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

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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.

 

A day I’ll never forget

Core team member Becky Lewis shares a humbling and joyful experience in this week’s blog post.

Last week a usual day in the Besom office turned into a day I’ll probably never forget.

It began with meeting some givers who wanted to give some blankets and clothes. I had spoken to them previously and let them know that we were going to give them to a Syrian refugee family. When I arrived the givers had made a box of food to go with their things and a little card welcoming them to the UK. It really encouraged me, and the team, to see such generosity and not only that, but them going that bit further to help those in need.

I then went to assess the Syrian refugee family and they were absolutely delighted with the blankets. It was a privilege to be able to give them the card and the food too – to show that someone was thinking about them, not just giving them a hand out.

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Photo: York Press

In the end, it turned out the family didn’t need any more clothes so we began looking for someone else to give them too. I had a distant memory of another Syrian family in York who had been referred for clothes a little while ago. After a quick call to the office and a phone call to the family via a translator, everything was arranged!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, having only met a refugee family for the first time half an hour earlier, but it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

The second family were probably some of the most joy-filled grateful people I have ever met. I can’t begin to imagine what they’ve been through, yet they had so much kindness and joy in their eyes. I can honestly say it was an absolute privilege to meet them.

They couldn’t speak much English and  I can’t speak any Arabic, so we had a hilarious time communicating. We sat giggling whilst battling with Google translate; it’s amazing how much you can communicate without words.

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The conversation that got me the most was them asking me if I was from the church. I explained that the clothes were from Christians, and I’m a Christian too.

Although they don’t share my faith, they said that the church has shown nothing but peace and hope to them. And they were clearly incredibly grateful. How encouraging for the church and for those who have given to them. Thank you Jesus.

 

Give Day Stories

At The Besom in York, our vision is to enable churches and Christians across the city to give time, things, skills, money and more – whatever they are able to. It is great to be able to share stories of how this partnership happens.

Two weeks ago, we told you about we saw God provide for York City Church’s Give Day – how He diligently gave us individual recipients to match up with different gifts offered.  This week we have some testimonies and quotes from those who gave on the day.

Here are a selection:

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A few special party guests.

“We hosted a party for a family with nine children, it was lots of fun. The best thing was seeing the different generations of guests enjoying themselves.”

“Sunday was such a good idea. We’ve just been round to the Syrian family’s house and they were in!! Fourth time lucky! Aw, it was so good!! They were so grateful for everything! We’ve swapped numbers and are hoping to meet up for some bonfire night fun!”

“When we made up the hamper we wanted to buy as many items as we could, it was challenging and fun to do. When we delivered it to the family we learnt something. We wish we’d bought less, but spent more money on each item.”

“My son and I bunksput up a set of bunks for a family. It was hard as the room was pretty cramped. But we got them up. It was good that the rest of our family could join us to give some new bedding for the new beds and artwork for the walls to finish off the new look in the bedroom.”

“We went to give V* the hamper we made, she was so touched! She seemed quite overwhelmed in a lovely way. She really wants to come along to City Tots – so it feels like it’s a real opportunity that God has opened up. She said that the hamper  was a gift from God and that we couldn’t imagine how much it meant to her! 🙂 It was so good to give.”

“We went to a residential home to have some fun. We played bingo, sang some songs and had some fun with the residents. It was good to go as a family, our children were a big hit and brought a lot of joy to the home. It was good to spend time with the folks in the home, but I wish we’d had much more time with them, we were just getting going! I think we’ll try to go back as a small group.”

“It was really challenging – we rang our recipient to ask if we could buy them anything, any specific gifts. Maybe a nice food hamper? She told us that their cooker had been condemned and feeding a family of eight without it was very hard. Could they have a new cooker, please? This left us kind of stuck, we had a budget of £60. We couldn’t buy a cooker for that. We considered what we could do for the sixty quid; buy a combi-microwave oven, hope we could find something second etc… but that didn’t seem to sit right with us. There was no other option that would work for the family – they needed a new cooker. We prayed and then went to visit the family, they were struggling on with a two-ring hob. It was even more obvious where God was leading us – to ‘dig deep’ in our own pockets as a group and buy a brand new cooker. We’re glad God brought us to this place and glad the family can cook meals again.”

It’s so good to hear stories from the day and see how God is working in a church body, teaching and stretching people in faith. This Give Day was just a taster of what God has for us when we give. As we respond to His abundant generosity through being generous and loving to those in our city, we get to join in what God is doing in York. And as we do this we get to know more of who He is, we get to see more of His provision and we get to see Him at work.

*Not her real name

Finding a way to enable giving

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This week, Kirsten Nott, a core team member with the Besom in York, looks at the importance of how we give.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9 v 7, NIV)

Most people, when reading this verse, focus on the latter half: ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver’. This is of course a very important message, because giving ceases to be a true gift if it is done without joy or because we feel we ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to give in a certain way. Here at the Besom in York, we too love a cheerful giver and, thankfully, we meet many of them. But people tend to skip over the first part of the verse, or at least don’t give it as much attention.

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give…”

The Besom does not ask people to give in any specific way; we are here to enable people to give, in whatever way they choose, to those in need. It can be as big or small, or as weird or mundane as you like, it’s the decision to give that’s important. Whether you have a lot to give, or a little, it’s how you give it that counts. That’s why we have the hashtag: #weareallaboutgiving.

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Recently we have seen people offering to give in a number of different ways, including picking up dog poo and hosting princess parties. We have also spent some time thinking and praying about alternative ways to give and enabling givers to actually go out on the van and give their things themselves. One giver who gave a triple sleeper bed actually went along on the van with our co-ordinator, Rob Ainsworth, to deliver it to the family who needed it personally. As a core team, it is our job to find a way for people to give however they want; whatever they have decided in their heart to give.

A couple of weeks ago I had an accident that means I’m going to be off my feet for a few months. As a, usually, very busy person this is extremely frustrating as it means that I can’t do many of the things that I normally do; including giving through the Besom by being in the office and doing assessments. I actually feel pretty useless. But I am reminded that it doesn’t matter what we give, it’s how we give it and in this time I’ve found a new freedom in giving.

#RefugeesWelcome

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A Refugees Welcome banner outside York Minster. Photo: York Press

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.

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The refugee family’s finished garden

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.

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Tomato plants in the garden

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.

#RefugeesWelcome

None of us appreciated just how moved we would be

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. 13510972_1124218214307793_3524291237274595072_nThis 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.

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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.

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