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!

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

 

 

God has been, is now, and will be faithful

IMG-20160725-WA0004How do you sum up 10 years in 10 minutes? You can’t really, but recently at the Besom in York’s 10th birthday, Rob Ainsworth (pictured), our co-ordinator, was asked by our trustees to do that. Here are a few personal reflections from him and a bit of news about the future:

So, this is us the Besom in York. 10 years old. If the Besom was a child, we’d nearly be ready to go to secondary school! We’ve spent 10 years here in York being a bridge between those in the church who want to give and those in need. I couldn’t begin to try to tell every story or speak of every person who has been involved with the Besom in that time.

I still remember the feeling when we started. We had a Sunday evening with Besom founder James Odgers speaking at St Michael le Belfrey and then a launch morning. We’d prayed for 40 people from a mix of churches in York and that’s who came. James spoke, as did Steve Winks, who was about five years in to running a Besom in Sheffield. Then I stood up and shared how we felt it was right to start up a Besom in York.

We weren’t sure what it would look like or who would be involved or even if we’d be able to help anyone to give, but we thought God said go. So we did. The next day I was sat in my office, tumbleweed went by and then a referral came in out of nowhere. A mum of eight children needed her whole house decorating and nearly every bit of furniture replacing!

It took over a year, but in that time God gave us givers and we equipped them to help her and transform her home. We and those givers learnt a lot en route.

We stopped counting gifts a few years ago. We were in the thousands of givers, £100,000+ money gifts, thousands of items of furniture and thousands of hours of time, but here’s what we’ve learnt along the way. Each gift is individual. Each gift is personal. Each gift is a gift and not a number. A gift from God given through the people of York for someone in need.

Each is a reminder of God’s heart for people in need. His love for the poor, the fatherless and the widow.

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God has been faithful

Ephesians 3 v 18 talks about the dimensions of God’s love. In 10 years we’ve seen the dimensions of His love and faithfulness – high, deep, long and wide.

High: Those instant answers to prayer, the unmistakable, thrilling God giving moments finding that we’ve been offered the exact gift someone just asked for. For the third time that day.

Deep: The tough times when the van was vandalised or the office was broken in to – God was there. He was faithful. There was always a great story waiting to happen!

Wide: God’s love and faithfulness has always been wide. Wide enough to include everyone. Wide enough to give each person value. Wide enough at Christmas to make sure we had enough hampers given for each person referred.

Long: Long enough to carry us through 10 years of giving! There has never been a day He has forsaken us! He has always supported and guided us. There were certainly days where we doubted and wondered what was going on but He has been, is now and will be faithful.

Changes

img_0455This summer there will be a few changes to the team at the Besom. Over the last six months the trustees and I have been talking and praying, listening to God. We’ve discerned that the time is coming for me to step aside from the Besom. We’ve also discerned that in Becky Lewis (pictured), God has given us an excellent co-ordinator to lead the Besom in York forward.

I met Becky five and a half years ago – she came into the Besom office as a student with the role of social action rep for the Christian Union. She had a huge heart for students to give to the poor. Even back then we thought – there is something different about this giver. What God will do with her!

So, in the summer I will be leaving the Besom and Becky will lead the team from September. Next week in the blog we’ll hear a bit of her story.

Rob Ainsworth

Offering the gift of friendship

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At the Besom in York, we are all about giving – and specifically enabling the church to give to those in need. Sometimes that takes the form of one person giving a sofa, while at other times we are able to help an entire church family serve their local community. The latter proved the case with York City Church recently and here’s what happened…

A couple of months ago we had our second Give Day as a church. The Besom team asked us to write a blog and tell a story of what we learnt. So here goes…

A Give Day basically involves us doing something different to our normal Sunday morning activities and creating an opportunity for each and every person within the church family that enables them to give in York and grow in the heart action of giving.

We had a wide variety of activities ranging from delivering flowers to building bunk beds, from giving free photo shoots for new babies to constructing compost bins and laying new carpets to unpacking boxes after a house move. A lot of this was widely resourced and set up by the Besom in York team, who helped find recipients for us to give to.

One of the main things that we’ll carry away from the Give Day, (hopefully for the long-term) are new friends. If we’re honest this has come as a bit of a surprise to us!

We had 120 people with ages ranging from just a couple of days old to 60+ years giving to 15 groups of people in York. Of those 15 groups, we’re still in touch with seven of them and we’re really grateful to God for each new friendship.

Each of these friendships look different. So far it’s meant going for coffee, arranging to eat together, restoring a table and chairs for a family, helping another move house, visiting at home, welcoming some to our toddler group and even some to church on a Sunday.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15 v15 (NIV)

Jesus’ words in John 15 are a good reminder to us that it is as God’s friends that we go out to serve people on Give Days and it is with new friends that we have returned.

York City Church

‘I have realised again just how much the Besom taught me’

sam tyndallOur 10th birthday party prompted a number of former ‘Besomers’ to get in touch with their reflections and testimonies. Here are two to encourage us as we look ahead to many more years of helping the church in York to give.

“I’m so grateful to God for my time involved with the Besom in York. I learnt so much and grew significantly as a Christian from spending time with the core team, with givers and with recipients. It was an invaluable time for me.

“I’ve been preparing a talk on money for church this evening, and have realised again just how much The Besom taught me and got me thinking about money, giving, generosity, and poverty. For me personally, through the Besom God also grew in me a love for His church, which has led me to train for church leadership, which certainly wouldn’t have happened without my time at The Besom (as well as the encouragement and support of the Besom team).

“I know I’m just one of many givers that God has used The Besom in York to teach and disciple. Praise God for all he has done, and will continue to do through The Besom in York.”

                          Sam Tyndall, curate at St Barnabas Church, Linthorpe and former core team member

Picture 022“I just want to say thank you [Rob] so much for all you’ve given to the Besom. My three years will always be some of the best of my life.

“The spiritual support of working with you and Sam and Jo especially in those beginning few years truly carried me through some dark times. And I’m so pleased to have had you there to encourage and challenge me.”

Becky Griffin, former core team member