Living in a Field of Hats

some ramblings and reflections on working with students in Herts and Beds.

What I’ve been doing . . . October 31, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Random,Update — Sarah @ 9:04 pm
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So, thought I’d update what I’ve been doing (as that was partly the aim of the blog to begin with!)

The first half term has flown by! I can not believe that it is November tomorrow!! It is madness! I’ve really been enjoying doing things for a second time though. One of the frustrations about being in Lancaster for just a year was that I felt I was just getting to build relationships and then I left.  That’s even more true in church life I’ve discovered as relationships take a lot longer to build than in the student context. If I’d left Essex after a year, I would have been really sad I think, even though staying isn’t always all that easy!

Has made me think about the importance of relationship building in churches and how they don’t just happen overnight most of the time, but really do need investing in. It’s definitely giving me food for thought in terms of thinking about next year.

PICT5513So, this week has been half term and for one reason and another I’ve been able to spend it withPICT5539 people I’ve not seen in varying lengths of time which was such a blessing! I managed to explore a bit of Southend that I hadn’t been to before and  found the most amazing independent coffee shop – I’ve been feeling for a while that Southend is missing one! What made it so amazing was partially the old fashioned amazing room it’s in and partially (possibly more so . . ) was tea from a proper old fashioned tea pot with loose tea leaves! Awesome! Also, tried cockles for the first time (well they are a local delicacy . . . ) but I didn’t actually try them . . the reactions of my friends who did was enough to put me off! Touching them was bad enough!

I discovered that Canvey Island (known locally for not being the best place) is quite pretty at sunset and that some shop names in Leigh try to sum up stereotypical Essex (see below)!!

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PICT5585The end of the week, I got to travel North (though that meant too much time on the M1 with a sign telling me there was a queue caution 45 minutes after I had been in it and gone 3 miles! Ironic!), sadly not as north as I would have like but to Leicester to see my lovely school friends 🙂

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Next week, I’m off the Lindisfarne with the leadership team at church which I’m really looking forward to . . . will update after that!

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Marvellous Moldova 2009 October 24, 2009

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 6:02 pm
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Ok, so last week I got dragged up the front of church with no notice to report on my trip to Moldova earlier this year (I got home 3 months ago now!). If I wanted I could list a whole list of reasons (excuses) as why I’ve not told that many people about the trip. . . . instead . . . here’s my report!! Which after writing I realise is quite long . . . feel free to skip to the end where I say what I learnt!

So, Moldova has been and gone. This years experience was so different to last years in so many ways, but one thing stayed exactly the same  –  God worked amazingly and shown His grace in ways I’d never thought about before!

There’s so much I want to write about, but I don’t think there’s space or time to do so! There’s so much overflowing from my mind about the trip so here’s some of it . .

As we left . .
I was really torn about whether or not I really wanted to be going (true but majorly suprising I know!). There was a lot of things in the UK that had consumed my every minute for weeks and was feeling that there’d be no way that I would be able to focus on the mission trip without being distracted. Loads of doubts about being good enough also managed to creep in! Meeting the team in Luton and preparing to fly out put some of these at rest though, through other people and being reminded over and over of grace!

When we arrived . .
Orientation took up the first week of our stay and we were staying in a lovely Church near the centre of Chisnau, which also is home to a Christian school (with nice dorms!).010 The hospitality we received those first few days was immense. CSC (Moldovan UCCF) staff had arranged between them to cook all of our meals even though it meant sacrificially early starts and late nights for most of them to travel to where we were staying. Also, it meant that we got amazing Moldovan food! The sessions in orientation were all geared towards loving one another and working as a team. There was so much I learnt that week, including yet another reminder that God doesn’t get his address wrong! The reason I was on the trip was because God wanted me there! Towards the end of Orientation, although things at home still preoccupied my mind, I genuinely was feeling refreshed and way up for camp! I’d been reminded of so many gospel truths that are too easy to allow to slip away and been able to chat and pray things through with people and been reminded of the privilege that it is to be in Christian work!

Just before camp . .
The day that we left for camp we were informed that we had to visit the doctors for a Polio test. This turned out to not be totally accurate and sadly the tests weren’t all that nice for some of the team. This experience was tough and painful, but turned out to be in so many ways, good. Issues relating to previous things were able to be talked about and prayed about and  the post Soviet culture became more real to us. We’d  been aware that as it was pre election time (round 2) things were difficult for  Christians and students and that other Christian camps had been closed down by the authorities, so in a way we were a little prepared for something to happen, but not for something to occur that would affect some of us as individuals.

Camp . .
So, the team that arrived on camp was a broken, hurting team and yet I was amazed by the way in which they all get totally stuck in!  Although there was every reason to not be as a whole hearted on one hand, the team chose to be whole hearted for the same reasons and because of their commitment to the gospel! The first morning of camp was when I saw “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) lived out like never before, and that really set the camp tone in some ways,people being sensitive and speaking the gospel wisely!
The brokenness of the British team was apparent in many ways to the Moldovans, so much so that one of them said to me towards the end of the trip, that although she’d been involved in many camps before, knew as a Christian that no-one is totally sorted, she’d this year seen that was true of the British team. Previous years she’d seen the team as being “sorted” (wrongly!) but this year she realised that being Western didn’t make us anymore sorted in God’s eyes!

075Camp revolved around English lessons, which we taught ever morning for a  hour and a half . . . . I’d love to say the time flew by, but my lovely group did their best to make sure that it didn’t! They weren’t easy but I am quite fond of them now! English lessons are the main attraction for many of the Moldovan students that come along, which is why so much time, energy and preparation goes into them. Also, they’re great for building relationships!

We also did bible studies every morning which was great! We went through “The world we all want” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. It really is a great course, it had been adapted for our use as there is no way we could have done the normal one as it contains a lot of scripture (a great thing, but a real hindrance when you are doing a bible study in English, and the native language of those participating is Romanian or Russian or other with very varied English fluency levels!). Opening the bible for yourself is quite a novel idea for a lot of Moldovan students so studying it came as a huge shock to some! Having an opinion and voicing it is also novel!

I didn’t have my own bible study on camp this year which made the whole camp experience really different. It meant that I got to spend time with loads of different people on camp which I enjoyed, especially praying with some of CSC women. But, it was definitely strange! Amazingly, the one girl that I managed to spend a lot of time having gospel conversations with was a girl called Alina! Now, Alina and I had history! She had been in my group last year and had pretty much been a nightmare as a group member. It was really interesting to catch up with her and see the ways in which she had changed and had become so much more open to the gospel since last summer!  She’d attended so many CSC events throughout the year that she’d failed her year at Uni but was asking some great questions (a great reminder that CSC continues without the Brits!)

During the camp four people made a commitment to Christ for the first time which was so exciting!

Post Camp . . .
We had four or five days left at the end of the camp before we were flying back to the UK. We spent in debrief, allowing people to talk  and pray out what had happened pre camp and571 really immersing ourselves in scripture which was a real joy!

We also had the ‘traditional’ UCCF and CSC day of fun! This year we got to go the Soroca in the north of Moldova and wave across the river to the Ukraine (something I was highly excited about!).

What did God teach me . . .

The simple answer is loads, the more detailed (but not full answer!) is here:
– That He is God wherever I am and therefore nothing is out of His control even when it really seems like it
– That the prayers and encouragement of fellow Christians really makes a difference (even when they are in a different country!) Receiving texts and mega long phone calls that will have been very expensive for them, just to encourage me was amazing and really showed true fellowship.
– God will provide! Due to a human error, we’d started the trip financially on the edge . . . . we left Moldova being able to leave CSC a significant amount of money AND offer our team a refund!
– God guides and leads – many times, it seemed we were following in the dark, but He guided us, provided the right people in the right places to help
– We can pray and rely on God for all our needs!
– I love mission!!

 

My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me October 22, 2009

Jesus_Cross_-_email_largeWe’ve been going through a DVD series on the History of Christianity on Sunday evenings for the last three weeks which I’ve found really interesting, although it is a little biased in places!!

Last Sunday we did the Reformation which was extra interesting for me., as I’d studied it in A Level History but never from a Christian perspective.

What really struck me was in connection to Martin Luther, and the fact that when he read “My God My God why have you forsaken me” he clearly identified with it, being a young man in a monastery feeling that although he had done everything to make himself nothing (freezing himself, praying for hours on end etc) to please God and still felt like God was a million miles away from him.

It’s how Jesus felt on the cross, but he was quoting a psalm when he said it (Psalm 22) which led me to the realisation that it isn’t wrong to feel this way! The bible clearly expects that we will feel like this from time to time! What freedom, to know that feeling that way isn’t wrong – in fact God has given us emotions. The “wrongness” comes in when it leads us to sin. So, I feel like God has abandoned me so it’s ok for me to ignore him, to not love other people sacrificially etc. Actually, it’s the opposite. If I’ve learnt one thing over recent months it’s that our feelings aren’t always right! So, although I feel that God has forsaken me, I know that he hasn’t and that as the old Relay motto goes “God is still God and the gospel is still true” no matter how I am feeling at any given point.

I’ve been really blessed to have friends reminding me of this over the last few weeks, and although it feels like an uphill struggle at times, the truth of the gospel is no less true and  there is someone who totally gets it! Jesus! They are the very words he uttered on the cross (Matthew 27:45-46). Our Saviour gets it! He knows the pain because he’s been there! And, best of all – because of his suffering on the cross we can come to God even when we don’t feel he’s there!

Amazing! And, it shows church history is relevant!!!

 

“This world has got to be hell” October 13, 2009

Filed under: Christian Life,Church — Sarah @ 4:00 pm
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The title of this blog is a direct quote from one of the guys on the Alpha course I am running with local 16-25’s at the YMCA.

We were looking at the question of “Why did Jesus die” and got on to discussing sin and what is actually is then to heaven and hell.

His argument (which makes a lot of sense if you misunderstand sin!) is as  follows:

“Jesus died on the cross over 2000 years ago for sin and yet now in 2009 there is still rapes, murders etc so what did it actually do? Surely nothing, and therefore the world in which we live now is actually hell and heaven is to come.”

It makes a lot of sense! We were then able to talk about a load of these issues, and agree that this world is awful and hurtful (bear in mind that many in this group have seen the worst that the world has to offer). The gospel seemed ultra amazing spoken into these broken lives. The goodness of the gospel and the ability to mend brokeness.

The idea that Jesus died to take sin away is an interesting one. If that’s the case then of course Jesus failed (as a certain chart song released this week says – Robbie Williams Bodies. Have a read of Peter Dray’s blog on that). It’s the idea that Jesus was paying a price that most shocked the group. That sin was serious enough to have a price, death. One guy in the group, who is lovely and nice and thoughtful and considerate etc, was genuinely shocked by the revelation that he was as much a sinner as anyone else!

Being able to point them to the cross and the truth of what happened there was such a privilege! (especially as the goodness of the gospel was a reminder I desperately needed that night!). And seems that exciting things are happening!