Archive for the ‘Guest blog’ Category

guest blog: a weak pray-er with God’s strength

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Natasha Ruddock is the Prayer Editor for UCB  – great friends of the Sanctuary – and has a passion for prayer and encouraging people to connect with God.  She is married to Colin and lives in Manchester. 
In this guest blog, she shares her testimony about how God uses her to mobilise prayer. (You can find out more about the UCB prayer platform at

I have always struggled with prayer. It’s quite ironic then that God is using me to mobilise prayer through United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and across the nation!

Since 2009, I have worked for UCB, first as a part-time contractor as the editor of the Prayer for Today magazine, and now, full-time as the Editor of the online UCB Prayer platform which aims to encourage and equip people to pray to see transformation in our lives, community, nation and world.

So, let’s go back to where it all started….

I gave my life to the Lord in 2004 after returning from travelling around the world for a year on my own.  I knew then that God had a big plan for my life because he had bought me into a church to work as a temp where I subsequently gave my life to him a month later.  I was so blessed to be in a place where I could grow spiritually and have questioned answered.

However, my big stumbling block was prayer.  I couldn’t pray out loud as I felt so inadequate and like I was doing it wrong.  

But although I thought I wasn’t praying, I actually was.  I was talking to God about my frustrations, hopes and dreams without realising I was praying to him.

Prayer is simply communicating with the God that created us and developing a relationship of intimacy with him. 

I asked God to teach me how to pray and about a year later, he took me to work at the World Prayer Centre in Birmingham where I had no choice but learn to pray!

In the past 10 years, God has taken me on a journey of discovery in terms of prayer.

Prayer can be contemplative, vocal, creative, sung, written… there are so many ways. But the essence of it is to catch the heart of God and pray according to his will.

God can do anything but he uses us, his beloved children, to bring about his will on earth through what we speak into existence when we hear his still small voice.

Prayer is not just for people who are super holy.

It’s for everyone who wants to know God more and when we invite God into our lives, he begins to change us on the inside.  And that’s what he did for me with prayer.

I know the importance of prayer.  I had seen God answer prayer in miraculous ways and know the power of praying to bring the supernatural into the natural.

About five years ago, I got married and moved to a new church.  I grow in my prayer life, but still struggled to pray out loud in corporate meetings, but God began to work in getting rid of the fear in me, and he has used my local church as a training ground in prayer.

I said to God that if the church leadership challenged me to do anything I would take it that it was from him and they saw something that I didn’t.  They began to challenge me to lead a prayer meeting, then pray on the mic at a women’s conference, then lead a session of all-night prayer.

Inside I wanted to say ‘no’ but I said ‘yes’.  I’ve learned that sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone in order to grow. 

It was around this time that I came to work at UCB.  I was asked to be the editor of a magazine, which I had no previous experience of doing, but I knew it was God.  I was heading up the Prayer for Today which encouraged people to pray and I was still having my own struggles in my prayer life.

I’ve been through dry seasons that seem to last forever but through it all I have never given up and have learned to press into God.  I remember asking God, “Why me?” When God could use someone who is a prayer warrior, why does he use me?

He gave me 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

It was then that I realised that I could not do what I do in my own strength.

He wanted to use someone who couldn’t pray out loud and who struggled with prayer to encourage other people to pray.  In my weakness, he is strong and so he gets all of the glory. 

I am so honoured that God can use me for such a huge task.

In recent years, I have started to see a rise in prayer across the nation.  God is on the move!

Before every move of God, he calls his people to pray. 

We are in exciting times and we need to get to the place where we are listening to the Father and being obedient when he directs us.

Prayer requires action.  We need to be the hands and feet of God.  

So I want to encourage everyone to pray without ceasing.

Speak to God and find out what he wants you to do, because when we are all doing his will, nothing is impossible and we can bring a little bit of heaven on earth!

We hope you’ve been inspired and empowered by hearing Natasha’s story and her heart for prayer. Don’t forget to visit the UCB prayer platform, which is packed full of great articles on all aspects of prayer… including a couple from the Sanctuary!

guest blog: the discipline of love

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Rachel Turner is a mum and children’s worker and recently published her second book, Parenting Children for a life of purpose which we recommended on this blog. She’s a good friend to the Sanctuary’s co-founders and so Liz recently caught up with her for another conversation about issues close to all of our hearts.

This guest blog is a write-up of some of our conversation, which took a fresh but familiar vein to many of our previous discussions – how can we move beyond seeking to do loving actions or learning lists of issues we should care about to a place where we are living out lives of love that cannot help but be active for God and others – whatever person or need they come across? Prepare to be inspired and challenged whatever your age…

Parenting children for a life of purpose - low res

How do we grow disciples who truly live lives of love? And is there any difference in approach between adults and children?

When Jesus was talking about the commandments he set up a higher demand on what obeying the law meant – it wasn’t just about physical obedience anymore. It wasn’t just actual murder that counted as murder now – he said an angry thought against someone was counted as murder too.

What our bodies do is important – yes – but what happens in our heart and minds is crucial. Out of the heart the mouth speaks and the New Testament is as concerned with disciplining the tongue – and the thoughts that fuel it – as it is with “actions”.

The reality is actions alone are actually quite hard to discipline. We have to discipline who we are.

If we try to disciple actions we make it very difficult – we are always chasing what we are doing with punishments and consequences.

The best way to disciple ourselves – and each other – is to pursue the heart-state behind those actions… so the right actions naturally follow. Then the actions become an outflow of what we’ve been cultivating instead.

With children we are particularly prone to trying to control their behaviour instead of discipling their hearts. What’s the result? Children who have learnt to be good at performing religion instead of live out an authentic relationship with God.

There shouldn’t be any real difference in how we view the principles of discipleship in children and adults, but many of us think they are. We look at adult and child instead of accessibility to “Christianese” – a new believer and a 5 year old are both learning and experiencing something new. People are people.

In fact, I think we cheat adults by our stereotype of what they expect and want in discipleship.

In terms of method, Jesus discipled adults the way we currently disciple youth and children – he majored on them having experiences, set them up to do stuff, and although there was some teaching, there was more sitting round the fire talking… his approach really feels more like youth work rather than formal preaching.

So adult or child – how do you disciple someone’s heart?

I think people want their hearts to change. Christians want to live out of this place but find it difficult. So sometimes, we need to help each other by balancing assessing their behaviour with looking at their heart attitude.

What’s going on in your heart is as important as what you’re doing.

We all understand this in the context of marriage… especially where people are making mistakes. When you’re trying to fix a relationship it’s a lot to do with what’s going on inside you. Your heart is the root of what’s happening in your actions.

We need a shift in the church. We need to raise the culture of what’s happening in your mind and emotions. Not just asking what you’re going to do but how you feel and think as you’re doing it.

I think people want this but aren’t being resourced, and aren’t sure of how to do it.

We need to be raising the culture of heart-discussion. People need to talk about the process more. But we need to remind people that cultivating a heart of love really matters.

So getting down to the real nitty-gritty application of this for what the Sanctuary is centrally concerned with… how does this type of discipleship change the way we seek to live  out lives of intercession, mission and justice ?

When we cultivate our heart, we achieve greater change because it is less boundaried than our actions. If we’re raising disciples who are really trying to walk Jesus’ love, we should see that bleed into everything.

Disciples who stop for the one as they walk along naturally rather than trying to love a homeless man…

In fact as you progress round the cycle again and again and go deeper in your heart-discipleship, you’ll start to get surprised that sometimes you don’t even have to make the choices anymore. Because you’re simply being more like Jesus instead of trying to follow what he did.

That’s what I really want to see – a generation living like this. Then we would truly see what God wants to do in the world – what happens when God sparks huge number of people to love. What would happen if the world really raised up with a deep compassion to pray for North Korea? We can’t picture what it would like because we haven’t seen it much before  – a whole bunch of Jesus’ in the world. What if everybody stopped for the one?

The more our hearts are truly turned towards his heart – and the more of us that are living like that – the more we’ll see an almost effortless revolution. Not because we’re no longer doing what is right. But because what is right stops being a sacrificial choice we are trying to remember to make and starts becoming the way we consistently think and act.

Can you give us an example from your own life of how something like this has changed for you?

Yes! Fairtrade would be one.

I have known about it – and known it’s right for years – and tried to make an effort to “do the right thing”. But then I watched that film clip the Sanctuary sent me and I became so much more aware of it – from the heart.

Aligning my actions with my heart rather than the other way round has been so much more effective. Now it’s no longer a question of a moral thing. It’s just what my heart wants to do.

Part of it is because I believe it makes some difference, but more of it is really about a choice in my heart – it’s who I choose to be. And that changes everything.

That’s effective discipleship.

I wonder sometimes whether we can over-educate and numb people’s hearts? Fairtrade is socially cool for many children… and they know all about it in their head. But is it really connected with their hearts?

That clip you mentioned has changed a lot of our hearts but I don’t think any of us would want children to watch it. How do we balance what emotions and realities it’s age-appropriate to expose them to with all this?

What makes children frightened is feeling powerless. We can very safely tell them that people hurt people and we need to protect those people. Because this is about giving them power.

We can say, this is happening and it’s horrible. Can you imagine being in that situation? Let’s live our lives trying to do as much as we can to stop other people from having to. Let’s use our lives to try to make as many people safe as possible – making sacrifices to help because we want to, not just because we should do. Then we’re showing them how powerful their power is.

The goal is to have the heart of Jesus who balanced everything – he stopped for the one woman at the well and he came to save the whole world for all eternity.

Loving God and loving people shouldn’t be about topics – we shouldn’t be people who care about sexual abuse or trafficking or poverty… we should be a people who are passionate about God and people. Who react to what’s ion front of them today and whose lives of love are a bit “all over the place” rather than narrowed down just to one area or calling.

We should be doing and seeing what the Father’s doing and responding to what he’s asking us in each situation.

Instead, we’re often creating tick boxes of what we should do. But we are called to more. We are called to act justly and walk humbly – to be us with the heart of Jesus and do the things he asks us to do. Sometimes of course you have to say no to doing some things, we can’t all do everything. But we should never be saying no to praying and cheering on those of us who are called to take that particular expression of love to the next level.

So you can say no to the time that’s required in some areas, but never the heart.

Some people underestimate the power of this “generic” calling on the heart. When Jesus said to love God and love others, it wasn’t just a nice phrase. This is the most effective thing for changing the world.

Most Christians spend a lot of time asking “Who am I?”, “What am I supposed to be?”They’re very preoccupied with their “calling”.

But loving God and others from the heart is the highest calling – and the most powerful… Of course, he’ll give us specific tasks and we’ll be able to look back at the end of our lives and see some patterns in how we’ve partnered with. But Jesus’ words here are not a foundational idea that you then apply specifically. We need to impress that upon children, new believers and old believers…

The heart-attitude of love is the call… Who you are can be more transformational than what you do.

guest blog: materialistic?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Sanctuary is thrilled to have friends and contributors all over the world. One of these is Darrel Hofland, a South African youth worker we connected with when he was in the UK for a few years some time back. Reading Darrel’s weekly blog ‘Sacred Spaces’ is always either a blessing or a challenge, and often both. Because it is always honest – wrestling out theology in the real world of every day where it counts – and sometimes hurts.

A couple of weeks ago, although we were on holiday, we spotted this entry and asked if we could pass it on as this theme is so resonant for the Sanctuary. We’re thrilled to be part of a growing number of  people battling to stand for Christ counter-culturally… and daring to ask him to help us to die to ourselves – materially. Thanks for your honesty Darrel!


“You’re materialistic!” She said to me. For me that’s one of the worst things to hear. I was taken aback. Am I really? I don’t own many things. I don’t have a bond or a house. I am paying off a small car. I live in a small garden cottage. I have mismatched crockery.

However she continued. “When you focus on what you don’t have. Is that not a form of being materialistic too?”

It got me thinking. It got me evaluating.

This blog has been difficult to write. Because I am a jumble of emotions… when it comes to writing about money, things and that sort of thing. But I will attempt to anyway.

(Remember, sometimes these sacred spaces, are one simply peering into an almost diary entry of mine.)

So this blog had been scheduled come out this week, and then, my minister preaches on a Luke passage with reference to looking at wealth from a kingdom perspective. Wow, what a challenge! And what truth! So as the sermon was preached the Sunday before I was going to write this blog, I felt convicted to write on and wrestle with this broad topic:

I am annoyed with myself. Because a lot of my thoughts are about how to survive each month; and each transaction I make, I think about with scrutiny.
(Same as many others, I guess?)

I feel frustrated. Life here back in South Africa has been much harder than I anticipated. I took for granted many things in the UK: brilliant public transport and free medical for citizens.

And now back here, I am spending 7/8ths of my salary on bills. Bills which as a single guy I can’t share with someone. (In other words, no double income, in my household.) – Please hear me out: this is me thinking out aloud. I don’t need pity.

But I am challenged by the verse about “one cannot serve both God and money”.

So ashamed, I am aggravated by the fact that I think a lot about “surviving and finances”. I feel convicted by that.

Am I the only South African or the only Christian who battles with this?

So what is the solution?

I hear an echo from the writings of Paul. “Learn to be content in all circumstances.”

So lessons to learn: contentment. Maybe trust? Maybe patience? (Some struggles are for seasons, possibly?) Maybe a sense of creativity… how does one get out of their financial bind? God, is the source of all creativity right?

Then another friend suggested to me that I should ask God to provide more for me. Because as His child, He wants to look after me. I like that. It’s a pleasant thought.

But I feel “guilty” to pray that prayer. Why? Because as a South African, I know that over 70% of my country live in shacks and very tiny shanty towns.

So how dare I ask for “more” when my prayer should be for those people living in those communities?

Wealth distribution in this country is so upside down! And for me I guess that frustrates me a lot…God, why should You provide for me, when monthly… folks in those poor communities are hungry, are broken.

Then we as Christians, rich and poor, are we really doing so well as His “hands and feet” in this country? Ironically this “city on the hill” (where I live) does shine! But mostly not for Jesus as He commands…

Hmm, this seems more like a rant than a lesson. Well, take it or leave it. (I feel I need to be honest and obedient to what I need to express here and now.)

In conclusion: What do you spend a lot of your thoughts on? That may be your ‘god’? And you need to consider that and not give that “god” too much room.

Do you trust God?


Wealth here is measured by silver and paper
But we are not of here, right?
May we be measured differently?
By your grace
Your care
I am indebted to You
Grace pays that.

guest blog: community changes (part 2)

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

One of the great privileges of being on the Sanctuary’s journey is the like-minded and like-hearted people who become part of our dispersed family as we all spur each other on. One of those people is Helen Griffiths. Together with her husband, Tom Elmitt, she is part of Koinonia, an intentional Christian community rooted in and reaching out to the St Mellons Estate, Cardiff – and backed up by their local church Glenwood Church Faith Community.

Helen is many things including a part-time youth worker at the Beacon centre on the estate and a PHD student in International Human Rights Law and Violence Against Women. To the Sanctuary she is a source of huge encouragement and inspiration. In part 1 of this guest blog, she shared her journey into intentional community and outreach to the disenfranchised. In this second part, she tells us more of Koinonia’s vision and experience living in St Mellons and encourages us to open our eyes to where God has called each one of us.

Helen Griffiths

What has been most encouraging so far?

A big part of our community routine and spiritual rhythm happens around the dinner table.

Perhaps the most encouraging moment this year was a young man from one side of a gang feud cooking a meal for a guy from the other side as a peace offering.

We had been praying for months for these guys and encouraging them to forgive each other – it was the beginning of a peace process that brought them sat around our dinner table offering their prayers to God.

What has been challenging?

Learning that God will constantly challenge your comfort zones if you let him!

Living in community is amazing, but it lays bare where you place your security. Having life shaken up has made us realise how quickly we look for security, for control. When I first moved I wrote in my journal: ‘Seek security or pursue purpose.’

These aren’t in conflict where both are found in God but the more we seek his purpose for us the more we see our earthly security shaken.

What does society believe about your estate?

In the 2011 report on poverty in Wales our local community came in the bottom 1% for income and community safety. It is in the bottom 4% for child poverty, health, and education.

When we moved everyone asked us ‘why?’ The young people and families we knew asked us ‘why?’

There is a lot of crime and people assume the worst of people here – particularly young people. When we go places with the young people we know other people judge them and write them off.

Many of our friends and neighbours are treated in ways that we would never be treated. This has become worse as the government and media persecute and vilify the unemployed and benefit claimants.

What do you think God thinks about your estate?

God’s heart is for the people of St Mellons – for each individual.

But we know he also has a heart for the community – for justice within the community between neighbours and families, and for justice between communities – for just relationships and just representation for poorer areas.

What is your vision for your estate and the young people living on it?

As simple but massive as it sounds, our vision is for people on this estate to know God loves them and to know we love them.

So many people in UK communities are lonely and disenfranchised. Yet God made us to be together, to bear with each other through the ups and downs of life.

It is church; it is how he wants us to live.

Our vision is for the kingdom of God to grow in St Mellons – for it to become a community that bears with each other in the love of God. Big vision! But day-to-day our vision is to do our part – to love and be loved, bearing with each other.

What keeps you going on particularly difficult days/when you are feeling discouraged?


Friends of ours were recently relocated from a community in Africa that they loved. They had lived there for nearly 30 years and it was their home. They lived under the threat of terrorism for the last few years and were eventually relocated by local police and military to evade capture.

On talking about this they spoke of the comfort they would pine for from time to time – electricity, running water, chocolate! – but how on relocation, to a much more comfortable city, they realised there was something so much better than comfort: purpose, and without it they felt lost.

Purpose keeps us going and on days when we’re discouraged we still know God wants us here.

What would you want people to pray for in churches across the UK for your estate, disenfranchised young people, and similar places?

We could list many things that we would love to see change – but they don’t just change by themselves – please pray for the love of God to spread amongst the people here and for his love to bring redemption and transformation.

Please pray for more Christians to move here and to move in to areas where people are disenfranchised, to see them as God sees them and join with him.

We would also love to see change on a wider societal level that could impact our community – pray for justice and righteousness in law and policy affecting poor communities.

What would you say to encourage people wanting to reach out to their area/difficult estates near them?

Ask God to open your eyes to how he sees things and to where he is already at work.

Once we moved it couldn’t seem more obvious!

Home for each Christian is wherever God calls you to be – sometimes this is counterintuitive and goes against the culture of the day.

Be brave and peruse little glimpses of a mighty God at work – you’ll find a home that is better than anything you could build for yourself and you’ll find a purpose that will challenge and inspire you. -‘Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.’

If you have questions, or encouragements, to pass on to Helen and her community, feel free to get in touch with them directly at as well as through the Sanctuary

guest blog: community changes (part 1)

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

One of the great privileges of being on the Sanctuary’s journey is the like-minded and like-hearted people who become part of our dispersed family as we spur each other on. One of those people is Helen Griffiths. Together with her husband, Tom Elmitt, she is part of Koinonia, an intentional Christian community rooted in and reaching out to the St Mellons Estate, Cardiff – and backed up by their local church Glenwood Church Faith Community.

Helen is many things including a part-time youth worker at the Beacon centre on the estate and a PHD student in International Human Rights Law and Violence Against Women. To the Sanctuary she is a source of huge encouragement and inspiration. As you read part 1 of this guest blog, and hear her share her journey into intentional community and outreach to the disenfranchised, we know she will be to you too.

Helen Griffiths

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to faith and what has been important in your growth and discipleship ?

I became a Christian when I was 18. I wouldn’t have described myself as an atheist before then but I did particularly dislike Christians!

A friend and I (reluctantly) began hanging out with some Christians at sixth form during a time when I was struggling. My father was very ill and my uncle had just died.

One day I got out a New Testament and psalms, given to me by the Gideon’s, and started to read it for the first time. From that first time I started to take it everywhere with me – reading it at every opportunity.

I had a decisive moment of deciding to follow Jesus just days before my dad was due for a big surgery. I didn’t have answers but God’s words, almost audible in my ears, ‘it is in my hands’, were enough. This was the moment when I realised that whatever happened to my dad, to me, for the rest of my life I was going to live for the God that holds me in his hands.

I wasn’t able to go to church very often for the first few months but read the bible constantly.

I loved those red-letter words of Jesus – they were changing me from the inside out.

They remain by biggest encouragement: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

How central do you feel poverty is to Jesus’ message?

I feel poverty is absolutely central to Jesus’ message and his ministry on earth. Jesus invites us all to know him and be part of his coming kingdom – his heart is for each person without exception – but his kingdom is for justice and righteousness and central to that is a heart and passion for the poor.

I believe this comes across in Jesus’ teaching and the choices he made – who he spent time with, who he ate with, who he advocated for.

The red-letter words of Jesus couldn’t be clearer.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

They speak of how God loves us and how he intends us to love our neighbour and love him.

What do you think Christians are called to do about poverty?

As a very rich nation we can be blind to poverty on our doorstep but I believe that our response to Jesus – our day-to-day walk with him – will also require a response to the poor.

Across a lifetime these day-to-day decisions affect what our life looks like – where do we live? where do our kids go to school? who are our friends? what do we do with our social time?And if we respond to God but ignore the poor we end up living lives isolated from them.

For us, we wanted to stand with the poor and to do that we needed to move.

But this is not a formula – its a response – firstly to Jesus and secondly, through Jesus, to the poor in our communities. And so our lives shouldn’t be formulaic – but with cuts to welfare spending hitting the most deprived, 1 in 6 children living in poverty, threats to the NHS, and high unemployment – I believe that God is asking his people to respond.

What are you trying to do in your estate?

We live in a community house that is part of a wider community of Christians, Koinonia, living in the St Mellons estate – to be part of God’s kingdom here.

We hope to model a way of fellowship and community that blesses each other and those around us and displays the love of God.

Along with others in the community we have a particular heart for the local young people.

Living in community grew quite naturally for us but we now see it as a key part of what God is doing in St Mellons.

Whilst we wouldn’t consider ourselves as ‘church planting’ as such, we do believe we are local church and are excited by the way this is developing – whether this is youth work, getting involved with local events, meeting to pray together and share communion, or having our neighbours over for dinner.

We have found that the love of God expressed in day-to-day life is the most powerful. Many people living in similar communities speak of ‘the power of the dinner table’. For the young people and families we know this is at the heart of our relationships – prayer and food – and we have seen some amazing things happen!

Why did you move on to the estate physically?

In 2005, along with other students, we started serving at the Beacon Centre in St Mellons – opening the youth lounge once a week.

Over the next few years it grew to take over our lives – our time and prayer became focused on the youth work. In 2010 Tom and I got married and lived in a small flat in a lovely part of the city. We continued to drive the 10 miles across town to do the drop-in clubs.

Our hearts would break as some of the young people struggled with massive problems – drugs and violence, particularly – and we would wait days to see them. We felt God asking for a bigger response and so we knew it was time for us to move.

We initially moved with one other person, this quickly grew to a group of 6 of us and now there are 3 houses with 12 different people and a baby on the way!

It has been quite an organic route to living in community but it’s now at the heart of what we do – sharing day-to-day life with Jesus at the centre. To develop our relationships with the young people we knew we had to move.

You can’t know or share in the poverty others face but you can stand in solidarity with them – to do this we needed to be close-by, with an open door.

Why does what you’re doing matter?

We want to see God’s kingdom come in St Mellons and we want to join in with what he is doing here. We caught a glimpse of how God sees St Mellons and we knew that was where he wanted us.

It doesn’t matter where you live if you’re there because of God but we used to live in the ‘nice part’ of the city because it was nice not because we saw it how God sees it, not because we were passionate about his kingdom coming there.

If we looked at our villages, towns and cities and asked God ‘what do you see?’ we might find a passion for his kingdom in new and challenging places!

In part 2 of this guest blog, Helen will explore more of what’s been encouraging, challenging, and what keeps them going day to day as they live in community and seek to bring hope to the community in St Mellons. She’ll also ask us again where we are called…

LBTL – intermission – the real deal

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

In Bangladesh, 49% of the 150 million unique men and women live below the line for real. That’s why we want to go quiet today. Instead, we want to let Robin, Managing Director of Basha – a project very close to our hearts – speak to you from Dhaka.


We’ve been praying with new intensity for Bangladesh every day for a week now – for the world’s eyes to be opened to the injustices of international trade systems and the resulting working practices.

And this week’s rich girl poor girl context has only increased our heartbreak about what happened in Dhaka last week, and the bigger issues behind it.

Please join us today in praying for Basha, Dhaka, Bangladesh and all who live below the line for real….

From Robin in Dhaka…. Following the latter course

‘As an afternoon rain storm breaks the sticky heat of the day, I long for coolness to break through and bring calm to the violence and unrest in Bangladesh. As people’s lives still ebb away, lying trapped in the Savar building that collapsed, thousands have taken to the streets with sticks and bricks, easing their rage with shattered glass. And why not break all the windows, when your powerlessness rises up hot and violent? When greed forced thousands of people, human beings, sensing the danger, to enter an unsafe building. Poor, powerless, they couldn’t refuse; not if they wanted their pay check, not if they wanted to feed their family.

‘Those protesting know their life is just as cheap as those dying. They are valued only for the 10-12 hours of work they can put in each day producing cheap garments, making as much profit for the owners and retailers as possible, creating the bargains we all love. Apurbo Shohag expresses this rage on Facebook: “In this country death comes easy. Because the cheapest thing is the human life. Not only today’s disaster in Savar, we have heard many times after the previous factory disasters that those who responsible including the owners will be brought to justice. But we don’t see them get punished. So such disaster happen again and again. The bodies pile up in greater numbers.”And what do you do when this powerless hits you in the face? You smash everything you can.

‘Fifty people were injured in clashes with police at the collapsed factory site as people don’t feel the rescue is going as it should. On Friday a protester was run over by a bus, resulting in a rampage through Gulshan, a section of town usually protected from such violence. On Saturday Basha offices were closed as the women feared the protesters would turn to us as one of the few places open in the area.

‘I feel the same hot anger that wants to lash out blindly whenever I read the life histories of Basha employees. The multiple people who abused them, sold them, violated them. Knowing there wasn’t anything to keep them safe, no one to rescue them. How powerless they really were against an evil fate, only years later to come to a safe place bearing scars I would give anything to erase.

‘I have a fresh understanding for the huge challenge Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King. Jr., and others who led nonviolently had, a renewed respect for what they accomplished. To quiet this rage and to filter it into a powerful, non violent response is huge! Smashing a bus, or the local Pizza Hut, or a factory that IS providing good, safe jobs- how does that help anything? But to transcend the instinct of rage for intentionality- that seems impossible.

‘I have no answers. People in Bangladesh need jobs. Factories won’t come here with all the corruption, political issues, poor infrastructure, if prices aren’t low. The fact that so many people do put up with abuses indicates just how desperate they are for work. But o, if they only could work, not with resignation to their powerlessness, not with misguided rage at all they encounter, but instead, build a strong, powerful, and peaceful voice. May we all be inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ‘


(Republished with kind permission from Laura Bardwell, and with huge thanks, love, and prayers for her, and the leaders and ladies of Basha – the house that hope built. God bless Bangladesh.)

the upward call

Friday, April 19th, 2013

“I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:14, NKJV)


Jill Andrews, one of the Sanctuary’s co-founders, spent Holy Week 2013 on an ecumenical walking pilgrimage from Edinburgh to Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Read our new resource – the upward call: meanderings of a passionate pilgrim – compiled as a series of meditative visuals and prayers, which captures her reflections along the way and challenges us all to think about the journey we are on.

guest blog: a heart for worship and the nations

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Lisa Cuellar is currently working as YWAM staff in York, part time staff at St. Michael le Belfrey and is the director of the Burn 24-7 worship and prayer in York.

In this guest blog she shares her heart for how worship, intercession, evangelism and the nations should all interconnect which has developed over many years leading worship and sharing the gospel all around the world.

Lisa Cuellar

At Christmas time in 1994, I was on a YWAM missions trip to the Philippines. My school of worship was in the country for two months to teach, train and evangelize and I was an eager young student…

One night I was lying on my bed listening to a worship song called “Praise Him.” As I was worshipping, I began to weep. I had this overwhelming desire to go and tell the whole world to come and worship this amazing God.

I wept uncontrollably with longing in my heart to tell everyone to come and worship him. I wanted to make his name great! My eyes were opened to how worthy God is…

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev 5:12)

I think the best evangelists are probably love-sick worshipers who can’t stop telling people about the love of their lives.

They are so overwhelmed with the presence of God that it spills out into everyday life naturally. Isn’t that what most people do when they are in love?

I’ve been around the world in missions leading worship and doing evangelism for almost twenty years, but my understanding of “the nations” started quite early.  I was born in California to a Mexican father and a Guatemalan mother who eventually became Amercian citizens.

Then when we lived in England in the 80’s I went to an American School with students representing forty different nations.

I was used to diversity, and as I gave my heart to Jesus I had an interest in missions. It made sense to me that God was interested in the lost and calls us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation…”

But I would have to say that it wasn’t until that experience in God’s presence in the Philippines that I understood why we are driven into missions.

It has to be out of love and a revelation of who God is. It has to be a desire to see him exalted. It must be with a fixed vision on Jesus. Paul wrote “For the love of Christ compels us…”

If the love of our life is the nations, we are in danger of disappointment or disillusionment.

However,  if the driving force of our lives is our love for God and for his honour, we will never be disappointed in him and our desire will never be dampened.

It’s because I long to see his glory fill the earth that I want to join the psalmist in proclaiming:

God be gracious to us and bless us, And cause his face to shine upon us– That your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; Let all the peoples praise you. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For you will judge the peoples with uprightness And guide the nations on the earth.”  (Psalm 67:1-4)

God’s intention has always been to bless the nations through his people. For me it is not a hard, heavy thing to tell people about Jesus—that’s what it means to lead worship—to call people to know him better.

So taking a step to declare the glory and goodness of God over a nation in worship is simple. It’s simple because I know who God is.

One of the reasons we don’t intercede as much as we could in the church is that we feel powerless.

When we stop looking at God and look at how limited we are, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

But if we keep our eyes on God, it becomes much easier to ask God for what seems impossible, because for him it is not. “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14)

This is why it’s so important to have intercessions flow from our worship. It’s the most easy and natural thing to ask God for the impossible when we are looking at an unlimited and Almighty God.

Once we have a revelation of who God is, we have a revelation of who we are, just like Isaiah when he had a vision of the Lord and his robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6).

He suddenly saw himself and realized how unclean he was. God had to make him clean. After Isaiah had seen this glorious God and had been made clean by him, he was eager to be sent by him.

Under the new covenant I have been made clean by the blood of Jesus and can come boldly before his throne of grace.

I am confident because I know who God is and I know who I am in Christ. And if I know both of those things, I am confident in the place of intercession.

It becomes natural to lead people into declaring the will of God over the nations

If I know who I am, I know I have authority to do this and it becomes part of how I relate to my world.  We can join with Jehoshaphat, who prayed when he was overwhelmed (2 Chron 20:6):

“O LORD, the God of our fathers, are you not God in the heavens? And are you not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in your hand so that no one can stand against you.”

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
(Ephesians 3:20, 21 NASB)

If our faith in prayer is too small it is only because our God is too small—at least the one we have created.  It’s time to look on him for who he is. This is what happens in the place of true worship.  We must grow in our faith to believe that God will reveal himself more powerfully!

It is my heart’s desire to see the church get to a place of greater faith in him.

To paraphrase Hebrews 11:6:  Without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to him (and we often do in worship) must believe that he exists (he is really there in all his strength and goodness and power) and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (he answers our prayers and our heart’s cry for we cannot do this without him).

God is calling his church to believe in him and what he has said. Let us draw near to God with our hearts full of faith without wavering.

He who promised is faithful. Let’s keep our eyes on him partner with him in declaring who he is in the nations:

“Now, will not God bring about justice for his elect who cry to him day and night, and will he delay long over them. I tell you that he will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  (Luke 18:7-8)


If you’ve found this guest blog inspiring, you might be interested in reading the Sanctuary’s practical input resource Loving nations through prayer

revisiting towards a generous Christmas

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

We’ve been freshly inspired by revisiting the guest blog from Ruth Grayson that we published last year, Towards a generous Christmas. Read part 1 and part 2 on our blogroll.

guest blog: worship, justice & ethnomusicology

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Part 2 

Mathew Nathaniel is one of the pastors at New Horizons Christian Fellowship (Hemel Hempstead) and lectures on Worship and Justice at WorldShapers – the educational arm of the church which is currently transitioning into becoming a Christian College. He’s just about to return to India for a four month sabbatical. During it he’ll spend time with his family in Tamil Nadu and record an album which will bring together modern western worship music with traditional classical Indian music – it will include the first worship song about justice written in Tamil.

Liz caught up with Mat following a Worship and Justice Day he was running to find out about his journey as a Christian and a worship leader; what he has seen about God’s heart for justice and the nations; how his views on worship have changed; and what he wants to see change in the wider church as a result.

Mathew Nathaniel

I am challenged not just to be a believer in Christ but a follower of Christ. James 1 tells us what makes us distinct… our actions. To believe in Jesus isn’t enough – even the enemy does that.

Jesus is our role model – we need to get our hands dirty in the community. We’re not just called to the spiritual, we’re called to society and politics.

The church should go beyond the spiritual and not draw the line there. It should flow through everything from challenging the Sanhedrin to ministering to those on the outskirts who are rejected.

After my masters I was asked to pioneer a Worship and Justice teaching track at WorldShapers. I was starting to understand what being a prophet to the nations might actually mean – influencing young worship leaders.

We started with eight students. Eight more disturbed people from all over the world! Writing songs; getting theological grounding…

And then I started asking how can we reach different ethnic groups? So I studied a course in ethnomusicology at London School of Theology where I learnt from Ian Collinge who spent years living in and studying the culture of Nepal and then wrote the first evangelistic song in Nepalese.

I started to see how justice could be stirred up through ethnic music and the power of protest songs as heart music.

This has set me on a new part of my journey – to explore a fusion of authentic Indian classical music into modern western worship music.

I love Western music and I don’t want to lose it – it feels natural to me now but somehow people have equated civilisation with western music and so we’re in danger of letting go of our music in India – which is some of the oldest in the world – because we don’t believe something can be civilised if it’s indigenous.

But diversity is such a blessing! God deliberately made us different. He didn’t forget to put colour in Liz’s face, or forget to take it out of mine.

I’m really excited about the album I’m going to record – it’s going to be called ‘The Seven’ and is inspired by the idea of completion embodied in Jesus. It’s going to include the first justice song in my native language – Tamil – and I’m bringing together an Indian musical director with two musicians from England. It’s been about ten years coming but I feel I’m ready now.

Currently in India about 30% of the songs sung in churches are imported but often the translations dumb down the theological richness of what’s being said. I am actually working on a new translation of Jarod Cooper’s “King of Kings, Majesty” into Tamil to get back some of this richness.

Of the 70% written in India, the emphasis on me and God is even higher than over here.

When I first heard Liz speak one thing that struck me was her challenge that we are singing lots of love songs to God but where are the love songs for our neighbour?

I’m praying about finding strategies to influence worship leaders in India and impart my heart for worship and justice.

To me now, worship is anytime that the created meets the Creator. It can be anywhere – it’s the freedom to praise him by helping the poor or holding your tongue as well as singing.

And justice is about three levels – relief, development and social reformation. I love Martin Luther King’s writings about transforming the Jericho road and the similar one from Desmond Tutu about the need to apprehend whoever is pushing people into the river upstream, as well as pulling out those already needing rescuing from downstream.

We can’t just treat the symptoms – we have to treat the causes too. Jesus hammered the causes. He did bring relief too but he stopped Zacchaeus causing more oppression.

Some of the places we’re sending relief to wouldn’t need it if the powerful had chosen the path of justice. If you influence the powerful, the chances of oppression and suffering will lessen.

And what is the cause? We have to wake up to the fact it’s the deception of the enemy. And it’s us. The church. By being part of the oppression by being a silent ear.

By being passive the church has allowed so many things – even the image of God – to be distorted. That’s where we allow the enemy in whether it’s expressed and outworked in unethical practices, poverty or an imbalance between rich and poor and social status.

Out of the top ten richest people in India, three or four of them are brothers.

The richest man in the world is Indian and yet we have half of the world’s hungry. Meanwhile there is a consumer mentality in the church – rather than a contributing one – we need to turn the camera out from ourselves and on to others.

The UK has a long way to go with worship and justice but if you look at the few justice songs emerging, the UK is leading the way. I don’t think anywhere else is doing as much.

India has more fundamental things to address before we even get to the songs. We are apathetic and lethargic about responding to need and prosperity teaching is worryingly influential. We have mixed up thinking and we need to critically examine our theology.

And we need to get past messed up systems and do what is right in the sight of God.

I once went to an orphanage in India where three babies who were just a few weeks old were dying of malnutrition. They had been rescued from a sugarcane field; a rubbish bin and a train but they were just lying there on the floor not being helped.

There was only one woman in the room looking after thirteen children and she wasn’t really doing anything for these three. Some of the children were tied by their feet with string to make sure they didn’t wander off.

I got angry and I was blaming her  and the government but then I thought hold on, what has the church done for these children? The government is having to take the place of the church.

I felt I mustn’t just mourn the situation but I must do something about it. Can we save them? Maybe. There was a way if we could get to a doctor twenty minutes away but we would have to cross a state border.

I wasn’t allowed to take them because if they died on route I would be prosecuted. A few minutes later they died.

There is so much bad practice and so much need and we need to have our hearts broken again.

We need to get our hands dirty. I need to get my hands dirty. I don’t know how yet but I know right now I’m not even qualified to write justice songs actually. I grew up comfortable and I don’t know what it means to be hungry… I feel like I need to experience a slum, a war-torn country or a drought…

I’m asking Lord when I’m ready, take me somewhere where you can show me your heart.

Meanwhile, I’ve just finished my final teaching week with the Worship and Justice track I have been part of pioneering over the last two years. The result is eight more people challenged and disturbed in the same way as I am, to seek justice.

They have now started to think of ways they can be prophetic through their lives and have started writing and recording songs on justice in their own languages!

A change is beginning…