It started with a dream. Susan, the founder of God’s Lily was trying to work out what she should do and how she should do it. She wanted to help people in the sort of situation that had not that long escaped from. Somehow the job she was doing was not quite enough she wanted to do more so she had a go running some workshops. The problem with that was that some speakers do not like it when you make an entry charge and there was the little problem of how else to cover the costs of such events if you don’t do that.
One answer was to look for funding but then another problem arose as it does not matter how good an idea or how altruistic you are no one funds individuals they fund organisations. Amazingly it proved possible to set up a legal entity that satisfied possible funders by her self. After she had done that it was a question of what do I do with this organisation. The answer came in the form of a picture that she saw when she woke up the morning after she said God what am I supposed to do with this organisation.
It was a hexagon that was divided up into six triangles. Each triangle represented an area of activity. There was
- A quiet area for reflection and to aid recovery
- A social area to give the opportunity to make friends over a meal
- A living area to gain the skills required for everyday life like ironing
- A study area offering the chance to catch up on basic skills as well as offering the chance to do some academic study to prepare people to go forwards into a new and better future
- A practical helps area offering support with things like moving house and making homes more comfortable to live in
- A business and employment area offering support to those looking for work as well as those who want to build businesses that will create jobs.
You can see the sort of projects that it would be necessary to develop for each area to function next to each triangle. Oh boy that was a huge vision. How can it ever be put into practise?
One of the things that she had learnt from her job was that it was possible for someone to come into a system like that and receive help and then become someone who is able to help others. In fact that what one or two of her colleagues had done.
Time passed and the dream did not die but trying to bring it to fruition seemed to be harder than she ever imagined. It proved too hard to keep the organisation going so she let it die. The vision did not die and one day she let her imagination run riot about what would happen if there were community hubs like Lily’s Place.
Table of Contents
The dream community
Imagine a Christian community that worked together to meet the needs of the people around them. Some knew how to earn more money than they needed to survive and gave the remainder to the community’s projects. In fact, loads more money so that they could fund many different projects. Some in the community had enough money that they could follow the example of John Wesley and give away 90% of their income without sacrificing their ability to live comfortably. Some were project managers running projects. Some worked in the projects serving individual people. Some were bookkeepers. Some were IT experts. Some did the admin.
Everyone had a role within the community. Some were project managers running projects. Some worked in the projects serving individual people. Some were bookkeepers. Some were IT experts. Some did the admin. They did this so that they could run a range of projects that worked together to help people in need.
Someone could come into the café run by the community. They then met people who were support workers who hung around the café waiting to talk to people in need. The support workers acted as signposts to other projects run by the community. This might be the job club or the furniture restoration project that also helped to restore people. As the support workers identified more needs they found ways of meeting those needs. These could be projects run by others that they had listed on a database of trusted sources of help that they could point people towards. Or it could be that they
Over time the support workers had identified more and more needs and had found ways of meeting those needs. Sometimes they directed people to projects run by others that they had listed on a database of trusted sources of help. Or it could be that they recognised the need to set up a new project so pointed out the need to other members of the community so that someone could do something about it.
Everything worked together. Even the housebound had a role as they were the prayer warriors and without their support, everyone would find fulfilling their role so much harder. Everyone had a role to fulfil as there were as many ways to serve others as there were people.
Where did this community gather?
The strange thing about this community was that its members did not all go to the same church on a Sunday. They had some minor differences. Some broke bread together others said Mass, some attended Eucharist, some had communion services. Like any other group of brothers and sisters, they were not identical but loved each other and worked together towards the same aim of doing what made their Father happy. In this case, it was providing a support system to the people around them.
Although their focus was on serving others there was also time and space for them to focus on who God is and what He has done for them. There were many different ways they did this. Some focused on visual experiences but those who preferred to do this with their other senses or used other ways were not forgotten. They loved and accepted each other so much that there was considerable give and take about how they connected with God.
Some Christian communities do a lot to serve the people around them but there are few if any that have managed to reach this kind of level. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg as behind the scenes is a training centre. This is where the people who have come in struggling are helped to become the people who help the next generation of people in need who approach the community for help.
As people work on creating a new life for themselves they are helped to learn to read if necessary. Any other gaps in their education are filled as well. They are supported as they learn to manage money better and find new ways of earning money. Their home goes from just orange box furniture to one full of comfortable items that are not necessarily new but that build their self-esteem. They have all they need and their home is a place where they want to live.
Life is easier because they have learnt the practical skills that once made it harder for them to have a comfortable life such as doing the laundry, cooking for themselves or gardening. They even have the opportunity to experience a complete restoration so that the underlying issues that have caused them problems are resolved.
Making it work
There was no shortage of resources because people knew how to use the resources that they had. People who that they were given things to use and used what they had wisely, that could be money or experience. They knew that if they gave what they had it would be stretched to meet the needs around them.
They used biblical principles but did not put people in straight jackets and force them to do this because they Bible says so. Experience had shown them the best ways of helping people, which was not always what people expected. They gave and God multiplied. God then gave again and it was multiplied again.
They had started small doing what they could but then once God knew He could trust them He brought more and more people to them for help. That is some community but it is the best that I can do to explain what I would like to see from something like Lily’s Place being developed.
How to make it happen?
Susan’s challenge is that she has loads of good ideas but is not as good at implementing them. She is a teacher by nature so what things should she be thinking of teaching if these dreams were ever going to get off the ground She wanted to know what was she needed to teach. in terms of subjects. Her idea was to ask for a divine download to give ideas about what subjects to cover. The download she had surprised her. it was not a list of subjects it was a lot broader than that. That is why she started calling them dimensions of training. This was the dictation that she took down.
- Initiation training – This covers the basics that will help them go forwards. This includes the idea that they are accepted and loved and other basic concepts that will build a good foundation in their lives. For Christians, one basic skill that they really need to master is how to listen to the voice of God as how do you follow someone when you struggle to hear them.
- Recognition training – This covers recognising who they are and what they are capable of doing. It includes uncovering their gifts and talents. As well as that it is necessary to work out what their strengths and weaknesses are so that they can truly fulfil their potential.
- Impartation training – This includes what others have passed on to them in terms of spiritual gifts. Not just gifts though but how to use the spiritual tools (or what some people call weapons). There is a wealth of techniques and tactics that different churches use in prayer. There is a lot that can be learnt from each other hence the idea of impartation.
- Embarkation training – This includes how to set off on the journey towards building ministries and businesses. There are all sorts of practicalities that can be covered here including things like how to set up an appropriate legal structure for what you want to do. In the UK this would include setting up a charity or a limited company and looking at which of these legal structures suits what you are doing best. It also means helping people set up an embryo organisation that will grow into the type of organisation they want it to become.
- Perspiration training – This includes how to do the actual work and supporting those who are putting in the effort of building. All sorts of things here including marketing, setting up systems and other business type skills. Then there needs to be the opportunity for people in particular fields of endeavour to share best practice such as how do you be a godly teacher in a secular teaching environment.
It is obviously a progression from novice to accomplished and is remarkably like the process that Jesus used with his disciples. He had chosen them, (initiation). He had trained them to use their gifts. (recognition). He had prepared them to receive power from on high, (impartation). One of the things Jesus told his disciples to do was to wait for power from on high. It was only after they had received that power that they could get started with their ministries. It was the experience of Pentecost that gave them a flying start, (embarkation). It was later that the perspiration dimension kicked in.
One of the things Susan already knew was that there were a number of secular organisations that taught practical skills like how to set up a business or how to market a product. They did not have the impartation dimension. On the other hand, the church specialises in teaching things in the impartation dimension. Sadly it is not that common for them to be brought together in a way that makes sense.
Bringing the vision to reality
This is what God’s Lily Training is about. The dream is to pick people up turn them around and help them become the next generation of people who can pick others up. So where do you start?
What Susan has made a start with is developing an amazing little project called Safe Haven. It started when she and a friend could not stop talking after church one Sunday and met during the week to carry on the conversation. After many years of being told no you cannot do this in this church she was amazed that the pair of them were given the green light to start a craft group for people with learning disabilities.
It is a crazy little project and to be honest it shows what can be done when two ordinary women decide to have a go. Yes it has grown into something that neither of them expected it to become simply because they said OK God bring in the people that you want to bring. It was not just those who were cognitively impaired who came but those but who were cognitively impaired and struggled to use their hands or to walk or to see or to talk. People who God loves but who rarely get the change to come inside a church building.
This taught Susan the importance of a prototype. Doing something on a small scale to test the waters and to see what people really need. It also tests the people involved to see if they have the right gifts to be able to take a project forwards.
A prototype can be an incredible learning experience. Now with that behind her Susan is working on building up God’s Lily Training and wondering where God is going to take it.