shown to her to the point of tears.
We’ve been able to give a bed base to a recipient – her referrer said this: “I saw it yesterday when I visited Debs* thanks a million. It will make such a difference as she is struggling with a bad back.”
Rob Ainsworth, co-ordinator of the Besom in York, looks at how some generous giving has helped some newcomers to our city.
Many of us will have seen the posters and banners hung around York and on social media saying #RefugeesWelcome. Well it’s been our privilege at the Besom to be part of the welcome party for those coming to York.
So far we’ve been able to direct gifts from the churches in York to three families that have moved to York from Syrian refugee camps.
One of the things I’ve loved about leading the Besom in York over the years is hearing stories of givers being able to help people to feel welcome in their own homes. Let me tell you about a few before we head back to our new refugee friends.
I remember a single mum in Tang Hall. She was escaping domestic violence and had moved 50 miles to York. She had two children, a couple of bin bags of stuff and the clothes she was wearing. During the assessment her head was low, there was no eye contact. Her self-worth was at rock bottom. Her first request was for curtains to shut out the world.
A month or so later I remember seeing her again. Much brighter. She even looked me in the eyes. Her home had been beautifully filled (and curtained) by Besom givers. She felt welcome in her own home.
Another example relates to a team of time givers who’d spent a weekend redecorating a lounge for a lady. Over time they got to know her well and supported her whilst she was in hospital by water plants and cutting her lawns as well. As the friendship developed, she told them of some abuse that had happened in her house. They offered to make-over that room to help wipe away memories. She felt more welcome in her home.
Back to our refugees friends. I love the way we are able to say welcome. When our van givers and project time givers go in to the homes and gardens of those settling in York we get to say a big fat welcome. We say it in words, but being from Syria they don’t speak English yet. Therefore, we say welcome with the gifts given, with the quality of those gifts, with the efforts and hard work put in and with the open-hearted non-judgemental generosity shown.
Refugees – you are very welcome! Welcome to our city, please make yourselves at home. We are here to be a blessing to you. We will pray for you. We will serve you. We hope to see you flourish in all of life.
Last week the van team delivered a fridge to a family with three small children. They were very grateful and made sure that we knew that (despite not having a translator)! The team then went on to collect garden waste from a time-giving project that had happened. A local church in York had transformed a waist-deep grassy wilderness for a farming family who had fled thousands of miles from home into a garden with flowers growing and vegetable plants ready to put in.
So thank you church in York! Thank you for your welcome. Thank you for your giving. Thank you for your praying (it is working). Let’s pray that we can offer an even greater welcome.
We are thrilled by the way that God has provided for us to equip givers across the city. So in this blog Rob shares how God has provided and what we have learnt from him through his provision.
Nellie – our long standing van-helper went to the scrap yard. On a regular van run in Acomb, her head gasket blew meaning it was not worth fixing her. We’re incredibly thankful for Nellie and those who financially provided her!
We’d been praying for a new van for years, not knowing how long Nellie would carry on, but knowing that God is our provider. Despite the temptation to worry about how we were going to be able to continue helping people to give without a van, we didn’t panic but instead we continued to pray.
We’d actually been offered a van from another Besom only the week before! The Besom that offered us the van were in a process of working out if they needed a van anymore or if it would be better to pass it on to another Besom. We didn’t say yes to the offer at once, we wanted to pray first and ask God to provide for the running costs of the van.
Yesterday I went to collect the new van and bring it back to York. God had amazingly provided financially for us to run the van.
So what have we learnt?
Just over a year a go we were burgled at the Besom office (you can read about it in a previous blog here), at that time God taught us an awful lot of things. As I’ve reflected I have come to realise that the Besom in York was actually in a better place post break-in than what is was before. I’m not saying that I hope we’ll be broken in to again but I’m thankful that God used that situation to shape us as individuals and a team and produce fruit.
The fruit that I’ve seen formed in the team is that of steadfastness – specifically a steadfastness to trust, rely and lean on God all of the time – to have a greater faith and trust that he will provide for our needs.
God is working for our good and is way ahead of us. We were offered the new van a week before Nellie went to the scrap yard. God was already changing the shape of another Besom, showing them that a van is no longer needed. God gave us a van for £free!
God is working behind our backs. He is not only working before us but he is backing us up and building us through prayer. He’s taught us that when you are always reliant on God in prayer nothing changes when you hit a crisis. Crisis points then become moments of peace, patience and even faith.
God is loaded. The previous van was owned by a Christian in York who generously gave us priority use of it. This time we would need to run it ourselves but God came up with what was needed! One Wednesday we opened the to post to find a letter with a cheque for more than enough money to tax, insure, MOT and fuel the van for the next year!
God exceeded (and continues to exceed) our hopes and expectations. We’re grateful for the new van. But more than that we’re grateful for how it has widened our view of God and what he can provide!
We’re excited to see the new van be a vehicle that equips the church in York to serve those in need and help people to see God and all of his goodness.
Hudson Taylor once said “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
Jesus said in Mathew 6 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… …But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It was great to see 13 sixth-form students from Ampleforth College giving time on decorating projects with the Besom in York recently. This week’s blog is their reflection on a memorable experience.
During the last week of June, the Besom enabled us to take part in SHACworks, a week of volunteering in the community. This was the third time that the Besom and the college had worked together in this way, and we had an unforgettable week.
We were asked to decorate in the homes of two families in central York in the hope that their living environments could be brightened. It was hard work physically, but although we had been warned to expect to be challenged emotionally, none of us had perhaps appreciated just how moved we would be by the stories of those we were working for.
After we left work on Friday, we had an afternoon reflecting on our experiences and were asked to identify a high point, a low point and something which had surprised us. For many of us the high point was seeing the work completed, although for some of us it was a surprise that we’d managed.
We were asked to live in community for the week, joining for prayer throughout the day and many of us were surprised at how we had begun the week as a group of sixthformers who didn’t necessarily know one another very well, but by the end of the week we had come to know one another in a much deeper way, having shared not only the responsibility of our work with the Besom but responsibility for preparing and serving our own food, and joining together for prayer throughout the day.
You can read about the projects Ampleforth College students were involved in last year here and find more information on their 2016 efforts here.
This week, Kirsten Nott, a core team member with The Besom in York shares two stories of how God has been at work in our city and elsewhere.
Here at The Besom in York we help people to give in whatever way they feel called to. This can be anything from giving time on the van, to doing a project, to creating unique pieces of art for individual recipients. God can call us to be extremely specific in our giving. He also has a way of providing for us in our giving.
Recently a team of givers from the House of Prayer in York expressed a desire to give. They wanted to do something practical and helpful for a recipient, but that wasn’t doing a project; they wanted to do something that would help them to develop a relationship with a recipient and build friendship.
The team were matched up with a recipient and before they went round to see her, they met with Besom in York co-ordinator Rob Ainsworth in the office to pray for the recipient and what they were going to do for her. Whilst they were praying, Rob got the smell of fresh fruit, even though there was no fresh fruit in the office. The team prayed about what the smell could mean, they believed that it was about the team bringing freshness into the life of the recipient after the tough year she’d had. When the team went to visit the recipient they got the smell of fresh fruit again, which turned out to be coming from a candle that the recipient had in her home, which was apple-scented. This fitted with the smell of fresh fruit that Rob could smell when they prayed for the recipient in the office.
The team asked the recipient how they could serve her and at the end she said “I just feel like I need a great light to shine down from above”. The team then went shopping and to raid the Besom office for items that they could give to her. They bought her some curtains, in the colour that she’d asked for, and while they were at the office they were offered a couple of trays of fresh food from a funeral wake that had been held in the church. One of the trays of food that was given was a massive tray of fresh fruit!
The team were overwhelmed at God’s provision; after they had prayed for the recipient and got the smell of fresh fruit, God had then provided them with a massive tray of fresh fruit to give to the recipient.
James, from the House of Prayer team, said, “We learnt that God is generous! The fruit platter was absolutely incredible.”
They went to deliver an entire car-load of things to the recipient, including the food that was given. James commented: “They were absolutely buzzing when we dropped it off”. The team also had the opportunity to pray with the family and explain what prayer is and who they were praying to.
They had a great time talking with them and building relationship with them. James said: “It was a great privilege to serve through the Besom in that way… Every time we’ve done a Besom project and given space for God to turn up, He’s done amazing things. Laura* was delighted with all that we were able to give her which was a real encouragement. And it was great to be able to pray and bless them as we left.”
When Rob went back to see the recipient to do an assessment for a decorating project, her son thanked him and the team for the food; they had eaten all of it and he had especially enjoyed the fruit. He also had the chance to tell the recipient that they had prayed for her before the team had gone to see her and that they had felt God prompting them to think and pray about fruit and freshness. Then God provided it. Rob was able to share this with the recipient and tell her that Jesus does answer prayer and that He cares enough to provide even small, simple gifts, such as fresh grapes for a boy.
Another story of how God pays attention to detail and provides specific gifts for specific people comes from The Besom in Runnymede. A few of years ago the Besom in Runnymede were given a painting by a diplomat who was moving out of the area. The painting was of an Indian woman and was worth a lot of money. People kept challenging them to sell the painting and use the money to buy things for recipients.
However Mandy, who runs the Besom in Runnymede, felt that they should not sell it but keep hold of it. A couple of years after the painting was given, Mandy felt that they should put the painting on the van with some food that they were giving to a recipient who suffered from anxiety and agoraphobia and so could not leave his house. It turned out that the recipient was an Indian man and that the painting was actually of a woman from the particular tribe or region of India that he came from.
Mandy had no way of knowing this at the time, she just felt that God wanted them to give him the painting. The painting meant a great deal to the recipient and was actually the key to him being able to get out of the house and engage with people.
God knows what we need and He provides for our needs, even down to the smallest detail.
On Thursday 23rd June we had the pleasure of launching Bundles of Joy. It was an evening of story telling, testimony, vision, and prayerfully commissioning the work of Bundles of Joy in York.
The evening began with Rob sharing how 18 months ago the Besom trustees had been praying and felt stirred to pray that we might see new initiatives started in York that would see the church coming alongside the disadvantaged and marginalised.
Rachel and Carly joined Rob and talked about how Bundles of Joy started. It started in their hearts – having been on the receiving end of many gifts for their children fro their church communities, they had a passion to see the church in York to give practical gifts of baby items to families in need. Rachel shared how she first had the idea about 18 months ago!
They also shared stories of giving that Bundles of Joy has enabled since they opened in January and how God has been working through them.
One story that was shared was how a bundle of baby items was given to a young mum-to-be who had been referred to the Besom. The baby was due at the end of June and the mum didn’t have any baby items. Bundles of Joy were able to give her a bundle of baby items, a moses basket, a pram, and various other things in order to help prepare her for when the baby arrived.
Stories like this are just the beginning of what Bundles of Joy is all about: the generosity of givers, wanting to give things to those who are in need.
Carly, Rachel, and Rob then shared the three-point vision of Bundles of Joy.
Equip the church to give. Bundles of Joy is here to provide a way for Christians and churches in York to extend their communities of love and share generously baby clothes and equipment that is so freely given within churches.
Enable people to receive. Bundles of Joy is also about seeing those without receive the practical things they need for a new baby, but also support and encouragement.
Encourage referrers. Bundles of Joy receives referrals from a number of professionals in the city. We want to encourage them in their work and be a helpful source for the people they are supporting.
Following this, everyone was invited to go round various prayer stations that had been set up to pray for different aspects of the work and vision of Bundles. At one prayer station people were asked to write messages for Bundles recipients that could be put in bundles that were to be given out, to encourage recipients and let them know they were loved. One such message said:
“You are loved. You are precious. You are valued. You are beautiful. This bundle was made for you and your baby and we are praying it meets your needs exactly. We know being a mum can be tough but you can do it!”
Another prayer station encouraged guests to write down bible verses and prayers for the bundles of Joy team. Thank you for encouraging us – here are a couple.
“Every giver, every gift, every bundle is like a light, shining into the lives of those who receive them. And God shines light into the lives of the givers also. Lighting their hearts on fire for Him and for those who are in need.”
We finished the evening gathered together, prayerfully commissioning Bundles of Joy together. With gratefulness and faith we look forward to what God will do through Bundles of Joy in York.