This Abundant Life

We all need things – food, water, air, shelter, companionship, happiness. The culture I was immersed in growing up was one that tells us that we should be in control of our needs at all time, and that if we plan enough we can get it all. However, my adventures continue to remind me that there is a difference between wants and needs, that I usually have no idea what I need, and that the what/where/when/how aspects of these needs are never predictable. And God always provides.


The YAGMs finally got to hang out for the first time since we left Chicago. 🙂 Scarlett, Erin, Mike, Katharine, Elie, Abby, me, Kari, and Vickey. Once again, Nick mysteriously vanished when the camera appeared.

After a few weeks of teaching literacy in Peckham, I finally got to see the other nine YAGM volunteers for the first time since our arrival in England. We met up in Derbyshire where we’re enrolled in a two-week course called “Christian Life and Mission” at Cliff College with fifteen or so of our British partners who serve as church workers, youth workers, teachers’ aides, and non-profit interns. Together, we studied what it means to be a disciple of Christ, and we’ll reconvene for a week in March to study the meaning of mission. And it’s worth mentioning that if you want some eye candy, just do a Google image search for “Derbyshire Peak District” to see some of the views we got. 🙂

The pleasat looking man in the marroon sweatshirt os {iers, one of our fabulous lecturers. He helped lead us on our expedidition - both the abstract one of learning about our roles as disciples in the world, and the more literal one of tripping up a cliff on the hike.  To the left of Piers is my flat mate Katharine, and to the right are Nick, ANdy "Has a Party," Xav, and Kari.

The pleasant looking man in the maroon sweatshirt is Piers, one of our fabulous lecturers. He helped lead us on our expedition – both the abstract one of learning about our roles as disciples in the world, and the more literal one of tripping up a cliff on this hike.
To the left of Piers is my flat mate Katharine, and to the right are Nick, Andy “Has a Party,” Xav, and Kari.

God fed me so much:

I was given the intellectual stimulation of being back in a classroom, and we were given theological knowledge we could apply to our lives right now. We had each other – I made so many new friends who can relate to having no idea what we’re doing as we discern what God calls us to be and do. We prayed for each other – I was able to entrust my struggles to others to bring to God, and I was able to act in the same loving way in return. We had spontaneous worships with a guitar and some joyful voices…and a drum set, keyboard, and speakers in the college’s chapel! We hiked up a cliff and I got to jump and scamper around in the wild wearing my “barefoot running shoes.” Best of all, I made new friends who understand my sci-fi/Pokemon/Shane Claiborne references, don’t stare at me like I have three heads when I sing in funny voices or dance at random times, and who made deep conversation feel incredibly natural with them. People who “get me” is something I forgot I needed, and I’m so grateful I have yet another abundant network of empathy and love as I venture onward.

To be honest, it was really hard to leave. I mean seriously, look at these pictures! Who doesn’t want to hang out with these people? 😉

My friend Mike and I, in full appreciation of the beauty around us, decided to re-enact the Lion King after a bunch of us sang "The Circle of Life."

My friend Mike and I, in full appreciation of the beauty around us, decided to re-enact the Lion King after a bunch of us sang “The Circle of Life.”


My new friend Jen and I! As you can see, we never have any fun together. 😉




My rock-running, prayer group organizing, sci-fi buddy, Ryan!


Hiking back down – Claire and Ryan in the lead with Amelia and Jen right behind them. 🙂


This is my friend Kari! It was really windy on top of the cliff – don’t worry, none of us blew away. 🙂


Look Mom! No hands, on the edge of a cliff, with my eyes closed!


Back on  campus – we have a ton of musical talent and passion for worship in this group. In this photo are Joe at the drumset, Rae with the bongos, Mike on guitar, and Claire playing the piano. You should have heard our own version of Claire and I singing “Amazing Grace” as the rest of the group played the tune to “Sweet Home Alabama.” So much fun!

But now I’m back in Peckham and this feeling of being understood and held in community is something God continues to reveal to me. Like at church on Sunday when the scripture passage was from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, which talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ, and that each of us has a unique role in which to give and receive from the world – EXACTLY what I needed to hear. First, all I could think of was the “Big Toe Skit” from my summers doing ministry at Good Earth Village. We act out this exact passage to the kids by being various body parts, excluding Big Toe from our club, and then realizing we can’t walk without him. But I was also reminded of the larger community body of which I am a part, and that I have needs AND can meet others’ needs.  After church, God affirmed this lesson as I took a long route home. I teach literacy to children – but their parents could be the smiley man who called me “darling” when he sold me apples at his outdoor produce stand, the helpful woman I bought dried pomegranate seeds from in the Persian shop, or the man I talked with in the Islamic shop while we were admiring books. And as I finish up another week of teaching literacy, I realize how much I have grown in relationship with my students, centre managers, and fellow volunteers since I arrived.

Let’s hope I can allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let God continue to grow me inward and outward.

Blessings to you!


P.S. Tune in next week for a post about what a so-called “normal” week looks like for Emily! Each of my weeks has been different, so wish me luck in communicating some kind of a quasi-routine with you. 🙂


2 thoughts on “This Abundant Life

  1. Emily,
    Love, love, love the photos — especially the one of just you. You look like you are flying, and in the words you wrote I could HEAR you flying! Sounds like conversations of depth, discovery and devotion.

    From Barbara Brown Taylor found in a commentary this week: Rather than thinking it’s a matter of getting or not getting what we ask for, prayer, she writes, “keeps our hearts chasing after God’s heart. IT’S HOW WE BOTHER GOD, AND IT’S HOW GOD BOTHERS US BACK. There’s nothing that works any better than that” (Barbara Brown Taylor in “Bothering God,” in Home by Another Way).

    Looking forward to reading what “normal” looks like for your life in London. Am I right is presuming that you are in literacy education with immigrants, many of whom are from the Middle East?

    • Thank you so much, Bonnie! I LOVE that quote. I think that “bothering” idea is good for us, at least in my experience of not liking being bothered because it gets in the ways of my ideas and plans. 😉

      The majority of the people who live in my neighborhood are of North and West African descent, or have Caribbean heritage. But the Middle Eastern presence here is not far behind, followed by Southeast Asian. As a white person who grew up in a predominantly white area that only spoke one form of English, this has been a very eye-opening experience to how how much more there is to the world than my corner of it.

      It’s really hard to tell who is an immigrant and who has been here for a while at first glance, because the various cultural groups seem so connected with their families’ heritage. A lot of the kids I teach speak another language than English at home, but I only know that a few of them moved here from somewhere else. Some of them have lived here their whole lives, but their families’ cultures are simply different from the culture of white British people. I love living and serving here. 🙂

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