Thursday, December 18, 2014

Onesies and Doughnuts

Christmas set up at JMC!

   Christmas Music was playing, our Secret Santa gifts had been exchanged and opened, and the bill was sorted with yet another lecture on why I don't need to Tip 20% here in Britain (don't think I will ever get used to that). I sat around a table with 9 students who were laughing and sharing stories from the past week; discussing faith, tough questions, and Christmas traditions; and all I could do was smile. This bunch has grown, not only in number, but also in maturity, faith and friendship.

Over the past year and a bit, a big focus for me here at Jesmond Methodist Church, has been University students. And since then, I have come to see them take on Uni life and settle in as an integral part of the JMC family. As new students found their way through our doors this year and, as I mentioned, around the table at the student Christmas dinner, I remembered a reflection I wrote just before the number of students at JMC grew to require a booking deposit for a dinner reservation!
Christmas set up at JMC!

So in the spirit of my month of sharing, 
here is the 2nd post (my own blog version of TBT) 
from October this year...

     Tonight I saw my students come together in such an inspiring way. Each bringing their joys and struggles of the past week to share in community and laughter; through tears and prayer and, of course, over doughnuts!

It is a random mix of characters, all coming to JMC separately, but have joined together and slowly become a tight support group for one another. They affectionately call this group, "Onesies and Doughnuts," and they often refer to me as "the mom", or "the crazy church lady", and of recent..."tea slave." So, in line with this new title, I want to introduce them to you here by way of their respective hot drink order...

Coffee. 2 sugars. Milk.
   He is quiet and kind. Ready to give his time for others, with a patience and willingness that speaks volumes in itself. He is the great, listening ear of the group and forever, graciously going along with some cooky ideas: such as hiding from Elie whenever she leaves the room (or at least I tell myself that he simply obliges to these plans, when in reality, he could actually be the silent yet devious mastermind behind all the shenanigans...I may never know).

Tea. 5 sugars (yes 5). No milk.
   Our chatterbox, always sharing stories and jokes to bring smiles to others faces; he is consistently the first to offer condolence, support, and advice when needed. And the verdict is still not out on whether or not he knows that the word "no" exists, as his diary (remember this means schedule/time-table) is permanently filled, yet he is the first to offer help to run each new event: a true servant's heart.

Tea. 2 sugars. Milk.
   She is a passionate, kind, and strong young woman, who brings the perfect dose of reality to the group, followed immediately by some sass and a good cuddle (hug). She has an amazing heart to see justice and possibility for change around her; and you just wait, one day soon she will accomplish far more than she knows is even possible.

Coffee. 1 sugar. Milk.
   Wise beyond her years, she has a gentle kindness and is a sure bet for a good, meaningful conversation. She is a natural leader, while also happy to watch others succeed; and this humility makes it a joy to watch her shine, which is far from a rare occurrence.

Tea. 3 sugars (or 2 teaspoons). Milk.
   She is our "life adventurer." Smiling and laughing all the way, she takes life with both hands and runs with it! She is well in tune with how her faith can grow and strengthen, and will not apologize for who she is (not only because she is a gem, but because she knows there is not enough time in our lives to worry about what anyone but God thinks of us).

It has been such a pleasure and joy to watch these students group together into a wonderful community over the past 14 months. From strangers to family in Christ huddled together in prayer.

Tonight I looked over them, clinging to one another, some tears rolling down cheeks, hands in hands, heads on shoulders, and smiles emerging from under the tears as we prayed.

One of them asked what they were gonna do without each other after uni, but I have no fear that these five individuals will go on to do great things, make wonderful friends, find another strong community, and forever remember the night at Jesmond Methodist Church when they held, not only each others' hands and shoulders, but each others' burdens and joys in prayer.

You got one proud mamma bear right here!

Cheers - Elie

We had an Advent Evening Celebration at JMC earlier in December. It was a great night of food, fun, and fellowship!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Long Time, No Talk. Long Time, Much Thanks!

Long time, no talk...
I have been down to London twice since I have been back! 

      So I realized that I haven't posted a blog since September and I thought that ought to change. Sorry for my silence, but to make up for that, I will be posting a few different reflections this month that I have written over the past 3 months since I have been back in Newcastle. Enjoy :)

Took my flatmate's family dogs out for a walk up in Alnwick with sheep roaming the field and the castle in the background! Classic England :)

Here we go! 
Post number 1,
from 28th November....

Long time, much thanks...

    Today is the day after Thanksgiving, and although for the rest of the country it is simply another Friday, for me it is a day to be thankful (as I ride the train down to London for a 2nd Year TFG conference). 
I would have done this yesterday , but I was too busy cooking an entire Turkey Day meal for two fellow Americans and my lovely flatmates :) -which is obviously number one on my list of gratitude.

Joined my cousin in London for the US vs Columbia football match.
It was a great day of cooking (with help from an Nebraskan native who is in Newcastle to get her masters), watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and all 10 Thanksgiving episodes of "Friends." 
Then we brought American traditions to Britain at little ol' 56 Ashleigh Grove, with all the fix-ins of the big meal, the breaking of the wishbone, a night stroll through the moor after dinner, and my flatmate even prepared some fun USA Quizes to really make the night a blast!

But generally, I feel the need to reflect back on the last two months, as they seem to have gone by in such a blur!

    October was, admittedly, quite tough, with a combination of bad health, rocky relationships, and a lack of faith in how God was using me at JMC. Despite how busy I was in September with freshers and welcoming past students back, all that excitement and energy seemed to produce no fruit (excuse the cringe Christian metaphor). Although I have such a great support system here in Newcastle that was so reassuring through it all, it is very difficult to not let a lack of results affect the way you judge your "success."
But, as God does (as if it amuses him sometimes- I can just see him watching down, chuckling to himself, "silly Elie"), he pulled through this past month, without any action on my part!

I am still working on my musical side in the JMC worship
team on sunday mornings.
I got my health back on track, let go of stress from relationships, and JMC was suddenly filled with new people eager to become apart of our quirky little family :). 
One great example, was the Christian Union Church Search, which rarely brings in any new students for us. Normally, I would go each Sunday, sit around for 10 minutes, and then leave alone. Rob and I had discussed whether or not it was a good use of our time, but thought that the week we aren't there, will be the week someone shows. And low and behold, that very Sunday as I arrived and got out my JMC sign, two students immediately bee-lined their way to me!

Now we have a second student group started, a new young professionals house group going, and by the third song on a Sunday morning service, the Church is full! 
It was a humbling lesson learned (as it always seems to be), that God has his own time and plan, and all I can do is pray that my work is in line with that "schedule." 
This year's UK YAGM group has some gems that I am so
glad to have the opportunity to meet! Including this lovely
lady, Anastasia, who is doing amazing work in a small
town just south of London. Please keep all the new volunteers
in your thoughts and prayers (especially with the coming
Holiday season they will be spending away from home)!

Apart from work, I have had some great time spent getting to know the new UK YAGMs from London to Edinburgh! And now, here I am again on a train--a favorite part of British culture--, eating Thanksgiving leftovers--a favorite part of American culture--so there is much to be Thankful for.
Hanging out with a life-size (yeah, he was
 a short little man) sculpture of
Wesley- the main man of Methodist Church

Thanks G-man!

The other 2nd year volunteers in London for our conference. Only
three of us now, but our numbers will double next month as a few
January starters will be staying on for a second year as well!