Living in a Field of Hats

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

Worldwide Family July 21, 2012

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 5:00 pm
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So, I know that Christians all around the world are brothers and sisters. We are one body, the bible is really clear on that. But often, I forget, because nameless faces are hard to remember in day to day life. One of the real privileges of doing this job is that each summer I to go and work with, and get to know a few of these siblings. Whilst there are many things that I really love about my job, this really is one of the highlights. At the start of July two other staff workers and I took a team of students from Uni’s around our region to run an English and Bible camp with a small IFES movement.

It’s a camp that’s always oversubscribed, so the local staff interview and decide who can come, which means those that are accepted are really excited to be there. Mainly because they get to speak English with native English speakers (although to be fair many of them understand the workings of English a lot better than we do!). But they also get the chance to look at the Bible with us each day, which means that 20 non Christians looked at John’s gospel over the week we were there. The time when people are students really is unique in terms of openness to think about new ideas and truly consider the claims of Jesus. It was so exciting to see how God worked through us – despite many cultural and language barriers to help them see who Jesus really is. The IFES movement we worked with is small, just three full time staff, and so being able to serve them is a real joy. I also really valued the fact that we got to work with brothers and sisters who we don’t very well and yet clearly had a bond with them as we really are family.

For me, one of the most significant conversations was with a Christian student who was telling me how she had become a Christian through her grandfather’s witness. Her parents don’t know Jesus and she told me that with real pain that I can empathise with. It reminded me that despite culture, food, expectations, language and everything else, that the gospel is the same all over the world, and it really is what all people need to hear.

We had many conversations with non Christians about Jesus and the local Christians will have the chance to follow them up over the next few months, but the reminder that we are a worldwide family who love, support and serve one another is one of my main lasting memories this year.

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Singing what you feel July 18, 2012

Filed under: Christian Life,Mission Trips — Sarah @ 6:34 pm
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This time last week I was leading a team on an English and Bible camp in lovely hot and sunny weather (total shock to the system to be back!). Before I went, I’d anticipated so many problems and issues that may arise (none of them did, though others did come up!) But the biggest thing that I faced, and hadn’t expected (stupidly) was to face my own sin.

About a week and half ago, I was laid on bench halfway through a really tough day. Despite the laughter I could hear from inside the house, I felt awful. I’d just had a couple of really hard conversations and all I could do was cry. I’d wanted to be a great leader – to love the team and the students we were working with. I’d prayed that would be the case. And yet it wasn’t. I’d tried everything that I could think of to do. I couldn’t even put what I was thinking into words.

A friend introduced me to some hymns by Indelible Grace and the one below, ‘I asked the Lord’ (written by John Newton) really sums up where I was. I was in verse 4 – feeling the hidden evils of my heart. I’ve listened to the song over and over for the last 24 hours and it’s made such a difference. Worship songs are great, but sometimes we don’t feel the emotions that many of them focus upon and singing them can feel hypocritical, or like I’m a failure for not feeling those things. Sometimes they can focus us back on Jesus, but sometimes as has been the case for me this week, singing my experience and real thoughts and feelings has fixed my gaze so much more firmly on Jesus. (If you fancy downloading some of the songs for free and legally then have a click here!)

Have a listen to it here:

And here are the words:

1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

5. Yea more with His own hand
He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

 

God’s Good Gifts – 10th June June 10, 2012

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 2:36 pm
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Photo: I do love summer teams but love late night form filling for visas less! Thursday evening found me sat on my living room floor surrounded by forms, passports, photos and a million other things. Emily and I were finalising the application forms for our summer team’s visas. It didn’t take long (approx 3 seconds) for Emily’s head to drop onto the coffee table as we realised the task we had before us. And so we prayed. We prayed specifically that there would be no issues in submitting our forms, that we have wisdom as to what to write for certain sections, and above all we prayed for joy in doing it.

It was a long evening, with many repetitive tasks (there’s only so many times you can write in insurance details without going cross eyed) And yet there was real and genuine joy … even when we discovered that one application was missing a photo (mine!). It resulted in a late night trip to Tesco’s photo booth- but alas it’s switched off overnight! Luckily, even though Hatfield only has a population of around 18,000, we have two 24hour supermarkets, so the ASDA photo booth saved the day (well night)!

Friday morning saw us on an early train bound for London. We prayed again at the tube station – this time for there to be no issue with the invitation letters and that we’d have submitted the forms by 10.30am. Roll on to 10.31am – Emily’s happy dance (well out of the way of the embassy’s CCTV!) in celebration of having had submitted all of the forms with no bureaucratic issues. Amazing.

This is this week’s God’s Good Gifts – each and every thing we asked for was granted to us. And more besides. We were dealt with by the most lovely helpful embassy worker ever (in stark contrast to last year!), we got to spend sometime together rejoicing in what God had done, we had members of this summers team, and last summers team praying for us whilst we were in the office, desperate to know what had happened. Those twelve hours this week had their stresses, but they were the clearest demonstration of the gospel and unity. I’ve literally been left astounded by God’s great kindness!

We’re praying for the visas all to be granted this week – if you pray we’d love you to pray for us! If you want to find out more about our trip then leave your email in the comments and I’ll send you the updates!

 

It’s sure been quiet around here… July 14, 2011

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 4:16 pm
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Blogging appears to have fallen by the way side with the busyness of end of term and planning for summer team! I got back yesterday and enjoyed a lovely 15 hour sleep but still feel a little groggy to tell you of all the excitment … so instead, have a watch of this interview with Veronika. It says everything!

 

The best job in the world March 2, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life,Mission Trips — Sarah @ 11:00 pm
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So, my good intentions to post twice a week have clearly gone to the home of all good intentions and not materialised…sorry about that!

I’m currently at Bedford CUs mission for the week – what an encouragement it has been. The CU here is small (15 out of 8000 students) but they’ve created such a presence and there’s been so many oppurtunities to speak of Jesus in the last couple of days.

My highlight so far (it’s tough to call as there have been so many!) has been the lunchbars (apologetic lunchtime talks) that have been going on. They’ve been happening in a room that is the only room in the SU which we have sole use of (mainly) which is right in the centre of campus. Each day we;ve had people come along, ask questions and want to think about the message of Jesus. Yesterday we had people coming to peer in the door because they wanted to know what was going on, on campus and had a group of girls stay for 3 hours to discuss Jesus and think what Christianity would mean for them.

The CU has done a remarkable thing here, created community on a campus where there is none. There isn’t a student bar or anywhere on campus for people to socialise and so the CU have managed to create that and proclaim Jesus at the same time.

It’s a real privilege to work alongside these students, to proclaim the gospel of grace to their campus.

I could speak of so much more but right now I’m a little sleep deprived so that’ll come another time! For now, here’s a photo of the CU flyering (well kinda..it’s artistic!).

 

Jet set lifestyle February 18, 2011

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 11:02 pm
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I’m back from Edinburgh and have really enjoyed spending the evening sitting in a room with just one other person drinking a glass of wine! Don’t get me wrong, I have loved Edinburgh Queen Margaret’s mission week and team day today, but I definietly realised this week how much I need some time on my own other than when I’m asleep!

I also realised this week that I love travelling. For some reason that I can’t remember, I thought I hated flying so was feeling a bit apprehensive about flying on my own up to bonny Scotland but as soon as I got through to the Departures lounge the busyness and hustle and bustle really excited me. Maybe it was just being at an airport that made the whole mission feel more like an adventure!

This week I have gotten even more excited about CUs and the impact they can have on their campuses – I’m really looking forward to the two in my patch now more than before. Living and working alongside students who want to tell people about Jesus has been a real joy. And hearing about other mission weeks at team day was really exciting to hear that students have been really creative – using flash mobs and new ice cream flavours – to advertise their events.

There’s loads more I could say but I really ought to sleep here’s some things I learnt:

1) Edinburgh is on the coast (who knew that?!)
2) Flying when the weather is worse when you land is a little depressing
3) It is possible to cope on minimum sleep (with the help of maximum caffiene)
4) Working with gracious people really teaches me a lot
5) Students are willing to engage with the gospel (Ok , so I knew that but was really reminded of it!)
6) God is in control, not me (again knew that but such a good reminder!)
7) Students are really creative in their evangelism (see the picture of dodgeball on the left and the Cath Kidston inspired tea party on the right!)
8) When I pass through the overtired and grumpy stage I enter a stage of over tired and happy and chilled out!

There’s plenty more I’m sure. I can’t wait for the missions here in Herts and Beds to get underway, but for now I’m just going to enjoy my four days off!

 

Love… February 15, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life,Mission Trips — Sarah @ 10:22 pm
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…is the theme of Queen Maragret CU’s events week which is where I am this week.

I’ve had a real mix of emotions about the week – huge apprehension, unworthiness, not being ready (I really should have listened to the talk I recommended last week again!), but today has been a mix of encouragements. It’s been  great to hang out with other staff from UCCF this week and explore Edinburgh in some afternoon free time, but what’s really got me bizzing tonight is seeing the gospel work and that God chooses to use us. I’ve just been to a brilliant meal with a message with a first year student in halls and had the chance to spend two hours hanging out with his housemates chatting about the gospel and it being true for them. They were so open, yet so hopelessly blind. they could see that the human situation was dire (their own words) in relation to God, but couldn’t quite get that Jesus was the amazing answer. They saw that for Jesus to come back would mean their only chance of relationship with God was over but couldn’t see the need to do something tonight. So encouraging and frustrating in equal measure. I’m really praying that God would open their eyes this week to his amazing truth!

What an awesome God of love we have who gives us encouragements when we need them most and chooses to use us in evangelism!

And all of this after an amazing Cath Kidston-esque tea party this afternoon1 (i tried to upload a picture but the borrowed laptop was having none of it!)

 

Exciting Searches! January 13, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life,Mission Trips — Sarah @ 11:29 pm
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It’s late . . . so this will be brief but I’m determined not to fail on my mission to blog daily for a month!

Wasn’t sure what I was going to say this evening. There’s so much I could. I met with two lovely students today and have just spoken at CU on how the Old Testament told people that Jesus was coming – that in itself deserves a blog post at some point I think. But I just had a quick look at my stats when I logged on and saw that someone had searched “uccf mission trip to moldova 2011” and found my blog! VERY exciting! For those of you that didn’t follow the original incarnation of this blog have a look here, here, and here to find out a bit about why I was in Moldova and why I loved it so much to be this excited to see someone had searched and found it on my blog!

And if you’ve found this blog looking for more info about going on a summer team and aren’t sure whether or not to go – just do it. You’ll love it (especially if it’s to the most beautiful country in the world – Moldova!).

For the rest of you here’s some photos so you can see a little of why I love it. (And have a watch of the video here)

  And, yes I struggled to pick just a few – it’s so beautiful!

 

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!!

 

Final Moldova Prayer Requests July 13, 2009

Filed under: Mission Trips — Sarah @ 9:30 am

So here it is …. the final week!

14th July
Please continue to pray for the ongoing bible studies that the non Christian Moldovans students would be saved. Please also for inter team relations that relationships have been built up between the British and Moldova students. Please pray particularly for Lauren and Andrew S today.
15th July
The last day of camp! English students are heading home with Moldovan students over night! Pray for opportunities with the Moldovans, and the British students would really enjoy the time they have to see real ‘Moldova’. Please pray especially for Nathan and Jo, two British team members.
16th July
team reunited! All the British team meet back in Chisinau with the Moldovans that they have been staying with. We will enjoy a meal out together – a very rare treat for the Moldovans. Please pray for final opportunities with the Moldovans and for time to relax.
17th July
Today we have a Bible study in the morning, focusing on ‘Dwelling in God’s Word’ followed by Team Time debrief with time to explore Chisinau. Pray for time the team to reflect on camp, to see how they have grown and time to spend alone with God.
18th July
We have another team bible study in the morning and then we are off for a day out with the CSC staff! Please pray for encouragement of the CSC staff having fellow workers in the gospel around. Please pray for the continued work of CSC in Moldova as well as rest and relaxation for all of us.
19th July
We are visiting a local evangelical church this morning and will begin the (long!) journey home this afternoon. Please pray that we would be an encouragement to local evangelical Christians. Also pray for unity in the team as we have a long overnight mini bus journey to Bucharest (around 12 hours). Please pray for our safety.
20th July
We will arrive in Bucharest sometime in the morning and then we will have a short time in Bucharest before catching the plane to Luton, departing at 5pm and landing at 7.30pm UK time. Please pray for safety of people and luggage, rest for the next couple of days for the team members and that the team would spend time with God back in the UK.