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.
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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

Celebrating what God has done

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It was amazing to celebrate our 10th birthday party at the Belfrey Hall on Sunday and reflect on all that God has done over the past decade. Around 75 of our supporters enjoyed afternoon tea and birthday cake as we looked back to the start of the Besom in York in 2007.

Phil Armstrong from Ed Mezzetti on Vimeo.

We launched at the same venue in February that year with the vision to help the church in York to give. That vision remains the same today and we pray it will do for years to come.

Neil Hulse, the chairman of our trustees, reminded us of the motivation behind the Besom. He said: “It’s giving because we’ve experienced the love of Jesus.”

a compilation made for our 10th birthday party

Posted by The Besom in York on Sunday, May 21, 2017

Neil highlighted what a blessing it is to give, as Paul states in Acts 20 v 35.
He added: “At the heart of the Besom in York is prayer. God is an attentive listener.”

Jo White from Ed Mezzetti on Vimeo.

The Besom in York’s co-ordinator, Rob Ainsworth, shared some of his highlights such as how the giving of local churches over a year period had blessed a mum with eight children. Since we started, thousands of recipients have been blessed through the church giving and this has been a real reminder of God’s heart for the poor.

Chris Cullwick from Ed Mezzetti on Vimeo.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 3 v 18, we have seen the full width, length, height and depth of God’s love in action.

Here are a few photos from the day. If you have any to add to either this album or the 10-year one, please email ed@thebesominyork.co.uk

Posted by The Besom in York on Sunday, May 21, 2017

Thanks for all your support and prayers.

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The Besom in York core team (from left): Katie Harman, Becky Lewis, Kirsten Nott, Ed Mezzetti and Rob Ainsworth.

Singing happy birthday from Ed Mezzetti on Vimeo.

Finding faith in Jesus

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This week our blog is dedicated to celebrating the saving work that Jesus has done in two Besom recipients recently.

Yes – you read that right, heaven has two more occupied rooms, two more individuals in York have accepted the redeeming, saving grace of God in their lives and are both now part of local churches.

We found out about Joanna* a couple of weeks ago when we got a text from a giver who’d been giving time at her house over a number of weekends. The message read:

“We thought you would be encouraged and delighted to know, that Joanna* decided to give her life to Jesus a couple of weeks ago. The Lord surely is gracious and compassionate and mighty to save!”

We were indeed encouraged and delighted to hear this news! Looking back – we can see that God had been working on this for quite a while. Joanna* has been the recipient of a number of gifts and prayer, over a number of years and in recent times her family had noted a difference in her after Besom givers had been giving time in her house. She is calmer and more peaceful!

The news of a second lady finding faith was a nice surprise for us at an early morning meeting. Angie* was another Besom recipient that we knew well and enabled a number of givers to give to over the last four to five years.

She had recently had her council flat re-wired and had a new bathroom and kitchen fitted and needed some help to redecorate after this. When we went to see her we noticed a ‘on your baptism’ card on her window sill. She was delighted to tell about the church she is now part of, the friends she has made and show us the photos of her baptism.

How amazing to see her again, now fully in the knowledge of her adoption as a daughter of God, loved and accepted, full of hope.

So what have we learnt at the Besom through these stories in the last two weeks:

  • God is in the business of saving people.
  • He hears our prayers for recipients to be saved.
  • No-one is too far away for Him to reach.
  • No person is not worthy of his love.
  • No life is too chaotic for God to redeem.

*Names changed

Rob Ainsworth, Co-ordinator, The Besom in York