Project 99 Historic Blogs
by Alain Loulie | Posted on August 17, 2018
The decision that changed my life, the decision to say yes to His plan
On November 2nd 2017 I moved into the project 99 mision house, I had just driven 5 or so hours to a place I had never been to, to live with people I had never met and to be led by someone who I had spoken to for 30 minutes.
Looking back I wonder how I made the decision to move in with so little thought but all I can say is it was definitely a God guided decision as I would have normally thought about it for a long while but not this time and I am so so happy I did decide to join project 99 as the year to come would change my life forever. When I first joined I was admittedly not very happy overall, my faith was declining and habits and addictions were controlling my life more than ever. I knew things had to change, I knew I had to sort things that were in my life now that didn’t deserve to be a part of me but I didn’t know what would fix them or what was causing them. I remember in the early days of project 99 saying one of the things I wanted back was emotion and a care for things (now this may sound very strange but it really was an issue for me to be emotional or care about things, through issues I had just given up caring or feeling emotional for things as a way of coping); parts me that I had lost.
Over the time at project 99 I completely changed, habits that had once held me hostage have been defeated through God’s grace and I once again feel alive, I care and I have regained the ability to be emotional about things. You may ask what was it that changed me in these ways and I can only say it was though the grace of God and through my decision to give everything that I was to God and to say yes to letting Him do with my life as He willed. But it was the life that I lived at project 99 that helped me say yes to His will, a life that was focused on others, a life that was focused on what God could do through me rather than what I could do on my own.
It was through daily prayer and ministry to others that I gained the most and realised so much about who I really was and when I started behaving like the person God made me to be I realised how much everyone loved all the work God was doing through me by deciding to be that man.
There was a moment that the old me took over and made a decision that new me would later regret. For years my friends back home and I had talked about a lads holiday together and the chance came to go, but it was a month before I was due to finish my year at Project 99. I returned from the Easter break and thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, someone would cover the groups I was running, the rest of the team could pick up my duties in the house, we would be near the end of the year anyway. The issue was again I wasn’t caring, I wasn’t caring about what impact going away would have had on others, the impact of leaving them. It took a few days for me to realise what damage I had caused to my relationships with others and how I had hurt them but when I did new me was distraught and I spent the next 4 months doing everything to make things right. And it was in those 4 months that I grew the most, I realised how much joy and happiness I could bring to others just in behaving differently and caring and I realised how much caring for others made me feel happy. God had taught me how it felt to live a Christ like life, how to be Christ to others and to find the Christ in them. It is something I want for me, and it’s something I want everyone I know to discover too.
I ask you therefore to look at what you are doing on a day to day basis and to look at your habits and truly consider if those activities are activities that God has called you to. Do the activities you partake in on a daily basis make you feel like you saying yes to His plan?
Home in Him – Ellen Cook
by Ellen Cook | Posted on July 21, 2018
‘Take nothing for the journey. He told them take “no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no second tunic”’ – Luke 9:3
I was reminded recently of this scripture quote that I first read when I joined the community. I remember thinking am I prepared to let go of everything I know and everything that I believe I need for the journey to follow him? The answer was no. I remember having given our commitment, sitting in the church with the other missionaries sharing our fears about the journey ahead, the fears of letting go of what we believed to be safe and comfortable and heading into the unknown. We’d left our homes but we hadn’t let go of our staff, our bag, and our bread. I held onto the fear that God wouldn’t change me; I didn’t doubt He could change me, I didn’t doubt I needed it, I longed for it in fact but I just didn’t believe God would. I feared that the Ellen that walked in would walk out untouched and unchanged. So for my first few months, every day I would pray with an expectant desire ‘Jesus I know you have the power to change me, I want you to change my life, I know that you will, I trust that you will show up’.
John 15:4 ‘Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.’
It was at a retreat half way through the missionary year I heard the scripture ‘Make your home in me just as I do in you’. It screamed out to my heart, I knew this was what Jesus was calling me to change, there were so many places in my heart where I had stopped allowing Jesus to make His home. I gave Him a certain level of access to my heart, of course He was welcome to come in, but I’d given up on the hope that He could do any more work on the brokenness there. I no longer found my home in Him either, I didn’t run to Him as my refuge, my comfort or my love, I sought out my affirmation and my worth in exam grades, in other people and in my own efforts. I realised that I needed to give Jesus the access to receive the change that I had desperately longed for at the start so I adopted this as my new, beautiful and (unexpectedly radical) prayer each day, ‘Jesus, make your home in me and help me to find my home in you’.
Ephesians 3:17 – ‘Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong’
I soon realised that when we find our home in something that isn’t Christ, when we give Christ limited access to our hearts, when we give up the hope that Jesus can transform us, our hearts are hardened to Him and our ability to authentically receive and give out love is suppressed. Christ called to me ‘come back to me with all your heart’ and I trusted Him with a trust I never had before and I longed for Him in a way I had never experienced. I stopped grasping onto the things I had once believed I needed for the journey and I frantically searched everywhere just to catch a glimpse of Christ’s face again for I knew that was where I would find my true home. I understood that wherever I am firmly established in Love it is there I see His face, it is there I find my home. In the beautiful hearts of the people in my community, in the smiles of the young people I minister to, in the conversations that I have with the people who invest in and guide me, I am forever rooted and held up in Love even in the times of immense pain. In them I find Christ and in Him I find my home and the hope my heart has always yearned for.
Fights till I’m found.
by Lauren McNamara | Posted on July 18, 2018
Right now, we are currently in our last week of service and the thought of leaving brings tears to my eyes. I figured this is the best time to reflect on just some of the things that God had been doing in my heart.
I had no idea what God was going to do in my life when I signed up to be a missionary with project 99 for two months of my summer. I had just finished my spring semester at Ave Maria University in Florida. Three weeks later I left America to embark on this new journey with the Lord in England. God brought me halfway across the world to Salisbury, in order to encounter Him in a whole, new way. He brought me to a place that I was unfamiliar with, a place with no distractions. I could earnestly follow and hear the voice of God during my time of service here in The U.K. In the book of Hosea, God says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” This particular verse came up twice during morning prayer with my community in the daily readings. I knew that God was speaking directly to me. He had to take me outside my comfort zone to form me into the person that He had called me to be for Him since day one. Through prayer, God was telling me that England was my wilderness. My whole time here He has spoken kindly to me. He has been reminding me of who He is in my life and who I am to Him as His beloved child. In addition, He has shown me who He wants me to be for Him every day of my life.
Throughout these two months He has called me to grow in holiness in different ways. There were new crosses, new joys, but most importantly, a whole new sense of reverence for Him. I felt like I finally began to understand what “fear of the Lord” is. There was a change that took place in my heart which all the words in the world could not explain. I knew I finally attained the “peace that surpasses all understanding” mentioned in the bible.
Being able to serve on a mission team has taught me so much about not only myself, but about others as well. My mission team had Alot longer for God to work on their hearts. However, I only had two months for God to do what He did for them in a year since I joined the team late. God has molded and stretched me because He loves me so much. He showed me that I needed to put my trust in Him and not in earthly things. I had many false security nets in my life before moving into the mission house, I would put my security in money and materialistic things. I loved the thrill that followed from buying a fancy watch, expensive clothes, etc. I had placed my peace in the fleeting happiness that the objects had given me.
I have grown up in a family that is pretty well off. Whenever I wanted something, I would just buy it with the money I had, God saw this imperfection in me and called me out on it. Out of His love for me, He has stripped me of these things during my time here. I couldn’t afford to buy the newest objects since my bank account had plummeted from the expenses of this trip and the times I went shopping here in England never fulfilled me. After having bought new clothes, I was left with wanting more. God was showing me that these “things” couldn’t satisfy the longing in my heart that only He could fulfill.
The God of the universe is jealous for our hearts and until we make Him the center of our lives, He will constantly pursue us the way a bridegroom pursues his bride. I was the bride and Christ was the bridegroom. He invited me into a deeper, more profound, beautiful relationship with Himself. He began to show me how much He truly cherished my time with Him. He took me on that narrow path that not many discover. His love has inspired me to do great things for Him. Im not going to settle any longer. Instead, I want to continue to grow more and more in my love for Him every day. I want to be Christ’s love in action for all those I am called to minister to.
We are project 99 and the goal of our mission is to empower the 99 to seek the one. I feel like I myself had lost my shepherd. I have run around the fields of life without a solid guide. I had forgotten the sound of His voice. I had forgotten my true identity in Him. During these two months, I have re-discovered my identity. God had truly picked me up and put me on His shoulders. He has brought me to a place where I feel truly safe in His presence. In this special place, nothing can steal my joy. Nothing can affect me, nothing can hurt me because He is with me. Together we were able to do incredible things. After rediscovering His initial seal of love upon my soul, everything truly begins to fall into place.
God reminded me of when I first encountered His infinite love. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about this incredible, reckless love. This was the love that Cory Asbury expresses best when he says, “It chases me down, fights till I’m found, leaves the 99.” He had cared for me since day one but I had forgotten .I remember reading the Catechism one day and crying because it had brought my heart such joy. Suddenly, the truth had moved from my head to my heart and it was in that impeccable moment when I began to see the faith through the eyes of my heart. I had been blinded for so long and I hadn’t even realized it. I was beginning to see God’s goodness in my life all over again. I began to re-discover His reckless love for me, like the very first time my heart became aware of His goodness.
Jesus helped me re-discover His love for me in such a radical way. This has changed something in my heart. Through this new sense of discovery, I learnt to love others even if they didn’t return it. I am able to find peace within myself because everything I now do is between me and God.
I am walking with my beloved and that made all the difference. With my eyes fixed on heaven, the small things no longer affect me like they used to. This change of heart helped me immensely in my mission work. I truly became invested in all the people I met. I felt responsible for all the souls Jesus entrusted to me in my work. I did everything I could with His grace to be a good example for them. They have all found a special place in my heart.
I’m currently praying for the grace of acceptance. I know that saying goodbye is going to be terribly difficult since Ive grown to love them so much, I can take comfort in the fact that God will be with them when I can’t. They are His children. I may not ever see them again in this life since America is far away But if this is the case, then I will carry them in my heart and pray for them whenever they come to mind. Sometimes God puts people in our path for a moment because He knows we need each other, then there is a time where He calls them On a new path. I’ve learned to appreciate the time that He made our paths cross even if it was brief. These children have helped me grow in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. If it’s not God’s will for me to see them again in this life, then I cannot wait to see them in heaven.
Jesus has re captured my heart in these last two months. He was my first love. He was always there from the beginning. And now it was my turn to say, “I love You too, Lord.” The funny thing about being a missionary is that you go into the mission thinking that you will be able to change the lives of others. However, you don’t expect them to do for you what God is giving you the grace to do for them. At the end of the day, we are all walking each other home to eternity.
by Xanthe Vanderputt | Posted on July 8, 2018
“A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith”. Mark 6:1-6
A few months ago we moved the large office into the tiny chapel and moved Jesus into a more central place in the mission house. It felt (and was) right that He had more prominence and position than the admin and paperwork, a reminder to us all why we had the paperwork at all.
The result of this means that every time we need to go to the office we have to pass through the chapel, acknowledging Jesus present in the tabernacle. The frequent visits outside of the normal prayer times I saw as a gift, that Our Lord was brought into the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly unimportant detail of the workings of the house.
In the first few days I spoke to Jesus present there in our beautiful chapel “Lord, if I EVER fail to acknowledge your presence here as I go through, call me out, pull me up, as I would no longer be worthy of the privilege of being here”
Well guess what, the full genuflect on the in and on the out became a low bow, the low bow a slight bend, the slight bend a solemn nod, and the solemn nod…..well here the Lord in His goodness pulled me up.
The bigger realisation was that the familiarity with which I was treating the blessed sacrament was replicated in my Jokey familiar conversation in prayer, Jesus became buddy, best mate, you know the kind of friend that you are so close that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have quality time, you’re tight so it’s ok. The conversation remains light, and if I’m honest very one sided. My sided.
Then came yet another storm, but there was something different about this one. I didn’t have the confidence that my “buddy” was in it with me, I’d invited my “buddy” into the storm but could He sort it out, did He really have the power and authority ?
The answer was No, really it was No, Jesus my “buddy” was just that, a friend that I’d somehow shaped into something that was far below the reality of who He was. The realisation took me face down on the floor in front of His presence in that tabernacle, begging Him to once again be my God.
He wasn’t, isn’t, a best mate, He is God, my God, my saviour, and your saviour. Yes He is the most intimate of confidantes, the greatest of lovers, the best of best friends, but first and foremost He has to have the awe and reverence reserved for Him as Lord.
When we become so focussed on the Humanity of Christ without embracing the fullness of the Divinity, little or nothing is possible, we restrict His ability to rescue and heal, and His rightful place in our hearts and lives becomes filled with a false and fluffy idol that is not God and not Him.
So as the next storm brews on the horizon, I face it standing beside My God who Can do all things.
What is happening? What are you doing? What am I doing? These are three questions that seems to pop into my mind more than I’d care to admit. In a way, those questions are my definition of community life.
In this short blog post I’m just going to share some of the incredible experiences as well as the struggles I’ve personally had during my time living in a community; it’s had its rough moments but people keep saying I’m growing or I have grown, so much since I began living in community, so I must be doing something right, right?
In short, what have been my biggest struggles? What have I found difficult whilst living in community? Reliability; that has, by far, been my most significant struggle. Before living in the house, I would often just kind of do my own thing and if it didn’t suit me, I often wouldn’t do it or get someone else to do it. I am a relaxed person and therefore how long it takes me to do something that I don’t deem utterly important tends to take a, erm, “relaxed” amount of time to complete. As you can guess this attitude towards things led to a multitude of problems. Taking a week to do something that should take less than 1 hour is really not fair towards anyone let alone in a community house of four people; the reason why I am saying it is worse in community life is because unreliability is amplified in such a small circle, because that means that either someone else has to do something I haven’t done or they have to keep pushing me to get it done and with only four people being there, it’s often the same person finishing things that I was meant to.
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things”- Matthew 25:21
I, after a lot of time, began to recognise how my “relaxed” take on completing tasks was affecting others, and how unfair it was. I’m not saying that I’m now a completely different person, that I’m more reliable than Frodo Baggins. No. I’m saying that I have reached the stage where I am ready to start progressing towards a change. Christ came down to earth from heaven to die for me, the least I can do is clean the dishes every once in a while.
Okay, I’ve got my biggest struggle over and done with. What’s been the most amazing thing about living in a community? Amongst the many answers that flood my brain when I ask myself this question, the answer that stands out the most is definitely growth. ‘That’s a bit vague Aaron, what do you mean growth?’ well I am glad you asked, made up person asking me a question. Everything, you literally grow in everything. Cooking? Yes, if you were on your own you wouldn’t tend to cook your best unlike if you’re with a group of people. Cleanliness? Yes, never in my life have I been this clean and tidy. Organisation? Yes, I have to organise my assigned youth group every week. Music? Yes, managed to teach myself piano. Soul? Heaven yeah my soul grows!
Jesus constantly corrected and taught his disciples and I’m sure the disciples taught each other a lot as well. The Apostles, they grew together as a group, then after Jesus’ ascension, when each of them were strong enough they created their own communities, which we know as the early Church. From just this alone I can see how living in a community with Christ at the centre can help one grow in humility, strength of spirit, kindness, love, charity and faith. Even in the small time frame of three months, with all the struggles I’ve had, I have seen myself grow in each one of these virtues, because, I have been called out and made accountable for my actions, even when I disagree with the person about me doing something wrong, I can still learn from that. I am amazed with what Christ has done to me these past few months and am looking forward to the future and what Christ has instore for me in the near future. It also helps that the house has its own chapel with Jesus present there. Winning.
So what about the earlier questions I asked, which I then said were my personal definition of community life? I said that because of the growth that you receive while in the community. For me personally, those three questions; What is happening? What are you doing? What am I doing? Often leads to growth due to the fact that it continually facilitates some form of self-discovery. For example, one time when I was talking to one of the missionaries they did something that slightly irritated me, not enough to warrant concern, but it still irritated me. After thinking for a while and asking to myself, ‘what just happened?’ and ‘what were they doing?’ I realised that it wasn’t about what they were doing, it was actually about a problem I had, which I saw in that person. As they say the first step in fixing something is recognition and while living in community I have had a fair amount of self-recognition. Maybe after this year I’ll be a step closer to heaven.
by Ellen Cook | Posted on February 25, 2018
Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” – Mark 5:23
We recently hosted a very blessed women’s retreat here for the very first time at our Project 99 Community house. We delved into the story of Eve’s creation, into the devils revenge on her beauty and into the way to healing through the New Eve, Mary.
Eve’s feminine heart, made in the image of the perfect relationship, revealed a God who is relational to His core, a God who desperately longs for an intimate and personal relationship with each of us. But the moment that Eve stepped away from God something beautiful and valuable was stolen from the heart of woman, something was assaulted, something was neglected and something was surrendered. As a result not only do we doubt God’s goodness but we also doubt, or even fear, His desire for us. We ask ourselves does God really want a personal and intimate relationship with me.
‘For she said “If I touch even His garments, I shall be made well” – Mark 5:28’
When we meditated on today’s Gospel reading during the retreat one beautiful lady said ‘ The bleeding woman in the story makes me so angry, it’s not her turn to be healed, Jesus needs to get to Jairus’ daughter, the woman is a distraction, she gets in the way’. As she spoke those words I saw in her eyes that ran deep, deeper than she realised. It’s easy to think that there are other people who God wants to pursue more than us. Easy to think others are more in need of His healing than me. Others are worth pursuing more than me. Others are more deserving of His love than me. But, that sisters, is the biggest lie the evil one will ever lead you to believe. What that beautiful lady discovered that evening was that she too was the woman on her knees desperate for His healing, she too was called ‘daughter’, she wasn’t ‘in the way’, she wasn’t tolerated but instead treasured.
‘And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace”’ – Mark 5:34
There was a moment for every single woman on this blessed retreat where the immensity of being longed for and pursued by the same God who created the Heavens and the Earth hit home. Each had a moment where she chose to reclaim what the devil had once stolen from her. However, before she could reclaim a beauty once entrusted to her by God that He desperately longs for her to reveal to this wounded world, she had to take the risk to be vulnerable; a risk to trust in His love and in His healing power. And as each of us reached out in trust to hold His garment, just as the bleeding woman in today’s reading does, the open arms of Christ, arms that have remained open for us since they were nailed to the cross on Calvary, embraced each of us in turn.
You see, He is a God who waits to be wanted, a God who desperately longs for you but also desperately longs to be longed for by you. He knows your touch; He’s waited for it for all of eternity, so when you reach out in vulnerability and in faith, there is not even a tiny chance that He will let you fall.
So I dare you sisters, be fearless, do not fear, only believe. Christ invites you today, ‘Little girl… Arise’. You are His daughter, His beloved; He places all His trust in you.