Martha Andrews reflects on her recent experience of a Love Europe weekend…

On Friday 16th March, Bethanie once again became a hive of activity as it welcomed arrivals from the UK and beyond for the ‘Love Europe’ Weekend, two days of worship, prayer and food (because it just wouldn’t be Bless without sharing amazing meals together) with a particular focus on what God is doing across the continent.

Over the course of the weekend we were led in worship by an international student team from Ashburnham Place, Sussex, England, shared in some amazing teaching from Lyndall Bywater, the UK prayer coordinator for the Salvation Army, and visited Caen, both to experience Keys and Co and to pray for the Presqu’île where Bless continues to support the Sudanese refugees who have set up base there.

As a former intern myself, it was encouraging and exciting to see how the Bless network is expanding and building bridges. I was also reminded of why I had been so drawn to it in the first place.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt since being involved with Bless over the years is that in order to show God’s love to others, it is essential that you know yourself as unconditionally loved by the Father. In terms of outreach, we can’t go out into the world and bear fruit if we’re empty, which is why the relationship between Bethanie and Caen/Presqu’île is so special. Bethanie is the well that people come to to be filled before being sent out to fill others. I’ve always felt that Isaiah 55 v 1 sums up Bethanie pretty well: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters”.

And so we began the weekend at Bethanie in prayer and worship and reflection before venturing out to Caen.

At one point in the teaching, Lyndall said, “we need to start from who we are as individuals”.

On Saturday morning, we shared stories of personal transitions and changes in our lives and prayed over them. What was encouraging was that all of these personal stories of transition and change and challenge spoke of God’s purpose and promise in each of our lives, that he is using our stories, our struggles, for something amazing.

That afternoon, we journeyed out to the Presqu’île de Caen and pulled up outside one of the abandoned warehouses that the Sudanese boys used to called home. When the team began to sing ‘Amazing Grace’, the space that often feels like an abandoned wasteland was momentarily transformed – we found ourselves standing on the foundations of a vibrant city of purpose and promise fulfilled as we sung out words of hope and redemption over the lives of the individuals who like us also had their own stories of transition and change. Their journeys are still ongoing and they’re still battling with everything that comes with leaving home and family behind. But behind it all is a sense of greater purpose; a sense that God is at work in their stories, and that, despite how helpless their situations might currently seem, that out of their struggles he is ultimately going to bring something amazing.

Let’s continue to pray that, through Bless’s involvement on the Presqu’île, these individuals would come to know themselves as infinitely loved by the Father, and that they would hold onto hope.

By the end of the weekend, I couldn’t help thinking that what had begun as a ‘Love Europe’ Weekend had become something a lot bigger than just loving Europe.