Chris and I have just launched a fundraising campaign as we try to buy a home. In partnership with an amazing organisation that helps Christian workers live in London – Mission Housing – we are raising loans from friends, family and other interested individuals. We have to leave our accommodation in September so our time-frames are quite tight: currently we are looking to raise £85,000 in loan pledges by 16th May.
I am writing this in the hope that the campaign might get in the hands of the right people. Please share it with anyone who you know that might be interested investing money in property and at the same time enabling us to keep ministering here in East London. I also wanted explain a little about how we got to this point, so here are four lessons I am learning through this process.
1. God Can do Anything
I vividly remember walking along our road with my daughter when something made me stop and just ask the Lord: “could we keep living here?” It was, from my perspective at the moment, a silly, impossible prayer. I was in the midst of redundancy and pregnant with my second baby, my husband’s job was still up in the air and we hadn’t enough for even a 10% deposit. But for some reason I was moved to pray.
We have come to love our neighbourhood despite the fact it has maybe more than it’s fair share of fly tipping and drug-dealing. We want to see people here come to know Jesus and for the community to be transformed, not by gentrification but by the power of the Spirit at work. But we just can’t afford to pay rent in this area.
So, I prayed and then set about making plans to leave London for somewhere cheaper.
Fast forward a few months and God had provided us with a far more respectable deposit, I’d been offered a job and someone had pointed us in the direction of Mission Housing. I’d never heard of them before and didn’t know that they helped people to actually purchase property. I’ve always felt that these things aren’t really for us, we aren’t really who they mean, there are far worthier candidates out there. But Mission Housing reassured us that we are the kind of people they help. Even getting to this point has caused me to marvel all over again – God can do anything! He still might not provide us a home in this area, he still might close the doors we think might be opening but He CAN do whatever he wants: “ far more than we could ever ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20) and He likes us to ask.
2. Wanting a Home is Not (necessarily) Selfish, Idolatrous or Silly
I’m the first to admit that Home is a big deal for me. There was a brief time in my life when I was a teenager that my family was officially homeless. The Lord brought us through it and by the kindness and generosity of friends and family we were never in danger of falling through the gaps and ending up with, literally, no roof over our heads, unlike so many. Still, it shook me and since then any uncertainty about housing automatically feels like a disaster.
My favourite hymn contains these lines:
In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death, no friendly tomb,
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb
Wherein He lay.Samuel Crossman, My Song is Love Unknown
Surely Heaven is my home too? Is the holy path, the most Christlike path, always to live with a certain level of housing insecurity, to detach my heart from the idea of a physical place that could be safe, comfortable and welcoming? I won’t go into all the complex layers that surround this question. Maybe in a future post. But I will say that I am seeing through this process that a desire for a home here in earth isn’t supplanting my desire for my final, wonderful Forever Home in Heaven. Instead, I would say that I am seeing more and more how a bricks-and-mortar place can be a beautiful, physical picture…a living metaphor even…of that real physical Place to come. Think for a moment: where is that one place where you feel truly at peace, loved, accepted, when you walk in the door you just think everything is going to be okay? It could be your own home, it could be someone else’s. Now imagine that feeling times a thousand and that’s a tiny foretaste of what it will be like to be in the presence of Jesus. Forever.
Of course we understand that owning our own home isn’t a right and to do so would be beyond a privilege, but it’s also good to know that it’s not wrong to want to.
3. Just Because Something is not Permanent, it doesn’t Mean it’s Not Valuable
In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.TS Eliot, East Coker
Like lots of people I’ve spoken to recently we’ve been anxious about some things. And these are not silly things: where are we going to live, will be be able to afford rent and groceries. If anything is worth worrying about these things are. Again, in my mind, the holier route is detachment; keep your eyes fixed on heaven and try not to mind about these mundane details. But that’s not how Jesus deals with our worries in Matthew 6. In this famous passage, he recognises that we need these things and that they have relative intrinsic value, not just to us but to God. He feeds the birds, and clothes the flowers because they are valuable to him. They are here today and gone tomorrow but they matter. He doesn’t say to the disciples “these physical things have no value. Escape your desire for them, detach yourself and focus on the spiritual.” Instead he points there gaze to the beauty of the physical world and uses that truth to direct them to the generous, beauty-lavishing heart of God. Worrying won’t help, but God can. He can do anything He wants.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?Matthew 6: 25-27
4. Asking for Help in General (and Money in Particular) is Hard but Good
Whenever I have done any training on ‘Fundraising’ we are encouraged to embrace the opportunity to allow other people to partner with us in the Kingdom work we are doing. This is true, but it’s hard. It’s hard because I think that a lot of us, perhaps only just below the surface, feel like imposters; how can we possibly ask people to back us, to invest in our idea of what God might be doing? I can’t help thinking to myself: how could I ever repay this kindness? How many “thank you’s” could be enough?
Having a British cultural background that values self-sufficiency and doesn’t like talking about money may be a disadvantage, but I can’t just shake it off. We are all situated, embedded in the cultures that birthed us. So I find it hard to ask for anything, especially money. I worry that people will think I only see them in terms of what I can get out of them, or that I am only interested in financial support and not prayer support, neither of which is true.
But if I’d never asked anyone for money I would have missed out on so many beautiful moments of generous love, old friends getting in touch, people at churches we left years ago who still pray and remember us, missionaries who live on support themselves but who really believe in us…I could go on. After all, I love it when we have been praying about where to give some ‘set-apart’ money and the Lord gives us just the right opportunity. Or even one we weren’t expecting! My own experience also tells me that when I have invested in something, whether with money, time or emotion, I am much more likely to pray for it, and prayer really is the most valuable thing (because God can do whatever he wants).
It truly humbles me to realise that, when it comes to the impossible, God so often uses the kindness and faithfulness of the community He has surrounded us with to meet our needs. Even writing this post brings a small blush to my cheek because I wonder if it all sounds disingenuous, like I am using what God really is teaching me for a material advantage. I worry that, even subconsciously, I might be trying to sound better than I am so that I am a more worthy candidate for some imaginary millionaire to donate to. I am having to put myself out there and open myself to those accusations, to face my fear of man and to just simply ask.
So here goes: would you like to help us buy a home?