Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas...If Only In My Heart

    Again a month flies by since my last post, and yet it feels like I have a year's worth of stories to tell.
Thanksgiving has come and gone, Christmas is well under way, and I have said my goodbyes to the students as they go home for winter break.
    I was pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling sad to see the students go home for the next month. Of course I am happy that they will have time with their families and friends, to relax and celebrate the holidays, but I will also miss them and their enthusiasm each sunday and hearing their "lows, highs, and hows (God moment)" each week. It has been such a blessing watching each of them find their way to Jesmond Methodist Church, and seeing how they have settled warmly into their role as a part of this family.  I look forward to when they return, to see them reunite with the community, to hear their stories from home, and continue to watch them grow in each of their personal faith journeys.

    I have to be completely honest, and admit that facing the Holidays away from home is not the easiest part of this year.  It will be my first Christmas without snow; without reuniting with childhood friends; without hiding our nativity's baby Jesus until the 25th: without disturbing the late night Christmas Eve service in fits of uncontrollable laughter or setting my mother's hair on fire (great story to ask me about sometime); without peacefully sitting around our tree after the service; without monkey bread and mimosas and an argument or two about who gets to sit in the big chairs christmas morning; without being the designated gift distributor...without my family. Those who know me well, know that I like tradition and am not the biggest fan of change, but here I am living in the reality of change, and knowing that all my Christmas traditions will go on without me this year.

    Now before this post gets too dismal, I want to tell you about a few things that have been pulling me through the fact of spending the Holidays half way across the world.

  • Getting a tree with my flatmates and decorating the flat while all singing along to Christmas music (for a moment, it was as if we were in a cheesy hallmark movie).
  • Filling up my schedule with carol singing, christmas concerts, and Holiday meals with the JMC community.
  • The invitations to become apart of another family for Christmas.
  • The Christmas cards being sent and received each day.
  • The chance to bring love and laughter to international students who will also be away from home this Christmas.
  • And ironically enough, the thing that has helped the most has been the chance to learn about so many new Christmas Traditions here in Britain:  new songs, new christmas fairytales, new traditional Christmas foods, new words for familiar Christmas bits and pieces, and even new snacks for "Father Christmas" on his big night-- milk and cookies in the States, mulled wine and mince pies in England, and whiskey and mince pies in Scotland.  No wonder American tradition is milk and cookies...the man has got to sober up after being over here! Maybe a few of you back home can leave him some water and aspirin this year as well :)
Yes, this christmas I will miss the snow, the traditions and my family back home, but it is beyond explanation how worth it the trade is to have this opportunity. Christmas will be different and 8 hours earlier than usual...but with a community like JMC, I know I won't be alone.

Happy Christmas :)
...or as the Gordies say..."Calm doon an' ha' ya' sel a canny Christmas! Cause Santie is comin to toon!"

PS: if you would like to hear about my Big Thanksgiving Meal here, then send me your email address and you will receive my next Newsletter :)

Here is a sneak peak into Thanksgiving:
-one of the 10 pumpkin pies I made for Jesmond's first Turkey Day Celebration! I was also able to celebrate down near Durham with Abby (another YAGM up here in the Northeast!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I know it has been nearly a month since I have last posted, but perhaps that is a good sign of how I have really been settling into a busy day to day life: enjoying the work that needs to be done, loving adventurous free time with new friends, and relaxing when I need to recharge again.

In the past month...
I have had YAGM visitors and got to show them my life up here in the North-East (as well as getting them "hooked" on knitting),
Explored the historic city of Durham (including its Cathedral: aka one of the filming locations for Harry Potter),
Celebrated Bonfire Night at the local fireworks show (other wise known as the 5th of November in which Guy Fawkes failed to blow up the British Parliament),
Supported the Falcons Rugby team,
Received a bike from a friend out of the goodness of her heart,
Hosted a Pumpkin Carving Party,
Cooked a dinner for the Northumbria University, Christian Union "Mission Week,"
Kept busy preparing for the JMC Traditional Thanksgiving Meal next week,
as well as with the usual weekly small groups, church services, sunday-night sanctuaries, and my line dancing class of course :).
And to relax, I was able to sneak away with Rob and Katie to their cottage in the country-side of Northumberland!

Left: Durham Castle and Cathedral on the River 
(towers to the back left)
Right: Invitation for Thanksgiving Meal
Bottom: Pumpkin Party

The view From Rob and Katie's Cottage (reminded me of the film "The Holiday") 

A lot has happened in my three months here, and yet it seems to have flown by so quickly!
But nothing has made this span of time more apparent than church this sunday...

      Three months ago, if someone had told me that I would be playing guitar and singing in the worship band at JMC, I would have called them a fool! But sure enough, there I was this sunday, strumming away. I was surrounded by 3 very talented musicians and friends, who were supporting me and encouraging me to play with only one thing in mind...God.
     I anticipated nerves, I anticipated sweaty palms, I anticipated to forget the words or strum the wrong chords; but all I can remember is feeling God with me, knowing the others were right beside me, and hearing a familiar voice ring out above the rest of the congregation. This voice brought me such comfort and assurance that I wasn't preforming for an audience...I was joining with family in worship. This voice was "Brother" Ian, singing as if no one was listening.
     Ian is a kind, loving, selfless, and joyful man, recently referred to as the "closest thing we have to a saint." Ian is a lively spirit at the heart of both JMC and the Jesmond community itself. His welcoming personality is made palpable in his greeting each new face as "Brother" and "Sister." When I say he knows and is known by everyone one who lives and works in Jesmond, I am not exaggerating in the least. And anyone will easily tell you of his generosity and great, big hugs! Hearing Brother Ian singing out each sunday is just another nudge from God, reminding me that I have stepped into an indescribably, incredible community!!

Cheers for now!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Welcome to Ashleigh Grove

It has been a week since I moved into my flat (love my flatmates! -3 incredibly sweet and fun women), and I have finally composed a video tour for you...enjoy :)

     I came to Newcastle with 2 bags, a guitar and a backpack. Last weekend, I filled Rob's suzuki with all the stuff I had to move into my flat...I am not surprised.  This has been a pattern I have slowly figured out about this experience: I bring little and take away much more. More luggage, expectation and love; all of which are exceeded with each new encounter.  I know I am not the first to discover that, when it comes to God, you always receive ten fold of what you give, but it is none the less humbling. 

    I am working to create strong relationships within the church for the young professionals and students, and I gain many amazing friendships in the process. 
    I am holding lunches to bring the whole of the congregation together in fellowship, and I find I have been made a part of this amazingly loving family. 
     I have started a free dance class for the students, and have such fun dancing without inhibition. 
     I lead a student small group on monday nights, and am given time to relax and explore how my own faith is strengthening. 
     I knit with some ladies each wednesday to make a blanket for Africa, and am loved, looked after and mentored by Katie (Rob's wife), Margaret (one of the Church stewards) and the other ladies there.
     I attend a meeting, and am overwhelmed with support from those I work with.

I could go on for days about all the examples of how I have received so much in my two months here thus far, but the point I am trying to make is: as much as this blog is to tell of all that I am doing here in Newcastle, I can't help but believe that the only way to express my year is, not in the things I do, but in the things God does. Describing this journey in the ways this community and the Jesmond Methodist Church family loves. And I can tell you from a front row seat...that that love is gonna rock this city.

Cheers for now

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cliff College and Will Smith

I spent last week at Cliff College in Derbyshire with the other UK YAGMs. It was a week of great sights, great studies, and the most amazing friends bringing more laughter you would ever imagine to fit into one week.
We discussed discipleship and what it looked like in our jobs, woke up to the sound of cows relentlessly mooing at 5:30, climbed the cliffs behind the campus, were almost blown off the cliffs by the strong winds, and even got creative with a short ode to Jesus and Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

While waiting for our trains at the end of the week, we (Abby, another YAGM in Durham, and Harry, our YAGM "Bonus Brit" we became good friends with over the week) decided it would be fun to preform this ode to a peg-legged pigeon....

I'll leave you with some photos of the Cliff beauty.

Cheers for now!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Love My Job!

Today's post comes to you live from this lovely park...

Before I tell you why I love my job, here is another story of my acclamation into British life:
While skyping my mom I came to this realization...
"I have decided I love the Dollar store, although here it is called Pound Land, which if you think about it, really makes it the "Dollar. Fifty" Land, but oh well."

So the minister of JMC, Rob, has such a loyal faith, which I can only hope will rub off on me as the year goes on.  He trusted God would bring someone to build up the student and young professional ministry and Time For God called him about bringing me in. He trusted people pull me in and I would feel welcome, and I feel more than comfortable here. He trusted passionate people would find us, if JMC is what they needed and we've had many new students seeking us out on their own.
It is a matter of trusting things will happen if they are meant to, if it is right. It is that trust in God, which has shaped my time here so far.

My work is now in full swing: meeting new people, welcoming freshers into our church family, creating outreach events, and seeing potential play out in this community. I have had so many coffee dates in the past week that I think I have developed a permanent caffeine buzz...definitely worth it! We had our first student events this week (a Free BBQ and a Sunday Lunch after church for the students and young professionals), and they went so much better than I could have ever imagined. But today I want to tell you about the BBQ.

We set up for a free "Barbie" to welcome the students back, fit with food, drink, goodie bags and all. What I expected, was for some people to be too afraid to accept free food from the church (thinking there must be an ulterior motive such as sitting through a condemnation of their sins, or conversation of why they should convert: as is sadly the only view some people have of the church here in England). I expected people to grab a free barbie and exit as quick as they came. This is what I was prepared for, hoping they may simply know that we are present in Jesmond. But of course, God had another plan for the afternoon...

Just Kidding We Had No Troubles With The Authorities, But They Did Come For A Barbie And We Couldn't Resist A Photo.

Not only were the students happily indulging in free food, they were so appreciative of the event and developing a positive view on the church as an important part in their community. Even more to my excitement, some students were taking time to chat to us, with others even feeling welcomed and comfortable enough to sit and enjoy their food and conversation in the sanctuary.
I will admit that there was one bloke who joked about possibly bursting into flame as he cautiously entered the foyer to get his barbie, which provided a good laugh all around :)
Even still many of the students were asking what other events we were going to host throughout the year!

As the afternoon turned to evening we ran out of food, but were filled with great connections and the students left knowing that we are here, we are welcoming, we are friendly, and we are loving no matter what...and that, no, they will not burst into flame as they step through our doors :)
All it took was to open these very doors, smile bright, and have that trust in God I have come to see as apart of Rob's very nature. (Although I'm sure the wafting smell of cooking sausages didn't hurt either).

So It is official, I LOVE MY JOB!
Carl Grilling up a Storm (goodie bags beside him)
Chris manning the barbie and Me with the goodie bags

Photos of the Jesmond Dene


 Top: Road above the Dene

 Right: Ruins of St. Mary's Chapel at the top of
            the Dene

 Below: Three shots of the entrance I take into the Dene

Pictures of more Ruins found in the Dene.


Now I hope you have a feel for my new city escape :) and have been entertained at my attempt at being artsy with a camera.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The waiting game...

Beyond my belief I'm hitting the 4 week mark on my time in England already!
This is officially the longest I haven't been in school since I was in pre-school, and although I'm still in the stage of exploring my new community and job, I have passed the point of this seeming as though it is just a vacation. And yet the University students haven't arrived quite yet....

So I am playing the waiting game: waiting to find a place to live, waiting for the students to come back for the year, and therefore waiting to get into a normal rhythm.  And yet, I am thoroughly enjoying the "sport."  This down time has given me such a spacious introduction to JMC and the people I will be with this year.

As well as given me time to pick up knitting! A group of women from Jesmond get together on wednesdays for tea, and knit things to send to places in Africa. My goal...a blanket. I'll continue to show you my progress :)

   A tall, outspoken woman from Scotland who gives the absolute best hugs you could ever imagine.  She is passionate and loving with just the right amount of sass to make you smile. She has a very welcoming nature about her, which has shown me that she will most likely become my go-to person if I'm down.

Rob and Katie:
   The best Jesmond roommates I could have asked for to start off my year. Rob has a joyful obsession with jokes which make me laugh, but make most everyone else roll their eyes. (His latest include "I just got a new computer and it requires a passcode with 8 I chose Snow White and the 7 Dwarves)
And Katie is his loving wife with amazing hospitality and a love for "Strictly Dancing" (the British version of "Dancing with the Stars"), which causes Rob to roll his eyes :).
I have so enjoyed living with them and getting to know them through great conversation over Tea (dinner) each night, exposing me to the great shows of British telly, "Would I Lie to You?" being my absolute favorite, and the exchange of American verses British English. Rob is convinced that by the end of the year I will speak like a true Brit and he a true American...he already has "perfect," "tomato," and "howdy" on lock.

The Blokes:
     I have found that everywhere I go the "Bro-mance" is alive and well, although it may be more fitting to call it a "Bloke-mance" here. In the absence of most of the younger Jesmond population I have met only a few young professionals since I've arrived, including 3 young lads who are very active in JMC: Chris, George and Pete. They're JMC's own 3 Musketeers leading the worship band and providing for great entertainment with their banter.

From left to right: Margaret, Kay, Katie, and Rob at our Community Harvest (an event where we give away surplus produce donated by people who grow it fresh in Jesmond, and collect donation for the Oxfam Syrian Appeal).

My City Retreat:
    Living so close to the city center and considering the general British architectural theme, there is not much open space to be found here in Newcastle. And although I'm loving being so close to the ocean, providing a different open air retreat than the mountains, I was hit with the reality of city life when I could only count 12 stars across the entire sky. So it was such a blessing to find my new city retreat: the Jesmond Dene. It is a lush ravine in Jesmond that feels like miles away from the city.

   I've always felt closest to God in the open spaces and being engulfed in the beauty he made, and now I am living in a city that leaves not a block untouched (although it is such gorgeous architecture). So even with my new retreat, I will have to fully lean into the times I experience God through people in this city life. It is not as easy as walking out the door to simply be in Natural awe as it is at home or camp. Or even as easy as the walk through the GU campus to the Spokane river for some down time. It will take initiative and genuine out-poor of myself and an effort to relationship.

    I should imagine that nothing this year will be handed to me, or land in my lap (although I will happily embrace the moments that do), instead I will need to get up, be positive and motivated to making these connections.  Of course I will do this for JMC and my role with them, but also for my sanity and still having that jaw dropping experience of God from day to day.

    It seems only fit that I found Jesmond Dene while running only the morning after searching for invisible stars in the "12-star" sky. I had to get up, I had to get positive and motivated to run, and I had to take the risk of getting lost in the thick green of the ravine to find that city escape. God is more versatile than I have made him, I just have to open my eyes and meet the invisible stars of Newcastle.

Cheers for now!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Home is found in those who surround you


Rainbow Trail,


Angel of the North: Largest sculpture in Britain looking out over my new home

Well I've now been in Jesmond, Newcastle for just under a week and I already feel like it's been ages with far too many stories to tell for one blog! I've been exhausted from jetlag, explored Newcastle city center (just a 3 minute bus ride from Jesmond), been to the coast to walk the beach and see a few lighthouses, met most of JMC's (Jesmond Methodist Church) steward team, visited china town, set up a bank account, conquered jetlag, bought a local mobile, moved host houses and am currently knee deep in looking for my own flat to rent for the year. It's been busy, it's been unreal, and through it all, it's become very apparent this is where I am supposed to be.

The Grey Monument in honor of the man who started Earl Grey Tea and kept the peace in England.

View of the Tyne and it's many bridges on the Quayside (Key-side) at the edge of the city center

Had lunch with Safwat (Church Steward from Egypt) at the waterside pub to the left
Me on the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which just minutes before...
...was lifted for boats to pass through. You can't hear a thing as it lifts!!

From day one, staying with a steward from church, Jan, and her husband, Colin, I've felt so incredibly comfortable.  Normally I'm pretty timid when thrown into a new place with new people, and yet somehow, across the Atlantic and far from all I have known, it was so easy to feel comfortable. It could be that Jan and Colin seemed to be the British Beer Brewing versions of my own parents, but none the less I was shocked and relieved to feel so at home. It's difficult to explain, but as I marveled at their cacti collection and learned the ins-and-outs of Cricket (which was on the telly 24/7 for the 5 day match), I felt more and more that God was easing me into this year, subtly showing me that I should feel safe and at ease here.
Jan and Colin took me out to the coast for the afternoon (a 20 min drive from Newcastle). Many people were out walking their dogs on the rocky beaches with fog on the horizon. We ended the day with what Jan called a "usual British summer pass time"...sitting in the car at the beach, eating ice cream and watching the rain come down :)

From there I moved in with my boss, the minister of JMC, Rob and his wife Katie to stay while I look for a flat of my own. I think Rob and I will get along just fine, as was made evident to me at our first tea time (dinner) together. I had overfilled my water glass and was attempting to carefully sip it without spilling as he and Katie watched the debacle. As I was sitting at the table thinking "what a wonderful first impression I am giving off, struggling with my water," Rob confessed that he had an urge to yell "Boo!" as I was about to sip the overfilled glass in hopes that it would spill...yep it'll be a fun year :)

Rob and Katie's garden behind their house (and a view of it from my bedroom window shown above).

Funny Culture Shocks:

1) Trying to get into the driver's seat as a passenger of the car 
(within the minutes of meeting Jan)

2) Pudding=all desserts. 

So when Jan said let's get out the Puddings I was surprised to see 2 fruit crumbles, cheesecake, and a cream pastry and not the standard chocolate, vanilla and banana puddings from home.

3) "Single Room"=twin bed...."Double Room"=double bed

I had only been looking at adverts (advertisements/ tv commercials too) for "single rooms" and when Katie asked why I wasn't emailing anyone for doubles I said it was because I wanted my own room. Little did I know it referred to bed size not the number of people in one room.

4) City Center=Downtown

I told Rob and Katie I was going downtown to explore and get a feel for area, and they seemed concerned because "downtown" refers to the sketchier parts of cities and not the main street area.

On sunday they had a welcome service for me at church and to start Rob had me come to the front of the sanctuary and introduced me formally before he invited anyone who wanted to pray over me up to do so. Most of the people I had already met through Jan came to the front, but even a few people I hadn't met yet came up to lay hands on me while people spoke as they felt led.

Each person who blessed me did so with such heart and sincerity, that blessed doesn't even begin to describe how I feel to be here. All the cheesy, cliche feelings ran through me as I stood up there: I felt warm inside, I couldn't wipe a smile off my face if I tried, and I felt as if I was being physically held and embraced by this small but loving community I've only just met. As they laid their hands on me and stood in solidarity with me, I felt an overwhelming sense of home. God could not have given me a better confirmation than that moment...this had become my new home before I had even arrived.

Flight from Chicago: 4,239 miles,

Jetlag: 4 days,

Feeling so warmly welcomed and accepted into a community: Priceless.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Ship In a Harbor Is Safe, But That Is Not What Ships Are Meant For...

Hey there,

   For those of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting, my name is Elie Cahill and I'm about to move to Newcastle, England to serve with YAGM (Young Adults in Global Mission) for a year. I'm connected with the British organization "Time For God" and will be working in the Jesmond Methodist  Church to create a program for college students and young professionals to get involved. I'm excited, I'm terrified, and I'm ready to begin this new chapter of my life.

   A little background on who I am and how I got here...I grew up in Vail, Colorado in the same house with the same friends my whole life; so it's safe to say I am not very familiar with change as I step into this new adventure.  But I graduated from Gonzaga University this spring and have always wanted to travel and live abroad, so this opportunity was definitely one I could not pass up (especially considering youth ministry has always been a strong focus for me). I spent the summer working as a travel director at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in the mountains of Colorado and am now beginning my YAGM experience with orientation in Chicago.
   In my final week at camp with some amazing family campers, a tight staff, and in entering this year here in Chicago after saying some difficult goodbyes, I am attempting to prepare and understand what this next chapter of my life means for me.  Some people have referred to this year as escaping the real world or putting my life on hold for a bit, and although I get the perk of putting my student loans on hold, this year is no pause for me. My roommates gave me a journal for graduation that has "life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving" printing on front, and that is the best way I can look at this next year.  I am not taking a break from life, but just getting started and am so glad to know I have such great family and friend support on this ride.

   I titled my blog in honor of the advice our camp director offers campers each week of the summer: that a ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are meant for...this could not be more true for me.  I find such comfort in home and my familiar spaces. I find confidence in who I am in that comfort, and in those places, and in the relationships I am leaving here in the states.  It is this confidence and this identity that has brought me to this opportunity and this identity I must bring out of my harbor and on to my next year. While, at the same time, I must open up this understanding of self and comfort to be positively changed by this experience and the new relationships I will be creating.
    Just the other day in one of our orientation sessions we spoke of being in a year of service under the idea of servanthood as becoming available and vulnerable to those we encounter. Not a year to "fix" or "improve," but to serve our new communities by becoming open and vulnerable to what this year can be and to what God will have us be for those we meet.

   So I want to thank you, whoever you may be, for joining me in my beginning.  Thank you for walking with me, not on a fun "Euro-trip," but in my life.  Who knows what will happen, who knows how I will feel in one year from now, but I will be open, I will be vulnerable, and I will keep cycling.

This ship is setting sail and headed East!