As some of you may know, my family and I have been going through quite challenging times during the past two and a half years. So much so that even in the past weeks the question we have been asking is whatever will happen next? But I am not here to say woe is me but to celebrate what God has done for me.
I am going to be very honest, please stay with me here, and admit that in that time I have got impatient, frustrated, angry and absolutely despairing of God and the church. I have sat where you are and been desperate for words or songs of encouragement but found none. I have been told to pray out loud or leave my troubles at the door and focus on God – when your daughter is back in hospital for the – well I have lost count of the number of times, your brother has recently died or you are being sent to hospital for an “urgent appointment “because “something” was found on a CT scan, it’s hard to do these things. It seems almost impossible to “move on with God” in these times – but that’s what has happened to me.
Strangely it’s all about surrendering to God I have found – I really don’ t like that word as it suggests that you have lost, been defeated and now have to submit and that’s not how I want to see God at all. Those of you who know me, know that I question many aspects of Christian life and belief and more to the point, if I am told to do something – I do the opposite. During the past few years I have got better (or worse!) at this even though I have been a Christian for over 25 years. But recently I have had no fire or thirst for God or any of those other Christian clichés that we often sing about – I felt I was holding on to God by my fingertips.
In the worst of times I would cry out and talk to Him. He had answered my prayers right at the beginning of this awful time – but it didn’t seem like He was around after that. So many times I prayed but I didn’t seem to hear an answer and wanted to forget God and just carry on myself. It would be easier but I couldn’t let go and thank goodness God didn’t.
But looking back now I can see that God sent friends to keep me going and strengthen me – a much better way than telling me what to do – how well He knows me!
Anyway back to the surrendering! I haven’t found a better word yet but I’m still searching. How I surrendered was – “God I can’t do this anymore – I need you now!” I felt bad, getting angry with God – but I did. People have shown me since – that it’s ok.
I started to find that I was talking to God more – but I wasn’t yet really listening-but at this time it was ok. Then I started to see Him at work around me – I have to be honest that I thought, if my daughter has such a strong faith after all she has been through and to be honest is still going through– there must be something worth holding on for. I can only say it’s like the lyrics in a beautiful Matt Redman song called – Your Grace finds me – that was exactly what happened. The song tells that in every life situation God finds us and that His grace is for everyone however imperfect we are – how wonderful is that!?
Then I stopped worrying about the way it appeared faith should be done and concentrated on my relationship with God. I didn’t worry too much about reading my bible and praying every day but just focused on reaching out and talking to God at times when I needed Him. I am really sorry to admit this but I stopped worrying about not agreeing with things that were said from the front in church but worked on my relationship with God just as I would with other people.
I talked to Him more and rested in Him – it was all I could do – but it was enough. Then I began to almost feel Him carrying me through the worst of times and I started to listen to Him! I was even given two bible verses which have sustained me lately – this never happens to me, they must have been given to me by God as I can’t say that I ever read Deuteronomy so I wouldn’t have come across them – they are Deuteronomy Chapter 33 verses 26 & 27 –
“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in splendour and majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.”
I still don’t feel I have “the fire” or “thirst for God” in the way I used to – it seems to now go much deeper. I am so grateful for all the friends and acquaintances who have kept me going over the past few years – they kept me holding on as I would often come to church to see them. Through them it was clear that God didn’t let go – His grace had found me when I needed Him and in the way He knew He could help me the most.
From all this I would like to encourage you – don’t worry about being the best Christian you think others expect you to be. God knows you and He loves you and most of all He understands. He understands if you can’t read your bible every day, he understands if you can’t pray out loud in church, he understands if you’re angry with Him and sometimes I think He understands us better than we understand ourselves. Let His grace find you – if it hasn’t already and let Him get close to you and build that relationship together in the way that is right for you both!
Chris Green – October 2019
As a young man I had handed over my life to God, and felt that he may be calling me to be ordained. So I went for a weekend visit to a theological college in Bristol. There had just been a University mission, and on the Saturday evening there was a follow-up meeting where the missioner was encouraging those involved to continue following the Lord. He spoke on the verse –
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
I did not know what the future held so was encouraged to feel that God was calling me.
The next morning in college chapel the Vice Principal preached the sermon, and amazingly he spoke on the same verse! Coincidence? I felt it was more than that, so as you may imagine this verse became very important to me. Years later, as you may know, God called me to go and work among students in Bangladesh. At times that was very tough, but as I remembered this verse I was encouraged that I had gone there at God’s calling. “.. to a place he would later receive as his inheritance ..” I stayed for over 18 years and now there is a thriving and growing student movement there. I have been back several times and will be visiting again next year. It’s like going home to my second family.
Bob Cutler – July 2019
Recently, Joe and I have had the opportunity to preach at Gleneagles, based on the Good Samaritan (See Luke 10:25-37). One of the points we drew to was the reality there should be no limitations or barriers when it comes to sharing the Good News. To be like the Samaritan, we have to be prepared to cross cultural boundaries, awkwardness and most importantly, our own comfort zones.
One way that Joe and I have been living this out is in our school. We go to a Church of England school in Kettering, which unfortunately is only C of E by name. We, along with a handful of other Christians in the sixth form, have been keen to see God back at the centre of this school, and see more people come to Him.
Since starting this year, the whole vibe about the Chapel has changed; many more people are interested and are coming in to ask about Jesus and get prayer. The Christian Unions used to struggle to get into double figures, yet recently there have been more than 40 people packed into the Chapel during a lunch hour (with a little help from a chocolate as an incentive) and have at least learned something more about who God is.
God has also given us a vision for us to minister to the teachers, and with the God-given support from our Headmistress, we recently set up a short reflection time for them, accompanied by our worship, preaching and prayer for them. I have received numerous comments from teachers and the Headmistress herself, showing their gratitude for our actions.
We will now extend this ‘event’ and create a longer time/ space to minister to students, with the hope that God might meet with them.
Not only have we seen God’s miracles in growth, but also in healing. A friend of mine suffered from a neurological disorder which is almost identical to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (she was too young to fully diagnose). One afternoon, before she was about to go for a decisive MRI scan, we prayed for her. To our surprise and amazement, she said she felt that the constant buzzing in her brain had stopped. The next day she came in to school with joy racing through her; she was healed, which was confirmed by the MRI!
Coinciding with this, she and I have had the opportunity to speak to a large youth group in Corby where she shared this testimony to great response.
Ultimately, these opportunities and miracles haven’t been handed to us on a platter. The reason this year is so special stems from the many prayers for us, and commitment from previous generations. God has taken these and released them into action, blessing us with answers to these prayers particularly this year.
So please do go looking for and praying for answers into the ways in which God is calling you to minister to His people, as we are all definitely called to.
Mark and Arleen Rowell CMS short term placement in Moldova.
After some reflections on our circumstances, praying and talking over with friends including Melvyn, and then being interviewed, we have been selected for short-term service (up to 2 years) with CMS to Moldova. This is a new field of service for CMS and the plan is for us to support an English language centre set up some years ago as a ministry of a Baptist church in Cahul. The Church website gives a background of how it was established in 1999 and grown, with many coming to faith in the Lord Jesus. bisericaemanuel.wordpress.com.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and poverty means that many working age adults leave the country for offers of a better life. However, it has also made them vulnerable to being trafficked. Having English is a way of helping people find better employment. The language centre has also built relationships with the local community who are mainly orthodox and historically have been wary of evangelical Christians. There are about 400 people, adults and children, now registered with the centre.
Tanas al Qassis is the CMS regional manager covering work and people in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and is responsible for setting things up with the organisation in Moldova. Philip Bingham is the personnel officer and will help us with the practicalities of getting there and living there. We will also be assigned someone who we are responsible to for the duration of our placement who will provide some supervision and local support.
Our preparations so far are to start TEFL training, which is enjoyable but quite a time commitment. We will both leave our jobs mid-July so we can attend the conference forMission 22nd July to 2ndAugust, a compulsory part of our preparation.
The main languages are Romanian or Russian. Though not needed for doing the actual English teaching, Mark has started to learn Romanian, and Arleen hopes to!
We will have help from the language school to find accommodation, costs are very low compared to UK prices so we are hoping to be able to fund this ourselves.
We’d really like to keep friends back in the UK informed of what we are doing. It would be great to have someone at Gleneagles who could act as a link and maybe distribute updates and prayer requests. We’d also want to hear your news too.
A great encouragement was to find that an assistant pastor from Cahul is now here in the UK to help establish a Moldovan fellowship in Northampton. We really enjoyed joining them last week, getting to know them and a little about Moldova, and hope to go again soon.
We are planning to travel in time to prepare for the autumn semester which begins on Thursday 12th September. Its likely this will be towards the end of August to give time for settling in and finding our feet amongst the many things that will be new.
There are seven full teaching months in the school year, three in the autumn semester and four in the spring semester. We will have no school responsibilities during the Christmas holiday, or in the summer months, June to August 2020, so we hope to return to the UK from time to time, though may also be involved in other activities, such as summer holiday clubs and camps.
Thank you so much for your interest and prayers,
Arleen and Mark
Melvyn asked me to write my testimony earlier this year. To be honest, I thought about it but struggled to even understand what my testimony was. Then Colin asked me the other week to write my testimony for the website, to be given either in written or video form. Again, I thought about it, and struggled to see what my story was. Then, on my way home from work on evening, I felt that I should write something.
I was born into an Irish Catholic family who lived in West London. Actually, more accurately I was born to a young unmarried girl in Ireland who (I guess) was forced to give me up. The first official record of me is my baptism on the day after I was born in the church of one of the mother and baby homes run by nuns. If you have seen the film Philomena you will know the place.
Anyway, I was adopted by the age of six months (or as my mum and dad later told me, I was chosen from all of the babies and children there.) Bizarrely, I have a memory of a large room in an old house full of babies and toddlers.
I was brought up as a Catholic in the days when you were told exactly what to believe and how to believe it and how to worship God. The latest new-fangled thing as I was growing up was that the mass was now being said in English and not Latin. The God I was taught about was a fierce-some God who saw and knew everything that you did. Whatever you did was not good enough. We had original sin from Adam and Eve, and despite baptism washing it away, we know that we were evil. We would go to purgatory when we died, which seemed to me to be a half-way house between Heaven and Hell. There was suffering – you needed to suffer after you died for your sins before you went up Heaven. You could be in purgatory for many years.
My education was in Catholic schools, taught by nuns in primary school, priests in secondary school and lay people in sixth form.
Anyway, being me, an inquisitive person, as a young teenager I read tremendously, as well as taking things apart to see how they worked, and not getting them back together quite the same afterwards. My reading was insatiable. I read encyclopedias. I read about other religions. I needed to understand everything.
As luck would have it, at the church that I went to, three young curates arrived as part of their training. These were normal people. They played football, liked modern music and two of them became involved with the Church young people.
I became involved in the church music group, playing guitar and from this I went away for youth weekends in Buckden, which were led by one of the curates, now ordained. Through this I met an amazing group of charismatic Christians, my age and slightly older. This was a type of church that I had never seen before. Young, enthusiastic to do things to share their faith in a different way to the way we had been brought up. Together we were active in protesting against the world as it was – nuclear weapons, poverty etc.
With this group, I went on to work with many what we would now call “youth initiatives” introducing people to the world around them and to this loving God that I now knew. He wasn’t the scary one I was brought up with, who insisted that worshipping Him meant saying the right prayers at the right time in the right place, but One who wanted me to do things for people.
I went to university and was involved in a similar group in Liverpool run by the chaplain there. My inquisitive and questioning nature was reinforced by my study of History, as we were expected to question everything and not accept what we were presented with.
After this, the world of work and involvement for a couple of years in a group that took sixth formers to Lourdes in France to work around the Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust annual pilgrimage there at Easter to just be there to help the children and their helpers over the weekend. What I was privileged to see there was amazing. Children with conditions that most adults would struggle with, who were full of love and joy, and faith that God was in that place.
I became more immersed in work, and less involved in Churchy things although I always prayed.
Time went on and I met Julie, and we had the boys. We both wanted them to be baptised and know the God that we knew so we started going to our local Church. This was a “high” Anglican Church – bells and smells. The people there welcomed us and we felt that this was our Christian family
We moved to Wellingborough ten or so years ago and wanted to continue in an active Christian Church but did not find one we fitted into despite going to a number for a couple of years at a time
The boys were becoming young men, and I was involved in running a business that had various pressures. Despite being fortunate to have a wonderful family life, I felt that the pressures of the company were all on me. Twenty odd employees each with a family that depended on this company and which I felt compelled to ensure survived the various changes that it had to face. I prayed and God helped but my big prayer to be guided and to be given strength enough to sort everything was never answered, Just before Christmas 2014 I had a breakdown. I couldn’t push myself anymore and my mind gave up to protect itself from me.
I was in a dark place. Julie and the boys did everything for me but nothing seemed to help. I prayed but all around me was dark. I knew God was there, but He and everyone felt outside the darkness that surrounded me
I struggled on, and after a few months saw a doctor who prescribed medication which after finding the correct dose helped to take much of the darkness away.
Unfortunately, the situation at work did not change and I remained involved in things that caused me problems, and continued to struggle. Still I prayed, but the big prayer to be guided and to be given strength enough to sort everything still was not answered.
Julie & I had started looking for another church to go to around this time and for whatever reason we arrived in late 2015 at Gleneagles, for the confirmation service. We were made very welcome, and despite the style of worship being a bit different what we had experienced most recently, we felt we fitted in, and we stayed.
For all of us, Julie, Sam, Sean and I, being at Gleneagles has transformed our Christian lives. We are all involved in groups in some shape or form within the Church. Julie works with the Daylight Centre, and I have started with the Street Pastors and working as treasurer for a local charity.
My darkness is still around, but less so now. The big thing for me is that I have been brought to a position where I realise that I can’t be given the strength enough to sort everything at work. It isn’t up to me. I can do things with God’s help, and will only be able to actually get things done if he wants me to. However, much I ask, if it is not given it is not for me to do at this time.
My faith has deepened since we joined Gleneagles. The church family is immensely supportive of each other, and to my mind has helped my spiritual growth, and together with my family, has given me the strength to be myself again, and to give to others in the way I had in the past.
My childhood for me did not hold many happy memories. There were some good times, but Mum and Dad didn’t get along and that in itself caused me a lot of anxiety. There were a lot of rows and Mum drank a lot. Mum worked hard in bars and clubs but would often come home drunk. I remember often laying awake waiting for the key to go in the door. I would know by how it went in as to what state she would be in. On quite a few occasions when she came home I would run out of the house in the middle of the night, knock on a neighbour’s door and stay there for the rest of the night.
My brother is a lot older than me; he was away in the navy. Someone had given him a little blue bible. I found it on his bookshelf. It fascinated me. It had lovely coloured pictures but the writing was so small you could hardly read it. I was about 7 or 8 at the time but was so drawn to this bible. Nobody in my family believed in God, but I was so comforted by this little bible I started talking to the man in the pictures. (Who I later found out was Jesus) and asked him to help me and not let my mum come home drunk. She still did, but I never felt alone again. I knew I was praying to Jesus and did it every night. Once I asked him to come into my heart. Immediately, I felt a feeling I’d never experienced before. I felt a warm fuzzy feeling and like I was flying It’s so hard to describe because it was so lovely.
At my first senior school I was bullied and moved to another school. I met a girl called Debbie and we became good friends. She was a Christian and took me to her church. This was the first church I’d ever been involved with. Amazingly there were people just like me who believed in Jesus.
Like many teenagers I rebelled and drifted off the right path. I got pregnant at 16 and devastatingly baby Ian died at four months from cot death. I always continued to pray but I blamed myself and sometimes still do, but Jesus got me through and kept me strong. My mum and dad had separated and I lived with my dad he died 7 months after Ian. Although it was a difficult time for me I always felt Jesus was with me and I was never on my own. Eventually years later I met John who was a Christian. I know that Jesus brought us together. My whole life turned around Jesus was everything to both of us. We had twin boys which was such a blessing. Although I was so happy, I still felt I wasn’t good enough for Jesus. I felt that all my life I kept letting him down as I still carried lots of issues. For example when I was in church people would speak out in prayer and I thought Jesus never talks to me like that. He never tells me to do anything. I kept thinking I’m not good enough for him. He never gives me guidance as to what I should be doing.
Anyway, long story short! I went on a prayer walk that Ali had organised. I’d never been on one before. Melvyn (bless him) got paired up with John and I. We were supposed to be praying for people in the neighbourhood: We did say a few prayers but I just kept talking to Melvyn about my insecurities. I went on and on. Poor Melvyn.
He came to see me a couple of weeks later with Alex. I opened up my heart to them, and through all of their prayers and talking to me all of the burdens i’d been carrying around all of these years lifted off of me. I was able to forgive people who’d let me down over the years. I’d never forgiven my mum and I forgave her. A huge weight lifted off of me.
I knew that Jesus spoke through Melvyn to me in church a week later when he mentioned the Daylight Centre. I contacted them that week and have been volunteering there ever since I knew that was what Jesus wanted me to do.
I always knew that Jesus really loves me but I used to feel that I let him down all of the time. Despite this he never abandoned me. I love Jesus so much words are not enough to say what I feel about him.
Thank you Jesus you’ve helped me so much through Melvyn and Alex. Although for some reason I can’t think why but Melvyn wasn’t at the next prayer walk.
Julie Mulhall – May 2017