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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A New Name July 20, 2012

It’s not often that I’d ever recommend a book that I’ve not read myself, but I’m about to make an exception. Today marks the publication of ‘A New Name’ by Emma  –  and all I want to say is go buy it! I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy. Through reading Emma’s blog over the last year, and getting to know her just a little bit, I can truly say that her honesty about her struggles with anorexia, and the way in which she points to Jesus in them, is truly amazing and a real testimony to God’s grace. Eating disorders and mental illness are so oftern taboos in the UK church, so even if it’s not something you struggle with, then do go have a read. This review gives a brilliant overview of the book. So have a watch of the promo video then hop over here and buy!

 

 

Lonely Road June 19, 2012

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 9:26 am
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One thing I’ve learnt over the last few months, is that grief really is lonely. There’s been so many moments where I’ve felt more alone than I ever have done before in my life. I’ve bee spending a lot of time listening to a song by Yvonne Lyon, called “Lonely Road”. The chorus sums up, where I am at the moment …

“You and I are taking this lonely road,
You and I are finding our way back home”

Yvonne is a Christian, but I’m not totally sure what she was thinking of when she wrote this song. This real encouragement to me with this song, has been the reminder that this life can be incredibly lonely. And it will be, there’ll be lonely roads for us all at different points. But yet, the truth of the gospel means that we can live an oxymoron, we can be lonely and yet full assured that God will never forsake us. He’ll walk every step of the way with us. If it’s true that we are in Christ, then how can he not? He’s never going to go back on what he’s done for us and promised. Amazing.

Here’s a very short, low quality clip of the song. Enjoy!

 

If I didn’t know Jesus then … June 7, 2012

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 10:37 pm
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Maybe it’s just me but sometimes I find myself daydreaming and wondering what my life would be like if I didn’t know Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t not want to know Jesus – far from it. But there are times when I wonder what life would be like.

One of my friends, and I have a list on the go which lists all of the things that we both really like. Earlier this week we reached number 5 – and yet we’ve been running this list for over a year! There is so much that we disagree on: music, food, how to spend our free time, books… the list could go on and on! And yet, we really love spending time together. Every time I see her I’m guaranteed to laugh several times, talk about some aspect of theology (hearing a point of view I’d never had thought of before!) and be able to honestly answer the question “how are you doing?”.

This isn’t to say that our friendship is perfect – far from it! We’re both still sinners who are inherently selfish. And yet, the two of us who have nothing to draw us together especially as the list tends to stagnate after Jesus, Michael Palin and tea! There is no way, that if it wasn’t for Jesus heading up that list that we would possibly be friends. And yet, because Jesus is heading up that list, we are friends and though we sometimes don’t get each other because our minds work so differently, Jesus overrides it all. I’ve learnt so much from her, and about myself because of our differences.

This is just such a small taste of what the gospel does – bringing together those who otherwise would have nothing in common. What a powerful thing that is!

 

reminders of grace September 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah @ 1:43 pm
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At team days a couple of weeks ago we shared stories of how God has worked in each of our lives. It was a great way to get to know each other with 8 new team members and also to be well aware of who it is that is in control of salvation.

Part of my testimony was seeing a sign outside a church and realising the truth of the things that I’d been told were true. After I’d told this a couple of people asked if the sign was still there. Thanks to googlemaps I can tell you that it is!

It was so weird to see it 9 years on but bizarrely really reminded me in seeing it, the wonder of the grace that has saved me. Thank you googlemaps!

 

Using our weaknesses September 20, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 9:41 pm
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The title of this post could be used to describe many different events that I’ve been involved with over my last year on staff but this evening was a perfect example. A CU event that wasn’t really organised, a last minute request to do a talk on the film and no real advertising. And yet God in His great mercy was totally in control. I’d text some friends asking them to pray for me and the event – what I wanted was for the event to become more organised, the CU to be less clueless and for a talk to magically ping itself into my head, or least my notes. Maybe that’s slightly overexagerating it, but it’s pretty much how I wanted the evening to end. And yet it didn’t end like that at all. As soon as the credits began to roll most of the people began to walk out the room and by the time the CU realised only 3 people were left! And at that 3 Muslim men! Inwardly I was thinking “they are never going to listen to me, they’re never going to believe that Jesus really is God”, and kinda wanted to disappear. Instead, I started a discussion about what they’d liked about the film, which although stilted got to Jesus and we talked about how he really can show us wisdom as well as the truth of the gospel. I was quick to end the conversation though with warnings of not “being too preachy as not to offend the Muslims” from earlier in the evening ringing in my ears, but others were less keen to let conversation cease. And so, came the ippurtunity for one of the Muslim men “H” to tell us about his first couple of weeks at Uni:

“I arrived from Iran and found in my room a book by my bed. I didn’t know what it was but started reading it and discovered that it was a bible. I read it and kept reading it because it was so easy to understand unlike the Qu’ran which is in Arabic and I don’t understand it.” (paraphrased by me but pretty much word for word!)

How amazing is that?! That a guy comes all the way from Iran, has never heard of Christianity or the bible really picks one up, starts reading it and is intrigued. And then a couple of weeks later stumbles upon a Christian event and hears people talking about Jesus. And then – even more excitingly(!)- agrees to meet with a British Christian to read the gospel of Luke together.

And, he’s not the only encouragement from this evening. “A” from Aghanistan has spent a couple of years working for a Christian charity in Afghanistan and come into contact with many American Christians, although he himself is a Muslim. He was just as interested in the gospel and he, H and the third guy are all attending church with CU members this sunday.

What a reminder at the start of this year that God does use the weak and that he is control at all times!

 

Strange Spanish Easter Celebrations April 21, 2011

Filed under: Christian Life — Sarah @ 4:19 pm
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Earlier this week I was in Spain visiting family, and on Monday evening when we were heading home from our disatrous attempt at a pub quiz (in English and we were still poor!) we quite literally bumped into a procession. Below are some pictures from it, do bear in mind that this was 11.30pm and it was very dark!

What looks  like the grim reaper carrying a statue of who we assumed is Mary

Ku Klux Klan look-a-likes!

part of the procession followed by one of three independent bands!

This to us all seemed so bizarre and a little bit scary, like walking into the chamber of secrets or somewhere else a bit freaky, so we asked around it it turns out that this is part of the Spanish celebration of Holy Week (Semana Santa) and each town will do something different to commerate Holy Week. The town we were in had processions like this pretty much every evening this week and of the two we saw I was really shocked by the number of people who turned out and were involved (basically the whole town) and that it was taken so solemnly.

I did some internet research and found out that the pictures above are from the Procesión de los Escapularios which according to google translate means Procession of the scapulars. That didn’t help me too much…so wikipedia … which says “scapular typically consists of two small (usually rectangular) pieces of cloth, wood or laminated paper, a few inches in size which may bear religious images or text. These are joined by two bands of cloth and the wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back”. Basically it appears to be a variation on a necklace in some ways, but one which the wearer will benefit from certain promises when they die if they are wearing it.

The second procession we saw (Tuesday, after hanging around the town square trying to work out what was happening!) was called Procesión del Traslado, the procession of the transfer. This makes slightly more sense to me as the statues (or more accurately floats as they reminded me of carnival floats we used to have when I was a child!) represented the risen Jesus, Jesus carrying the cross and Jesus on the cross. Being a Catholic celebration there were also two statues of Mary which I don’t fully understand the significance of.

Jesus being carried towards the Roman guards who you can’t quite make out in this picture

people in pointy hats!

Jesus carrying the cross

Mary (AKA Queen Victoria!) on a huge float

 

It really was amazing to see the whole town come out to celebrate the message of Easter together – in someways it felt like a huge Nativity play but without words – just music and with young and old participating. The real sadness for me though was that there was so much emphasis on Mary. Her statues and the attention paid to her were so much more than to Jesus. Jesus is the one that has dealt with our sin, it is him who has given us the chance to be back in relationship with God – not Mary. She wasn’t God, so wasn’t sinless, she was just another human being used in a very special way by God. In the same way, the preoccupation with scapular and other religious objects is really sad especially in the light of the glory of the gospel – why be tied to a piece of fabric your whole life in the hope of dying whilst wearing it, when we can know right now that through the blood of Jesus on the cross we can be right with God. Because he rose from the dead we can be sure that all he promised is true and have complete certainty – that is so much more better news than anything else the world has to offer!

So, this Easter let’s focus on Him – maybe you never have. Well why not have a look into some of the evidence etc here.

Happy Easter