It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s been a good weekend.
Yesterday was spent visiting the excellent Santa Cruz Zoo (a £4.50 for all-the-family bargain!), lunch with friends and haircuts for the boys. This morning it was a great church service at Fuente de Vida with a message on developing vulnerability and honest relationships followed by chicken and salad for lunch!
It’s also been a good week.
First thing on Monday morning we went to Immigration to see if our visas had arrived back from La Paz and, as you can see below, they did. This means we’re legal for the next two years. After that, because Phoebe and JJ are Bolivian citizens (on account of being born here), we should be able to make applications for permanent residence!
While we were sat in Immigration we received more good news – very good news. The following came through from the Charity Commission:
We are satisfied that NOVO COMMUNITIES is a charity and it has been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1164421.
This is fantastic (and super-significant) news!! Thank you so much for praying.
Charitable status means we can claim Gift Aid (25% extra) on all gifts made to Novō as a charity (as opposed to our personal support via Stewardship) by UK taxpayers who use the Novo UK Giving Form. It also means we can make applications for funding to Grant-Making Trusts whose charitable objectives align with ours, something we will begin doing early in the New Year!
Looking forward we have an important couple of weeks on the horizon.
On Friday 27th Andy, Warren & Myron leave for a two-week trip to Canada with a two-fold purpose.
Firstly, they will be meeting with the senior leadership of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission (EFCCM) in Vancouver to further develop the working relationship between Novō and the EFCCM. The EFCCM is playing a similar role in Canada to that which the Novō Communities Trust is in the UK, enabling us to receive donations tax-effectively, as well as providing pastoral oversight to us. These meetings will help us to work through some of the technical aspects of the relationship between the UK and Canadian sides of Novō, as well as provide us with a great opportunity to plan and prayer together.
The second purpose of the trip is to ‘launch’ Novō with potential supporting churches and individuals, sharing the vision in much the same way as we have already been able to do in the UK. This is an exciting step for all of us, particularly for Warren and Myron whose friends/family/supporters have known that Novō has been coming down the pipe for a while now, and are eager to hear more! We’re looking forward to speaking at two key churches and to a range of groups and individuals in what is going to be a jam-packed schedule. In addition to 24 hours of travel at the start and end of the trip we also need to drive something in the range of 3,000 miles. Please pray for us – for energy, for safety in potentially hazardous conditions, and that many people will catch this vision for the creation of transformative communities where hurting and broken people can find healing, wholeness, and hope!
Mickey and the kids will be staying in Santa Cruz. Please pray especially for them – that they would have a great couple of weeks together and that everyone would stay safe, well and at peace.
Finally, let me (Andy) share something a bit more personal with you. During our Tuesday morning Team Novō meetings we have been meditating on these words from Luke 4.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
As we prayed for one-another after meditating on this passage my prayer was that God would ‘soften’ my heart towards to those he is calling us to help – the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed.
When, back in 2008, we first felt God prompting us to explore starting a residential project here in Bolivia I’d felt a deep passion for the addicts and alcoholics we see all the time as we drive around here in Santa Cruz, particularly those working the main road junctions washing car windows. This burden stirred me to prayer and it prompted the explorations which kicked-started the journey which took us to Yeldall and, now, back here to Santa Cruz.
I haven’t, however, felt it much recently. The 3+ year long process of laying the foundations for Novō has primarily been a rational process: a good, Spirit-filled, thoughtful process of listening to, and seeking to obey, God’s call; a process of looking at our skills and experience and recognising that we can make an impact deploying them well in this context.
None of that has felt at all wrong. I just felt at the start of the week that I’d like to feel, in a fresh way, something of God’s heart for the hurt, broken, and addicted.
I wasn’t thinking about that prayer at all as Daniel and I arrived at church early this morning for him to be a part of the worship practice, but as we arrived there was a guy waking up from a night sleeping in the entrance way to the church. His name was Cristian and he was evidently an alcoholic. We see street people every day, every time we drive anywhere, but something about seeing Cristian waking up on our church doorstep ‘got me’ at a heart level. We said hello and, with others from the worship team speaking with him, I headed-off to get a coffee.
I was just a few metres from church when I noticed a young boy, asleep in the little cash machine cubicle.
I didn’t take his picture at first, wanting to protect his dignity, but as I walked on I knew there was something significant to what God was doing in that moment and I wanted to be able to show Mickey what I had seen. So I went back a few steps and took a photo, encouraged to do so by the fact that his back was turned and his identity hidden.
I think the thing that got me about this particular boy’s situation was something that isn’t immediately obvious. It’s the fact there is a small lock on the inside of the cash machine cubicles. A small lock which, when closed, gives an otherwise utterly vulnerable child just a little bit of security in a deeply hostile environment.
I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like as a 8 or 9 year-old boy to sleep alone in a cash machine cubicle at night. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have only a glass door with a puny lock protecting me from the awful dangers of being a child living on the streets at night. I can’t begin to imagine what effect all of this has on your ability to ‘grow-up’, on your sense of security, significance and self-worth as an adult.
As I felt a deep sense of concern for this lad it hit me that this is exactly the kind of experience which will have defined the ‘childhoods’ of so many of the men and women, like those featured in the two films below, who Novō is here to help. IF YOU ARE READING THIS BLOG IN YOUR EMAIL YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SEE THE FILMS UNLESS YOU CLICK ON THE BLUE TITLE ABOVE AND VIEW THE BLOG ONLINE.
In response to this, please pray that God will do “more than we could ask or imagine” for those men and women who, even now, desperately need His mercy and compassion!
Thank you, as ever, for walking with us on this journey – for your love, encouragement and support, expressed in a multitude of ways!