Faith Worked Out: Rachel Stonehouse
It's SUCH a privilege to share this interview with Rachel Stonehouse, as she talks about her work with Luminary Bakery. This will be particularly helpful for girls leaving sixth-form, especially those who aren't heading off to university. We've absolutely loved reading this and know you will too. Lucy x
Book on my bedside table: ‘A Meal with Jesus’ by Tim Chester. I had a ‘wow’ moment when I found this in a bookshop. Jesus. And food. Sounded like a book I needed to read!
Dream holiday destination: New Zealand.
My kitchen cupboards always contain: Dark chocolate digestives, vanilla extract and fresh spinach.
Song I listen to on repeat: Give me anything on the new Oh Wonder album and I’m happy.
Most underrated virtue: Discernment
What is the story behind Luminary and how did you come to work with them?
Luminary is a wholesale social enterprise bakery in East London designed to offer opportunities to women from vulnerable backgrounds to build a future for themselves and their families. We use baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship, equipping them with practical and transferable skills for the working world through training courses, work experience, apprenticeships, and paid employment within our bakery, whilst also providing community and holistic support.
I became involved whilst looking for a way to combine my baking with my faith on a gap year after A-levels. I noticed a lot of my peers serving God through doing something they love in their gap year, whether playing football with street children, working on a drama project in schools or doing youth work. However, as I trawled the Internet and stands at festivals it felt like there was a project for everything other than what I felt called to do: bake.
Just when I’d given up, a friend told me about this bakery one of their friends was setting up. I couldn’t get to London quick enough! God provided the financial support through many faithful friends and organisations and before I knew it I was interning in a very small bakery and teaching groups of women how to bake. Feeling strongly that I’d found my ‘thing’ and had a job so perfectly fitting to what I loved and was good at I decided to give up my place at university and stay on with Luminary as a paid baker and trainer.
What does a typical week look like for you?
Mondays/Tuesdays/Fridays – I bake a range of products from 6am – 2pm for cafes, mentor one of our bakery interns and help train apprentices. A meeting about new products/customers or team training might be slotted in and I order all our bulk ingredients. I also plan and prepare for Thursdays. Wednesdays – I train to be a pastry chef at a London college Thursdays – 10:00-6:00 I teach the baking section of our employability course. This is my favourite day.
What do you love most about what you do?
The moment the trainees take what they’ve baked out of the oven on a Thursday - the pride they have and the effect that has on their self-confidence week-to-week is so special!
Is it easy to take Jesus into your workplace?
No. Wherever you work I don’t think it is. Aside from my bed, I spend the majority of my time in the bakery; the ladies I work alongside are the ones I literally do day-to-day life with. So the question really is, is it easy to make Jesus the center of my day-to-day life? The reality is, I think there’s always a struggle to make Jesus the center of your life, wherever that is, whether at school, uni, your home - there’s an inward (and sometimes outward) battle to really make Him the focus, serve Him alone and give Him the glory.
My pride holds me back. My selfishness does too. Impatience, believing I can do it all on my own, and the biggest killer – busyness. All these self-afflicted barriers get in the way. But you know what? He shows up anyway. And that blows my mind. That though we mess up a ‘God-conversation opportunity’ whilst rolling cookies, a trainee asks if she can come to church. That when we break 3 quiche and feel the pressure to get a delivery out on time, we find someone made exactly 3 spare by accident. That after getting impatient to move into our new premises, we realize moving in then would’ve been disastrous and that God’s timing is always better.
I’ve learnt as much as you ‘try’, God’s really the one that’s going to bring my co-workers, women I teach and friends into a relationship with Him. My job is to ask Him to reveal to me what He’s doing, be open and flexible to how he wants to use me and trust that His way of doing things is best.
When you’re busy how do you try and keep God at the center?
If I’m honest I find it really difficult and in no way have worked it out yet – I’ll let you know if I ever get there! As a bakery team we now do a morning reflection at the start of each day. I try to use this time to give the day over to God, whatever shape it may take, and to acknowledge I need His presence and wisdom. I think starting your day in a mindset that you’re working for God (Colossians 3:23) really helps. Busy moments are one of the hardest times to keep God at the center because my mind is so full of the job in hand.
If I’m finding something difficult or challenging, rather than focusing on the problem or situation, I’ve started asking God what He’s doing in it – what is He teaching me? What’s He doing in other people that I can’t see? Why am I responding in the way I am? How does He view it? It has taken a bit of practice to make this a habit but it always puts my focus back on God and gives me perspective. This song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcORoyyjqjw) has almost been like a theme tune to busy days.
What advice would you give to girls who want to do something different after school to find another way to serve God with their life?
Look at your passions and offer them to God: What are you good at? What do you get excited about? What makes you angry? Where do you see need? The way God created you and how life experiences have shaped you reflect the way He wants to use you.
‘God calls people in many different ways, to all sorts of vocations. He longs to harness the gifts He’s given us to be used in His service… we all have unique blend of character strengths and weaknesses. We can never be prescriptive about how God calls… The crucial factor is simply to recognise that He calls all of us to surrender.’ – More Than Conquerors, Simon Guillebaud.
- Ask advice from those who know you well, love Jesus and you trust. Be prepared for a variety of responses, some encouraging, others telling you ‘you will fail at life if you don’t go to University.’ Value their insight, but take some with a pinch of salt.
- Pray about it. All of it. For what you should do, advice you’ve been given from others, the fears you have, the technicalities, for what you need… stay close to God through the whole process. And ask other people to pray for you too. ‘Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ (Proverbs 16:3)
- Find your ‘cheerleaders'! Going against the norm can be hard, find a few people who will pray for you, remind you why you’re doing what you are and support you when it gets hard.
What are the biggest things God has taught you throughout the last 2 years?
1. That God cares more about people than efficiency (usually the opposite to the approach of humanity). His way of doing things may not be the quickest or neatest but it will value the people involved, empower and shape them.
2. That where God calls, He also provides what you need. Whether that’s a place to live, friends, money, food… He IS faithful and He DOES provide.
3. We are designed to be dependent on His provision and a community of other people.
What an amazing insight into Rachel's life, her work, and her passion for community - and of course, for baking! Do drop by Luminary Bakery if you are ever in London.
Explore the Luminary vision: http://www.luminarybakery.com/
Support their work: http://www.luminarybakery.com/donate/