Andrzej leads a small intentional missional community in Hillsborough, Sheffield, called Healing Rivers. Aidan asked him a few questions about what led them to move there and how God’s leading them in simple missional community.
Hi Andrzej. Firstly, who are you and what are you doing?
We are a small intentional missional community in the area of Hillsborough. We’re very much within the local community in that we live in a small mid-terraced property in a normal street. We’re seeking to live one step at a time with God, moving in risky faith one step at a time and believing for big things in the future.
It’s only small beginnings at the moment, we’ve not got anything to trumpet about much but there are lots of good signs. We are expectant, positive, we know God’s with us and we’re on a bit of an adventure because we don’t know what’s around the corner. We have some vision for the area, lots of things that are happening.
When I say we’re small, there’s four of us in a three bedroom house so we’re full up. By intentional I mean we’ve chosen to be together for the sake of the kingdom, of the gospel. Missional because we’re in the area for the area, to be used of God to transform it, so we’re reaching out to people in the course of our daily lives. And community: we function for all intents and purposes like a family.
What would you say is your mission?
To see Hillsborough transformed through the power of the gospel, particularly through healing and signs and wonders. A lot of people need healing these days. Healing is a big word, encompassed in the word ‘salvation’. It’s about wholeness.
Many Christians in the Hillsborough area have had a vision and have been praying for the same thing for many years now, long before we came along. We’re working with them and believing that there’s going to be a supernatural healing revival in Hillsborough.
Is that where the name Healing Rivers came from?
I suppose so. We haven’t particularly gone out of our way to change our name, it came out of the blue almost.
A bit of history: near where we live the river Loxley comes down from some dams and is joined by the river Rivelin at a place called Watersmeet, not far from where we live. Then further down the valley the river Loxley joins the river Don, so it’s an area where rivers join, but also the area where the Great Sheffield Flood happened in 1864.
The population of Sheffield had grown from around 45,000 in 1801 to 185,000 in 1861, so in 60 years it had quadrupled. There was a lot of industry, more people settling and a lot of poverty too. To accommodate all these extra people all these dams and reservoirs were being built to provide water, and this one dam had a crack. As it was being filled in March 1864 it broke and a wall of water cascaded down the valley and totally demolished 130 houses, killed about 240 people and flowed on down into Sheffield.
It was a big thing. It hit the national papers and woke the southern part of England to the poverty, to the plight of people in Sheffield.
1864 was not that long ago, really. There are still generations of people living in the shadow of that disaster. Of course we all know of another disaster that happened here in 1989 and I was involved as a doctor in the local hospital at the time.
So Hillsborough has the word ‘disaster’ over it, and we are living to see its name or reputation changed to that of “Hillsborough revival”.
One of the people we met in Hillsborough had a vision: she saw a flood coming down into Hillsborough and Jesus walking with it. This was a different sort of flood, a flood of grace and mercy, a flood of healing. So we believe we’re part of something bigger. God has used Chosen Pearl (as we were) for healing over the decades, and we’re now very involved in the healing ministry that’s going on in Hillsborough at the moment. So it seemed a good name, witnessed to by local Christians, saying we’re to be channels of something that God’s doing: Healing Rivers.
God spoke to us from Isaiah 43:18-19:
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
That word has spoken to us for a long time but every so often it comes more to the forefront. In Hillsborough I think there’s a lot of hurt, a lot of unbelief now, but my experience is that people are open. We long to bring them back.
That leads into my next question: why did you choose Hillsborough?
A few years ago Hillsborough hadn’t entered my mind. The move was in measure pragmatic.
After living as part of a larger church household who looked after us very well, we realised we were finding it difficult to find our own identity as a group. Three years ago one of our close members was facing homelessness, potentially really struggling, it was going to be awful for him. This was a nudge for us, and God said very clearly to me “look at the brother in front of you and trust Me for the rest”. We saw it as our opportunity to make a move.
So while deciding where we should move to I asked a member of our church who didn’t know Sheffield for some prophetic direction and he said “I see a tank, a helicopter, some barracks, a park”. Hillsborough is known for its barracks and park and we found this to be something of a confirmation to us. There were also two couples from the congregation already living in the area.
Doors opened very quickly. We found a place quite quickly, but we found confirmation of the fact that we should be in Hillsborough only after we moved. We didn’t really know why we should be there or what for until after moving when things have unfolded for us. We also only discovered after we had moved that in 1991 some JF church guys would regularly travel up to evangelise on Hillsborough corner and one brother prophesied that there would be a JF community in Hillsborough one day.
Furthermore, it turns out our landlord knew about the guy we were looking after and about our church, so he was very supportive of us. All the connections we found happening from right after we moved in, especially with local Christians, were simply amazing. Basically, since moving we’ve had confirmation after confirmation that it’s the right place.
How do you define community and what is unique about your form of community?
It’s a big word, but common-unity is basically it. Our community means that we’re together and we’re united. We’re Christians so our unity is centred on Jesus.
We’ve moved away from the blueprint and routines of the wider NCCC so we’re almost starting from scratch to see what happens organically. You could call it a reaction or rebellion but we’ve just wanted to wipe the slate clean, getting away from expectations, from the usual church diary, from routine, from simply going through the motions and also from being attached to an administrative machine in terms of our common purse. We’re pioneering a simpler way to share money.
Our uniqueness is that we’re small, right in the middle of a normal street, mixing with people. Three of us share a bank account. We’re able to be unique, more spontaneous and free with our generosity.
We’ve majored on building links and working with other Christians. Maybe that is relatively unique. All of our fellowship are involved including Lois who’s 83: on Mondays she visits a local couple, playing their piano. We’re involved in healing on the streets with Christians from about 5 churches every other Saturday. I’m involved in Healing Rooms with 5 or 6 churches represented.
Within 7 months of moving we hosted the Hillsborough Christian leaders network in our house. Despite not having a full congregation ourselves they welcomed me in. I think we’ve impacted them and they’ve been very welcoming. We have a part to play, but very much alongside other Christians.
Sharron works in the area and her job takes her into people’s homes on nearby streets. The word to us over the past few years to us has been to network and connect with local Christians. Going forward we’re not going to be working on our own. God’s going to bless our unity for the sake of Hillsborough.
What would you say to someone who is feeling stirred, who feels God leading them into some kind of mission focused community, but who doesn’t quite know what to do?
God can see your heart. Sometimes these desires can be covered up a bit, we can lose heart, I’ve been there. We can almost stop dreaming. Thankfully God revived that in me but I did go through a difficult time when I felt it was going nowhere. When you get the feeling in your heart you have to trust it’s from God.
The second thing is to avoid trying to reason your way into it, avoid being too logical and strategic, even. I’ve tried to do that in the past and it doesn’t really work. The best things that happen, the things that are of God, don’t happen because of all our planning. I’ve found the journey is a one-step-at-a-time journey. It almost seems like God loves that way of operating. You don’t know what’s around the corner but you know that there’s an anointing as you take that step. Obedience, one step at a time, not rushing ahead. I have to strive to enter into rest and I have good people around me who slow me down.
It’s exciting, it’s an adventure. To be honest I can’t give you a formula because I’m not even sure how it’s all happened. All I know is that things have fallen into place in the most remarkable ways. I haven’t even given you half the stories of how God’s fingerprints have been all over happenings, encounters, being in the right place at the right time. You know it’s God.
God will meet us when we’re prepared to risk.
Any final thoughts?
Isaiah 43:18-19 is probably very relevant to our whole church. Even though we’ve launched out in our own way we’re one in heart with many JF people around the country, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the word to us is relevant to many more. God is saying forget the past. Things may look desolate but I’m doing a new thing in the wasteland.
Healing Rooms is part of the International Association of Healing Rooms (IAHR) based in Spokane, Washington, USA. The original movement was started by John G Lake in 1915 and the current worldwide movement was “rebirthed” in 1999.
The Rooms are places where groups of Christians who firmly believe that healing is a vital part of proclaiming the gospel and that we have authority to heal (as opposed to praying for healing) provide a space for anyone to come and receive healing and/or prayer.
In Hillsborough these are in a place called The Arena (a small sports hall) right next to Hillsborough Park, where about 10-12 Christians from 5-6 churches gather each Tuesday morning for an hour of prayer, worship and fellowship following which they split into teams for healing and intercession and are open to the public for 1 ½ hours. The numbers are still small but many keep returning as they are greatly blessed.
Andrzej has recently launched a Kingdom Social Enterprise called Bee Blest, in which they work with honeybees to help lift people out of poverty. This faith venture impacts the environment, disadvantaged local people and poor Third World communities such as the New Humanity Christian community in Rwanda by enabling bee business start-ups.
Link: Bee Blest
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