Christmas greetings to you all!
Firstly, as we near the end of 2020, I would like to thank you for your support this year – in prayer, encouragement and financially. Alex and I both feel hugely blessed by our combined supporters, enabling us to focus our efforts on local mission, continued learning (I’ve had a pause in my CMS studies this term, but look forward to getting going again in the spring), co-leading the Young Franciscan community, prison ministry (for Alex) and other activities.
Having lived on the Racecourse Estate, Northolt, for 6 months now, we feel we are slowly beginning to make some local connections, which is an answer to prayer. A couple of months ago, I distributed letters to about 80 houses on our road. The letter briefly introduced ourselves and invited neighbours to be part of a WhatsApp group so we could connect locally and check in on each other. I am so pleased that we now have 10 households on the group! We’ve met two of them in person so far, and others seem keen to meet in due course. Someone on the group messaged about some tree-planting workshops taking place on the estate, to which several others have now signed up. So we look forward to meeting some of them there tomorrow. One of our neighbours who we met through this is a lovely Christian lady, who is keen to join us in praying for the local community and I think could become a good friend. She said our letter was an answer to prayer for her too. This is really exciting, and feels like a God-encounter!
It is great that St Richard’s, the church to which our flat is attached, is keen to reach the local community too. When thinking about what we could do in the lead-up to Christmas that might engage the community, the vicar had an idea which I then developed and organised. The idea was to invite passers-by to hang a ‘Star of Hope’ (or peace, love, joy) on a tree outside the church, and take one away with them. The instructions invite people to say a simple prayer for hope, peace, love or joy for themselves or someone else. I enjoyed laminating, cutting and preparing this activity, and am really encouraged that the tree now has several stars on it!
God has been good to us at my workplace, Yeldall Manor, these past few months. Miraculously, we have stayed open the whole time and continue to receive new admissions (who have to quarantine in a self-contained flat until they get a negative COVID test). One resident and one staff member recently tested positive for COVID, but amazingly it didn’t spread to the rest of the house, which I suppose demonstrates that our efforts in social distancing, mask wearing, ventilating rooms etc. really does work! I feel sad at not being able to eat together with residents at the moment, or to sing during our times of ‘fellowship’, or to do a crossword and have a cuppa with a resident while on duty at a weekend. I hope and pray this doesn’t permanently make for a more distanced and sanitised culture, both at Yeldall and in the wider world. We usually host quarterly celebration evenings at Yeldall, where we worship, hear testimonies from residents and celebrate graduations. I led our latest virtual Christmas edition, which can be viewed here. Feel free to have a watch to give you more of a taster of what has been going on at Yeldall.
Alex and I are looking forward to our first Christmas together, and will be celebrating at Lindsay and Daniel’s (my sister, brother-in-law and their 3 little ones) on their farm in the Lake District. We have had to cancel two visits there already this year due to lockdowns, so third time lucky! Apart from this, we’ll be planning lots of walks and winter picnics to facilitate time with the rest of the family over the coming weeks.
Let’s make the most of having to do things simpler this year, and take some time to be thankful to God for all his blessings amidst the difficult times. May God bless you all richly this Christmas and into the new year.
With love, Rachel and Alex