We've just held our annual mission week - God Loves. Micah Cox reports...
God Loves 2017 – A Week Blessing the People of Durham, and Growing in our Own Faith
From 13th to 17th June, a number of students from Emmanuel Church spent some time in Durham City, Chester-le-Street, Ushaw Moor and Gilesgate, blessing the people of County Durham and demonstrating God’s unending love for them. As well as being an opportunity to serve the local community in a variety of ways, it also provided us with an opportunity to grow in our own faith and in our own relationships with one another – uniting together in Christ to bring more of his kingdom onto the streets of Durham.
Below we have put together a summary of some of what happened, in order that you might rejoice with us as to how God was moving, and be encouraged in your own outreach.
During the week, the students were split into various teams, and would spend each afternoon focusing upon a specific activity and form of outreach. This would follow time spent each morning in prayer and praise, with teaching from God’s word aimed at equipping us for the day ahead. This is because it was important to us that God was at the centre of everything we did during the week, and we were mindful that it was only through his strength that lives would be changed (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Serving the Community
One of ways in which we were able to demonstrate God’s Love for Durham during the week was through serving in the community. This involved everything from bench painting, to litter picking, through to gardening and house cleaning. Through doing so, not only were we able to help restore some of God’s creation to be more in line with its original beauty (and in doing so gain a sense of God’s heart for his creation), but it also served as a great witness to those who we were helping or who saw what we were doing (some of whom even stopped to ask why we were there) – who may of wondered what made a bunch of university students don overalls and tools for no pay.
Some team members were amazed to discover that we could find so much joy through simply serving and loving our neighbours – a great lesson for us all!
Street Mission and Street Worship
A key part of the week also involved teams going out daily onto the streets of Durham and Chester-le-Street to give out free teas/coffees/water, engaging people in conversations about Christianity (including praying and prophesying over/with them), and proclaiming Jesus’ name publicly by worshipping him in the middle of town.
Although difficult at times (here we were reminded of how God values obedience over success, and that God is in control), this generally proved to be quite a fruitful way of loving people and demonstrating God’s heart for them. Some examples of conversations we had include:
- Two team members got to pray for an elderly gentleman in Chester-le-Street who relies on a walking stick due to suffering from brain damage. They saw no immediate physical change in his condition, but he said afterwards that he felt loved and valued by them (he does not normally have any real social contact with people).
- A lady in Market Square in Durham, who had an encouraging chat with a team member before appearing to give her life to the Lord for the first time (praise God)!
- A team member having an accurate word of knowledge about a man’s son, who sadly passed away a few years previously in a car accident. They talked about God’s forgiveness, and what Jesus did on the cross for us.
- A lady in Chester-le-Street who struggles with anxiety and depression. A team member was able to speak truth into her life and she was very open and joyful about it. They got to pray with her and share testimonies.
- A man who had had to bury his brother the day before. He said that he felt that God was with them and had blessed them in this difficult time. He said that he was aware of his own sin, but also of God’s forgiveness and his unconditional love. A team member got to pray with him.
- Much, much more (please ask us)!
Primary School Prayer Space and Nursing Home Visit
Each day, we also sent teams into St Hild’s Primary School, Gilesgate, where we helped to run prayer stations for the children at the school. Some of these stations included praying for the environment (using bubbles and play dough), praying about the children’s own futures and God’s amazing plans for them (using rockets and butterflies) and a “walk-through” gospel story (where the children were encouraged to reflect, in a practical way, on their identity in God, as well as on the cross and the forgiveness of their sin).
Although it was sometimes difficult to deal with their excitement (their joy was infectious!), we saw real engagement by many of the children with the activities. On the Friday, there was even the opportunity to get parents going around the stations with their children – many of whom were very positive about it. Pete Gray has now has seven schools approach him wanting prayer spaces, whilst St Hild’s itself wants a permanent prayer space set up so that the children can have somewhere to go and pray whenever they want.
On the Friday, one of the teams also went into St Mary’s Nursing Home in Chester-le-Street, to spend time singing, playing games with and chatting to the residents. It was the first time that the church had gone into St Mary’s, with it being enjoyed both by the students and the residents themselves alike. It was fantastic just to spend time some time getting to know the people there, and some team members even had the opportunity to pray with/for some of the residents. It is hoped that this link will continue to be built, with further visits being planned.
Fun Day, Chester-le-Street
Beautiful weather on the Saturday heralded the Chester-le-Street Fun Day, which took place in the heart of the community. With a wide range of available activities (including bouncy castles, football and face-painting), an amazing BBQ and a prayer tent, it was a great opportunity to bless the community and create/build relationships between them and the church. Not only was it an afternoon of fun and joy, but we even saw people healed in the prayer tent, many invited to church and one lady even gave her life to Jesus (praise God!). It was a great way to end a great week, seeing the community come together and lives changed - and something which it is hoped will become an annual event over the next few years.
There were many testimonies by the end of the week from those who took part, about God’s goodness and how he was working in our own lives throughout the week, as well as in the lives of those around us. Here are just some small extracts from some of those – although we encourage you to speak more with anyone who was involved in the week as there are many more (so many that it would have been impossible to include them all)!
All in all we had a great week, and saw God moving very powerfully in many ways. Thank you to everyone who kept us in your prayers during the week, and for the many other ways in which you supported us (particularly those who hosted students for evening meals during the week – your generosity amazed us).
Our prayer now is that our outreach does not just stop with the end of God Loves, but that we will continue see lives changed beyond that week. For we are the precious children of a God whose love is never exhausted, and who seeks to interact more intimately with us and our community on a daily basis.