August/September 2014 - Vol. 75

Karen (right) with friends at an Antioch summer barbeque event
A home and fruitful place for service

by Karen Mascarenhas

Antioch is part of an international network of about 70 communities called the Sword of the Spirit. I come from one such community in Mumbai, India. Four years ago I left Mumbai to pursue higher education in London. Coming to the UK was a completely different experience for me. Coming from a culture of warm and friendly people it was difficult to get used to a lonely life in London where people are more reserved. Added to this was the not-so-pleasant weather. I remember wondering how I would cope for the next year. God obviously had plans for me, and a week into my course I met some women from Antioch's university outreach (Koinonia) and went along to their weekly meeting. One of the first things that struck me was the welcoming nature of these students which was such a refreshing change from what I had seen so far in London. 

My first experience with Antioch was at the community anniversary weekend. I didn't really know what to expect and wondered if they were anything like the community I was part of in India. To my surprise I found they were so much like my community back home, with people being warm and loving. That weekend really made me realize I was so blessed to be part of the Sword of the Spirit and to have found community in London. 

Since then God has brought me a long way. Initially I never thought I would have much time to invest with Koinonia or Antioch because of my intense course, and the fact that I lived in northeast London. However, as I went along to some Koinonia meetings and during my personal prayer times, I began to realize that there was more to life than just focusing on my degree. That changed the way I managed my time, and I began to see that the minute I had God as my top priority (including being with people whose hearts were set on him - Koinonia, community, etc.), my assignments, exams, dissertations all fell into place. What was even more amazing was how well I was able to do in them. Through it all, I slowly learnt how God wanted me to trust in him totally, which is something I have always struggled with. This was something I was to learn more of in the months after I received my degree.

I felt God calling me to serve him in Koinonia after my degree and thought I would be able to do it while I looked for a job. However as the months drew on it was more and more difficult to find a job and I had trouble with a visa as well. I ended up spending a lot more time serving with Koinonia than I had planned. This involved connecting with Christian students at university, and I found God really blessing me in this work reaching out to students. I was happy serving God in this way but constantly questioned and doubted if this was where God wanted me to be especially since I had no visa and hadn't found a job yet. 

Although it was really difficult, I felt a sense that God wanted me to "have faith” in him for my present circumstances, and I had a number of scripture verses assuring me that he was caring for me. However, being the kind of person who always liked things done my way and who hated uncertainty, I found this very difficult to handle. As I look back I've seen that even though I was going through a difficult time in another country away from family, I wasn't alone. It was so reassuring to know that I had the support and  prayers of the community here in London. I am thankful for God's provision in ways like that.

I know that God’s provision and love for his people never ends. Exactly when I desperately needed answers about how I was going to be able to carry on in London, I received my visa a full two weeks before it was actually due.  God's provision didn't stop there, and just after Christmas when I returned to London really low on funds to survive, I was offered a job with Koinonia. In addition I also have an opportunity to work in a laboratory a few hours a week and get UK-based lab experience.

Shortly before these things fell into place, I had turned to this scripture verse from Isaiah 30 during my prayer time, explaining how God is waiting to be gracious to me:

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:18-21)
I've realized through this experience that what God really wanted me to do was serve him fully and leave the rest up to him. I feel so blessed and happy. It has not been an easy thing to learn, but I've realized it's God's plan for my life that's important and not my own, because he knows best. It's about fitting myself in his plan.
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