Beauty in the Chaos

IMG_0758

Every day on my walk home, I pass this rose bush and sign. The roses have started to die out in our surprise British heat wave, but the sign remains. It’s a funny sign, especially considering the neighbourhood it’s in.

I live in what’s considered one of the most deprived areas in the UK. Our neighbours and friends often struggle with addiction, evictions, and the finances to simply feed their children. Their pasts, and even present, might include things like heroin use, poverty, homelessness and prostitution. And yet, here is a sign asking them not to pick the roses.

The simple fact that there is such a sign points to a significant amount of people picking said roses. But why? In a world of chaos and desperation, why would those in such need do something like pick flowers? The naysayers and negative nellies in the group would probably say it’s just kids being gobby, but I think otherwise.

I think it’s because they still value beauty. Because they are drawn to the simple pleasure of smelling a flower. Because in ways they probably don’t even realise they long to hold something pure and simple and delicate.

We all love beautiful things. Personally, l love nice, clean kitchens and beautifully designed cakes. Some of us love fashion or classical music. We visit things like the Grand Canyon or white sand beaches. We throw our money at pretty dresses or crisp magazine pages. We value beauty in all its various forms, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, I’d say it’s a Jesus thing.

Because I think of my many friends that are in various states of chaos and overcoming- the ones who struggle to stay clean and the ones who have been sober for nearly a decade. The women who have been brutally abused and the ones who still are. The mums and dads walking past my window exhausted because they pulled a double shift last night but still made it home in time to walk their kids to school and the kids who are running around the park on their own because their parents are just trying to get by. And I see how they all appreciate the small pleasures in life. I see the smiles when a kid says something inappropriate, the sigh after the first sip of a coffee. I overhear the ‘I love yous’ on the phone and the humming softly to themselves. I catch them staring in awe around our kitchen table or laugh when I ask if they want seconds.

I think of all of them and I know that they need beauty. Because beauty is pointing them to the Beautiful One. “Out of Zion, perfection in beauty, God shines forth (Psalm 50:2).” Jesus shines in the beautiful things He made. He creates each one of us, each wave in the sea, each cloud in the sky, and yes, every rose in a street-side rose bush, displaying His beauty and His perfection in each one. So it’s no wonder that we long to pick a rose!

And while, I certainly won’t go against the sign poster’s request, and I won’t encourage anyone else to do so either, I will keep pausing at this rose bush and appreciating His beauty even in the chaos.

Advertisements

And so we came to Rome.

With those six simple words in Acts 28, Luke sums up years of turmoil and waiting for a promise of God. Paul had waited almost half the book of Acts to testify in Rome, just as the Lord promised. Of course, it was not nearly as easy as Paul would have liked. He endured stonings, imprisonment, fall outs and disagreements with friends, and even a shipwreck. It was a seemingly impossible promise.

And although my story does not include a shipwreck, I can most certainly relate to Paul and his years of waiting for the impossible dream. Mine started on a dark, early morning in Malaysia, when the Lord woke me up and started talking about England seemingly out of nowhere. I fought Him. Hard. This is embarrassing to admit…but it took me over a year to finally give in to His constant call and urging to go to the UK. He had to send strangers to tell me about it, and dreams, and prophetic words I did not want to receive, and endless answers to my super specific requests for signs. When I finally did give my yes, I told Him He had 3 months, then I was heading back to Eastern Africa, that was it. But when I flew out of England after that short window of time I’d given, everything had changed. I’d fallen in love with this nation, with the culture, with the people, what God was doing there, and I desperately wanted to be a part of it all. I remember flying out and saying to Jesus, ‘Ok. You were right, I was wrong. Whoops! But I’m in now, so let’s do this.’ I assumed that that would mean an easy peezy visa and a swift move to London. After all, this was the Lord, the Creator of the Universe’s will for my life!

redo

But, like Paul, it did not go according to plan. At least not according to my plan. Things kept falling apart in weird ways. There was a typo on my visa one year; another year, a slow receptionist lost me a possible job role. Twice, I was promised visas that fell through. Again and again, things fell apart. I tried to take this all as a sign that I should give up and try to live a normal life or find a new calling. But again and again, the Lord wouldn’t let me.

But then, things started to fall together in weird ways. One chance meeting lead to a shorter visa and a home and family I love, and that in turn lead to an opportunity for a much longer visa. It still meant months of waiting and the unknown- would the British government finally say yes? Did I dot every i and cross every t perfectly this time? Would I be left heartbroken again?

And then, just like that, He did what He said He would do. With one short, automated email from the UK government, I was in. My visa was successful. And 8 years of waiting and longing for this God-given promise and dream were fulfilled.

And so I came to Rome. Six very simple words that hold so much in them. They hold years of waiting and wrestling, but much more importantly, they hold fulfillment and faithfulness.

I’m still in need of £2060 to be fully funded for 2018. If you’d like to give, you can click here or email me to find out how to become a monthly donor. And thank you for joining in the adventure!

18342146_10103425436025668_2166752555951388300_n

Winning the Waiting Game

I’ve spent a significant amount of my adult life in airports. Like, genuinely, a LOT of IMG_3161time. Once, I even spent a full 24 hours in the Bangkok airport, and a casual count just by memory, places me at roughly 50 different airports. And ya know the one thing that I see in every single one of these airports is? Regardless of country or continent or language or size? Waiting. A lot of waiting. Oh, we try to make it sound nicer than that and to fill the time with distractions.  Airports are great at that- full of shopping and food and coffee. Some even have masseuses or if you’re a real world traveller a fancy lounge where you can sleep. But it can’t do much to hide the fact that what you’re really doing is…waiting.

Waiting on the Lord, like waiting for planes, seems to be a universal experience. It’s certainly a biblical one. Jesus never hurried, even when common sense would tell Him to. He took His time getting to Lazarus, after all. Sarah waited for Isaac. Noah waited for the rain. Hannah waited for Samuel, and Joshua waited 40 years to enter the Promised Land.

So waiting is clearly important to the Lord. It teaches us patience and character and God’s timing, and a host of other good, true, Jesus-y things I’m sure you’ll remind me of in the comments. And yes, as I sit in this in-between season, where the 8 year promise of the Lord and a British visa is so close to being fulfilled but still not quite there, a lot of those reasons and truths are incredibly comforting. But the one I keep coming back to is how long periods of waiting and tarrying teach us how to be steadfast. Waiting seasons are where gifts of faith and hope, and the deep wells of knowing God’s goodness and love are deposited and built.

These are things that can only be learned through tarrying, learned in the waiting and the not-yet. But these are what make a covenant flourish. And God is all about covenant.

The waiting game isn’t in fact a game to Him at all. He doesn’t play games with our hearts or our futures. It’s always about joining us closer together. The Hebrew word most commonly translated as wait actually means “to bind together, or to entwine.” So the Hebrew idea of waiting on God is actually about tying yourself to the Lord, getting so close to Him that you know that you know that you know how good and faithful He is.

Because the reality is, it’s HARD to keep believing for something as more and more time goes by. It’s been hard to wait for this visa promise, and I’ve wanted to give up many, many times. But God wouldn’t let me. And so, I learned to trust His goodness and faithfulness when it seemed like the opposite was true. I learned to persist in my prayers, and persevere when things weren’t working out. I learned to be steadfast and committed and faithful to my covenant with the Lord and with the UK.

And so in that way, the waiting itself has been a gift. Not the gift I expected and certainly not the gift I wanted, but a gift nonetheless. It’s taught me the commitment of covenant, and the deep riches that brings.

All my paperwork is officially in for my visa. But now I’m in that scary waiting part where I check my email every 5 minutes, waiting to hear back from British Visa and Immigration. It’s a waiting game. But I know how to wait now. And I know who I get to wait with.

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:21-21.

I’m currently still raising support to return to my beloved UK! I’m in need of £65/month or just under £800 total to be fully funded for the year! If you’d like to partner with me in this adventure, you can either email me for info on how to do just that, or click here to give a one time donation. And, as always, THANK YOU!

#RivalryRestaurant

Well, I’m back in the states, which is always a bit difficult for me BUT it does mean I get 2 of my favourite things- Southern food and American college football. So when Chick-Fil-A brought those things together for their newest commercial, I was obviously down for it! It quickly became clear, though, that it was about so much more than delicious fried chicken and pickles.

Now, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of watching a football game with me or to my British friends who might not get it, please believe me when I tell you there is NOTHING like a college football rivalry. It doesn’t matter if your team’s having a losing season, if you win that one game, you’re king for the year. It’s a thing that literally divides families and cities and whole states. 3 hours that decides the next 365 days. And when these rivalries are LITERALLY called things like The Civil War and Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate, well…you get the idea.

Which is why this video stopped me in my BBQ and cornbread eating tracks.

1259_10100673817166918_1516005698_n
Cheering on my Clemson Tigers

Auburn/Georgia is known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. And as neighbouring states, families can easily be divided both in alumni status and fan-base allegiance. But these two teams and their fans put all the differences and history behind them to sit around one massive table and eat some chicken biscuits together.

And that is so Kingdom! The dinner table is one of the most Kingdom spots in a house, and I wholeheartedly believe meals can change lives! Sound crazy? Just look at Jesus.

In the Gospels, Jesus is almost always either going, coming or at a dinner party. He loved to gather people around a table and break bread together. It’s one of the last things He does with His family in the hours leading up to His arrest, and it’s the first thing He does when He sees His disciples after His resurrection.

Let me set that scene of John 21 for you. The disciples have gone back to fishing. They think Jesus is dead and gone. But then! There He is on the beach. Jesus! Their Jesus! The one that was supposed to be dead. He must really be the Messiah! He must really be the One He says He is!!! And when they get to Him, what does Jesus say? ‘Oh, I made breakfast. Come eat with me.’ He shares a meal with the people who 72 hours prior had disowned Him at the cross, and with some brekkie He restores relationship with them.

I see this frequently in our kitchen at #10. The table is the epicentre around which our house and community lives. We have 2 dinners a week for any and everyone in the neighbourhood, but it’s also where countless cups of tea are drank throughout the week as neighbour after neighbour and person after person comes by. It’s seen baptism celebrations, little boy birthday cakes, coffees that lead to salvation, teas that ended with help for addiction, dinners that bring literal enemies who have previously beat each other up together!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (Psalm 23). I used to think that meant I got to rub it in my enemies’ faces how good I was gonna have it. But now, I think it’s about Jesus setting a banquet table for me AND my enemies. Together. That this God, whose goal is always relationship and is always restoration just might have relationship and restoration for me and my enemies too.  Afterall, I was once His enemy, but still He reaches out across the table and offers me breakfast.

I’m back in the states raising money for my visa and return to the UK! If you want to be a part of sending me back to the land of proper football, you can give via PayPal here, or email me to find out about tax-deductible or Gift Aid donations. Thank you for being part of the adventure!

paypal%20donate%20button

The Fire of Churchill Gardens

“THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE WHAT DO I DO???”

That’s what the text from one of our missional community members read. A terrifying text to receive for sure, one that brought more questions than answers. But there wasn’t time for that; we sprinted across the park to find her standing outside and a fire truck driving up. We soon learned that a power surge had caused several fuse boxes to combust and left power outages all around our park. Many were left without electricity, which meant no power for heating, showers, or even a kettle!

But then something beautiful happened. The church sprang into action and did what it’s supposed to do best- take care of people. Local churches around the square opened their doors, offering hot beverages and games to entertain the kids. We got on the phone with Papa John’s and convinced them to send us free pizza that we gave out to the electricians working hard to fix the problem and to some of the evacuees. Church members opened their homes for families to stay in, and #10’s kettle didn’t stop boiling until about midnight the following day!

We posted some signs around and on our door, inviting our neighbours in for bacon butties and hot drinks. The response was wonderful with people who we’ve never even met coming in for a chat and a phone charge and a cuppa. We met two uni students who were genuinely stunned when they saw us laughing and teasing one another one moment and the next praying and prophesying over a stranger. Some neighbours who I’ve been wanting to properly meet for months came round and we ended up having a long chat about the environment and ethics and how much coffee is too much coffee (the answer is there‘s no such thing). As the day wore on, we continued to offer practical help with mobile charging and letting people keep their perishables in our freezer. The day ended with one of the local families coming over for games and to share dinner, but not before another half dozen came in for an afternoon tea.

It was a beautiful, full on day. A day where I didn’t stop making coffee and cracking IMG_2779jokes. A day where I ran the dishwasher a half dozen times and popped the kettle on more times than I can count. It was a day that should have been full of sorrow and anger- anger that the council was maybe moving a bit too slow to fix the problem or sorrow that all their food was spoiling or annoyance at the lack of answers from the power company or any other handful of grievaces that actually would have been fairly justified. But instead it was a day full of laughter and watching Moana and good food and new friendships. And that’s the power of Jesus.

He can turn our angst into peace and our irritations into joy. Our loneliness into friendships and our hopeless into faith.

And He does it all one cup of tea at a time.

If you’d like to support me on this tea-and-hope-bringing adventure, please click here topaypal%20donate%20button give via Paypal or email me at sarahschrack@gmail.com for bank details.

Dinosaur Cake and Death Threats

Life here in Boscombe is always an adventure. Every day, every week, is different. Some days are full of beautiful things to celebrate. And some days are…well, not.

In the past 6 months of living here, I’ve had some incredible things to celebrate. Our friend and neighbour gave his life to Jesus just last month! We met him because one of the girls in our community offers free mending, so his unhemmed trousers lead him to us. Which lead to a cup of tea, and then a game of chess, and then dinner. And that one dinner turned into dinner almost every night, which lead to sharing lives and hearts and his decision to become a Christian.

Our friend, Carl, collects coffee mugs, so I brought him back one from Nashville. He literally cried. It was such a joy to see his joy over a simple gift. And every time he is overwhelmed by our generosity or kindness, we get to tell him it’s only because Jesus taught us how to be generous and kind.

We’ve celebrated birthdays and a wedding and new jobs.  I’ve gotten to bake more cakes IMG_1652 and doughnuts and pies than I can count! I even made a dinosaur shaped cake for our friend Tim! I’ve gotten to show person after person that they are worthy of celebration simply because they exist.

Then there’s the circumstances I’ve had to mourn. Life here is difficult to say the least for some of our friends. I went months without seeing one of the working girls I’ve come to love, and when I finally saw her outside Asda the other day, it was hard. She still didn’t want my help or to get clean, so all I could do was give her a hug and hope she comes back around.

We had a death threat back in February, from one of our regulars and someone who I genuinely loved and believed was my friend. Within an hour, we went from chatting about his daughters to him yelling hate, and one of the housemates having to ask him to leave. The next week he sent threats to us and shouted when he saw one of us on the streets or walked by the house.  We’re ok with him now but our friendship and trust is forever changed.

In 6 months, I’ve seen friends relapse and celebrate 5 years of sobriety. I’ve seen people we intentionally love and pour into accept Jesus and curse Him in the next breath. So much ugliness next to so much beauty.

So I find myself slipping down to the beach when things are especially hard in the community. It’s just a 5 minute walk away, and no matter what’s going on, the sea is still there. The shore is still sandy and the waves still roll in. Steadiness and certainty and hope are always there. And while it’s true for the shoreline, it’s also true for our little neighbourhood.

In the working out of the Kingdom, beauty and ugliness can somehow co-exist because God is not afraid of the ugliness. Hope steps side by side with despair because it knows it’s more powerful than pain, and light is always just around the corner from the darkness because it knows darkness cannot overcome it.

paypal%20donate%20button

If you want to help me stay in this beautiful neighbourhood and keep bringing that light and hope, you can click here to make a donation or email me to find out how to give!

*names have been changed

Is this the House Where the Christians Live?

It had already been one of those gloriously chaotic evenings that have come to define nights in our Community House flagship, number 10. One of the neighbours kept popping in and out for cups of coffee and to tell us stories of his former life of violence and street fighting. One of our homeless friends had sat at the head of the table, occasionally making funny noises or challenging us to games of chess. A new guy had knocked on the door for a cuppa and to get his jacket sewn (one of our girls does mending for free).

14925542_366811896996743_8816708975747066839_nIt was beautiful. And wonderful. And then outside in the rain we saw a man and young girl pointing at our door and conspicuously looking in our window. When Penny went outside to ask if they needed help, they asked one simple question- ‘Is this the house where the Christians live?’ To which she replied, ‘Yes! Come on in!’

We fed them and chatted and went to work finding them a place to stay for the night, eventually finding a local hotel that they could afford. We stuffed their pockets with snacks and drove them over, chatting about the weather and food and friends and life.

It was late by the time we drove home, and I was tired, but also amazed at this God I get to serve. For 3 years, this missional community has done everything we can to love this neighbourhood in practical ways. To remember the forgotten. To give to those in need. To offer our home and our hearts in friendship.

And now, we’re regularly getting people at the door who have only heard about us by reputation. Who had a friend that mentioned once that there’s this house that will feed any and everyone, where someone is always waiting with a cup of tea and conversation. Or met someone on the street who pointed us out as a place that will put in the work to find you a dry place to stay for the night or talk to the police for you if you’re too scared or call your not-so-nice landlord to sort out your heating.

In the Message translation of the Bible, John 1:14 says, ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.’ And that’s the Gospel in one sentence. Jesus wasn’t afraid to move into our neighbourhood. He wasn’t afraid to walk down our streets and get to know our sometimes ugly hearts. He wasn’t afraid to serve us, or love us, or invite us into His home.

That’s what Jesus was known for. That’s what Christians should be known for. And there’s at least one house in Southwest England that is known for that.

Serving this community and neighbourhood is one of the greatest privileges of my life, but I need a few more monthly supporters to keep making that possible! If you want to be a part of that, click here to make a one time donation or message me on how to become a monthly donor.

paypal%20donate%20button