Friday, 28 March 2014

Early Spring Update 2014



Wasn't it lovely to see the snowdrops coming through after a dreary, wet winter?  They always bring with them the promise of a new season, and Ifor and I both feel that 2014 is going to be significant.  This sense is also held by many Christians we speak with, so we go into the new year with hope and expectancy, watching God's Kingdom quietly spreading.

We have now been in Breconshire for four years, and sometimes we are frustated with the lack of any obvious progress or breakthrough, but Ifor was encouraged recently with a prophecy he received while at a New Wine Cymru leaders meeting. It went something like this......"Ifor I saw you wearing what appeared to be 'school shoes', and I felt God was saying that you are like a teenager still at school but frustrated, wanting to leave school and experience life in the 'real world'. But God is saying he has put you in a situation where he wants you to learn. He has sent you back to school, and you need to accept that, and focus on learning what God is showing you."   We recognise the truth of that, but at the same time feel as if a new term is about to start.

It was good to meet up with Sarah and her husband Brian in Hay.  She moved here soon after we did and like us has been watching to see what she thinks could work in this county.  Talking with other mums at the school gate, she has become aware that a number of them would be interested in exploring Christian spirituality together with their children.  Starting this coming September Sarah has planned a gathering every other month around bring and share food, with such intriguing titles as "Communion by numbers", "a Nursery Rhyme Mass" and "Celtic Breaking of Bread".  The aim is to learn together in creative ways how to be the body of Christ in their community.  I will be supporting her in this.

A major event this year will be the visit of Angus Buchan, the South African farmer who has seen
many miraculous answers to prayer, especially on his farm.  Breconshire will this year be the venue for the Wales visit on his tour schedule.  The Barn at Bronydd Mawr, Trecastle, will seat 500 to700 and the planning is underway.  Although a well known speaker in other parts of the country, very few in Breconshire have heard of him.  So far we have bought over forty copies of his book "Faith Like Potatoes" which tells his story.  We are taking these to different farmers we know around the county and encouraging them to lend them to their friends and families before the event on June 10th. Included in the books is a coloured postcard invitation to the event and to one of three (so far) village hall venues where we will be showing the film of the book at the beginning of May after most of the lambing will have finished.  These have been very well received.

Also included in these books are cards informing farmers about the Goshen Project by directing them to the website http://goshenproject.blogspot.co.uk .  This is a recent project where a small group of intercessors in Breconshire pray confidentially for farms and farmers on request.  Based on the fact that the cattle of the Israelites who lived in Goshen, Egypt, did not suffer the plagues sent on the Egyptians, this prayer group intercedes for farms under threat of TB and other things.  It is advertised to the farmers as "Seeking practical and spiritual solutions to farming problems through prayer."

The very first person to receive a 'Faith Like Potatoes' book invited me into the lambing shed where a lamb was born at my feet. She accepted when I offered to pray for a painful frozen shoulder she'd had for a few weeks and was amazed when the pain left and she was able to lift her arm higher and higher.  I'd prayed beforehand that as club leader for one of the Young Farmers' Clubs she would open a way there for me.  Without my mentioning anything, she was asking me about the possibility of showing the Angus Buchan film to her club!  Another farmer I took a book to was also open to prayer for her knee, which needed an operation. She felt a tingling there as I prayed which surprised her.  As the pain was not constant, she said she would let me know.

One farmer arranged for Ifor to go on a lambing course.  This is run by a vet and popular with both experienced sheep farmers and beginners.  Ifor learnt a lot as he has done very little lambing.  This farmer then had him cement his learning by putting it into practice the following week and left him to it for a couple of afternoons during which time Ifor lambed twelve ewes including dealing with awkward presentations.  Ifor is hoping to be able to help farmers struggling on their own during these busy couple of months where they have very little sleep.

The Royal Welsh showground is a wonderful place to pray into all sorts of national decisions and situations around Wales as many businesses have buildings there for the show weeks.  This time the outdoor prayer group prayed for the young people of Wales outside the Young Farmers building, the Welsh Assembly outside that building, the lambing, etc. in the sheep shed, situations affecting cattle in the cattle sheds, and that God would be glorified in the main ring where some of the best of His creation will be on show.

The outdoor 'hill prayer group" prayed at Mervyn's farm in Lower Chapel. He is converting an old barn into a house, and had previously seen it as a purely financial venture, but more recently he is feeling that God wants to use the place for something spiritual. None of us know what God's plans are, but as we prayed we all got a sense that God has real plans for the place. One of the group shared a personal matter, and as we prayed and saw God minister to her, we all felt as though this was just a small sign of how God is going to be dealing with people in that place in that place in years to come.

Last month we drove down to Wentloog near Newport to visit Nigel and Maria Phipps. This couple have recently started a growing home church which meets weekly with people taking it in turns to provide the evening meal which always ends in sharing the bread and wine.  We stayed on to join their gathering of mostly unchurched guests in the evening.  This included three teenage boys who are just as keen to come as their parents. The concept of multiplying these home churches was introduced from the start and so already a few of the group are looking forward to starting their own groups from amongst their neighbours.  Nigel and Maria's website is: www.housechurchnetwork.co.uk  The following week Ifor went down to the group again as they were having an evening where they were considering their vision for home churches.  This week Ifor went down to a meeting in Cardiff where several pioneer church planters came together under the auspices of the Baptist Union.

I was asked to be the speaker at the Women's World Day of Prayer for a several churches gathered in Gilwern.  The theme of the day was "Streams in the Desert" with an Egypt focus. I centred it on part of Hebrews 11 and spoke about "Hope in the midst of apparent Hopelessness", ending with praying for commitment and for being so filled with the Holy Spirit that "streams of Living Water" would flow out of each of us to change the situations around us.  It even got applauded!! Around here very few people comment on the sermon, but that was not the case this time.  I pray that the people there will continue to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them. It turned out that my talk was spot on for a first timer there whom I got to pray for afterwards.  She says she now wants to start going regularly to one of the churches represented.

Recently Ifor took the wedding of the daughter of a local vet.  The wedding was held at the ancient chapel of Maesyronnen, built in the 1690s by converting the cattle shed of a traditional longhouse. It is has hardly changed since then and was visited very recently by Prince Charles because he was intrigued by it. The name of every minister of this chapel since its founding is engraved on the pulpit. The chapel is the white part of the photo, the nearest half being the cottage. Seven of the members of this chapel came on the Alpha course we led last year at the cafĂ© in Glasbury.

The monthly youth group in our home has not met since the end of November, mostly because of many commitments the majority of the teenagers have with events with the Young Farmers Clubs.
This has provided time for me to reflect on the way forward with them.  Usefully in the middle of this time, a Youth Leaders' Retreat was held at Llangasty, organised by the Officer for Youth of the Anglican diocese.  He has lent me some resources which I might use.  Whilst standing outside under a heavily laden larch tree, gazing out at the beautiful lake view, God drew my attention to the clusters of larch cones suspended above me.  Some twigs carried many, some just a few, rather like the grains on the ears of wheat Jesus referred to.  As I pondered this in terms of home groups and effective outreach, a beautiful rainbow shone!
 
I enjoyed doing a Uganda evening with the Brownies in Brecon.  This invitation came about as a
result of contact made at Brecon Museum when I lent some things for a big guiding display there soon after we moved here.  She was leading the Brownies that week as the Brown Owl was away, and remembered me!  The girls were very interested in slides showing life over there and had fun trying to balance books on their heads whilst dancing Ugandan style!  They also had a go at making beads, learning some Lugandan words and singing a praise song in Kiswahili.  Their parents were generous in buying the jewellery made by the Ugandan children to help pay for their schools.

I was also invited to do a slideshow on Horticulture in Kenya and Uganda - a new one for me - at the Fuchsia Society which meets just outside Brecon. It went down well and resulted in an invitation to have a free stall selling Ugandan jewellery at Brecon Garden Club flower and veg show in September.
One of the schools I sell these beads for was founded by  Moses, mostly for orphans.  He cleared the rented site which was a town rubbish tip, built and leads the school as a Christian headmaster, but now the landlord wants the land back.  He has been increasing the rent ridiculously and has now evicted them. Moses fortunately now owns land near his home and would like to build a boarding school on this so the same children can continue their education.  His request for prayer and money with which to do this is urgent.  PLEASE contact us ASAP if you or your church could help with this.  We can vouch for his honesty and heart 100%.


I have joined a local walking group which brings together a growing number of people each month.  This gives a lovely opportunity to chat with and get to know people and our dogs approve!
I also went to a baroque concert in a church with my auntie and her friend in Llangynidr.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I already knew some of the people there that evening and they knew me.  Because of deep flooding, we had to find a different way back!

This week Ifor was elected to be the next president of the Baptist Union of Wales, starting in June at the BUW Assembly.  This is at a critical time when the English and Welsh speaking wings  of BUW are considering the possibility of joining together in some way with other Baptist groups to form one united Baptist family in Wales.  He has been involved in the move towards this for the last few years.  He is still Superintendent for Breconshire and chairs the National Settlement Team.

I prayed with a Christian lady in a nearby village recently, after a complicated operation and little progress.  The following night she was able to turn over in bed for the first time since the operation three months previously. Praise God!  Also she found she was walking with her frame more easily, had more freedom with one of her exercises and no pain in her leg.  At the day hospital she is now introducing God into conversations and senses God will use her increasingly in this way.  However, progress seems to be slowing now. I intend to visit and pray with her again soon.  Its lovely to hear how God is using her even through this convalescence.

I took a friend to see the Riding Lights Theatre company performing "Inheritance" - their excellent interpretation of the Passion of Christ. At the close, people who wanted to respond at the foot of the cross were invited to come forward, read a prayer of commitment and use the oil of "the fragrance of Christ" on themselves as they wished.  She wanted to come forward with me to do this.  It was a lovely moment and very special.

We had a shock at the beginning of February when my wonderful dad died suddenly but with a
lovely look of peace on his face.  He'd had heart failure for years, but when the time came he slipped away suddenly but peacefully.  He had fallen so gently as a glass of water on a wobbly table was still intact.  He was about to drive into town, as he did daily to get his paper and do his shopping.  At 92 he cooked lovely meals, looked after himself and still did a bit in the garden.  Last year was the first time he let us dig his bean trench. (He back-filled it though!). In the days before he went to be with Jesus, Dad had been involved with the AGM of Probus and taken an active part in a  long meeting planning the next five years of the Brecon Wildlife Trust he and Mum had played such a major part in. A few days later, when Iolo Williams came to Brecon Theatre as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Wildlife Trust, a public tribute was paid to him in front of the packed theatre. Ifor led his funeral service in the church where Dad had been warden and treasurer for so many years.   Dad's advice was still being sought even after the well attended funeral when a warden of the church hopefully asked if Dad had made any notes or comments on the survey of the church building!  He will be greatly missed by so many, especially me.  A huge thank you to all who came to the funeral, sent me cards, flowers and those lovely comments on Facebook.  They really did make a difference and it was only last week I took down the cards.

One plus was that Lucy and Timo came home a
week earlier for the funeral than they had planned.  This meant we could spend some time with them before they went to check on a team they had sent to Liverpool.  We joined them again a few days later for Lucy's hen do at Katie's home in Chester.  Lucy and her very pregnant sister Becky were dressed in loo roll wedding dresses by two teams.  After more games and food we all went go karting before a lovely meal out.  Their wedding will be in Estonia at Timo's church and home at the end of May.  Becky's baby is due mid April and will need a passport to get out there!  So will young Caleb who now has a tooth!


For those of you visiting us, the bridge is now open three months ahead of time after eight months of drastic surgery and reconstruction.  The village normally less than a mile away has been a 15 mile round trip all this time!  The nearby craft centre had organised a group together with some Young Farmers to dance on the bridge to celebrate the opening.  Ifor was asked to be one of the marshals wearing a high viz jacket.  We had been caught in a stingy blizzard on a hill just an hour before, and here these girls were, dancing in summer dresses!  A hot cuppa back at the craft centre warmed us all up afterwards:)

Thank you all for your support and prayers.  We appreciate you all.