Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autumn 2012

Much has been happening since the summer, starting off on 1st Sept with the encouraging induction of Rev. Andrew Stammers whom we sent from Broad Haven to train for the ministry at Bristol Baptist College.  After much sacrifice, college work, training on the job at Radstock and fighting a brain tumour with surgery and chemo at the same time, it was a great joy to see him being ordained and inducted to Radstock Baptist Church.


This was followed six weeks later by Ifor being inducted by Rev. Peter Thomas as Pioneer Minister to Glasbury Baptist Church (see previous blog) at the Breconshire Baptist Association half yearly gathering in Maesyberllan, another huge almost empty chapel in the county. Absurdly the first role of the new pioneer minister was to organise the closing service and continue the selling of the chapel building!  Jaxne, who runs the cafe next door and has a canoeing business, is buying it. 
The closing service was held at the beginning of November with two dozen people (considerably more than expected) packed into the vestry at the back where the few members had been meeting for many years.  One member was the daughter of a former minister of the chapel, another the great granddaughter of the builder of the chapel. So this was a moving service, but the church itself continues as a small homegroup which is already increasing in numbers and they are seeing answers to their prayers.  Ifor preached on Joseph who must have felt abandoned several times but God turned the tables right around for him.  At the end of the service one person had a vision of a heart beating.  She did not know what it meant, but Ifor knew instantly when she told him.  He remembered the video at the BUGB Assembly a few years ago when Jesus' heartbeat sounded over the events of the crucifixion, slowed and was silent when He was dead, then stirringly started to beat again as the sun dawned on Easter Sunday.  It seemed God was saying the chapel is closed, but now comes the resurrection! - just as Ifor had mentioned in the last blog. Such reassurance!

Llanwrtyd Wells, renowned for its Bog Snorkelling Championships and Man v. Horse Race, held the World  Alternative Games which included a Biblathon - reading the Bible from cover to cover over four days and nights.  I joined in a three hour stint with two women from our next village and so ended up receiving a medal!  The organisers have no idea of the powerful effect of the Word of God being declared over the town, let alone the impact on the readers!
The Paralympic Party in Llyswen went well and was greatly appreciated by those who came which was  less than I'd hoped.  However this was a first so hopefully those who came will spread positive news.  The children participated in enforced-handicap games and all ages watched the short DVD's of Christian Paralympians and their stories.  My new friend Mary, one of the mums, took the younger half of the children.  They all enjoyed making Olympic wristbands with the Olympic colour beads used to tell the gospel (yellow or gold, black, red, green, blue - work it out!!) Mary also made lots of bronze, silver and gold medals which were presented by a local man who had his legs amputated after a road accident.  He himself has been competing in sport since the accident and showed his medals to much applause.

My Ugandan slideshows have progressed to taking whole mornings in four primary schools, with the children participating in balancing cups on their heads and attempting African dancing - even trying to do the two together as they watched the Ugandan pot dance! Afterwards the children have taken responsibility for selling the paper bead jewellery made by the children in Pastor John Okello's school to help pay for their schooling. I was also invited to sell the jewellery at two well attended coffee mornings as well as a couple of evening meetings.  These invitations are continuing, providing further opportunities to meet people, raise awareness, share exciting stories and of course sell the jewellery for the children from both Pastor John's and Moses' schools in Uganda.

Ifor has taken six harvest festivals this autumn.  These generally attract many people from the surrounding communities who swell the normally tiny congregations.  This year Erwood held a harvest supper in the Market Hall and invited a speaker from Sporting Marvels who do effective mission work in the Rhondda. It was well attended and enjoyed and a few people took magazines to learn more about how hopeless young lives are being given meaning, value and purpose.  We are both out most Sundays taking services in different towns, villages and isolated chapels in fields. Lights seem to be quietly coming on in some lives as they begin to recognise that a living, two-way relationship with their Heavenly Father is within their reach.  Other times we sometimes wonder why we are bothering!

The monthly hill prayer walks continue.  Last week we prayed over Brecon from the Crug - an ancient hill fort. The previous month we prayed from another hill fort, Castell Dinas, over Talgarth and the pass down to Crickhowell.  King Brychan reigned over the whole of Brycheiniog (Breconshire) from there.  He had 32 children, all of whom became saints as they evangelised a vast area down to as far as Devon. Many churches are named after these saints. Its fun unblocking wells of blessing!  Talgarth was below us in the mist as though it were being bathed.  As we prayed over some farms the mist then spread to encompass them too! On the hillside opposite is an ancient graveyard where protestant believers were buried when the country was catholic, and probably vice versa.    The time before, as we prayed over the Lower Chapel valley, God put a full rainbow in the sky, arching right across the valley.  Special.  The farmer who invited us to pray from the top of his hill field  received a copy of Angus Buchan's daily journal.  Please pray he reads it.  He went off in his tractor whilst we were praying - and found the pain left his leg as he went!  Another farmer whom Ifor has come alongside is reading his copy unfailingly every day and  like Mervyn is telling people about what he is reading, is praying regularly and people are noticing a positive difference in him. Yet another farmer whom Ifor has been helping has not yet started reading his copy.  Please pray he does as it will help him enormously with what he is going through.

Continuing on the farming theme, Ifor is now milking a huge herd one afternoon a week near Glasbury which he is enjoying.  A bit of  "tent making" is good, gives more credibility, opens doors and builds relationship with those who also milk there. This was not a job he sought but was invited to do.

Our youth group aims to meet monthly but with so many county-wide and national competitions the Young Farmers Club are involved with, meetings often get cancelled.  However numbers have grown to eight now and we are slowly working our way through the Journeys testimony dvd series. The picture shows two of them covered in loo rolls - the old testament understanding of forgiveness means "covered up".... and we are covered by His blood. This was before looking at a powerful story where a father forgives the murderer of his young daughter.  The series is really making the young people think.


Over a period of just a few weeks we seem to have had a run on ministering deliverance to a number of people and also been called out to two homes where ghosts had been seen. We had already released three ghosts from one of these homes, but this time the husband, who had not previously believed in ghosts, saw an Edwardian figure so definite, he could not see the furniture behind.  Hopefully the house is now 'clean'.
We were asked to speak at Bristol Baptist College about our work, at a day seminar focussing on pioneering ministries.  We showed our dvd "There is a light in the Valley" then spoke of some of the things we are doing and what we are hoping to do.  This had the effect of encouraging us and sharpening our aim.  Ifor also spent two days in Birmingham as part of a group of ten leaders from BUGB and BUW from all over the UK, meeting to explore a way forward for the two unions as they look to put mission high on the agenda.  A couple from Pembrokeshire came to quiz us about how we are approaching setting up small groups who will have multiplication hopefully built into their DNA. They are considering starting something along those lines in Pembs.  All this has helped us revisit our original calling, assess what seems to be working and keep us focussed.

For Remembrance Sunday I organised "A Day to Remember" for the whole community of all ages in the Market Hall in Erwood.  Taking flyers around the village enabled me to knock on lots of doors and have good conversations as most people were impressed with the idea. About fifty people came (a large turnout for a village event) and most of them dressed in 1940's style clothing or camouflage. The primary school in the next village contributed lots of collage poppies and potato printed poppies which we pinned to the black stage curtains. They also created lots of beautiful paper poppies on twigs which were used during the evening to plant a Flanders Field as part of the act of remembrance.  This was followed by a two minute silence while we watched a clip of the petals falling from the Royal Albert Hall. I did a short talk after that about the poppy and its symbolism, including how the red could also signify Jesus's blood, etc.  Children and adults alike learnt a little about the two world wars whilst playing themed games, watching video clips and hearing stories from members of the local community.  A table display of wartime memorabilia attracted much interest, as did a wonderful display by a member of the British Legion of many uniforms and items collected from that period.  After a teatime spread of Spam and corned beef sandwiches, bread and jam or bread and 'scrape', all was rounded off with a wartime sing-along interspersed with more fascinating stories.  A new friend from the next village helped me with the games involving her parachute, trenches with dead rats (stuffed socks with string tails to remove to the other side's trench!), air raid sirens, etc. So as well as learning a lot, they all had a lot of fun!  Ifor was involved with two remembrance services and the cenotaph at Glasbury.

Our monthly film nights ceased when the daylight hours increased, but started up again this month with a showing of Chariots of Fire which seemed appropriate after the theme tune was played for all the Olympic medal presentations. Only six came but all enjoyed it, including our amazing neighbour, Mrs Pugh, who will be 103 in January and didn't nod off once!


On the home front, we have a new puppy!  Sandy arrived in September to keep Rosie company.  As you can see they get on really well.

videoMary celebrated her 30th birthday with a group of friends staying the weekend at Waterloo, followed by more celebrations in St. Davids.  She will shortly be moving to another house in St. David's.  As well as being youth leaders,  Katie and Sam now both have jobs and have moved into their new home in Chester. My dad spent over two weeks in hospital having put on a stone in fluid after a change in medication.  They managed to get it all off before he was discharged.  No sooner was he back home than he emptied the compost bin to make room to start some leaf mould! Unfortunately these last few days he has developed a very painful hip all of a sudden which is making it hard for him to get about.
One very special event in our family this autumn was the marriage of our niece Emma to Richard, a lovely lad she met in university.  This was held in the wonderful setting of the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre, overlooking Pen y Fan and Corn Ddu.  My 91 year old dad grew lots of pots of sunflowers which made a stunning entrance to the marquee and attracted lots of admirers, including his sprightly sister who travelled up from London for the happy occasion.

Thank you all for your prayer support.  It is greatly appreciated and needed.  Please feel free to leave any comments - its good to know if this is being read!