Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Out with the Old, and in with the New!

Happy New Year Everyone!  2014 has been a year of lots of good things and some not so good things, which I'm sure has been the case with most of you.  Yet already God has brought about some wonderful and surprising turns of events as we move into 2015.

On Christmas morning our lovely soon-to-be daughter-in-law Ellie found a gorgeous diamond ring in the toe of her Christmas stocking!  She and Kevin came up during the Christmas period so we could all celebrate together as a big family. We're all looking forward to their wedding in Cardiff on Easter Sunday. Over the twelve days of Christmas we hosted fourteen people for most of that time, rising to eighteen on one day!  It was lovely having all the family including our two little grandsons over Christmas.
On New Year's Eve Ellie had us all carefully removing the flesh from oranges, carving the tops, pouring oil over the pith wicks and lighting them. They looked spectacular outside - even floating down the stream!  Great fun!

Another big surprise is that Ifor's got a new job! Still doing everything he did before but now with an extra string to his bow. Before Christmas he saw an ad in the local paper. Bowketts Farm Supplies were looking for a sales representative, selling feed and fertiliser etc on the farms. The ad just  'jumped out at him', and after praying and talking to a few people, he decided to go for it. He went for an interview and got the job, despite telling them he was a Baptist minister and he'd never sold anything in his life.He's working solely on commission, which means his hours are his own and he can fit in with everything else he's doing. On the morning of the interview he prayed for guidance, and he read in Matt 10 v 42 in the Living Bible about being a representative for Jesus! So now he's a rep for Bowketts and for Jesus.

This has opened up wonderful opportunities for Ifor to go around all the farms, making friends and building relationships. A perfect way to get involved with the farming community which blends seamlessly with his role in Farm Community Network (formerly Farm Crisis Network) and Rural Chaplain to the county.  He has already had a few sales, met lots of farmers he wouldn't have otherwise and is generally being very well received.   Before Christmas Ifor started taking a stall for FCN to some of the markets.  Now he is combining that with being a more approachable sales rep and is having some good conversations. He gets on well with the staff and generally is enjoying the work.


Also new this year, Ifor has taken on our veg patch, starting with covering it this autumn with two years worth of duck litter from the stable and all our compost bins!  Jack in the Beanstalk, here we come!  He and Kevin have worked hard leveling and digging out huge bolders from a slippery muddy slope down to our footbridge.  They have done a thorough job and now we have a new artificial lawn there which looks so much better and feels safer.

It was a privilege for us to go to Chris Collins' induction at Woodville Christian Centre in Cardiff just before Christmas.  He and Jan and his young family joined the church soon after we did when Ifor was training at Cardiff Baptist College thirty years ago and we have been good friends ever since. Its a real call of God and his heart is soft to follow Him. It was great to meet up again with Mike Fuller who was our minister there all those years ago when he sensitively led that church into renewal.  Just before the induction, on their way back from Cefn Lea, Chris and Jan called in to see us.  As we four prayed together, I "saw  a long, straight mud path with earth banks, but said nothing at that point. Then Chris said he was seeing a  long straight furrow (aah! same picture, just different scale).
He said he saw Ifor and I pushing seeds into this furrow in a line.  All the seeds looked the same, but some grew into plants, others into bushes, others into huge trees.  We were not to be concerned about how much time we invested in each one - we would not know which seeds would be the more productive ones.  Each one mattered.
This prophecy also reminded me of one I had been given four years ago where I was seen to be treading acorns into the ground, some of which would grow into huge oak trees - but again I won't know which, so tread them all in firmly.

On the evening of Chris's induction we were blessed to receive two complimentary tickets for the Cambrensis Christmas Carol concert at St. David's Hall.  What a special way to round off a great day.

Leading up to Christmas I did a stall selling Ugandan jewellery in Builth Wells Winter Fair which was very popular. One woman came and told me how she would love to go out to help them in the schools in Uganda.  She would like to come and hear a talk and slideshow at St Mary's in Builth Wells which I have been asked to do during the sermon slot of their morning service on 1st March. Incidentally this date will be the 40th anniversary of when I gave my life to Jesus! What a special day that was!

Once again I was asked to take a year group at the school near Newport where our son-in-law teaches.  The children were very responsive as they watched and learnt about life in Uganda and they enjoyed having a go at balancing books on their heads, doing African dancing along with the DVDs I showed them and even attempting to do both together!  Unfortunately this year they were not allowed to sell the jewellery because of concerns about Ebola, although Uganda is the other side of the continent.  However they very kindly donated the offering they collected from the school choir concert to go to the schools they saw on the slides in Uganda.  Moses' school has been uprooted this year and has had to rebuild on a site the other side of Kampala.  It has been a very difficult year for them but they have seen God honour the work they try to do amongst the mostly orphans there. This year Moses will be ordained!

I joined Ifor at both the Remembrance Day services he led.  The morning one was at the ancient and fascinating chapel of Maesyronnen where Prince Charles visited last year. It was built on to an old cruck house in the 1600s  The members, many of whom joined us at the Alpha course we ran in Glasbury cafe and the "Table Talk" weeks at the pub, move to sit around the large Stuart table whenever they have communion.The ministers' names on the pulpit go back to the 1640s. What stories this place could
 tell!
In the afternoon we led a Remembrance Day special in Erwood Market Hall for the whole village, complete with video clips and a memorabilia table.  Our friend Anne Roberts together with Erwood Chapel organise regular cafe style services there now and these attract more than attend the services in the chapel. The following month the Cafe style service was a special  WW1 centenary carol service, following the booklets beautifully produced by Hope, Tearfund and Sports Chaplaincy UK which were later given as souvenirs for people to take home.  They included explanations, Bible quotes, a moving article on Christmas Day in the trenches in 1914, testimonies and an update on what Tearfund is doing in Syria.

We were invited to the Erwood Show Dinner in the same hall - a huge affair where nearly a hundred people were treated to a delicious sit-down meal provided by the local pub next door. It was a wonderful occasion which also enabled us to sit with farmers we didn't really know.  I also went to two W.I. Christmas dinners.  The Aberedw W.I. combined this with the 90th anniversary celebrations of their founding.  Fun to look at the old photos and try to recognise people!  The caterers from the pub next door excelled themselves and my friend made the beautiful icing flowers on the celebration cake which was baked by another friend.

 Sadly we have been to a few funerals these last couple of months.  One of these that Ifor was asked to take was the funeral of the elderly Christian mother of a farming family in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, very near to where I lived as a teenager.  People who knew me from then said "Wow, is that your husband?!"  As usual Ifor was able to easily speak of a relationship with Jesus while applying it to the character of the deceased, never allowing the service to be morbid.  The graveyard and chapel were in a very dramatic setting and a couple of hundred people came from all over the county.

It was a thrill to witness Mervyn's baptism in January by his cousin who is the minister of the Elim church in Brecon which Mervyn and his wife now attend regularly.
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It was exciting to see a new Christian from Brecon whom Jesus has recently set free from addictions also being baptised.  God is good. At the service we were able to pray with a few of people.  One of these, awaiting a hip replacement, felt the pain leave as we prayed.

A friend and I went to pray around a house where there has been much oppression, depression and sickness for many years.  As soon as we prayed for protection and to work with the angels, suddenly we were both aware of a huge angel turning up right in front of us.  My friend said "That was quick!", to which I replied "Yes, and its huge!".  After praying around all the rooms we felt that this time the house was at last cleared.  Time will tell.

This is a new year and our God is always a God of new beginnings.  We'd like to leave you with this quote we came across recently, written by the prolific writer, " Anonymous".

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or grow in its light and be of service to others.
But what I do with this day is important because
I have exchanged a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever.
I hope I will not regret the price I paid for it.