Faith has to make a difference

22491856_503064566718258_1280693733859582459_n

“You can’t really get away from the call of God to help people in need. You can’t read the Bible and cut that out. If all the student groups in York did a project each term, just think what an impact that could have!”

Adam Mitchell-Baker, student worker at York’s G2 church, is thinking big. Having seen the impact Besom projects can have both on the givers and the recipients, he is happy to bang the drum about them. Last month, Adam led a team of G2 students in clearing out an overgrown garden in Tang Hall, but that was just the church’s most recent time of giving.

Adam has seen many students at G2 gain real encouragement in their faith as they show God’s love in action through the Besom. And while some do give time as individuals, it is often through the team aspect of doing a practical project that students are best able to serve.

“We’ve tried to do one project a term as a student group. They take it seriously and see it as a key part of living in the city. It’s a chance to contribute and bless other people. One of the core values of our student group is that we have a heart for our city. This is a really practical way for people to show that.”

The Tang Hall gardening project (above) took place at a home just round the corner from where one of the G2 students lived, which proved really eye-opening. During the course of the day, a team, of 12 got to work on the family’s garden, which had been blighted by rubbish thrown from a nearby alleyway. By the end, the garden was transformed.

Adam said: “They were having a kids’ birthday in a couple of weeks, but there just wasn’t any space to do that in the garden. Having more people involved means you can do quite a lot in one day. This was our fifth project in the last 18 months. People in our church have done other projects before, so it’s not just students getting involved. There are members of our church who are still friends with people they gave time to help six or seven years ago.”

G2 invite students to sign up for a Besom project during their freshers term – and they are encouraged to get stuck in throughout their university careers. It was through this that current co-ordinator Becky Lewis first discovered the Besom in York.

Hundreds of students are part of churches across York and we would love to help as many as possible give as God enables them.

Adam said: “We’ve even seen people’s housemates, who are not Christians, coming along on Besom projects. They see their Christian friends are different because they care in this way and some have come along to church and Alpha as a result.”

He added: “Faith has to make a difference, knowing God’s love for the poor and letting that make an impact in your actions. It’s not just G2 doing this, it’s lots of different churches across York. It’s not about building up your own good deeds. It’s great to have partnership with churches across the city.”

If you’d like to contact the Besom in York or have a story to share, our details are here.

 

Advertisements

Unhampered giving!

IMG_2270
Some of our hamper making team getting stuck in at our HQ – St Columba’s URC York

December is Christmas hamper month at the Besom in York. It’s always a whirlwind of activity as we seek to match hamper referrals with givers who have offered to make them up. But it is also a time when we’re even more acutely aware of our reliance on God. No matter how planned we try to be, we have to trust Him to provide all we need for this blitz of giving that happens in a few short weeks.

You can read hamper stories from previous years in posts like this one and we have even been featured on Songs of Praise. But this year, we just want to share a couple of snippets and a few photos to celebrate how God has been at work.

IMG_2252
The production line

It can be easy for the Besom in York core team to feel overwhelmed with the sheer volume of hamper referrals we receive. After all, we only have limited pairs of hands! Therefore, it was a great answer to prayer when 13 givers turned up at Besom HQ to be part of the production line last Thursday. This was a massive encouragement.

We love it when givers really embrace hamper season as God prompts them to get involved. In one case, a lady saved up all her Nectar points from the year to spend on hamper goodies. We have heard too of a church who, having delivered a hamper to a recipient, are now planning to decorate his bedroom and give him a wardrobe.

IMG_2302
Hamper givers from York College

Elsewhere, Besom supporter and regular blogger Lucy Rycroft described some of her own hamper-giving experiences in this post.

You can see the full Christmas hampers 2017 photo album on Facebook. If you like a bit of social media, why not follow us on Twitter and Instagram too.

That’s all for now folks. All that remains is to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

 

The mattress that meant so much

image1

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.

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

22495999_503064536718261_8654010805798212702_o
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.
22519677_503064566718258_1280693733859582459_o
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…

cropped-1016278_10151874280981727_743920983_n.jpg

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.

plate-161124_1280

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.

verse-of-the-day

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