Network News

Network News: Ben's Story

A trip to Germany changed Ben’s life for good, and gave him new purpose to pursue the life that God has planned for him.

I believe that God is ready to use us to change the world...

Hi my name is Ben, I’m a third year history student and I’ve been attending St George’s for about 2 years now. I’m part of React, a missional Network that aims to challenge each other to live bold and radical lives for Jesus in Leeds. Being part of a Network has been such an encouragement to me as our work with the marginalised and broken in Leeds consistently reminds me of God’s kindness, faithfulness and love for us all. I have been struck by the amazing work God is doing in this city and the prospect of working with Him really excites me.

I have been struck by the amazing work God is doing in this city and the prospect of working with Him really excites me

Over the summer of 2015 I attended a conference in Nuremberg, Germany, that was set up to call on God to bring revival to Europe. I went there with intrigue to see what God had in store but was completely unprepared for the impact it would have upon my life. Held in a large football stadium, I was completely taken back by a crowd of 25,000 people from a variety of nations desiring to worship God and make His name famous in Europe.

With a variety of talks held throughout the day, on the first night over a thousand people gave their lives to Christ.  It was incredible. I had waited to see this for years. I had heard of the stories of Billy Graham’s crusades where many people were saved, but to witness a similar event with my own eyes was something I don’t think I will ever forget.

...on the first night over a thousand people gave their lives to Christ.

Whilst there I was fortunate enough to take part in one of the outreach days set up by the organisers of the conference. Our task was a simple one. 25,000 of us were to enter the city of Nuremberg, tell people about Jesus and then see what God wants to do. When I arrived in the city centre every corner you went round there was public displays of evangelism taking place from simple conversations to large worship bands and open air preaching. There was such a buzz around the place. Stories of people throwing away crutches and getting healed were circulating. Many were taking busloads of people back to the conference to hear more about Jesus and many of them were saved. God was moving powerfully.

On the plane home the events of the previous few days kept rushing through my mind. I had witnessed some amazing things but was very aware that I could not leave Germany without knowing that I needed to change. I needed to change the way I viewed God. The way He demonstrated His power and love became evermore real to me and I had to do something about it in response. The thing was, I always saw God as someone I was working for, and when in actual fact he is someone that I should be working with. I had exposed myself to new and exciting ways of evangelism and became aware that God could use me to show His love. I never thought I was good enough for him to work through me.

I could not leave Germany without knowing
that I needed to change the way I viewed God.

Over the following weeks I decided to buy a whole range of books on evangelism, healing and the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us with the intention of applying this to my life. After finishing them, I took it upon myself to tell people about Jesus at every possible occasion as well as praying for many and seeing people healed. Over the course of a few months I saw close to ten people healed from a variety of issues.

Since coming back to university in September I have been keen to continue the work that God has been doing through me and so a few weeks ago I organised what I called ‘A Meal and A Message Evening’ where I would prepare a free meal for a group of my friends and tell them about the gospel and how it has changed my life. With many of those I invited bringing along their own friends just fewer than 30 people were able to attend.

As a result of the evening we have seen two of those plugged in to churches and with many more reading the Bible with their friends with the intention of finding out more. It has been a real encouragement to hear about the response the evening got and I’m continually amazed at how God has used it to encourage others.

Since coming back I have been keen to continue
the work that God has been doing through me.

To this day, I’m continually seeking God’s guidance in my evangelism and witnessing people come to know Jesus. My heart is to encourage people to realise how loved we are in God, to see him as our father and walk in a way that demonstrates the gospel boldly. I believe that God is ready to use us to change the world if we are only open to trusting and listening to His Holy Spirit.

 

"He can and does intervene when we cry out to Him."

Hannah, Wrangthorn Ministry Assistant and part of the young adult community here at St G’s, shares her story about the recent weekend away with Transit, Salt and Keen & Able Networks.

I work at Wrangthorn, so it’s not often that I get chance to spend time with lots of Christians of my own age. I love the variety of people of different of ages and life stages that I get to interact with day to day, but there was something particularly special about going away with this group of young adults.

Although I’m only loosely connected to the St George’s Networks, I felt fully part of the family and it was wonderful to see community working really well. When the reality is that very few churches have such an abundance of young people, I was reminded again of the value of these relationships which we can so often take for granted. This young adult community and church more broadly is not about us existing in a Christian bubble for our own sake. From this place we’re enabled to bless those around us. We were encouraged to use these relationships as a springboard into mission and living for Jesus, when we’re together and when we’re dispersed.

"This is a reminder that He can and does intervene when we cry out to Him."

Where did you see God at work? The weekend gave me a reminder of God’s love for me, and of His grace. We’re broken people muddling along the best we can, with an incredible God who takes what we offer and does with it more than we could ever imagine. I prayed again for healing from the ‘disequilibrium’ that’s been a problem since a head injury last year, and experienced what felt like a real breakthrough; I was able to stand steadily with a completely clear head and focus on worshipping God, and climb the steps to my cabin without any problem! This is a reminder that He can and does intervene when we cry out to Him.

What can St G’s pray for our young adults? It was great to be part of a community for a weekend worshipping God and refocusing on Him; retreating from the busyness of life but not disengaged from the world outside. We were receiving from God in order to be better equipped at living for Jesus every day, and I’m incredibly grateful for this group of young adults. My prayer for myself and all of us is that we’d be ready and willing to be used by God in whatever He may ask of us, supported by each other with our eyes fixed on God and His Kingdom. 

Roots Weekend Away 2015

10385549_387173714777235_6842169974043896438_n Roots, our 11-18s Network, spent a weekend away together in January. 33 young people went to the Emmaus Centre in Scarborough for time to grow as a community and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

“It was amazing; really fun!”

What is the best part of being a leader for these young people? The best part about being a leader for these young people is seeing them grow into the men and women God created them to be. When you get a glimpse of them understanding their true identity it is so exciting. It is also really fun; you can't hang out with a bunch of young people and take yourself too seriously! They are an incredible group of young people and I love them. It’s the greatest privilege and joy.

“The weekend was an amazing place to have open chats; I feel like a weight has been lifted.”

 

“My highlight was ‘God on the beach’; we can meet Jesus in different places!”

 

“Good to spend time mixing fun activities and gospel teaching away from home and church.  It’s really important to meet God in different contexts, like ‘God on the beach’.”

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What was your highlight? There are so many. One was seeing some of the older Roots members get alongside and support the younger youth. Seeing young people share in communion together was wonderful and it is always a highlight when you see young people meeting with Jesus by His Spirit.

“I really met with God in the talks.”

 

“God spoke through prophetic words.”

 

“God exceeded my expectations.”

What did you see God doing? I saw God drawing a community of young people together who will be able to encourage each other in their walks with Jesus; I saw a new hunger from the young people to know what it means to follow Jesus in their schools.  I also saw young people set free through the power of the word and the spirit.

“I’ve found more opportunities to talk about going to church with friends!”

 

“We have created a group chat on Facebook which has been really helpful and encouraged me to be a Christian at school, knowing we are supporting each other.”

I see God building a strong community of young people and placing in them a desire to show Jesus to those around them. It is so exciting to watch God transform young people's lives.

What can St G’s pray for Roots? Please pray for protection, for confidence in who God is, their identity and their calling, for strengthening of relationships.

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"Extra Time" in Lakeland

50+ edited‘Extra Time’ Network, formerly known as 50+, enjoyed a wonderful weekend away.

“I enjoyed chatting with those I have known over many years.”

For five days at the beginning of September, forty members of the Extra Time Network stayed at Rydal Hall, the Diocesan conference centre near Ambleside.

“It fed my soul to be in such beautiful surroundings.”

“It was a joy to relax and chat with people in such beautiful surroundings”

Beautifully positioned for walking, sailing on the lake or just relaxing in nearby Grasmere, Windermere or Keswick, the centre offered a perfect place for our time together. With daily activities of different grades there was something for everyone.

“It was good to share our journeys, difficulties and differences with those of our own age group.”

We met together at the start of the day and after evening dinner to be given the challenge about using our time for God as we get older.  Bob Powley and Joanna Seabourne led these sessions.

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“We were blessed with excellent weather and fellowship throughout the whole week.”

 

Find out more about Networks at St George's here.

New Network! "Keen & Able"

Keen and Able

“We want to, as a Network, be able to creatively reach out to our wider community and see how God can use us creatively.” Emily

Ben Lees and Emily Spademan launched "Keen and Able" in October, a new Network for people with a creative background.  The group will meet fortnightly on Thursday evenings in people’s homes. They will eat together, study the Bible together and pray.  There will be social events, creative worship and outward-looking events such as open mic nights at a pub.

Having moved to Leeds to be a worship intern at St George's last year, Ben Lees is now the Worship and Youth Ministry Assistant at church. Emily recently graduated from Leeds College of Music and is back in Leeds after a busy summer working for Soul Survivor in Watford.

Emily adds, reassuringly: “We're not going to make anyone paint our portrait or sing for us X-Factor style before they join.”

Find out more about Networks at St George's here.

Light in the storms of life

Lighthouse is a Network for those on the margins to meet Jesus. It reaches out to those who are homeless, suffering through mental health, addiction or poverty, so that they will have a comfortable space to ask questions, receive, and feel confident to contribute. It allows them to feel safe and to worship God freely. hannah robbHannah Robb recently completed her internship when she dedicated many hours, reaching out to those on the margins and working alongside Jon Swales in local mission initiatives such as Bridge Cafe and Lighthouse. Hannah reflects on her last 6 months sharing stories from Lighthouse.

Where has Lighthouse come from? St George’s Crypt was set up by the church over 80 years ago to reach out to the homeless in Leeds. They do amazing work by addressing the practical needs of people in the city but along with the chaplain we want to be able to share the Good News of Jesus and encourage people in their own walk with Him. In 2013, Jon Swales, Roger Quick and I began praying for God to provide space to facilitate a Christian community for those on the margins. In January 2014, we set up a gathering each Sunday in the Crypt, to eat, share life and find out about Jesus. There’s always the reservation when you start a new ministry that you’re only going to get 5 people - and we were contempt with that - but the first meeting we saw 35! This was a huge encouragement to see God providing people, and space to meet; it made me feel confident that there would be growth. We’ve been meeting since January seeing roughly 30 people, at the lowest 25, and highest 50. We are already seeing growth and looking to set up Missional Communities around the city for another way to connect. Since January we’ve seen people come to faith, be baptised and people’s lives transformed through the love of Jesus.

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What does Lighthouse look like We gather every Sunday at 12.30 where I would usually stand on the door with a cuppa to say hi to everyone; Jon and Roger will be in the dining room where people will sit and catch up with one another. Jon will remind us what Lighthouse is all about; “We all know that there are storms of life but lighthouse shows that there is a light in the world – Jesus. We believe that he provides a light in the storms of life, a direction when we feel like hope is lost.” This is amazing! It makes a lot of sense to everyone in the room instantly.

We sing together, often Amazing Grace because words such as ‘saved a wretch like me’ resonate. We also sing James Taylor’s, You’ve Got a Friend; ‘When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand, and the cold north wind begins to blow...’ carries the same representation of loneliness and darkness of a storm. In the room a lot of people have had friends who’ve died through addiction or let them down in one way or another, so singing this is a wonderful way of saying how we perceive Jesus, and explaining how Jesus is a friend in our situations.

We’ll take turns to share what we are thankful for and often hear ‘I’m thankful that I’m alive’, which takes on a new resonance with a room full of people who have been much closer to death than you or I would. Others include being thankful for the Crypt, and for friendship; this is testimony to the community we’ve established at Lighthouse.

Jon will share from scripture too; early on we explored who Jesus is by looking at all the Gospel stories such as the one about Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus knows and accepts people by inviting himself into their lives because he says ‘your life has worth’. More recently we’ve looked at other scriptures, usually from the Gospels to hold onto basic foundations, leaving the deeper discipleship to small groups throughout the week. Roger does story times; the favourite feature of a Sunday. He writes dramatic monologues from the perspective of a bible character such as the Prodigal Son or woman who touched Jesus’ cloak for healing. It’s incredible how you can awaken someone’s consciousness by telling stories in a way they can relate to.

So many people want to get up and tell their own story each week because they are so excited when they realise what Jesus is capable of in their lives. Another witness to the growth of Lighthouse was when one of our members, who is shy and finds it hard to share with peers, had the confidence to stand in front of 400 people before his baptism to share his testimony. He knew there were 20 of us sat amongst the congregation to support him which shows how Lighthouse has built a safe community.

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What have been some of the highlights of your time at Lighthouse? There are so many stories I could share but here are just a few. One young woman I’ve met is an addict; she also struggles with violence and self worth. She has relapsed many times after rehab and getting clean but she knows Jesus and loves him, which I say with full confidence. She’s is full of life and a great witness to Jesus because as she speaks into people’s lives with power and I believe that is God given power. She will often council friends, encourage and build them up in Christ, prompting them to pray and pray with them. From the moment I met her she embraced me and said, ‘you’re my sister in Christ’. This has a lot of weight in it in the Lighthouse community because the idea of loyalty and trust in circles where people have very little to depend on in their lives, is an incredibly high priority. I’ve wanted to help her, pray with her, support her in resisting temptation to walk away from addiction but she is looking out for me at all times, she prays for me!

I was having a particularly spiritually low point one time; I felt the need for refreshment and to hear God but it seemed like he’d gone quiet. Another Lighthouse guest, who I had worked with by helping through rehab, housing and praying for him, he is deeply spiritual and loves Jesus; one day he casually wrote a poem and gave to me saying ‘thanks for everything you’ve done in my life’. It was literally like Jesus had written me a poem as it was all about how ‘I have died for you.’ At a time when I thought God was silent, he was using the Lighthouse guests to share the Gospel with me!

What are you thankful for? I am ever grateful for God’s amazing provision in quite literally ‘adding to our number daily’. The Lighthouse Network is by far the most thriving community I’ve seen in the last 6 months, based on depth of relationships and growth in terms of numbers. I give thanks for the accommodation for relationship building; I have seen real friendships develop, meaning that amongst the pain life can bring there is real laughter and sharing with Jesus at the very centre. I am also thankful to God that some people are still alive. For some, if they had carried on using drugs to the extent that they were, they may no longer be alive so to them the Lighthouse has literally been a lifeline. God has intervened in their life.

How can St G’s get involved? We need team on a Sunday, to help welcome and chat to people, but if you’re not comfortable with small talk, we need people to serve tea and coffee or help in the kitchen! Everyone is valued in that space. During the week we need people to find an hour to give 1 to 1 support, maybe taking someone out for coffee and a chat, accompanying someone to a job centre appointment or giving practical advice; an example here would be the couple who are about to have a baby, if you are in a similar life stage at St G’s and have practical advice to give, why not spend an hour over a cuppa with this couple in conversation. Finally, if you are gifted in leadership and discipleship with those who maybe illiterate, have short attention span even, please help us lead small groups through the week.

Lighthouse believes that each person is made in the image of God yet really tragic things can happen to people, none of us are without sin and we all fall short of the glory of God. As Christians we are called to live life alongside others and whether that looks like pastoral care for someone who is bereaved, you may not know what you say and there may be nothing you can do but you show they are valuable by just standing by them. The same applies to Lighthouse; you don’t have to be equipped to deal with mental health issues or addiction, but simply having a cup of tea with someone and asking how their day is going shows that because God says so, they are valuable.

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What can St G’s pray? Pray for more committed team to get involved; we want Lighthouse to survive but sustainability relies on people to be there. Pray also for God’s continued strength to keep people in Lighthouse; helping to prevent relapse, resisting temptation, breaking out of addiction, etc. I pray that people in Leeds would know that if you want to meet Jesus and need support then you can go to the Lighthouse. I hope the congregation of St George’s feel part of that and feel able to support this community.

To find out more about Lighthouse or offer to get involved please Jon Swales.

"I can worship Him in freedom"

farsiJonathan and Mojtaba, Farsi Network leaders, update us on what God is doing through this community of people.  We also hear from members of the Farsi Network who share why they follow Jesus. Where have you seen God at work in and around the Farsi Network recently?

Praise the Lord, this year He has brought new Farsi-speaking believers from Iran as well as new seekers to the church, and at the same time many of the older members have grown more serious and committed to Him. As we have come to the Lord week by week in worship and prayer, learning more of His Word and being open to His Spirit, He has been working in us and through us. He has strengthened us, comforted us, challenged us and changed our characters to be more like Him.

We are also thankful for increasing love, interest and care shown to us by other brothers and sisters at St G’s, including conversations over coffee, being invited to people’s homes, and the amazing meal hosted by NE Leeds network on 1 June!

On 21st June we joined with believers of many other nationalities for the Hope for the Nations event on Briggate. The Holy Spirit was really at work there in the music and the conversations. At one point a young Iranian man came to our stall and said to Mojtaba, “How can I accept Jesus in my heart?”. Mojtaba encouraged him to kneel there and then, and led him through a prayer of repentance and faith. As the Holy Spirit touched him he was in tears. Praise the Lord!

Here are testimonies from two of the candidates baptised on June 8th.

My name is Gh-F

It was the morning of one of those hot summer days like many of the days in the last two years in Iran. I hadn’t been able to build a relationship with the God of my religion, even though I had prayed and fasted and read the religious book. So I had given up hope on that God, and instead had decided to talk to God in my mother tongue, talking every day, whenever I wanted to. I did all that reason and logic told me to do. I had created God in my own mind and I was talking with him.

That (hot) day I went to the bank, and I was waiting to be called for my turn, and someone came into the bank and passed in front of me. I suddenly thought, “Isn’t that Yahya, my old college friend?” I hadn’t heard from him for ages. But, no it couldn’t be him. The last time I’d seen him he was depressed. He used to be mischievous, bad-mouthed and was always making trouble. He used to smoke and then I’d heard he had become a drug addict too. But now he looked completely different. I went to him and asked him, “Are you Yahya?”. Amazingly, he recognised me.

I asked him how it was possible for him to have changed so much. He smiled, and said, “Let’s go and talk about this together.” So after leaving the bank we spent about an hour together. First we talked about past memories and the economic situation. Then I asked him how such a transformation had happened to him. He shared that his life after college had got much worse, and because of all the drugs he was taking he had nearly died. But Jesus Christ met him and saved his life.

As he was explaining this to me, my hairs were standing on end and I had a strange feeling. He arranged to see me in a park the next day, and then again at the swimming pool, and then we went to the mountains together. He explained to me about God, about death, about sin, about how someone needed to die for our sin and that Jesus had done that for us. Throughout these days he didn’t swear, he didn’t smoke and his face was shining and beautiful. Jesus Christ, the living God, had met with him and had blessed his life.

I eagerly kept meeting with Yahya, and finally one day a voice suddenly shouted from inside my heart, “I’ve found my God. I’ve found the only true way.” It felt as if all the energy in the world had come into me. I had never before had such joy, on the inside or the outside, or such peace.

I asked Yahya to take me to his meetings, so I could repent and confess my faith.

Gh-F soon learned from Matthew 28:19 that he needed to be baptised, and he wanted to obey this command of Jesus to complete his commitment to Him; but he did not have the opportunity in Iran. Praise the Lord he has now been baptised at St G’s.

Arash

I had reached a point of emptiness in my life, when neither any religion nor this world had any meaning for me.  I lived in sin; every night I was partying with my friends consuming alcohol and using narcotic drugs; I was an angry, irritated, aggressive and vile person.  I persecuted and ridiculed others in order to buy joy for myself. But today I have joy in Christ, and God’s Spirit has accepted me and changed me.

I sought after the truth and I wanted to lead a better life, and so I spoke with a friend at length and the friend invited me to a meeting that was held in his home, and at first I accepted to attend for a laugh. He gave me a Bible as a gift and told me that there I would find the truth and the answers to all my questions. I felt peaceful during the meetings and so I started reading the Bible and after a while my view of the world changed. I prayed and I asked God to help me, and in a meeting I knelt down and repented, and I felt much lighter, as though a bucket of water had been poured over me.  I truly came to believe that God had been crucified for the forgiveness of my sins, and that He had washed my sins clean with His own blood, and after three days had risen from the dead.  I had been saved, and we celebrated!  I announced the good news of the gospel and the good news of salvation to my family, that I had entered the Kingdom of God.  My family noticed the change in me and they were astonished. My sister also came to Christ, praise the Lord, as did my friends, Davoud, Mostafa and Benyamin. I am praying for my brother. My life changed as the Spirit of God entered my life; love, peace, kindness, good works, faithfulness and humility sprouted forth in my life. Today I am an adopted child of God. I am following Christ, and no power can draw me to the devil, because Christ crushed the devil’s head on the cross. God has called me to become like his Son. By His grace I have entered His glorious kingdom. Every day I pray to Him, I trust Him, I lift up my life to Him. I bring to Him everything in my heart and mind.  I confess my sins.  I am happy that today I can worship Him in freedom, go to church, die to myself and grow in love.  I love my God with all my heart, my soul and my love, and I love my neighbour. I have found everlasting life.

Arash also came to faith in Iran, but did not have the opportunity to be baptised until he was in the UK.

What can St G’s pray for the Farsi Network?

  • For every believer - for greater hunger in their hearts for God’s Word, and greater commitment to coming to church and sharing their faith with others.
  • For spiritual unity between all members.
  • For even more integration into the wider church, for a greater sense of being one family in Christ and that we may be a blessing to others in the church.

If you’d like to receive the Farsi network prayer e-mail (about once a fortnight), please e-mail jonathan.beatham@gmail.com

 

South Leeds Network Sunday

Network Leader, Fiona Jarrett shares the latest stories from South Leeds.

What did South Leeds get up to for Network Sunday? We gather as a Network every third Wednesday in a month as well as the specified Network Sunday weekends; this time we have planned something a bit different but still on the Loving Leeds theme! We’ve decided to help the Nunn family pack up, clean up and move out of their house into their temporary home as they continue with their preparations for moving to Ethiopia. We are praying for them, having fun together, entertaining the kids and maybe helping out with meals as well as the usual teas, coffees and cakes; we have some excellent bakers in our Network!

How is your Network equipping you for your walk with Jesus? Jonathan Clark came to one of our Network gatherings which was great as we were able to ask questions about church, the sermons and a range of issues we wanted to explore further. It is always good to get a wider perspective on what God is doing so catching up with members of the group is important; we also equip each other by praying for one another.

"It is fantastic to see how God has been at work, and is still working..."

Can you tell us a story of God changing lives in and around South Leeds? Some people in our Network are supporting a local church, by working with members of the church to lead a new service. As a Network we prayed and we found that the skills of our members were just right for working alongside this initiative. It is fantastic to see how God has been at work, and is still working, as more people are hearing about and experiencing Jesus through this service.

What can StG’s pray for South Leeds? Pray that we will continue to get the right balance between supporting each other and looking outward to supporting people in Leeds and beyond.That new people wishing to join will connect easily and feel really welcomed. Please also pray for me as leader, that I will discern God's plans for us and put them into practice.

Find out more about Networks and how to Get Connected here.