It had become fairly apparent that God was leading Jubilee to start a new church in the East of Hull, the question now was who was going to lead it? Who did God want to work through to bring it to life? Who would we send out as part of the team in order to see God’s desires for East Hull come about? Jubilee called another prayer meeting and began to ask people to consider if they felt it should be them that God wanted to send.
At this point John and I were feeling unsettled by the assumptions of others in the church that it would be us that would go, when we wanted to stay! We loved Jubilee so much it was very hard to imagine ever stepping away from a family that we had spent the last 9 years helping to grow. For us Jubilee represented everything that a church should be and we had always imagined. It loved and served the underprivileged; was multicultural, generous, loving and welcoming. We had incredible friendships and were enjoying developing as leaders there. Why would we want to leave and start something new?
That day at Thieving Harry’s
However as the weeks progressed and the church continued to pray and seek God I began to feel unsettled. I have always been keen to hear from God and over the years have become sensitive to the ways He speaks to me. One of these ways is that I begin to get restless and dissatisfied with the here and now and begin to ‘dream’ (figuratively and sometimes literally) about what the future could hold. This is part of the gift God has given me in being someone who is ‘prophetic’. Being prophetic means I am wired to always be asking ‘What is God saying, doing and wanting to happen now and in the future?’.
This also connects to the way I had been taught to think as a creative person. My background is in graphic design and I spent years training to bring ‘new things’ into being using my imagination and creative skills. God often uses my creative thinking to ‘imagine’ what life could be like in the future.
It was in this way that I began to find it hard to let go of the idea of starting a new church in the East of the City. I felt we had to go and see what that part of the city was like and see if God would speak to John and I a little more. When I shared how I felt with John one afternoon as we had lunch in a cafe called Thieving Harry’s I met with some resistance. Understandably, John wanted to stay at Jubilee and did not want to pursue the idea of leaving, or even to ‘look’ and ‘dream’ about a different future.
Trip around East Hull
However, after that conversation, John ‘repented’ (changed his way of thinking) of being closed to the idea of going, and we agreed we should at least visit East Hull and see if God wanted to say anymore to us as a couple. We went for a drive around East Hull, a part of the city we had hardly ever visited, despite having lived in Hull for around 20 years between us. Our prayer as we drove around was “God, we want to serve you with our lives, no plan of our own is greater than the plans you might have for us. If you want us here please make it really clear to us”. We enjoyed our drive and went home, feeling positive that if God wanted us there He was going to have to speak VERY clearly.
A few weeks later we had planned a family holiday in Norfolk. On the drive to Norfolk we spoke some more about what God had been saying recently. I shared with John the passages of Scripture God had been leading me to read, Ezekiel 47 and Isaiah 55, all about the River of God and how the church plant would bring fresh springs of water into East Hull. John shared that during a recent trip to South Africa someone had shared with him a picture of the church plant bringing new streams and rivers of life into the East of the city. We felt stirred that maybe God was giving us a vision for the new church plant.
During our holiday we visited my old church in Norwich. The week we visited they had a visiting speaker. The speaker was known for planting churches all over the world – and he just ‘happened’ to be there the week we visited. His message that day just ‘happened’ to be about doing daring things for God that took us out of our comfort zone. He encouraged his listeners to live a life of boldness, let go of the ‘known’, the ‘comfortable’ and the ‘familiar’ and trust God to show them where he wanted them to go so that Jesus’ name would be made famous in the whole world. He finished his message by using a quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (one of Johns favourite books). He explained that this quote summed up what he wanted his life to amount to: that no matter what he would keep seeking Jesus and his plan for his life. The quote is by Reepicheep the talking mouse, describing how he was willing to lay down his life to seek out Aslan’s country (which represents the Kingdom of God):
“My own plans are made. While I can, I sail EAST in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle EAST in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim EAST with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek will be head of the talking mice in Narnia.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
As John and I listened to the quote it was like I had been skewered to my chair. He had just said EAST, EAST, EAST, just like He had spoken to John at the conference months before (Part 1). It was so clear! God was speaking to us – just John and I, not other leaders from Jubilee, but to us. I turned to John and burst into tears. God wants us to move to East Hull and start a church! Although in that moment the idea of going was overwhelming, God very clearly showed us as we responded to Him in that meeting, that He was with us; that this was his plan and that we didn’t need to be afraid.
For the rest of our holiday we spent time praying and talking together about what it was God might want this new church plant to look like; what the vision that had started to form in us might be; and how we might put it into action.
I hope you’ll come back and read Part 3 to find out what happened next!