Transforming Neighbourhoods: Discipling Communities.

Last Saturday we had the 11th annual South Reading Churches Fun Day with an estimated 5000 community members in attendance. It was just fabulous watching people move from being spectators to participators and having a whale of a time! It had me reminiscing about the different communities where I have helped facilitate community building festivals; across South Africa, northern Ghana, Kaduna in Nigeria, Trench Town in Jamaica… to mention just a few.

In each of these communities there are local people plugging away using various programs as ways to mentor others. On Sunday night I caught up with Derrick Trout who leads the work in South Africa, he had had a roller coaster week. When you are working to see your community transformed there are times of incredible breakthrough and encouragement, and there are times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. Communities are transformed when paradigms shift and people make different life choices, lives are changed and the very systems and structures of the community are renewed: that’s no small feat!

Jesus called us to make disciples of all people teaching them to live the way he taught; this is what he was talking about – it’s not just about working to see individuals find freedom, it’s about seeing whole communities and societies transformed.

Jesus came declaring that there was a new king on the throne whose rule was now paramount; God himself was now king. This meant that there was a different way of doing life that was all about harmonising with the will of the new King. The implications were for individuals, families, politicians, leaders, and society as a whole. To prove the reality of this new Kingdom, Jesus embarked in a systematic demolition of the kingdom of darkness. Everywhere he went God’s rule overturned and reversed every form of death, darkness and destruction. And once his part of the mission was completed, he sent us out to continue the same.

In fellowship with local believers, every Fusion team in each community they operate asks ‘What does the will of the King look like here? What works of death and darkness are to be overturned here?’. The answers to these questions are then born out in a long haul journey punctuated by events and programs, seasons of fruitfulness and of dearth. There are moments of celebration and moments when, like Jesus, we cry out in exasperation ‘How long must I bear with you?!’. But all the while individuals, families, politicians and leaders, and even society as a whole are being challenged and mentored in a different way of doing life. This is community transformation!

A Fusion Community building Festival is just one small microcosm of this transformation taking place…

So let us not grow weary in doing good, but keep going, because in due time we will see the harvest! This Saturday morning Fusion Y&C UK is running a training event to equip leaders and laity alike for the long haul journey of discipling communities and seeing our neighbourhoods transformed. Each of the 5 workshops is about declaring the rule of the King and demolishing the kingdom of darkness in a particular sphere. Why not join us if you can? Click here to find out more.

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Our Choices Do Not Limit God

Our choices do not limit God.

He, he himself, chooses when and how and why to limit himself. As I reflect on my time in South Africa recently, there are many things I have seen and learnt especially as I now look back on the journey; most of all about grace.

As we look back on our past, we see two journeys have been unfolding. One journey is that of the Father wooing us to himself, and the choices we make in response to him. The second is one of God’s grace and faithfulness, his love and life and action in us and through us, his purposes unfolding despite the choices we made.

Many of those with whom we spent the last two weeks underwent fairly major shifts in paradigm. For some church leaders even their frameworks for understanding God’s nature and his work in and through them was completely turned upside down. As we all continue on this journey of allowing Holy Spirit to reorder our frameworks we need to remember grace. We need to look back and see that God is always calling us to a closer love relationship with him where we become more like him and live as Jesus did; but even when we are far from where he wants us to be, he chooses to still pour out his life and grace through us to those around us. We don’t get our lives in order so that God can do stuff, we get our lives in order in response to his incredible love for us, and the rest is entirely up to him.

I am so grateful that despite my many failings and weaknesses, Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit have brought life and healing and wholeness and strength and New Creation to every single one of us during those two weeks, including myself.

This is yet more evidence of the power of grace.

three things l love to do

 

During my recent trip abroad we covered three different countries and I got to connect significantly with four different teams. It was great! That time was almost a cameo of the things I love the most in life.

In South Africa we were a team of five with an impossible task to accomplish – the number of things to achieve and journeys to facilitate was almost ridiculous – but it was all for a huge, godly, kingdom dream… So we went for it and together we saw it all come together; we had mountains of fun, worked our butts off and in the process got to know and love God, the community and each other more.

In Greece, although sick and exhausted from the South African job, it was exhilarating and fascinating to help facilitate a process that helped us move forward as individuals, teams and as an international group. I really enjoy being part of that tie up between the big picture and the individual, the task and the life between us.

And from there I headed to Albania with Erion, Lysiena and Besi. It was a four hour road trip north-west from Thessaloniki through the hill country of northern Greece. Then across the boarder into Albania where the countryside feels like you have entered some bygone era when we got around on horses and donkeys, using carts to carry our loads to market. When we farmed small holdings of land in our families, together ploughing, planting and then harvesting in the heat of the day. It’s a different life and a different pace.

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

That evening I was dropped off at Lorena’s home where I was to stay for the weekend, and I slept! The next 48 hours were so different to the previous 3 weeks. This part of the trip was centred around cafes and shared meals! It was about doing life together, hanging out, spending time sharing together. It is something I love but I don’t get to do that often, there was no great task to achieve, no burning agenda items to cover, it was just about being present. Not just physically present but fully present. I learnt so much about what life was like for these guys individually and as a team and I was nourished and energised in the process. Sometimes it was just me and one other person, other times it was a whole group of us, or just three.

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

The café stops weren’t in my honour, its just how the team function, they simply enjoy each other’s company and ministry takes place as they do life together. In fact in between the café stops was a youth meeting, a Sunday service and a festival – there were other things that they did, those were just the three things I took part in.

Besi and Lino - beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

Besi and Lino – beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

I remember many years ago when I first started traveling, reflecting on how God shows up in the person of a stranger, but we often miss out because we are so preoccupied with something busy. My time in Albania reminded me how I really love just being present with no particular agenda but to care and not be indifferent.

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Beyond the Ache

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Ahhh my head is full! Four weeks ago I was checking into a flight at Heathrow airport. From there myself and two others, Anika and Leah, were headed to Cape Town South Africa. I have already shared the story of ‘Sallie’ in a previous post but those two weeks were crammed full with connections, meals, […]

Talitha

Sallie came across as we walked in her direction. Of all the ladies we spoke to this evening she was one of the best dressed, she wore good quality make up and her hair was nicely done with highlights. The conversation was in Africaans, so I didn’t get much of it, Caroline stopped to quickly fill me in: ‘ Sallie had been working at the bakers but they soon found out that she previously worked the streets and so had told her they had no more work for her.’ This had happened a few times over the last few months, her ‘boyfriend’ would always turn up at the new work place and tell stories about what ‘she was really like’ and then the work would stop; she had no alternative but to return to the streets, believing what she was being told – that she was worthy of nothing more.

I picked up the gist as Caroline proceeded to tell the story of Rahab, a prostitute who had helped God’s servants and so been blessed – God honoured her and she became the ancestor of the great King David … and of Jesus, God’s own son. The message was clear as tears filled Sallie’s eyes – there is a God who loves and honours people as broken and cast off as she. The conversation continued and we ended with a prayer, we found a clean tissue and gave some homemade sandwiches; Sallie went her way and we moved on.

Sallie was one of about 10 ladies who between us we stopped and spent time with this evening. A little while ago, one afternoon, Sallie had got herself together and with her kids had headed off to the church. ‘Mum, where are we going?’ ‘We’re going to church, ‘cos I’m going to give my life to Jesus again.’ When they got to the church the person she was expecting to meet wasn’t there, Sallie returned home disappointed.

She is longing to return to Jesus but she’s not sure if she can count on the people at church. If she goes will she be introduced as ‘one of the ladies we minister to on a Tuesday night down town’? Will she ever find the fresh start that she so desperately wants. She approaches every glimmer of hope braced for a revisit from her past through well-meaning and malevolent means alike; expecting the bubble to burst at any moment.

The ransom that Jesus paid for Sallie’s redemption was his life, in no universe can that have been in vain. But the powers of darkness and our own well-meant ignorance can sometimes create a perfect storm through which that redemption has to push in order to meet its mark.  Will the body of Christ stand up and push back the darkness so that Sallie, her kids and the hundreds in your neighbourhood like her, can find the life that Christ purchased for them?

Talitha Koum – little girl, get up.  That’s the name of this group because they believe that inside every lady that they meet on the street is a little girl that Jesus is gently calling back to life again.

Beyond the Horizon…

Hello! Well today I thought I’d share the latest issue of Beyond the Horizon. Its a collection of some great stories of what’s taking place in Fusion across the world. I hope you are inspired and encouraged by the read. I really enjoyed putting it together.

http://www.fusionyac.org/eMail/BTH_Nov2012.pdf

 

want to be inspired?

Hi, this week i posted two new links on my blog, i’d love you to have a look if you havent already. You’ll find them on the left under ‘newsletters’. the first is the most recent edition of Beyond the Horizon, a vibrant collection of stories and interviews with youth and community workers on the front line in the countries across the two thirds world. the second is an exciting report of the last 18 months or so here in the UK with Fusion. i KNOW you will be inspired by one or other of these and i will be suprised if you’re not encouraged by both!!