Saying goodbye to Marylebone

Last Thursday was my last day to spend at the Marylebone Project during my time living in London. I am so sad that it is over, but I feel so incredibly blessed by the fact that I was given the opportunity to spend any time there at all. Shannon made the overly kind gesture of bringing cupcakes for everyone during the last 30 minutes of the Design Camp to celebrate the return of a past volunteer – Katie Sampson – as well as a goodbye treat. Everyone was super thrilled about the adorable cupcakes and it was so fun to celebrate with the community that has been created at Marylebone over the past few weeks, as well as months.


In addition to the exciting news that Katie will be helping out more often with the Design Camps, Polly and I met last Thursday morning with a ‘proper’ jewelry designer from the Fairtrade jewelry company, Cred and she has volunteered to give some of her time to come talk about, and explain what she does at one of our Design Camps in November!! I am MOST disappointed that I will be missing out on her visit – it was lovely to spend some time chatting with her over coffee and to hear about what led her to designing jewelry specifically in the context of Fairtrade. Another upcoming event I am disappointed about missing, but am thrilled others are getting the opportunity to experience is the trip the Design Camps are taking to the Victoria & Albert Museum December 1st!

As my last  Design Camp came to an end, I was saying goodbye’s to all of the women present and they kept thanking me. While this isn’t a strange thing for them to say I kept thinking, and saying back to them, ‘No thank YOU,’ for allowing me to come hang out with you, and for the graciousness and gentleness you have consistently shown me every Thursday for eight weeks. Despite the reality that initially I was a complete stranger to these women, they have genuinely embraced me from the get-go. Unfortunately this is not exactly a social cannon these days and while over time there is a trust that has to be gained to form any sort of real relationship with the women at Marylebone, I was given the chance to do so from the beginning; I was ‘let in’ so to speak. I have learned so much from the women at the Marylebone Project by the way in which they continue to be open to new people and new things, and continue to wear a smile and remain positive in the face of serious adversity – adversity that I cannot even begin to understand or imagine. They have humbly reminded me that Christ alone is sufficient and that, ‘the Joy of the Lord,’ provides an awesome and abundant strength. What’s more, the delight that the act of crafting jewelry brought to everyone present at the Design Camps each week restored my belief in the healing effects of creating something beautiful – of actually taking the time to enjoy what is beautiful, and seeing the beauty of God even in repurposed jewelry. As I have mentioned before, I believe that God is doing very special things through the Design Camps that occur every Thursday at The Marylebone Project and that He alone is changing the lives of the women who are participating. It has been a true true joy and honor to have the opportunity to experience His work in that context.












A House for the Haus

While the legacy and effects of what God has done  through Matryoshka Haus over the past couple of years continues to live on, it is moving full speed ahead into a new future. The MH crew has had a real sense for a while now that it is time to start searching for a tangible home, or ‘hub’ as some might say for Matryoshka Haus. Among other things, the search for that hub was really kicked into high gear around the time I arrived in London in August. The aim has been to find a building that in addition to being a sort of ‘headquarters’ for the organization, is equipped to serve as a work space, a place by which to provide hospitality for all of the people involved with, or interested in being involved with MH projects, and if the size allows, possibly a building where separate flats could be leased to others which would in turn generate some income by which to keep the building running.

Furthermore, there has been an intentional focus on choosing a house for the haus that is in some way in need of repair and restoration – something that MH would have to transform from old to new again, from ‘messy’ to ‘clean’. If you are thinking that sounds like it is loaded with some symbolism you are not mistaken. This is what our Father in heaven has done with us through Jesus Christ; He has taken our messy selves and made us clean and new again by the sacrifice of His one and only Son and His immense grace. In addition to Mathryoshka Haus’ wholehearted belief in this truth, MH is also a group of individuals who want to dive into and embrace the messiness of each other’s lives and through love and community help to bring the light of Jesus into that mess. Something that is largely characteristic of Matryoshka Haus is the way by which it jumps into projects, rolls up its sleeves and does the work itself with others, thereby building more relationships and community. MH intends the building project – where ever and whenever it takes place –  to be this kind of project that they are fully involved  and engaged with. Unless the building is not a ‘fixer-upper’ this involvement, engagement, creative input, and community cannot take place.

The quest for a, ‘house for the haus’ has been eventful if nothing else, and as of right now we hope we are close to the end of that interesting journey, and have found what could possibly be the building that God intends to be the first for Matryoshka Haus. It is an old  building owned by the Church of England that was once used as a place of refuge and restoration for women exiting prostitution in London. If that is the case, there will hopefully be enough man-power and funds to get working on the house sooner rather than later!! It is not nearly as derelict as the two potential buildings by which it was preceded , however it still needs some work and ‘freshening up.’  It sits behind a Church of England school literally at the end of a road entitled ‘Graces Alley,’ and also happens to be situated next door to Wilton’s within which the conversation about needing a ‘house for the haus’ began. Coincidence? Not a chance. What is even more intriguing – Shannon and Andy earnestly inquired about this very building a couple of years back with no response. It was miraculously only out of a meeting with the Church of England about another old church building MH was interested in that the conversation about the current ‘Graces Alley’ building began. What an amazing example of how God uses our circumstances for His good, and how His timing is the most perfect of all!! Matryoshka Haus is thrilled by this bountiful blessing God has provided, while at the same time aware of, and eager to begin the work that lies ahead to make it inhabitable!!



Update on The Gathering!!

I figured since I told you all about the Matryoshka Haus presentation for ‘The Gathering’ that was happening Saturday afternoon you would want to know how it went. Well, in a word, ‘splendidly’!! I was so very proud of the Matryoshka Haus team – the GENUINE way by which they engaged the people of ‘The Gathering’ most assuredly had a lasting impression on them. As one member evidenced during the conclusion of our time together by saying that, “In his 15 years of hearing from different charities and organizations, he had NEVER experienced any who invited them to get involved in, and be active participants of, the presentation…”as well as stating that he had never witnessed a group who invited and accepted constructive criticism the way that MH did so humbly. He then expressed his sincere appreciation of the fact that Matryoshka Haus did these things while others have not.

The MH response was, not surprisingly, to say that the presentation was absolutely representative of core ways by which we do what we do; actively engaging others in conversations, and encouraging questions and criticisms about what we’ve done thus far as well as what we hope to do in the future. The warm  hospitality that is mentioned by me on a regular basis as core to all that MH is and does, was poured over the people of ‘The Gathering’ and the atmosphere was one of excitement and sincerity. We divided the group between four different MH projects so they each heard very thoroughly about one specific project. They were then brought back together and had to explain the projects to each other. Based on their explanations, it was apparent that relative to the amount of time we had to convey the purpose and impact of our projects, ‘The Gathering’ had a firm grasp on what MH does and the effects it is having. It was really amazing to see how much people learn when they are actively engaged in the teaching process, as well how when they are participants it personally relates them and thereby creates more of an emotional connection between the ‘students’, the ‘teacher’ and the subject matter at hand. I was given the amazing opportunity of explaining the impact the Design Camps at The Marylebone project have had through a conversational question-and-answer format. About halfway through the process one of the women in my group spoke up and said, “Wow, this is great – this makes it impossible for me to be passive.” The fact that she had to come up with her own questions and figure out on her own what the Design Camps really do and the effects that they have created a more personal connection between herself and the project because she was a part of ‘getting to know’ that project. In addition, I believe that when you allow the audience to ask questions, you are making yourselves as the presenters much more vulnerable as there is the chance that you will not know the answer to the question. The fact that MH took the risk of opening themselves up to the mercy of ‘The Gathering’s’ questions shows that they have confidence in themselves as well as the courage to create, and face challenge.

One of my favorite things about the whole experience was the comfort and joy that came from the fact that the Holy Spirit was within all of the people in that room, and while each person’s goals and ideas about the presentation and MH were different, the collective and ultimate goal was, and is, the same; bringing glory to God by working to bring His kingdom to earth. Because of this common goal there was an energy and  a very real sense of the power of the Holy Spirit within that group on Saturday that was both encouraging and inspiring.

In conclusion, while there were some concerns and criticisms voiced (the very thing MH invited) ‘The Gathering’ seemed extremely  interested in, and impressed by, Matryoshka Haus and its projects. What’s more, there seemed to be a genuine understanding of the fact that ‘the context in which we work’ is different from the majority of charities and thus the way by which that work is carried out looks different. The hope and prayer of Matryoshka Haus now is that we remain salient in the minds of the people of ‘The Gathering’ as an organization that sets itself apart in the way it is impacting the lives of others for the sake of the Kingdom of God as well as one that has what it takes to continue to have that impact.

The Gathering

Once again, today is yet another busy Friday!! We are happy to welcome Greg Richards to London for the weekend and are most grateful for the help he will provide Matryoshka Haus with the preparation and execution of a presentation we will be giving tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm – prayers for that are much appreciated!! The presentation will be for a group of family foundations entitled ‘The Gathering’. The goal is to educate these people on how God is working in the context of Matryoshka Haus in a simple and passionate way while glorifying Him in the process. We are aiming to make the presentation interactive and experiential by using portions of the Transformational Index tool while at the same time demonstrating the kind of humble hospitality that characterizes MH. It will take place at an extremely cutting edge and lovely ‘live-work space’ – a space that has been very generously provided for the afternoon by a dear friend of Matryoshka Haus.

Now, because of the fortunate role I play that enables me to be simultaneously on the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of MH, I’m going to brag on MH a little bit. ‘The Gathering’ only chooses 6 groups out of thousands of which they consider learning more about is worth their time. Matryoshka Haus, because of the amazing strides it has already taken through its various projects has been chosen as one of those groups – a group that they believe could have the potential to continue to do more, and a group that they believe could be a viable investment. The fact that MH has been given the opportunity to present to ‘The Gathering’ is evidence, I believe, that whatever MH is doing has been significant enough to catch the attention of a group of people from another country who – given the fact that they chose to come learn more – seemingly consider it to be different from the thousands upon thousands of other groups trying to accomplish similar goals. What an encouragement that should be to Matryoshka Haus to continue to push onward with the tenacity that characterizes it as an organization as well as a group of people, in its efforts to bring ‘the Kingdom of God to Earth, as it is in Heaven.’ Regardless of the outcome of the presentation to ‘The Gathering’ we know that it is something within which God is at work and it is one more blessed opportunity for Matryoshka Haus to share with others how, ‘God is working in its context.’

On a quick side note to wrap things up; as we welcome Greg to the UK this morning, I’m reminded of our guest that we sent back to the states just 48 hours ago. Many thanks to MATT MLLER – the man who made this blog possible – and was here in London living life with Matryoshka Haus and its community for about three weeks, in addition to helping out tremendously in a variety of different ways! Gracias, Matt.

A Transformational Weekend, Act II

In light of the case that 17 hours is too much time passed for you to remember my profound and eloquent blog musings, I am reminding you that I have divided my posts focused on the ‘Transformational Index Weekend’ into two ‘Acts’ so as to capture the weekend in its fullest form and in an attempt to avoid, ‘discounting any of the major facets of the weekend that helped to make it the awesome thing that it was…’

I have explained this previously but it’s worth noting again that it was the people who attended the ‘TI weekend’ who made it such a positive and interesting experience. Coming from a plethora of vocations including social entrepreneurs, web designers, consultants, and professional researchers, not only were these people among the brightest and thoughtful I’ve ever met, they were completely devoted to, and enthusiastic about, the task of ‘workshopping’ the TI without knowing much of anything about it initially. Each person had their own unique perspective and contribution, yet each was aimed at, and invaluable to, the collective goal of improving the TI – an effect that does not happen without diverse ideas and thought processes. After the first morning session that was  held to begin examining, understanding and improving the TI, it was clear that the people who had devoted their weekend to this cause were movers, shakers, and doers – the people who do not wait for good ideas to be created and executed, but take the time and effort to do it themselves in innovative ways. The seriousness with which everyone took the task for the weekend enabled the kind of thinking termed ‘outside of the box’ and set a vigorous and focused tone. Thanks to Andy and Shannon’s relinquishment of power over the TI tool, there were questions raised that seriously challenged some important aspects of the tool and how it works; there is no opportunity for improvement when dissent or disruption is discouraged. The TI weekend was absolutely an example of how this is true but by showing the reverse effect.

Over the course of the weekend I was reminded of what serious danger lies in being lazy with one’s thoughts. That is, spending time pondering over matters that only relate to, or effect, oneself. The guests at the TI weekend tirelessly rattled their brains with questions about the TI, including but not limited to what it actually is, why it has been created, how it works, who it works for, and how it can be improved with the ever-looming possibility that it will not amount to anything for anyone’s gain. But, rather than focusing on that possibility (a focus which would have rendered the entire project impossible) the guests thought and thought and thought for the sake of thinking in itself and the power and knowledge that is generated by thinking about things wrought with complexity, depth, discouragement, newness, unconventionality, inspiration and innovation; channeling the thinking power so graciously bestowed upon us by our maker in heaven into projects such as the TI in order to have a broad, significant, just, and down-right good impact on this world and God’s people whom He loves.