God Loves is an initiative we’ve been running amongst the Students and 20s community (and wider church) for the last six years, in which we’ve sought to sow Kingdom seeds in the various communities in which Emmanuel Church members have been a part.
This year, God Loves ran from 12th-15th June, ending with a fun day in Chester-le-Street on the Saturday. Though a slightly reduced schedule from previous years, we were still able to get stuck in with two teams, based in Gilesgate and Chester-le-Street.
We’ve seen God work in amazing ways through this initiative to not only build relationships within the church and beyond but also to ignite a passion within participants for the mission that God has for his church, and to show people outside our church the truth that God loves them, God loves Gilesgate, God loves Chester-le-Street, God really does love.
A wet Wednesday wouldn’t deter us!
Due to inclement weather on Wednesday, our plans were shifted and the whole team went to the REfUSE café in Chester-le-Street to serve there. While a group got to work sorting things in the warehouse, Bekah helped in the kitchen for the many events that REfUSE had that week, and another group decided to prayer walk around Chester-le-Street, particularly praying for the Green on which the Fun Day would take place, before joining us at the café. The teams then either joined the Gilesgate Emmanuel Communities at the Tallentires for a BBQ or went to the Scotts for food.
Thursday at a DASH…
The following day, the weather wouldn’t prohibit us! Though initially planning to operate in two teams for the week, we decided that on Thursday, we’d have both teams in Gilesgate, helping out with Durham Action for Single Housing (DASH). Slightly overwhelmed by the numbers (having only prepared for five), we gathered in DASH as they shared with us what they do as an organisation, and helped us understand their heart for providing housing for people in need.
A team then clambered together to help paint two rooms in one of the flats that they provide, while another team helped to sort their basement (checking stock, organising donated clothes, and putting together welcome packs for those arriving at new housing). Following this, some of the team went to a park in Gilesgate and did some litter-picking before heading to the Milledges to share food together, while others went to Chester-le-Street to eat with Josh and Susie Hart.
Thank God it’s Friday!
On Friday, we were able to split into the two teams. The Gilesgate team prayed together and then headed to various public spaces in order to tidy them up with some gardening (as the weather was fortunately good enough for this!) Then a few helped out the Olivers with their (thoroughly overgrown) back garden before having dinner together there.
In Chester-le-Street, a team engaged with people on the streets, about their ideas about God and faith.
Chester-le-Street Fun Day!
From 2-5 on Saturday, both teams were able to head to Chester-le-Street together to join in with the Fun Day there, serving on anything from a Giant Slide to decorating biscuits to providing barbecued food for what ended up being about 300 people. It was a great event and the rain held off until just fifteen minutes before the end (a huge answer to prayer).
Sowing the seeds of the Kingdom
We’re unsure of exactly the impact that God Loves will have had this year but we trust that we have a God who is true to his word when he says that ‘only God gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:7) and that the seeds we have sown will be tended by our kind, gracious, and loving God. We’re excited to hear testimonies of the transformation and Gospel fruit that has been borne from this week, and to hear of people grasping more and more that God does, indeed, love.
On the Friday afternoon, a team of us went onto the streets of Chester-le-Street to try and share Jesus with people. Three of us stood outside a local primary school encouraging people to come to the Fun Day on the following day and giving our flyers for it. Meanwhile, two of us went to the town centre armed with a whiteboard and pens. We asked passers-by to answer the question “Is there a purpose to life?” We offered them four answers: “No”, “Yes: family”, “Yes: money” and “Yes: sex”. Whilst many people didn’t want to engage, praise God that we had some responses, with the vast majority of people saying that family was the most important thing in their life. This not only enabled us to better understand the people of the town and to answer their questions about why we were out asking people about the purpose of life, but it also meant we could easily invite them to the Fun Day. Thank God for all who interacted with us, for His goodness to them in granting them a family and for those who came to the Fun Day. Please pray that more conversations would lead onto Jesus and the gospel.