Has the BLM movement diminished good done by missionaries?
Disclaimers: a) I don’t for one second think that we should dismiss the BLM movement, b) what I’m indicating is that we could be in danger of dismissing something just as incredible if we don’t realise how wonderful mission is, c) I want to challenge people, not condemn, d) I know there are deep rooted issues with some missionaries and the BAME community. I don’t mean to ignore these. If you’d like to discuss this, please do comment below or contact.
Recently so many eyes have been opened to injustices, racial blindspots and inequality. But have we forgotten sustainable mission?
I have been so excited to see so many people use this strange season of pandemic to educate themselves. Suddenly the church is reading books on racism, discovering how slavery is more complex than the coffee they drink and responding to the needs of their local communities. I genuinely can’t quite explain how AMAZING this is.
However, in the frenzy of exposure there have been disappointments too. There are still shortcomings. For example, I 100% support the BLM movement and have spent time reading, advocating and also attending conference meetings where I can listen to BAME students challenge systems. But I also know that (like in all campaigns and movements) anger can work it’s way in. I know that fast learning over gradual committed research developments can not always be sustainable.
I am passionate about social justice. I am driven to advocate for victims of fast fashion or modern day slavery. I desire to see an inclusive society. I believe the church too has to look at it’s history and be challenged to address failures or unsustainabilities, yes. However I am also passionate about overseas missions and it has been a shame to see how this important ministry has begun to dwindle even more.
On a side note, I have found myself sitting in this disappointment a lot longer than ‘as of 2020.’ My purpose for this post is not to discourage or dwell on the bad but I must express how more and more churches are forgetting about the nations. We have become more focused on our individual salvation which is not necessarily a bad thing. But, the bible is clear on our faith being both personal, and communal. Our calling to love others is both a radical, local calling, and also a worldwide prayerful love.
Sustainable missionaries have been at the forefront of relational cross-cultural exchange for years. They have done a lot of good in bringing light and sustainable development to the world. Yet they have over the years come under scrutiny as colonial, faith-pushing, ‘west is best’ crusaders.
Yes there have been (and still are) failing, imperfect missionaries. In the past the church did proclaim God in a harmful way that is now being criticised. Historic missionaries did get tied up in colonialism and slavery. I fully believe the church does have to own up to this and sincerely apologise for the massive damage it has caused to many nations. There is still a lot of work to be done.
However, many missionaries and charities all over the world today have already walked through the blindspots. Most missionaries today live out their faith in a graceful, empathetic, sustainable way and it’s a beautiful thing.
I believe God tells us in the bible to go to all nations and proclaim our faith, not because we are superior or want control, but because cultural exchange is powerful for both accounts. There are skills that we have and can use to impart to others, and skills we can also gain from others. We have differing perspectives which are vital for challenging, refining and also encouraging.
The bible is not just for white westerners. The bible is God’s word given to all races and black lives matter to God. I wholeheartedly believe that God also wants to use POC missionaries and bless the UK with diverse culture, anti-racism and leaders who participate in healthy, sustainable exchange.
It’s not just all about Brits going to develop other nations. We should be empowering our BAME British nationals to empower us and change us. We should embrace immigration and welcome people from both minority groups and other nations all the more. They have a voice and God-given gifts that we are to embrace. Sustainable mission works both ways.
Who’s Doing It?
‘Good missionaries,’ are doing incredible work all over the world. They are training those without skills to live, work and prosper. They are providing good education to equip children to achieve their potential and then one day become the teachers. Some are meeting with leaders and praying for them. In dangerous places, missionaries are providing mental health support or releasing prisoners. These organisations are employing locals and we are seeing a decrease in the number of White British missionaries – they are moving in the right direction!
We still need to reawaken to the fact that the world is broken. There are developing nations. There are places where girls are forced into FGM. Others are deprived of the hope and freedom that Jesus offers, because they live in a community where ‘Jesus’ isn’t known or allowed to be spoken without a death sentence.
Using our privilege to support – not self-impose
As a church we need to allow God to stir us to have respect for our sustainable missionaries. We need to be stirred to pray for them, encourage them, share financially with them if need be. This doesn’t mean we take our eyes off the UK needs around us, or all suddenly jump at a ‘2 week short-term white saviour trip’ which should never be encouraged and only serves ourselves. It means we partner with the people already doing it. We start talking about and exchanging more than our own self-healing. We learn from their community, share with them and if called, go with them in a culturally appropriate manner.
Missionaries are not on a pedestal. They are ordinary people, living ordinary mundane lives in another country. They simply live every day as we would, led to love and see gradual change. Missionaries are there to empower locals, not override them.
Are you aware of overseas missions? Are you praying for sustainable mission work?
Let’s start loving mission again. Take a look at these good, sustainable, faith-based mission organisations who are leading in bringing more than just faith, but abundant life to all nations. Sign up to their newsletters. Watch their appeal videos. Pray for their workers. Give financially. Let them inspire you to live as a missionary where you are.
Organisations to Follow:
BMS World Mission – I recommend their ‘Engage’ Magazine and ‘Operation Chad’ appeal. They have been working to sustainably transform 1 million lives by 2020, and lots of their work involves training and empowering local churches to themselves serve in their own cultural context.
Mercy Ships – these provide incredible healthcare and also train locals in healthcare professions too.
Open Doors – offering aid to persecuted believers and advocating for them.
IJM – this organisation works to free those enslaved all over the world
Are we raised to thrive on adventure? Are we constantly seeking an additive that adds flavour to our ordinary?
I would describe myself as passionate. I’m determined. I had big dreams as a teenager to travel the world, go on mission trips, get into a top university, be the lead in my field…
Today we teach our generation to aspire to great things. We inspire one another to dream of the impossible, whether that be the development of new technology, running a sub-2 hour marathon or moving half way across the world.
None of this is wrong.
Dreams & Wild Adventure
Dreams are in all of us. They are beautiful expressions of our identity. My dreams find their roots in my faith in God and a desire to know him more clearly.
At 17 I knew God was calling me to go overseas and at 18 headed out to Guinea where I grew in faith, served God, learned a lot. Then I moved to university and witnessed friends coming to faith. Last year God miraculously provided for a trip to Japan (read the story behind Japan here). This year I’ve lived and journeyed with amazing people and started to work in the city. Wild adventures!
Life was (and is) golden! I continuously thank God for all of these adventures. They weren’t easy but they were wild as I saw God move in each of them, I only desired more to keep being obedient and serving him.
Globally Stripped of Adventure
6 weeks ago our fast pace, free-travelling, adventuring world changed. Our adventure loving nation suddenly had all ‘adventure’ taken away. Initially, I couldn’t work from home and really thought that I should stay where I was, even as all my housemates moved back home in a matter of days. I knew God has called me to this job and that He was working in it.
I got so angry as everything was stripped away. What was the plan? What I was meant to ‘do’ in this? I was determined to stay in the adventure of where I was but then working in-office got banned. I stayed a week longer, expecting God to bring the next adventure that I still wasn’t seeing. It turned out that God was saying, ‘Eleanor it’s time to go home for a little while.’
A lot of people currently feel as though all the adventure has been stolen. Perhaps some are wondering if they will ever feel excited, or motivated or see a mountain-top moment.
Imagine you are hungry, probably bored and craving. It’s so easy to go to the store, pick up a cheap snack filled with sugar, salts and additives. We get a quick fix and a sugar rush that makes us feel good. But when the additive runs low we are hungry again.
Alternatively, you could slowly and methodically open a cupboard, take out what you already have and make something substantial. It may look less exciting and not have any additives but it can still taste good if you make it well.
My anger came because I was seeking the adventure. All my previous wild adventuring genuinely occurred naturally, as I lived to seek God and make the most of what I had in front of me.
A season for everything
Currently the whole world is pretty much on lockdown. We are going slow and unable to run towards a wild adventure of travel, day trips or socials. Our days look ordinary. But there can still be good in the ordinary. We can cultivate goodness in what we have. We can enjoy new things, share with family, spend time soaking up wisdom.
Being home has been wonderful! Doing life with mum and dad again is so special. I’ve reconnected with old friends and neighbours. I’ve had time to read books and learn new recipes.
We can live farming, building and raising family, crafting, and being faithful where we are. It’s not our job to find adventure. It’s not our purpose to constantly be the heroic, inspiring, crazy dream achiever. These dreams and passions are important, yes, but we must learn to have gratitude where we are and trust that the adventure will come in God’s timing and planning.
What are you chasing? Are you missing adventures? What small things are you grateful for?
If anyone is interested, I really recommend the book ‘Garden City.’ It’s all about the idea of Genesis and cultivating good in the things we do, and bringing God’s goodness to the every day.
There are so many more things to be thankful for!
Joy often comes incredibly naturally to me. I live to see light in all that I do and holding onto hope is a default. Not that I wish to boast, but things have pretty much been on track for the past few years.
Recently I have found joy a struggle. My grades have not been the best and I am daily finding it a challenge to keep on top of uni work. I feel burnt out and tired most days. I’ve experienced waves of complete homesickness…
Earlier this year I challenged myself to seriously step into a worry-free life. I finally owned up to the fact that I have anxiety. I actually accepted it as a fact and decided to do something about it. For three whole months (by the grace of God) I experienced absolutely no anxiety at all. How? I started to depend on God daily, pray and simply abide in Jesus. He answered and took all the anxiety away.
This year God has taught me so much more about his loving freedom and He has been so faithful in carrying all my burdens!
Unfortunately, now that I have entered the last two weeks of the semester, the work is piling up and I feel like I’m drowning. I don’t understand why but the anxiety has returned in full force. Admitting it makes me feel so weak but honesty is so important.
I have been so crippled in fear some days. Other days bring discouragement from tutors or peers. Sometimes I just need a bit more sleep and so my emotions run wild.
Living alone is hard too. I can’t run to my Dad downstairs anymore and cooking for myself is an added task.
However, this time around it’s different. I might feel like I’m drowning but I know that I am not. Every time something tries to steal my joy I remember to have gratitude regardless. Whenever I hear voices that tell me to give up, I find a slither of strength to fight back and persevere.
Gratitude is getting me through. It doesn’t matter how many difficult things you are facing today because there will always be so many more good things.
I know that God’s hand is on me and therefore the enemy will throw all sorts of anxieties at me, trying to steal my joy. I refuse to give in to that.
So what am I thankful for?
- Zara – my beautiful flatmate has been cheering me on, laughing with me in the hard times and cooking me dinner when I need it.
- Morning Coffee.
- Guinea Girls – we may not be living together anymore but their daily messages and encouragements are so amazing.
- Flatmates – we have become family for one another.
- Bath – what a beautiful city to be in!
- Course mates – these guys understand the work load and we can live alongside each other in the studio.
- Church family – seriously, what would I do without them? They have fed me, prayed for me and encouraged me.
- The opportunity to study.
- Financial Provision – I haven’t had to budget or scrimp this semester and I really do not deserve such abundant grace!
- Time stretching – God has just stretched time in every moment of feeling drowned and surrendering my control.
- Pink cafes and meeting friends on weekends.
- Musical moments.
- Instagram free Lent.
- Miracles in the every day.
- Lessons learnt when my work is criticised.
- The promise that my grades don’t determine my future.
- Struggles – they are an opportunity to learn and witness God’s power in my life!
I am so thankful in this season. I might be fighting a lot of anxiety, discouragement and stress but there is a light and hope greater than all of these things.
As Newton Faulkner would say: “people should smile more. I’m not saying there’s nothing to cry for.”
What are you thankful for?
What is it really like to study architecture?
If there’s any degree that receives bad press, it’s definitely the seven years of RIBA accredited study.
Let me start by telling you what architecture is not. It is not an impossible work load leading to hundreds of all-nighters. It is not going to steal all of your time. Architecture is not a boring, delayed transition into adulthood or a career. It is definitely not just ‘cutting and sticking’ either!
Architecture is an incredibly creative and structured course. The principles of design are integral to every aspect and at all points you are encouraged to express your own interests. Architecture is a rich, unique mix of subjects: arts; environmental sciences; engineering; culture; history…
Studio life requires discipline but it generates an exciting creative community that does life together.
Before coming to university, I was close to giving up on architecture. Every where I looked, course reviews and information panels painted this picture of a crippling course. The internet portrays the degree as this all consuming, never ending, impossible burden of work. It seems this is what many people have come to believe.
When I tell people that I am studying to be an architect, the conversation instantly changes. People gasp and make comments like, ‘wow isn’t that a really long course?’ Or, ‘will you really finish the whole degree?’ “All you do is glue paper models.’ The worst? ‘I know an architect who tells everybody to never practise the profession.’
Stop shutting us down
Seriously? ! I am fed up of people killing our passion for architecture! I’m pretty much wired to study this degree. Yes, it calls for a certain type of person but so what? That might just be me or you.
I delight in the long studio hours, working on a model that is worthy of a showcase. A huge enthusiasm is experienced every time a new brief is presented. Rejoicing is my attitude through the trials of not knowing where a design is leading. I persevere when my design looks like utter crap.
I refuse to let the anxiety of deadlines overload me. I actually sleep every night. I socialise and take weekends. Granted, there is a certain discipline required to prioritise my work but this comes out of an excitement for my design – not an anxiety.
If anyone is considering architecture, do it. Don’t listen to the people who make you feel like you’ll never be good enough or the worries about keeping up with the pace. The diversity of the course is incredible. Your interest in culture, design, materials and architectural history will increase rapidly.
Studying architecture is like going to a dressmaker. It is made to be a perfect fit – adjustable for all. This robe can be styled and purposed for individuals. It looks and feels beautiful. Architecture is worthy of an award – not a bad press.
Investigate architecture. Pay attention to what it has to offer and don’t just write it off!
How do you pay tribute to something as beautiful and complex as a musical instrument?
I’m sure you’ve visited multiple museums in your lifetime and found yourself bored to death and a little perplexed as you stare at something locked away behind a glass screen. Why is it that in museums, the things exhibited are actually shielded?
Ironically a precious object is presented as an irrelevant item, impossible to engage with.
As part of my Architectural design project this semester, I was asked to design an exhibition stand for a unique musical instrument. I was given the Componium (Holland 1821), a huge, mechanical composing-machine which is incredible in its industrial nature. Revolutionary in its time, the instrument can be played by a single handle yet generate infinite compositions of music.
Currently the Componium sits within a dimly lit box inside the MIM Brussels. Sadly, an instrument designed to be infinite, is prevented from continuing to engage.
Thus, I proposed Oneindig: a timber platform scheme that allows 360 degree views of the Componium. The altar-like plinth deifies the instrument and timber cladding shields most of its nature, creating suspense on approach. Organ pipes project upwards out of this envelop. Visitors to the exhibition can embark on a journey around the exhibit, resulting in a very individual playing experience that allows them to fully engage with the instrument.
The timber cladding is inspired by the Lavender-Planted Hill Temple in Japan. Enveloping the altar defines an intimate and pure space whilst the shear height of the Componium escapes and pays tribute to the idea of infinity. Steel infinity shaped brackets tie the timber beams within the cladding together, reflecting themes of infinity and paying tribute to dutch vernacular traditions.
Does Preservation Have to Mean Imprisonment?
Whilst preservation cannot be neglected, it does happen to ‘freeze’ a subject in time. As a child, visiting museums was one of my favourite activities because I could interact with the information presented to me by use of buttons, costumes, puzzles… Yet now, I can’t bear to wander around a museum and read countless, static display boards that detail something I can’t quite see, because of lighting-glares on glass displays.
I think there’s a real need to reconsider how we protect a precious object and still allow for it to be exhibited. Is a glass box really the way to do it? Or can we use paths, lighting, narrowing spaces or other ideas to control crowds, reduce touch, and maintain without limiting interaction completely?
Student life is no longer a future thought. Three weeks ago I was determined to love university but terrified to actually get there. When you’ve had something in the distance for so long, it’s truly daunting to stare it in the face.
I live in a flat with 16 other people, I spend most days 9-5 in a studio and I’m juggling a million other things in typical Eleanor-style.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of questioning what the heck I’m doing. There have been days of “I hate this course and I want to give up.” Not to mention, the late nights and early mornings of student life.
When you finish an adventurous season such as a gap year, things get a bit dull. Throughout teenage years, our lives are constantly getting more and more exciting. Last year I hit the climax and now I’m back at “school.”
Remembering what student life looks like
It’s vital that I constantly remind myself of this dull truth. A flatmate also pointed out how much they studied for A-levels… A-levels are a lost memory for me and I guess I have to remind myself that I can and will have to prioritise the studies for now. I did it in 2016 and now I have to learn to do it again.
I have to put last year’s adventure aside and stop comparing this season with the last. Once I do that, I can fully throw myself into experiencing life at university.
I am starting to find my passion for architecture again. I am loving the extrovert environment created by a house of 17 students. I have enrolled in (too) many sports and societies. I have made incredible friends. And I’m enjoying the variety of lecture content!
University is crazy. But it’s also such a great opportunity to live alongside people and try new things!
I’ve stepped down the adventure level and I’m busier than ever. But I’m learning, experiencing and loving student life.
Has anyone else started univeristy recently? How are you finding it?
Sustainable struggles are driving me mad! Six months ago I set myself the goal of reducing my environmental impact. This included being more conscious of fashion choices and trying to choose sustainable or ethical brands. However high street fashion makes this almost impossible!
Why the heck do we need sustainable fashion?
I recently found out that fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world – what?! Not that I was aware of this when I decided to change they way I use fashion. Essentially, when I went to Guinea, I had one 24kg bag in which to pack everything I needed. Firstly, all of the mosquito nets, bedding and water treatment equipment took up half of this and secondly, anything I took was bound to come back ruined by orange dust. I had shut down my blog temporarily and essentially put style on hold…
When I came back, yes I was excited to have fun styling clothes again (I do have a fashion blog after all) but something felt different. After living in basics for months, I’d forgotten about so many of my clothes. I had so many that I actually felt overwhelmed!
The “crazy” minimalist?
I decided that I didn’t need half the stuff in my wardrobe so I gave everything that I’d forgotten I had, to charity. Following this I recycled anything that didn’t fit me properly. It felt amazing! Why? I was left with things that I loved and I had room to buy a couple of really good quality items.
Living in a third world country makes you incredibly aware of pollution. There are no waste-processing sites. You either bury your rubbish, burn your rubbish, or leave it at the side of the road. You just can’t ignore the devastating impact that your waste has upon the environment. Inevitably this compelled me to start reducing my impact. With fashion being a big contributor, I had to change some things.
Ever since I’ve seriously been struggling! It’s so hard! Here are a few struggles I am facing…
Sustainable Struggle one: looking ridiculously hippie
When I thought about Eco-friendly fashion, I used to think of ‘hippie’ clothing, ‘gap-yah’ students and anything far from stylish… I mean, I do possess a very jazzy cardigan now but since then, I’ve learnt that it can be a lot more stylish and casual too! But, finding more casual items is a challenge.
Sustainable Struggle two: you just can’t win!
After recycling a lot of old clothes (to charity shops) that I didn’t want, I decided that I would only buy clothes that were made from environmentally friendly materials. Also, I was determined to ensure that they were from ethically fair backgrounds ie, they were made in the UK, or fair-trade – not ‘made in Bangladesh’ for example.
Watch this really useful video to understand what I mean by eco-friendly materials!
Anyway, back to the point.
It’s been six months now and it has been a slow journey. Why? The high street has not caught onto this movement! Almost everything is made from polyester and if you do find a 100% cotton, it’s been made in Vietnam… I’ve struggled to stick to my goals and often had to compromise.
I have however been shopping more frequently in charity shops – I found a brilliant Denim Jacket in Oxfam! Of course you don’t need to worry about labels here because all the clothing has been recycled so you are reusing a material that would otherwise become waste.
Gradually I have been reducing my wardrobe to a more capsule size. I have found that having a few items that I love, along with the important basics, still allows me style things creatively.
Sustainable Struggle three: there’s rarely anything my size in charity shops
With the seasons changing and after having missed Autumn/Winter last year, I’ve been in desperate need of warmer clothing. I have succeeded on the “less is more” front by only purchasing one dress and two knitted tops to go with the two skirts, jeans, jackets and abundance of basics that I have. However, yet again, I HAD TO COMPROMISE! I failed to find anything suitable in charity shops – most shops have very few items in size 8.
The dress and knitted tops were 100% cotton but there was no indication of where they were made!
Sustainable Struggle four: their branding sucks!
Why is this so hard? I feel like a suffragette sometimes just trying to search through clothes labels! Why can’t brands just add the information the the price tag?
Recently I have discovered that both M&S and Monki have sustainable ranges including 100% organic cotton denim and recycled cotton basics. But again they don’t openly advertise this – I merely just happened to stumble upon them.
Other brands (often found on ASOS or Etsy) that focus on environmentally friendly fashion can’t be found on the highstreet and are just way too expensive! If it’s going to break the bank, it’s just not going to take off.
It’s going to take a while!
So here I am, still trying to love fashion and love the environment. I have come so far in six months but definitely have further to go! I have even resorted to making my own clothes (check out the fair-trade outfits I designed and had a tailor make for me in Guinea), but honestly, it’s stressful and not everybody’s solution.
Does anyone have any tips? Although I shall not be buying anything for a few months now!
I’ve discovered the best way to have a good morning. Bold as I may be to claim this, it’s really worth a thought. I feel good, productive, and calm!
In the past few months I seem to have slipped back into the UK norm. The things that I learnt to prioritise whilst living in Guinea now just sit at the back of my mind. Do I feel guilty about this? Sometimes. Does it feel as though I’m wasting precious life lessons? Definitely!
A good morning is one without Wi-fi
One of the greatest influences during my time overseas was the lack of mobile phones. I’m not going to stand and say that before I left last October, I was addicted to my phone. That just isn’t true. I did however spend a lot of time on social media. I had Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,Time-hop, Pinterest…
A good morning was one without wi-fi.
I used my phone for 30-60 minutes a day in Guinea. If I wanted to chat to someone, I phoned them or visited them. I lived in the moment and didn’t think about recording it. Call me a recluse, but I delighted in the idea of a few days’ “disappearance” at a time.
Now I use Pinterest and Instagram – these are the only social media apps on my phone. Facebook gets checked every few days for the sake of blogging and university updates. Why? I got so used to having real life interactions! I stopped caring what people think of me. I realised that I don’t need to update the world to qualify a good happy moment.
Getting my good morning back
Lately, I’ve been reaching out for my phone again. I’ve been scrolling endlessly rather than uploading, checking and leaving. I get distracted and then I feel like I haven’t done anything today.
So I’m finally forcing myself to seize back the reality that I’ve recently lost.
Every morning when I wake up, I leave my phone exactly where it is. I get up at 8am, put on some clothes and go straight downstairs. I make a good morning breakfast (granola, eggs, pancakes, porridge…), grab a coffee and eat slowly. I then spend time reading a good book. Often I find this time a great opportunity to study my bible but I also love a good novel or creative article! I’m working my way through the summer reading list!
What’s so good about this morning?
- It fuels my day with good words!
- I don’t feel rushed.
- In just 1 hour I have eaten well, read something good and can be ready to leave the house!
- It creates a boundary between your real life, and the life that all your friends are viewing.
- It sets you up for a positive day.
By 9am most days I feel like I’ve already done so much – that is a brilliant achievement. When I eventually switch airplane mode off (my new favourite setting) I no longer have the desire to scroll through everything that everyone posted last night. In fact, once you go without your phone for a while, it is surprising how rubbish social media appears!
I have always been a morning person but I haven’t always felt good every morning. Now I feel amazing and this one little change carries itself through the day. One boundary leads to a day’s discipline. Yes I still post. Yes I still love Instagram! But my relationship is healthier. I enjoy it but real life memories always come first.
If I’m waking up, I wake up. If I’m watching TV, I watch TV. If I’m with friends and family, I ignore messages.
And all of this starts with a good morning! Forget waking up on the wrong side of the bed – wake up on the right side of a screen!
Try it! You’ll feel in control of you and your day.
If you want to read more about my Guinean Adventures and lessons learnt, you can find it all here.
It’s time that I introduced you all to my “housemates.” Meet Team Guinea! Seven months ago I met three wonderful girls for the first time and flew across the world to live with them for six months. I left all my other friends behind and quite literally, ended up stuck with them…
Lauren, Cara and Mhairi have been the best team mates I could have asked for! We worked together, lived together, cooked together and pretty much didn’t spend any time apart for six months! In some ways this has been incredible but of course, living together does have challenges too and we have learnt to navigate our way through all of these things together – ups and downs. Most importantly, I’m incredibly proud of these three girls and all that they have accomplished this year.
After learning to live alongside each other as a team, we are now best friends and whilst its was definitely difficult at times, we certainly are glad we did it. Today I’m sharing our top ten tips for team living, whether you are currently about to live with flatmates for the first time at university, or are working in a team of colleagues.
- Have give and take. Living with house mates or team members really can be a challenge. If you think about your family, you don’t always agree with one another, or be kind to each other. Families argue. They contrast yet have grace for each other and are built on love! If your family doesn’t always get along, your house won’t either! Accept that, choose which battles are important to fight, and leave those that really won’t matter in the long term.
- Cook good food together! As a team in Guinea, we found that cooking together was such a relaxing and enriching activity. When we all came together to share ideas, tastes, skills, we didn’t just manage to cook something incredible but when we shared it, we could all enjoy the reward of our creation. Our favourites were curry complete with homemade naan bread, pancake brunches, lasagne, stews, soups…
- Laugh together, cry together. This was one of our team values! We had to understand that sharing in good times was just as important as accompanying one another in tough times. Having this as a grounding allowed us to support one another, to encourage each other and have a deepened understanding of each other’s emotions, circumstances, joys and tribulations.
- Be quick to forgive. Seriously – grudges are no good for team living! Anything unsaid can build up to cause explosive arguments. If something was upsetting us or annoying us, we would honestly tell our team member, resolve the problem and then move on, forgetting it happened. We all make mistakes and living together is difficult! I definitely learnt to be patient with my team.
- Share the roles. Now it’s not a healthy team if one person is carrying a heavier load. It’s vital that you share roles and each take up a fair amount jobs. It’s not just about getting a fair rest but also learning to serve your house mates, proving that you care for and value them as individuals. In our house we decided to create a “day off” rota so that each day, one team member would be excused from all cooking and washing up. This was brilliant! There were still three people to share the load, and we’d all get the chance to put our feet up twice a week.
- Employ each other’s strengths. It’s pointless forcing the quiet team member to stand up and present a whole lesson to a class of 80. Likewise it’s silly to ask the outgoing, active one to just work on the sidelines and do all the administration. This applies to living together too! Pick out one another’s strengths and delegate roles based upon that. For example, I am strong in Mathematics and was encouraged to manage our team’s finances and food budgets. Lauren however was really good at coming up with social activities to do on an evening, so we’d often get her to plan a film night or worship night whenever we needed some down time…
- Celebrate each other! We all love to be built up! So celebrate each other’s successes as friends and compliment one another’s efforts.
- Find a mutual activity. You can’t just live together and never socialise together. Discovering mutual interests or trying new things together is an important for bonding and also maintaining a good relationship with your house mates. In Guinea this looked like watching films, playing games and journalling together. Now in the UK, it’s going for walks and even doing crazy things like going to a trampoline park to destress for an hour!
- Take the short straw. There will always be jobs that no-one wants to do. Sometimes you just have to big yourself up and do them because if you all stand around, you’ll be there for ever! I hate to admit it, but I even had to unblock a toilet and kill a mouse for my team! These things need doing and if you just get it over with, you can move on as a team. Your housemates will really appreciate you for serving them in that too!
- Have hyper moments! Sometimes you just need to scream hysterically at each other or dance stupidly around the house. It’s these crazy memories that really build a happy team – you’ll remember wild nights forever!
We are still living together and learning to navigate through life together… We are now spending eight weeks travelling around the UK, talking about our trip and meeting one another’s families. With this comes new challenges and these ten lessons still play a huge role in our team!
What tips do you have for living with house mates?
Welcome back to Distinctivemode! Today I’m sharing my newfound love for West African Wax fabric. Whilst living in Guinea, I came across so many bright and colourful fabrics that were sold at market stalls, to then be taken to a local tailor and made into all sorts of things. Whilst I did have some more culturally appropriate outfits made to wear in country, I visited my tailor just before I left with some of my own western designs.
One of the most popular fabrics is this blue material with motifs. In fact, it comes in all different colours and most Guineans own something in this fabric. Blue is my favourite so I purchased a fair bit of it! The first thing I designed? A scalloped pencil skirt with buttons. Originally I’d hoped for it to be made in the locally dyed indigo fabric however the tailor got a little muddled so I was surprised to say the least… But once I’d styled it with a white v-neck t-shirt, I fell in love with it!
Speaking of locally dyed indigo, you can’t step foot in the market without spotting hundreds of uniquely printed or tie-dyed sheets of indigo! There are so many patterns all hand crafted. I had a shirt made in one of the tie-dye designs and have hauled piles of different patterns home with plans to create even more – I’ve already made a skirt and am working on a little top to go with it!
The best thing about wearing African fabrics? You can inject a little bit of colour into an outfit and the indigo gives you the opportunity to be more subtle, pairing with denim. I am definitely a convert! Wearing these fabrics is like a home comfort to me now after wearing traditional clothing in Guinea for so long. It’s also completely ethical since you not only pay those who have crafted the indigo, or locals selling imported wax but you have the opportunity to employ a local tailor and support their business.
I also had a dress made and it feels incredible to wear something made to fit! Whenever people comment on it I have the opportunity to share the story of my local tailor friend, relive an experience and inject a bit of culture into someone’s life. It’s a truly distinctive dress – one I designed myself!
Head to Pinterest and browse West African Wax fabrics – it’s an awesome new craze!