Countdown to Korea – A promise fulfilled

Only 2 people signed up at the Filling Station that night.

And the hard work was only just beginning.

For the rest of that week we ran between our free time, our general duties and the “Global Celebration” preparations. The day before the event I was still focusing on keeping the faith. I contacted the Events Manager who had helped us set up the auction (By the way the 50 individual auction prizes were phenomenal and very impressive, we had been blessed beyond belief by people’s generosity. Yet would there be only a small group of people to bid for them?!) The Events Manager said we needed to send out an emergency email to all our contacts to encourage them to attend the event. I spent time drafting and preparing the email which my workmate then sent out. However, we didn’t have time to hang around or even to make last minute phone-calls to try and up our numbers. Anyway despite our anxiety we still, in our heart of hearts, wanted people to only come if they felt that God was calling them. My colleague Eve said to me, “do you want who YOU choose to come or who GOD sends” (the answer was obvious but I wished he would hurry up about it!) My other colleague saw me looking worried and offered up there and then for the auction an all body massage! To be honest I could have taken her up on the offer in a shot!

On top of our plans for that night, the question about the Triathlon BBQ still hung in the air. As I spoke with the Hospitality Director there was a very strong feeling that we should just stick with washing the cars and call the BBQ quits. I knew that other team members wanted to do it anyway so we had division within the ranks that needed to be handled with wisdom, love and grace. I relayed the Director’s thoughts and my own to the rest of the team. But we decided that with the “Global Celebration” so near we couldn’t consider the Triathlon at that moment and would have to shelve it until the following day at least. So back to that night’s festivities.

One of our prayer team members Eva was amazing with helping to set up the Great Hall for the event. Even though we were uncertain about the actual numbers expected and how to lay it out. In effect she did an excellent job. We were even blessed with beautiful hanging decorations already in place from an engagement party that had been held in the Great Hall only a few days before. In his grace and goodness God had even thought of that detail too.

The kitchen was filling up with people cooking their dishes (with the usual last minute dash out in the car by my line manager to get certain chocolate needed for a Brazilian dish that had somehow in all the food ordering frenzy earlier on in the week, had been forgotten!) As the hot cupboards and food preparation utensils were brought in I considered the vast amounts of food especially due to the small numbers we had on our list. As a backup, the community would be called in an hour or so later to polish off any leftovers. I was so touched and blown away by the support and belief that our fellow volunteers had in us as I ran home to change into a nicer dress and get myself organised.

In the end we only had one or two extra people attend that didn’t originally sign up. In fact two people who were very supportive and we were expecting didn’t even arrive (with very good reasons I am sure but it was still a disappointment)

I was standing in the welcome lounge eagerly awaiting the extra people I believed God would send, slowly starting to realise that in fact it wouldn’t work out that way at all. The hall was big and the group was small but the Ashburnham Place volunteers were so welcoming and the food was such an amazing spread! (Admittedly I didn’t in fact eat any in my tense overseeing. I was told later there was some very nice gluten free options which I was sorry to miss out on but they went into very worthy tummies 🙂 ) Still I stood outside in the Welcome Lounge and prayed as I did so. But the hordes of last minute arrivals were not meant to be. I went into the hall trying hard not to get emotional – despite everything the evening had not gone as I had hoped or prayed, it had not gone along the lines of MY idea of success. I shed a few tears discreetly with Bex before leaving and hanging around outside. I found that whenever I went in there I was faced with an event that was not the success I hoped it would be.

Eventually though I realised I was being robbed of enjoying the fruits of our hard work and endeavours so I went back in. I was surprised and pleased to find that the painting I had been taken with during the whole journey (previously mentioned) was up to be bid for, so I laid down £20 (one weeks pocket money) hoping I was successful due to its sentimental value for me.

As the community came in and the outside supporters met and chatted to them I started to realise something. It only became more obvious and apparent as The Ashburnham Drama Group performed their sketch, much to the fun and hilarity of the audience, and some of the lads performed their amazing break-dance moves to the whoops and cheers of the friends. This was what it was all about! Not about numbers but about blessings. Being together as a family, having fun and supporting one another, breaking bread and getting to know one another, united in a common cause. Whether it was cooking, preparing, dancing, performing or just being there to support one another and be blessed with a good evening and some exotic food, we were all one body in Christ. That was what God intended, this was his idea of success. It was then that I started to glow inside.

Despite this I still operated under the worldly way of looking at worth and value. Our Facilities Director David Giles was going to be the main auctioneer for the bigger, more valuable items and Bex joined us to discuss whether some of them should be held back and sold on Ebay in order to get more money in based on their worth. We only had a small gathering and they would not be likely to bid high on so many items. In the end we decided that David would see how the auction went. Before it began I was pleased to find out I had won the painting. I will treasure always its reminder of the amazing and stress-inducing journey God had bought us on – that I had said at the beginning that I didn’t want a safe life, I wanted a spirit filled life. And it wasn’t over yet. I still feared the auction would be an embarrassing let down and with that in mind, though the fact humiliates me now,  I couldn’t go in and be a part of it. I stood outside and listened. Items started to go for good money with only a little coaxing needed from David on a few things. As items were sold for over the £100 mark, people cheered and clapped at the finalisation of the sale. I started to smile to myself and bask in the joy of all we had achieved.  Then Fabian, one of the volunteers, came out and asked me why I wasn’t in there. I explained. He gave me a kind pat on the arm and told me to enjoy it, it was our night and we had worked so hard. Enjoying it I was, very much, especially when two of my friends bid against each other at the very end, everyone watching (and listening!) with bated breath to see who would win. This was of course the first live auction that many of the volunteers would have seen and they were all behind us, cheering us on to raise the money. I stood there and smiled to myself and to God as people bid and cheered and clapped. I was amazed at the amounts that we made. I came in afterwards and joined in the atmosphere, David grinning from ear to ear at his hard and fruitful labours. I was in an even happier mood as I took the money from the cards of the bidders. All the items had sold and our friends in the community, (despite my thinking that there weren’t enough people to sell it all!) had really come out in generosity for us. It was overwhelming.

The final total we made from donations, the small auction and the larger auction came to £1,218. Alongside the rest of the money we had raised this was now enough to buy the conference tickets and the plane tickets, everything that had an urgent deadline. God’s promise from the rainbow had been fulfilled. As we had a quick celebration together (patting on backs etc, very British!) and then went home to rest I found I was buzzing too much to settle straight away. When the dream finally became a reality I expected to weep, fall on my knees and worship, or at least do something memorable!  But I was buzzing so much and in so much shock that it didn’t really sink in. I just went home contented and slept!

It was the following day that I started to realise just what God had done that night. We had prayed and agreed that the whole journey was to be a blessing to others. God had met that prayer and wish in all his fullness. Looking through the eyes of the world we could be disappointed that a voucher for two to attend an ACT event (worth £400) went for £50, or a voucher for an afternoon tea at the Orangery went for less than it was worth. But when you hear that the voucher for the free spaces on the event went to someone who would never have been able to afford it any other way and who was going to bring her ill mother with her, you started to see it differently. You started to see the blessing and God moving. The people who bid for the afternoon tea at the Orangery were going to take a friend anyway but then bought the money to the auction hoping to kill two birds with one stone by giving the money to our cause and win the voucher. They risked being outbid. But then, by God’s grace, won it anyway and were still able to bless their friend and us at the same time. When you know this, you see it differently and you see the blessing.

To God, worth and value are two different things – that night gave people a chance to be blessed with things they normally couldn’t get their hands on or normally couldn’t afford. The more I looked, the more I saw how blessings abounded. Not only was the actual evening a gift but so much flowed from it. God didn’t care about the numbers he just wanted to use us to bless others as we raised the funds, we had the people GOD sent and it made all the difference. Plus, the person who painted the picture that I won was so chuffed that her painting had been sold for actual money – I’m sure it boosted her self-esteem about her artistic abilities no end. When she found out it was me who bought it, how much I actually paid and that I was so pleased with it, she glowed with joy 🙂

Despite this we still had to decide about the Triathlon on the Sunday. Also we now found out that the usual caterer at the event (our previous competition, in a friendly Christian way of course!) had decided to only do the minimal catering as he didn’t believe it worth the work. I prayed and considered what my feelings were ready for our group talk. The following day we were washing cars for the Orangery guests. As we set up and prepared for our mornings work, greatly encouraged by the previous night we talked it over.  I felt strongly that the door to the Triathlon was not promising or yielding even to the point that I said that I felt I couldn’t work on the BBQ if we chose to do it. Maybe that was harsh but I couldn’t stand there and serve people honestly if I didn’t agree with the concept. I felt our time would be better served washing cars. Maybe the vehemence of my feelings was a bit of a shock to the others but I had to speak honestly. I had prayed that morning for softened hearts and for us to remain amiable with one another as a team. We sat for a moment in silence and then Tom suggested that we use the burgers and buns to do a thank you BBQ for the community . We all felt that was the better choice and breathed a sigh of relief. Since they had been given to us to make money from I wasn’t sure how this change of plan would sit with those people concerned. But we all agreed that we had been blessed and supported by others beyond anything we could ever repay. This BBQ wouldn’t even come close. But it was what we had to offer. We knew that anything we gave out would be given back to us. And it says in the bible that the measure that we use will be taken, shaken and poured over back into our lap. We wouldn’t be able to bless those volunteers who had supported us as the majority of them had no left. But we could pass the blessing on to the new volunteers in their stead. We felt great peace, this seemed very much like a spirit inspired idea. And I’m sure those who counselled us to avoid the BBQ breathed a huge sigh of relief!

So on the day we woke bright and early and with some amazing volunteers blessed the visitors at the Triathlon, raising £60 for our coffers.

We then booked the conference tickets, the plane tickets and our accommodation. With Bex as an accountant (of sorts!) she found that with careful management of the finances we would be able to take another person just as we had prayed for!

So after a time of prayer, we spoke to a volunteer Lea and she agreed to come with us 🙂

So the rest I suppose you can say is history – God’s promise had been fulfilled and continues to be as we journey along with him in faith. Prayers were given up for Meidy’s visa (that ran into a few hitches) but were overcome, thanks be to God. We still haven’t done the BBQ but the burgers and buns are sitting there (in the freezer!) and will be brought out at the right time, probably September when the summer madness has died down.

We leave tomorrow! Thankful for all that God has done in and through people and of course expectant of all he will do in the coming two weeks.

Expect blog posts on my return 🙂

Also prayers appreciated for all aspects of our journey.

Oh, and just to show that God truly is perfect in all of his ways – it was Lea, our last minute addition to the team, who painted the picture that I won at the Global Celebration and that has been such an encouragement to me during this time. Now Lea is able to take that leap into the unknown with us knowing that whatever awaits us on the other side – God is there.

 

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Countdown to Korea – Pennies from heaven

And so we travelled through each day with our eyes set on the goal, the finishing line, enduring the race set before us. Everything seemed to be shifting and working in our favour.

Then Bex checked the prices of the plane tickets and they had risen again. We tried to remain positive, believing that any extra costs God would also rise in turn to meet. As if to counter-act this we were presented only an hour or so later with another encouraging sign from above. Joel and Jun (two volunteers who work on the grounds of Ashburnham) gave me 4 plastic cups full of pennies, coppers and silver coins. They had been cleaning out the large fountain by the Orangery tea-room and had gathered all the coins that people had thrown into the basin, obviously believing it to be some kind of Christian wishing well! 🙂  Jun and Joel wanted us to have them as a donation towards our Korea fund. Under their direction I labelled all of the cups with the approx. differing amounts and found that it equalled almost £12, an amount not to be sniffed at! Another small nudge from God to say “I’m still here”, a gentle balm to settle the current tension. Also, it was touching to consider that people had been throwing those coins in the fountain for ages, probably never considering for one moment their future use. Each one seemed like a wish, a blessing, a prayer from an unknown supporter cheering us on towards our goal. The coins had gathered and waited for such a time as this. God demonstrated he would provide different amounts at different times and in different unexpected ways!

In my free time I was calling around to try and secure more donations from local companies towards our “Auction of promises”. As expected some declined to help us for varying reasons and others gladly gave their support. But still we had no-one signing up to the actual event. I would open up the folder and gaze at a blank page, pleading with God in soul and spirit. I felt almost as if I was trying to force something to happen, as if begging to God would make him act. As if I could change things through sheer determination alone. I decided to pray at 3am every other night leading up to the “Global Celebration”. I rose at the appointed time and sat outside my room looking out over the prayer centre courtyard bathed in the moonlight, praying for the Lord to move. The following day I went into work but still there was no tangible interest shown. Then later that day I came back from a break to find two people had registered! – I opened the folder with relief and saw the one solitary name who had booked.  The ice had begun to break. We were on the way. I knew that God had come in answer to our prayers.

I was able to make a last minute connection with my Welsh friend and fellow Ashburnham supporter Martin who was holding a men’s breakfast that Saturday. On that day I stood up before 40 men and talked about Korea and all we had been doing including the “Global Celebration”. Despite prayers that many people from the breakfast would sign up, no-one did. Later on I met Tom and Bex down in the Orangery car-park to continue washing cars for visitors. We managed to wash 7 cars that day (and had several happy helpers) We had decided to stop working at lunch time but one guest was saddened to hear she had missed our car washing slots and asked if we would consider washing / cleaning her car anyway. So after lunch we trudged back down and did our final car. The lady made a generous donation and also signed herself and her friend up to the come to the Global Celebration! Slowly the numbers were rising and we became more hopeful. However I soon found out that one of my friends who had been well for a while was once again on a dangerous and self-destructive downward spiral. I carried this burden within me, battling the lies from the enemy that it was a spiritual attack aimed at us. If the devil could get me to believe this attack was all our fault, it would give him a significant stronghold.

My praying in the night now took on another burden, that of praying for my friend as well as for the Global Celebration and our trip to Korea in general. Then I came under attack myself. In all fairness this attack had rooted itself several weeks earlier, round about the time that Bex and I had been chasing the rainbows. I won’t go into details. Sufficient to say it was an attack that came from an outside source and tapped into areas of personal weakness the devil knows I have and has exploited many times in the past. This resulted in me shifting my focus away from God and his ways and running off down a path of the devils making. I repented, bringing myself back into God’s presence. This, teamed with the fact that I was disrupting my sleep patterns and sending my hormonal disorder into disarray made me quite ill. I had an emotional and spiritual breakdown in my room, where I wept in fear. Lies were poured into my ears from every which way. How weak was my faith! I should be a stronger, better believer. I wouldn’t be worrying if my faith were strong. In fact did I really have any faith at all? Why should I suffer with my health and not be able to do for God even the small, simple things that other people can do? Surely this made me lesser in his eyes? What must God think of me? We were never going to do this! (All the usual suspects!) What I needed to reveal to myself was the fact that they were lies. So I spoke against them, speaking the truth into the atmosphere. Even as I did so peace began to find me again. I felt a sense of the truth as if God were speaking into my spirit. Why were we really going to Korea? Not for money, fame or prestige. But for God. We were doing this completely in pursuit of him. Of course we would come up against opposition. In regards to the strength of my faith, I felt God speak to my spirit about how proud he is. The devil hates anything being born or growing and does all he can to stop it. What I was experiencing were growing pains. My faith was growing and the frustration I felt was the feeling of my faith being stretched. I realised that although God loved my obedience and my desire to offer up that time to him, I merely needed to ask and then trust. Self flagellation and making myself ill, a possible way to battle for answers to prayer was not what he wanted or needed – he was on the case. I just needed to “let go and let God” and let him move. Peace reigned once more.

The following day I was washing a car with Tom and a few other volunteers when I popped up to the office to see Bex. As I walked through the door I found her in tears. I knew straight away that the attack I had endured the day before had also been targeting Bex. We were obviously doing something right! Bex and I prayed together and we were given the gift of peace. It was the sheer hard work and struggle that we were all under. On top of that the Triathlon may have to be cancelled due to so little uptake. This was a door we were trying to open that now might not yield. We may be about to lose one of our largest fundraising events – one we were depending upon to get us almost to the finish line. We felt it was being snatched away from us leaving us to struggle for a little while longer. Still, having gone through the same thing I was in a stronger position to support Bex. We called in some prayer shields to pray for us remotely and that evening we met after supper with a few other trusted friends to pray away the devil’s fingerprints and focus once again on God in strength. It was about this time that we were gifted with a large donation on our Justgiving page that, glory be to God, got us almost half way to our goal. Despite the issues with the triathlon (the outcome of which we had now placed in God’s hands) we were very happy to discover the prices of the plane tickets had dropped again in our favour. Our prayers had been that God would not only provide for us but also supply the means for us to take another person. Could this ever be a possibility?

We continued to work to get the “Global Celebration” off the ground. Slowly people were booking in but considering we had accounted for 60 we were still only at about 9 people. Not a good turnout. When one of the directors spoke to us about it, we could tell he was just as concerned as we were. But at least people had begun to show an interest.

Bex made a point that the evening was about being a blessing to those who came and the community. I tried to feel the same way but found it very hard, battling my usual method of viewing success by numbers and appearance. God was trying to show me a new way.

He had in his goodness provided us with accommodation for  Korea. In fact at one point Bex’s friend had booked us into a missionary house when we actually didn’t need it – we had gone from worrying about securing a place to stay to having too much choice and actually having to cancel arrangements made on our behalf 🙂

The Tuesday before the Global Celebration the numbers for the evening rested at 18 (I was still praying that God had a whole coach-load of people who would show up on the night without prior warning!) We decided to make our last big appeal at the Filling Station that night. The Filling Station is an evening full of prayer, worship and ministry with a main speaker sharing on a particular topic. (http://thefillingstation.org.uk/)  It gives churches and local people a chance to meet together and be “topped up” with the spirit. The perfect place to touch the hearts of local Ashburnham Place supporters. We put our leaflets out on all the seats, watched as Paul (one of the Ashburnham Place directors) gave a notice about our plans and then settled back with our event file ready to sign up the hordes of people who would charge our way!

We also shared a smile as we saw the next filling station topic, scheduled for the 12th July, a week before our departure.

“Learning how to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace”

God had done it again 🙂

 

Countdown to Korea -Chasing the Rainbow

photo (2)And so the journey progressed. We continued washing cars and our diary was filling up with community member bookings. More volunteers stepped out to help us. It was lovely to be under the sun, playing worship music, praying and fellowshipping together as we worked (it’s such good exercise too, we are getting tanned and superbly toned!) – We continued to pray, praying on our own, as a group, in the middle of the night, in tongues – becoming more and more aware of different aspects of the journey that needed our attention. We prayed for protection for us as a team knowing that as we worked harder and harder and the fundraising took its toll it was likely to take its toll upon us. The last thing we needed was an opening for the evil one to slip in and bring us down from the inside. “Divide and conquer” is one of the evil one’s many tactics. We weren’t going to give him any opportunity to use that against us. I was getting a bit tense and irritable as my body, with its hormonal condition, adjusted to the physical stresses of car washing and the added strain on my already busy routine. We prayed for my food intolerances and the ability to manage them in Korea. God has promised to meet all my needs and has already done so in every way. He will do so now. Prayers protect my heart from worry and anxiety, other tools of the enemy. God doesn’t say “I will meet this need, but not that one”. Whether it be gluten free, lactose free or whatever, it is his responsibility and delight as my father to supply everything that I require. We also discussed the manner in which we would fly to Korea (whether direct or indirect) and the possibility of having the shortfall met by varying financial options which I won’t go into here. We needed God’s wisdom and guidance in these areas. I was skeptical of any means that may rob God of being able to provide for us – an interesting idea since often I was battling the very fear that he wouldn’t. We left the meeting having decided that over the following week we would check the plane prices and if they went up a large amount steadily we would consider buying them on borrowed money in faith.

Donations were slowly coming through from family, friends and supporters of Ashburnham Place. The figure began to rise. We were hopeful and encouraged. It was so wonderful to receive a cheque from a lady we don’t personally know – she said she would continue to pray for us 🙂 These types of prayers, though not an immediate practical help, have paved the way and made all the difference. Tom and Bex offered lifts to volunteers in exchange for a few pounds towards our fund and community members were giving generously as we worked our way through their cars.

Then one day there seemed to be a massive shift in what we were doing. As if we had been struggling through rapids and suddenly arrived in calmer waters. As if a time of testing our desire for this project was over and we were beginning to reap the rewards of our labour.

I went to speak to the Head Chef about us purchasing food for the BBQ we would be putting on at the Triathlon on the 19th June. We originally planned we would buy the burgers and buns out of our money and mark up the price in order to bring in a profit (the old idea of speculate to accumulate) – Then there was a moment when the spirit must have moved because he turned around and said that he could make no promises but he would speak to his suppliers and see whether they would be happy to give us the burgers and buns as a donation. I was over the moon and so were the rest of team Korea 🙂 That became one of our main focuses of prayer as we worked – that hearts would be softened and the donation of the needed foodstuffs would be made. Then whatever we made on the day would be a profit.

We moved on to washing our next car, really encouraged. One of the community members passed and asked if we would wash his car for 50p. He was joking but it did highlight a fact we always knew, our donation fee basis could be open to abuse. If that ever happened we would bless the person and send them on their way with a clean car. We managed to secure a booking from one of the Trustees. To be able to bless someone who is such a blessing to Ashburnham Place was a real coup for us. Once we had finished the car we were working on that day we visited our Justgiving page to find a donation had been made and it was substantial. At this point we were nearing the 1/4 way mark.

The following day Bex and Tom attended a Resource meeting where the fundraising activities were discussed. I longed to be a part of the conversation but as I haven’t moved to the Resource team yet I felt it wasn’t appropriate for me to schmooze in on their meeting. The Head chef appeared and told me the supplier representative would see what he could do – our first heart had been softened. We would know the following Tuesday whether the burgers and buns were ours for the taking (for nothing!) We continued to pray into this. Then another shift happened. The events manger at the Resource meeting suggested having an “Auction of Promises” at the International Buffet evening. She said that she would be happy to host the auction herself and help us gather items that people would bid for. By the end of the afternoon several items had already been secured. Ashburnham Place supporter and personal friend Graham Hudson (who lives up in Manchester) agreed to do a painting for the auction. That afternoon I had the great pleasure of booking a room for Graham as he said he would travel down with the artwork and stay over the night! We felt so blessed! The Events Manager was so motivated and encouraging that we got swept up in her enthusiasm. It was great to have such a force working alongside us. The flier advertising the meal had already been printed but little stickers were made to stick on advertising the “Auction of Promises” – it was here again that I came up against more negativity. Again I was reminded that others would not be as on fire for the project as us. It wasn’t a criticism against us and I quickly reminded myself of that, lest the enemy sow the seed and succeed in convincing me otherwise. Also we were aware as we kept mentioning it at Monday prayers and in mail-outs etc. that the whole thing ran the risk of becoming rather tedious. Yet it is the path we have to walk. We have to be strong and do so despite other people’s feelings. The final blessing of the day (and what an encouraging day it had been!) was that Bex checked the prices of the plane tickets. Now the cheapest we could find was £500 each (several hundred pounds less each than we originally found) 2 of the team members would pay less again as they wouldn’t have so far to travel. With a bit more fundraising under our belt we could almost start buying the tickets. Our situation had never felt more promising than it did at that moment. The reality of what we had been working towards was now within our grasp and no longer a far off dream or hope. It was also interesting to see how God had worked and moved. I thought the focus would be on us raising the money and God working in that area of our journey. I never thought necessarily that God would move the goal posts from the other end and significantly reduce the gap by lessening the amount we needed to raise. God is good!

We continued in prayer, trying to stay in the peace of the “unforced rhythms of grace” – praying in the night and throughout the day. Plodding along and waiting on the Lord.

We did not however have any bookings for the International buffet on the 17th and with an even bigger event happening than originally planned I was starting to get anxious and tetchy. I knew this wasn’t the right attitude to take. I had been up the night before praying into the event (and the burgers!) and tiredness made me more open to attack. I met Bex and the 2 other car washers in a mood that veered between worrying / despairing and trying not to let the feelings stick. This resulted in a quite fidgety and flighty demeanour. The situation worsened when I discovered the prayer meeting we would usually have the following day would have to be cancelled due to work commitments. That was the perfect time to really tackle these issues and do battle in prayer together. As our fundraising stepped up its game our praying together as a team was going out the window (we have since addressed this by deciding to ask several people to be prayer shields for us and pray on our behalf so that the cycle and protection of prayer can keep going) – Bex suggested that we pray as we washed the car, an activity that I did not find easy and my anxiety did not subside. But then something happened. Erica, one of the volunteers was using the hose pipe on the car. By standing back to ensure I didn’t get wet I ended up being in the perfect place to see the sunlight catch the water. A rainbow appeared, covering the bottom half of the car! I shouted “Look Bex, a rainbow, a rainbow!” – Bex was cleaning in a cramped position in the car boot so she wasn’t able to come out and look. But she did shout, “Its a promise!” I wish I could have taken a photo but I was so lost in amazed delight. Peace and happiness descended upon me. God ensured I would be in that place at that moment to see the rainbow appear. He reached through the spirit world into the physical and comforted me with one of his popular physical signs. It was as if he was showing me, “I am not a human being that I make promises and then break them. My promises are sure, faithful, steadfast and everlasting. The covenant and promises that I have made with you will be fulfilled. I am with you” This gave such peace and encouragement that I was able to overcome my current feelings of anxiety and panic. God had soothed my mortal heart once again.

The following day the Head Chef told me the supplier had agreed to donate 8 boxes of burgers and buns for the BBQ. We would need to buy some more with our own money but this went a great way to helping us raise more funds. We have still had no-one sign up for the International buffet. We are however keeping the faith and publicising as much as we can, trusting in his goodness and his love. We know that he will provide the people and give us a good evening – even if a whole coach load of people have to sign up in one go at the last minute! And I am drawing strength from the memory of that rainbow, holding onto it as God’s promise to me and to the rest of the team. That we will see God move and witness his goodness to us in the land of the living. I are stepping up my praying in the run up to the event, knowing that dedication and obedience are pleasing to him.

The picture above is of me and Bex sitting in the window of the Ashburnham Place library as it rains outside. That afternoon there was a downpour as we were sitting and discussing the project. Bex got up and ran downstairs saying “Let’s chase the rainbow!” We ran into each room trying to open the shutters so we could look out and hopefully catch a glimpse of one. Most of the window shutters were too stiff for us to open but in the library we had success. We sat there looking out as the rain fell. Volunteers walked past wet on their way indoors, looking at us curiously as we studied the sky, gazing out into the rain. In the end we didn’t see one but we sat there as one sits at the feet of their father – hopeful, continuing to wait upon the Lord.

Choosing to continue chasing the rainbow.

 

 

 

Countdown to Korea – Part 1

Your mission if you choose to accept it – 5 weeks to raise £6,000 so 6 volunteers (of which you are one) can go to a youth prayer conference called “Uprising” in Seoul, South Korea. Flight tickets need to be booked, accommodation needs to be found. 3 of the volunteers are in different countries and are restricted on the support they can offer and the ways they can raise funds. It is likely that the price of the tickets will rise between now and the then. The conference tickets have not been bought either and the conference is likely to be very popular. You suffer from 2 food intolerances and are unsure how you will manage these in Korea. Finally, you have your normal serving responsibilities at Ashburnham Place and general life to lead on top of organising and fundraising.

The items you have at your disposal – faith, trust, two close friends (who are also your traveling companions) and good old-fashioned hard work.

Sounds insane doesn’t it? It is the biggest step of faith that I think I have ever taken. And yet that is what we have accepted. Every day we are working towards achieving this goal.

The story started several months ago. I was approached by Bex, one of the prayer co-ordinators at Ashburnham and asked if I was interested in going to the conference in Seoul. My first response was one of uncertainty and even a little fear. I know that Christianity is not a safe belief in that area of the world. North and South Korea are currently involved in a ceasefire. In North Korea being a Christian can see you arrested and thrown in prison.

It was an invitation that I considered carefully. Yet how amazing would it be to step out in faith, to put my safety completely in God’s hands. To follow him where he is most moving and the church is most powerful amid the areas of persecution. I felt it could put me in similar situations as David Wilkerson and Corrie Ten Boon (OK, not quite the same I admit!) and I might get to experience some of the amazing spiritual things that they witnessed. What followed was a season of being on fire for the Lord including my first really powerful visitation of the spirit. I had always been slightly afraid of such experiences. Afterwards I felt the door had been opened and this fear and uncertainty had been softened. Almost as if in preparation for the type of experiences I hoped Korea would hold. I said yes to going, expecting a not so favourable response from my parents knowing that I would have to go anyway (NB. My parents, Christians themselves, were surprised but accepted my decision)

Several meetings were held as we discussed the people that would go and all of the logistical aspects of the trip. I won’t bore you with those details. In the end we settled on raising money for six people (myself included) – the plane tickets already cost £900 then and they would probably rise as the date approached. A fundraising strategy was put in place. Amongst general appeals for donations and financial support made to Ashburnham “friends”, the local communities and our own friends / family and churches at home we set several dates in the diary for washing cars, selling doughnuts at the Triathlon being held on the Ashburnham grounds and holding an International meal for the general public.

Things took time to get in place. The Just-giving page and general appeal information wasn’t prepared or finalised until roughly the beginning of May about the same time that the newsletter with our article went out to the Friends of Ashburnham. We had already received several large donations (£300 from one of my friends – such an encouragement to start us off) and £400 or so that Meidy in Indonesia had collected. (Meidy was unable to ask her workplace for sponsorship – if she could receive an amount of that size that was another great encouragement)

The date for our first car wash for the public was fast approaching – the 28th May. Bex was away on holiday in Germany until Tuesday 24th and I was suddenly burdened by the need to advertise and get the ball rolling. By the Wednesday I had already mentioned the car-wash at the Monday community prayers, commissioned a basic flyer and arranged for the first community member car wash and inside clean to be held that afternoon. And thus we began. It was a good experience that taught us a lot of practical things. It was also a very satisfying experience, watching something no matter how dirty become clean again (and we have washed some REALLY dirty cars!). Such a spiritual parallel. And with worship music playing it became for us a form of worship – “everything you do, do it unto the Lord”. Once we had begun people become more interested as we beavered away and people saw the results. By the time we were washing the second a few days later we had several volunteers helping us. This was a far cry from the atmosphere that surrounded us when we prepared for the first wash. People were negative about how many cars we would get washed in the time allocated (in the end they were right but still!) and when I asked for some encouragement they clapped in a mocking way. This taught me one of the first important lessons I would experience in this whole process. I couldn’t expect other people to be burdened by this as I was. I couldn’t expect them to view it the same way or to share the vision God had placed upon us (despite how much I may want them to). Some, would see it as supporting their brother and sisters in Christ to follow the call that God had placed on their hearts, others would see it as people asking them to fund their trip to Korea when they themselves had not been given the opportunity to go.

Several days later I discovered that £12 from our collection box at reception had been taken. I had just emerged from a time of feeling low and despondent about the whole idea. I had been carrying everything under my own strength and looking at the entire task in one go. This then panicked me (a spiritual attack that rears its ugly head on and off) – in short it was not what I was carrying but how I was carrying it. Then with the first car wash, the motivation we gained from it and the positive response we received I was buoyed up and more motivated especially as more and more cars were being booked into our diary. The theft of this money felt like a kick in the teeth. I was in the Hospitality Director’s office with Bex near tears. It was bad enough to steal money from anyone. But we were working hard to raise money and trying to keep the faith for something that we were doing for God and that means so much to us. That made it even worse. Yet my anger departed swiftly and pity took its place. Pity for the person because they are obviously not free and are being manipulated by darkness. It geared me up even more because opposition only comes when we are on the right track and doing the right thing. This just motivated us further and made us even more determined to “keep calm and carry on”. In another more twisted way it even conjured up sympathy for our cause – as the news spread people felt sorry for us. Talk about the devil shooting himself in the foot. One of the Directors said that we would get the money back, in fact he believed we would get a lot more. Another director said he was sorry to hear about our “trouble” and that we “would get to Korea but not in the way that we would expect” – all encouraging words that helped us soldier on.

We continued with the car washes. People walked past us and laughed, not maliciously I might add. We hoped seeing faith, determination and hard work played out before their eyes despite such odds would be a shining example of faith and works in action. Our fund-raising already seems to be changing the atmosphere for the better as people pull together in their own way to support us. Behind the scenes we had been praying for a softening of hearts towards us and our cause. Already we had several people wanting to help us wash the cars and cook for our international buffet open to the public in June. Their hearts were sincere, thus we were encouraged. When I considered people’s negative reactions I fought back the fear and anxiety that the devil tried to stoke. I did this by considering, at the Spirit’s prompting,  Moses. He was the last person people would choose to free the slaves from Egypt. All the negativity that surrounded him came from himself! He wasn’t a great man, he just served a great God – luckily so do we. We are in great company. Also Jesus himself was persecuted for going against the grain (we were nowhere near the same scale of course) but this gave us hope. I would rather try to raise the money and not succeed, the only way this would happen would be if God chose not to open the door, than lay on my death bed thinking “I might have gone to Korea if I had only tried and stepped out in faith” To steal words from Bethel worship “God makes me brave” and the old cliché, “you regret what you didn’t do, not what you did do”

The Friday night before the first car-washing for the public, I was working the late shift on reception. All the organising had been done regarding getting the flyer out to the individual guests and the groups and a full registration process had been set up. Despite this, when I finished work at 8pm there were still no cars signed up to be washed. I went to the Burn worship event, physically and emotionally tired and rested in God’s presence. While there I caught the attention of a picture that one of the volunteers had painted. It was of a person running across a draw bridge towards a large, mysterious and thick cloud with the drawbridge continuing on the other side. This was exactly how I felt. I would not allow myself to be dragged down by fear and anxiety but would continue to chase after the Lord in faith. That night I set my alarm to wake at 3am and pray into the following day. Prayer was one of the weapons I had at my disposal. Knowing its power and that it changes things I wanted to kneel before my heavenly father and place the following morning in his lap despite my own mortal frustration. My alarm sounded at 3.00am and I switched it off but I had no energy to sit up and pray. I fell back to sleep obviously needing the rest. I didn’t set my alarm for that morning so slept a bit later than usual. By the time I got into reception to hang around and answer any questions about the car wash I was already tired and feeling low. I tried to print some appeal letters to send to my friends while I waited but I kept making mistakes and having to re-print them. To make matters worse we had thunderstorms scheduled and it was already spitting with rain – not in my mind, an ideal car washing environment. One of the staff members said that we could take her car to wash as an advert so with the keys in hand we trudged down to the car park, trying to stay hopeful. We had scheduled enough time to do 5 cars. We feared we would be lucky if we had any. Within ten minutes we had secured one car to wash. Then a second. Then we washed the “standby” car. Then we secured another. A lot of the Orangery guests (who were our main audience) are often not Christians. To them what we were raising money for probably wasn’t a big deal, maybe even self-indulgent and a bit odd 🙂 With 20 minutes to go we were praying for one more car to take our grand total up to the 5 we originally wanted. For a bit nothing happened. Then I noticed a head poking over the bushes looking at us. Then a car drove up and a man disembarked and asked us to wash it. He only gave us a few pounds at first but at this stage it was more a confirmation and an encouragement from God than being about the money. However, he came back before he left and gave us another few pounds taking his total donation up to over a fiver. Thanks be to God.

It has become obvious that our fundraising “strategy” (if you can call it that) is completely faith based operating within the “unforced rhythms of grace” – a saying that we are often reciting to encourage one another. In all our prayer sessions we have been praying to be blessed with these heavenly unforced rhythms of grace. Not to be dragged and weighted down by our own striving, trying to accomplish things under our own strength but operating under the Lord’s might and power. That is why, though it has sounded silly and insane to others, we are not asking for any specific amounts of money for what we do. People ask us what the fees are for washing their car etc. and we tell them it is strictly on a donation basis – to any businessperson this is complete madness – we would be laughed out of any Dragon’s Den boardroom! But that is how God works. He knows how much we need and he knows which people should give how much. We do not want to pressure or coerce in any way – after all God loves a cheerful giver. So do we. God will stir hearts. Whether it’s a large donation or a few pounds it will all add up to the final total that God desires. This has been for us incredibly freeing and has prevented us from striving and controlling. So it is the same with people to help us, either by washing cars alongside us or cooking for the international meal etc. God has been touching the hearts of others to help us at the right time. We want people who help because God asked them and they are responding to that, not as a result of us spending 30 minutes press-ganging in the staff room. We have offered them gifts of chocolate at the end – so far they have all refused. That is the demonstration of a sincere heart. For me it is about the whole journey and not just the final total. When we were discussing the possible, different fundraising activities, we considered the spiritual and practical ethics of all our ideas. That took prayer and listening. But all our activities are to bless others. Yes, we have received donations from the mere kindness of people’s hearts. They will receive no blessing from us but our great thanks and gratitude (and of course blessings from God which we pray over them). But the car-washing, selling food at the triathlon and hosting the international meal, where volunteers are able to cook food from all over the world and bless others in their own way, are all means for us to serve other people in the process. Thus (though I hate thinking like this) if we didn’t get to Korea, we could look back and know that we had served and blessed people regardless.

To close, the bottom line is that if its God’s will that we go then the door he opens for us, no man, organisation or evil force can close. And if it’s not his will, then we don’t want to go anyway.

That’s the ultimate and absolute bottom line.

It’s that easy and at the same time that difficult.

To donate please visit http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/ashburnhamplace/uprising