Tapestry by Nicola

My name is Nicola, and this is my tapestry. I’m new on staff at the House of Prayer in Hamilton, ON; currently you can find me drawing in the prayer room, making friends with our house parrot, Bert, meeting Hamiltonians over tea, or fixing bikes at the New Hope bike co-op on the East side.

I first heard about 24-7 Prayer in Reading, England. I had pre-arranged to work at a snowboard shop the year after I graduated high school; however, I fell into a role as a fulltime volunteer youth worker for a drop-in centre in the projects of Caversham (across the river from Reading). I remember laying in my bed at my Aunt’s house, petrified that I had made a ‘wrong’ decision in coming to England and that I was in over my head; in a pleading moment with God I opened my bible and came upon this verse:

I took you from the ends of the earth,
From its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:9-10 NIV)

I grew up on a hobby farm in rural Ontario, collecting eggs, romping through the fields, and giving names to all of the barn cats. Now in Reading, I was looking after the children of prostituting women, leading small groups and organizing after school clubs for the children in the neighbourhood. I mentored, tutored, planned and played with the kids during the day, and worked at a pub to make ends meet at night. It was during this time that I met Andy Freeman (he co-wrote ‘Punk Monk’, if you’ve read it); on Thursday mornings he and a few others led a small group of young leaders at St. Lawrence’s; an ancient Church in downtown Reading. Though I had heard about the Reading Boiler Room from my cousin when it was still in the old Abbey, I heard more about it from Andy and some friends I made: one being Lucy Burnell, who borrowed my Canadian winter things for her visit to the new Boiler Room community in Calgary back in 2005. I was inspired and compelled by Andy’s stories and the way he felt such a sure calling to the mission of 24-7. I later spent the day with a group of 24-7 Reading folks while they were readying their new boiler room in an old warehouse in Caversham. I remember walking through the huge space where the skate park would be; I looked up into the barn rafters of the art studio and imagined what the worship space would look like when they were done. I walked through a room of bunk-beds, painted the new prayer room and cleaned a few toilets. Unknowingly, a seed had been planted in my heart that day… and each year the sprout has pushed closer to the surface, beckoning me to give it sun and water and somewhere to grow roots.

In my next post I’ll share about the prayer rooms at Summit College and St. Stephen’s University, and the upcoming 24/14 prayer room in Hamilton!

Thanks for reading,

Nicola


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