“I have come all this way,
To get through, and to reach out.
Cause I know, it’s You I need
And I know You are near
I’ll find my way to get there, cause I know, I know,
You are the passage of this journey
Cause I’ll call on Your name
You are my Reason
You are my Purpose”
-The Purpose, Evergreen
If you’ve ever been to YWAM Harpenden you will have, at some point in time, heard the name Andy Sloan. From his early days in Africa where his parents served with the Anastasis, to being a YWAM teenager living on the Oval, to joining staff two days after he returned from his DTS in Australia at 19, Andy is not someone you forget. Since joining staff with YWAM Harpenden, he has been on an even crazier journey: in 2009 he started a band, ‘Evergreen’, with his friend on staff, Colin, and two others, Lalo, from Mexico, and Nathan, from the USA.
Evergreen began as a pipe dream project for Andy and Colin. They wanted to physically be Jesus to people who might not have ever thought about God outside the religiosity of the church, and didn’t know how to do that in a way that was true to them, besides music. Evergreen ended after four crazy years, three albums, and four hundred shows, as the band members decided to pursue God in different locations.
“C.S. Lewis says that ‘fiction is able to sneak past the watchful dragons of religion. It becomes more powerful to speak in poetry’, or in our case through a song. The song goes straight to the heart while the numbers and the math of it will never be able to reach that. That is why we did evergreen – to portray a message of hope and purpose in a way that people could understand and for a small moment at least, escape the pain that they are in and see the light that we are surrounded in. We need each other in life, and we need songs to remind us of that at times we all go through the heartache of life. That is why I did Evergreen.”
Evergreen may have ended, but Andy’s outlook on missions, and physically being Jesus to people, did not. Since Evergreen ended, Andy has gone on to lead a DTS with his wife, Rebecca, and started #OvalSkate – a skate park for local and detached youth, as well as Seniors Lunch – a monthly three course meal put on for the senior community of Harpenden.
It might seem like the journey from starting a band to cooking a meal for the elderly isn’t cohesive, but in actuality it is, because Jesus is present in both communities. The passion behind Evergreen was founded upon presenting Jesus in a way that was not only true to Andy, but also true to who Jesus is to him: someone who is true regardless of social standing, someone whose love breaks through stereotypes, someone who feeds the hungry in spirit just as much as the physically hungry, someone who understands pain and cares about the individual, someone who builds community and pours hope back into people. This Jesus that Andy knows and believes in is the source of the passion that built Evergreen, and it is the same passion that built Seniors Lunch.
Andy sees something that is easy to forget: the message of hope and purpose and community is for everyone. Jesus is relevant for everyone, whether that be the people that Evergreen met and built community with, the kids at #OvalSkate, or the senior community that comes to the Oval once a month to be heard and valued and to share their lives and stories, as well.
“[Seniors Lunch] is ultimately missions because I think Jesus spent most of his time telling people that he loved them, meeting them where they were at, and eating with them; and I feel like all this is, is eating with people and listening to their stories. It’s really a simple thing, but it can go a long way.”
It takes about ten people to set up and run Seniors Lunch monthly. Andy and his team cook the meal, serve them food and tea, and sit with them and build community. Andy comments “people forget that the elderly have a lot of wisdom and stories, but nobody has time to listen to them.” Andy’s hope for Seniors Lunch is simply for those who are lonely in Harpenden to feel a part of something.
“Loneliness is a big thing in this town, and if I can help that by sitting down and listening to some stories…if they feel appreciated, if they feel listened to, if they feel like they have a community, if they have people to come and tell their stories, then I’ll do that every day.”
Andy reminds us that Jesus is visible, hope is visible; whether that hope be needed in pubs and concerts, or to some lonely seniors, it is relevant. The great commission is about people, it is about seeing what people need, and responding to that need. It is simple: it is about offering people friendship, community, purpose, hope, life; we can all offer this to each other. This is missions.