Saturday, 18 January 2014

Nov/Dec 2013


It's great to work with children and youth, but some of our greatest encouragements come from the 'oldies'. A ninety year old lady in a nearby village inspired me greatly.  She loves Jesus but felt she wasn't doing much to further His Kingdom here on Earth.  So now she catches a bus into town and spends time chatting with people in cafes, regularly bringing Jesus into the conversations, talking about her relationship with Him and suggesting they talk with Him too.  She does so much of this that she now spends £15 per week on coffee! What an inspiration.  Since we moved here nearly four years ago, she has been praying for us every day and intercedes regularly for those she meets.

Wearing her cracker crown
Another lady who has inspired many is
our neighbour Mrs Ena Pugh.  On 4th January this year, she and her twin sister celebrated their 104th birthday in two separate hospitals, having both suffered from falls in the previous month.   Until then they both lived independently without carers, catching the bus on Fridays to meet up with each other in Brecon. On her birthday, Mrs Pugh was excitedly showing us all her cards and chatting about chapel where she loved to go.  A few days earlier, when another visitor mentioned chapel, she launched into the Lord's Prayer, interspersing the lines with intercession for her family and neighbours and situations around the world, finishing with "Jesus is so lovely, He's so kind."  She died in the early hours of 6th January and at her burial a song thrush sang by her grave.  Mrs Pugh was always giggling and full of fun.  People who think of many Christians as hypocrites refer to her as a real Christian.  Like the ninety year old above, Mrs Pugh also prayed for us every day.

Another great friend, intercessor and inspiration was Fred Blount who with his wife Mary have been praying for us every day for the last 36 years.  Amazing! We were so glad to have been able to say Goodbye, talk and pray with him not long before he died in December.  He was another one who was so full of the joy and love of Jesus.  Thank you God for the many you encourage to pray.



Praying from Llangynidr Mountain
In November we joined with the hill prayer group in praying over Ystrad Fellte.  This had a sense of being the gateway in the south west corner to the county.  With the wind blowing from the south west, we prayed that the wind of His Spirit would blow across the whole of Breconshire and beyond. In December we prayed from Llangynidr Mountain over the village below, and over the farms, other villages and nearby Crickhowell.                                                    



Felindre with dairy farm where Ifor
milks in the background
Earlier this week we prayed on a hill overlooking Felindre where Anne has recently finished leading a Christianity Explored course in the village hall for local people, and will shortly be starting a sequel course. Just before Christmas, Ifor led a carol service in the same hall.  Among the many who came was a woman from Glasbury (who we'd chatted with in the pub there and encouraged to come). Ifor mentioned the course in his sermon and she told me afterwards that she thought she might like to go on that course!  From the hillside we also prayed for my hairdresser in the village who's son died in a cliff fall a few months ago (see previous blog post) and for a young mum who has started a successful mums and tots group in the village hall.  She came to the prayer and discussion group we were leading in homes last year with friends and members of Glasbury chapel. The farm where Ifor milks stood out clearly from our viewpoint, so we prayed for Ifor's colleagues on the farm. In December Ifor's boss invited us to the staff 'Christmas do' in a local pub where 16 of us enjoyed a great meal and a wonderful evening.

For a long time I have been praying for more openings in local schools.
Then suddenly two contacted me and booked me for the same week!  Someone from Llyswen school rang to check if I was the same person who organised the Poppy Party in Erwood a year ago. They then asked me to do a whole afternoon with years 5 and 6 about WW1 and WW2, especially relating it to the locality.  I did a bit of research and it all went really well with the children very keen and interested all the time. One of the members of Erwood Young Farmers Club leads the after school club.  She spotted my dad's propeller and a WW1 shell I had brought in and asked if she could borrow them that weekend for the finals at national level of a wartime display at the Royal Welsh Showground.  One thing leads to another!  The class and teacher asked me to join them at Brecon Regimental Museum the following week.  They went dressed as evacuees, complete with their sandwiches wrapped in brown paper and string and had a wonderful time.  The two teachers and I enjoyed it too and I ended up teaching the children knitting and darning!

The other school was in Llanelwedd where I was asked to do a whole morning on Uganda, then
spend the afternoon helping them make paper bead necklaces Ugandan style, for them to sell at their Christmas fair on the Saturday. Both the headmaster and the children were moved by what they saw and heard, resulting in them asking to sell some the necklaces the Ugandan schoolchildren had made at their fair, while I was selling at Crickhowell Christmas Fair the same time.  When I returned the next week I was given two tubs of money. One from selling the Ugandan necklaces, and the other from selling the bracelets they had made themselves.
When I questioned the headmaster about this, knowing the children had wanted to keep their own, he said they bought them back so they could give that money as well to the Ugandan children! So moving.  They would also like to form a pen pal link with the children there.

The school in Malpas, Newport, where our son-in-law teaches, invited me once again to lead a morning there on Uganda.  This again went well and the children had fun trying out the Ugandan dances whilst balancing books on their heads! These children also learned new skills by selling the necklaces themselves and had spent a large part of the term exploring Uganda.

Although there was only a small number at the women's meeting in a chapel in Presteigne where I showed slides of  Kenya, some hopeful fruit has come from it.  The daughter of one of the women is a headmistress of a school in Scotland and she would like me to send her a cd of the photos for schools, thinking something could come of this.  Some of the women thought they would like to get involved in a project in some way and are exploring the possibility of  somehow encouraging a woman we met in Uganda who runs a project training women quarry workers in other skills.

Ifor and I were asked to lead an evening in a Radnorshire chapel, focussing on what we are doing, but with the aim of sparking off thoughts of how they could move forward in rural mission.  The chapel is in a sparsely populated area, unless you count all the sheep!  They seemed to appreciate that we understood how people in such areas tick, and that we shared the same values. Afterwards it was interesting to see how the farmers gathered around Ifor to pick his brains, and the women likewise around me. Our different approaches sparked off useful discussions amongst them, with people seeing ways forward.  In turn they gave me things to think about with my youth group.

New Wine Cymru held a weekend at the Towers Hotel and Spa in Swansea Bay for "Women who Lead".  The focus was mission. On the second afternoon I had been asked to lead one of the 'mission in action'  groups; the one on Rural Mission.  We are hardly experts but simply learning as we go and passing on what we find effective, what we don't, and what we are trying.  It was good to meet up with many friends from the past and make new ones, enjoying the facilities and the excellent teaching and worship together. Roy Godwin was inspiring as ever at the NWC Mid Wales gathering in Aberystwyth.

I love to pray for people 'hands on', but recently I've been asked to pray with people for their family members in other parts of the country, and God has done some amazing things. One lady who had been in a coma with pneumonia for some time, woke up and gripped her husband's hand. The infection had gone. Praise God!

Ifor writes..... Working with individuals in the community means most of my work is not for public consumption, but recently we had an encouraging example of team work. A local govt official contacted FCN on behalf of a farmer who was facing possible bankruptcy due to heavy handed treatment from a govt department.  I was able to pray with the farmer, and after pointing out a clear discrepancy in the case against him, suggested he find someone 'with a bit of clout' who could speak up on his behalf. We met with Kirsty Williams, the AM for Mid Wales, and within days the injustice was put right, saving him a penalty of tens of thousands of pounds. That in itself was wonderful, but more wonderful still is the fact that a number of individual farmers are finding faith in the midst of trouble and are being transformed from within. The numbers are not great, but the depth of transformation in a few is being seen and noticed by many.

Back to Penny for Christmas news.....
Just before Christmas some friends invited us to a gig at the Globe in Hay on Wye. This was an interesting venue - an old chapel with staging, spotlights, sofas and tables, a bar, yet the pulpit intact in one corner as a feature.  Very free, relaxing and popular.   The same friend learned I was arranging two nativity parties and looking for an old feeding trough, so he offered to make me one.  It was great, complete with woodworm and bird muck!

Half a dozen children came to the nativity party in Erwood market hall, dressed as different characters to walk through the story.  The mums were happy to dress up as the characters who hadn't been represented.  They also really enjoyed colouring nativity pictures with their children and helping them make figures from toilet rolls and squares of material.  Games were on the nativity theme, and they joined in enthusiastically.  After bring and share party food we watched a video.  All who came appreciated the party ... the beginnings of Messy Church? 

We set up the same party the previous day in Glasbury village hall  ... no one came!  (It was on a Saturday before Christmas - perhaps they were all Christmas shopping?).  Yet even in that, people seemed to appreciate such a party being organised. . .  when I went around the shops scouting for tinsel and second hand clothing for costumes, some gave me stuff for free when they heard what it would be used for.  The same thing happened with 'carols in the pub' at Glasbury.  It clashed with three other local events so no-one came! Whilst in the pub waiting for people to come, we got to know one woman there whom we invited to Felindre carols the next day.  She was the one who after that carol service showed interest in doing the Christianity Explored course - so God brought good out of it anyway, as He so often does.

Some other Christmas events......The youth Christmas party in our house was fun;  Our W.I. joined with the local Young Farmers Club to go carol singing around the farms and outlying houses near us; and we were involved in the carols and sketch in Erwood market hall.  This attracted a large number of villagers and was a great success, as was the Breconshire Baptist Association's Christmas dinner in Llanigon village hall and the carol service in Felindre village hall. Ifor led another carol service near Lower Chapel.  Folk in the chapel had worked really hard personally inviting many local families and getting the children to take part.  The chapel was packed and while Ifor led the service, I had the children making nativity figures from toilet roll tubes and material squares.  Then we had the children dress up for an impromptu nativity. Ifor led the combined service on Christmas morning in a village near us. Our family doubled the congregation but it was a lovely start to Christmas Day.

We celebrated the full twelve days of Christmas this year, with all the family here for most of the time. Katie and Sam joined us with young Caleb on the 27th when fifteen of us sat down for dinner. We had lots of fun together and were all wonderfully entertained by our adorable new addition, then eight weeks old.  Further entertainment was provided when Kevin and Sam had fun kayaking down the brook that runs by our garden!



We wish you all a happy and blessed new year and value  your continued prayer support.