This comes with our very best wishes in these difficult days. Like for many of you, a lot has changed for us over the last few months. Arleen’s mother became very unwell at the end of November so Mark picked up Arleen’s English classes in Moldova as well as his own while she returned to Northern Ireland to support her mum. Mark was well looked after meanwhile, by the Cahul church family and teaching staff, with gifts of meals and goodies often coming his way.
Since January mum has been having chemotherapy for myeloma and thankfully there has been some improvement. In February Arleen’s sister came to stay, which allowed Mark and Arleen a few days away at the beautiful Co Antrim coast and we had some wonderful walks along the beaches. Through this time, we have had many encouragements despite the pressures. A book ‘If it’s not too much trouble’ by Ann Benton helped to give insight into the issues surrounding the care of elderly family members and the value of serving in this way. Although we don’t have clarity on a longer-term plan it seems right for Arleen to remain in this role and review the situation in early summer.
The English classes seemed to be thriving and one class met Mark for a Sunday afternoon walk to explore secret Cahul. A network of underground tunnels used by the Turks is being excavated and they had a look at those, finishing off in a café for tea and cake. Relationships have deepened and we have become very fond of so many of these young people.
We, like everyone else have now been overtaken by events surrounding Covid 19. Mark felt it right to return to the UK when the schools closed and lessons stopped mid-March. He had one of the last few flights leaving Moldova and stayed in Wellingborough for a few days before taking one of the last few flights from England to NI. He’s now very good at packing quickly!
For the past four weeks we have been together in Antrim. Arleen continues to care for her mother and Mark has started to teach some online lessons with the students in Moldova. Zoom is wonderful and it has been a real privilege to maintain and develop contact with these young people, who are very appreciative of the support. Last weekend was Easter in Moldova and we were able to share a message of resurrection hope with the students and were so pleased to have some lovely responses.
We have much to thank the Lord for-
Please continue to pray –
With our very best wishes, Mark and Arleen
Steve Benoy writes….
One of the things which we often miss out on around this time of year is fully remembering the events of what we call Holy Week. Because we usually gather on a Sunday, unless we are intentional about it, we go from one service full of praises as we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna, to another service the following Sunday where it’s all Thine be the glory and Alleluia Christ is risen!
Even this forgets that on Palm Sunday, dark clouds of opposition to Jesus are growing gloomier by the minute, and the bright rays of resurrection the following week actually were utterly confusing to the first disciples. And in between, there has been the utter emptiness and loss of Friday.
We talk about being a Christian as walking with Jesus. Perhaps this year, our circumstances might allow us to walk with him, just a step further each day. And perhaps our resurrection joy might grow from different, richer soil on Sunday.
From time to time we speak of Jesus as the man born to die. At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of the Saviour, but even then it can be tempting to move quickly in our minds from the vulnerable baby and linger instead on the wounded man, the irony of the carpenter nailed to a piece of wood.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to know his fate from the beginning? We live in uncertain times. We make plans all the time but now more than ever we see how temporary they are. We’ve made plans, got our goals, nurture our ambitions & dreams, but then reality happens.
Jesus, the Word made flesh, knew his fate from the beginning. It is written, the Christ will suffer and rise, He said.
He knew three years before when the devil had tempted him in the desert, offering a shortcut to glory, an alternative kingdom. All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me. He knew to the point where he warned his disciples what would take place during that first Easter week, not once but three times. The Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected and killed and three days later will rise. He knew when he pleaded with his Heavenly Father, sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane take this cup of suffering away, yet not my will, but yours be done.
I’ve been reading John’s gospel through Lent, and one of the themes in John’s gospel is how the cross is described as a moment of glory. Jesus repeatedly spoke of it as the time when he would be glorified, when he would draw all people to himself. For the glory of the cross was the moment when he would in ultimate exhaustion and pain declare: It is finished.
Today, we could simply look on from 2000 years distance and admire the courage and nobility of this suffering. Or we could allow the power of Christ’s suffering to provide the perspective through which we view the world as it really is, not as we would think it should be.
In truth, God thinks the world should be different. He made it to be so and one day will make all things new again. We know our world is a world of wonder and yet also of suffering. Often we are insulated from this. So it is rare for practically every country in the world to be threatened by exactly the same thing.
Suffering calls out of us the courage to say: this is what matters to me, this is who I am, this is what I dare to believe. And in suffering we also ask God to justify himself. Where are you? What are you doing? Why can you not change this?
The fact is that Christ’s suffering means God is not only worth our attention in the good times. He doesn’t scarper at the first hint of trouble. He shares our longing for a different world, a new heaven and a new earth. But he will share our journey through this world, whatever may come.
The God we believe in is a God who suffers but for whom suffering is not the end. The God we believe in is a God who dies but who says death is not the end. The God we believe in is with us in life as it is, and points the way to a life that will be.
The cries of Christ on the cross are also the cries in the deepest parts of the human heart. There is the cry of suffering and struggle: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. There is the cry of hope and trust: It is finished.
We are truly followers of Jesus, we are truly taking up our cross and following him, when in the midst of struggle we trust, when in the heart of suffering we stir our hearts to hope, when we open our lives to receive God’s life poured out as he dies on a cross.
PCC 29 January 2020
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
What better than a meet up with friends from our Home Group, and you can’t beat a good curry!
And earlier in the year……..
Barbecue followed by cake and other treats.
Just what the doctor ordered and a great way to spend the afternoon following the Steps to Christ in the morning.
All in all a perfect day.
It is a quiet Sunday evening so it seems a good time to let you know how things are going here in Moldova. We have been here for four weeks now and getting to know the town of Cahul quite well. The weather has mostly been good since we arrived so we have been out as much as possible to explore and to enjoy becoming more familiar with everything.
We started teaching three weeks ago. It all seems to be going OK and we have met some lovely young people, all very respectful and mostly keen to learn. Ages range from about 13years to adults – including an accountant, teacher, car mechanic, council officer, bank worker and a full time Mum. We have been for lunch with several of the other teachers to get to know them better as well, two from the USA and some Moldovans who will help us with conversational Romanian. The English lessons are held in the building of the Baptist Church that we are linked with. Lessons are held after school hours, so from 2.30pm and can go on until about 8pm. Conversations in the class on different topics does give the opportunity to share our faith- please pray for this.
It’s great to meet folk at church on Sunday morning and they have been very welcoming. There are a few English speakers but communication is a bit limited still! One of the more advanced students from the English lessons translates for us and does brilliantly. As well as the church services Arleen is now part of a small ladies’ prayer group and has even been hospital visiting with the pastor’s wife. She and the pastor, Anatole, are a great encouragement and seem to have time and energy for many needs.
We are staying in a shared flat belonging to the church in the block shown here and it is about five minutes’ walk from the main shops and fifteen from the church where we are teaching. It is wonderful to be car free as, so far, we have all that we need within 15/20 minutes’ walk.
As well as a couple of new supermarkets and a range of shops there is a great market nearby; loads of fresh fruit and veg at the moment. The right time of year I suppose. We even made some plum jam this week as the plums are so plentiful and only about 25p per pound.
We are one block away from what seems to be the only real park in the town, but a great place to sit, people watch and eat an ice cream on a warm evening.
At the moment we are here on a ninety-day tourist stay but in the next month or so we will need to visit the capital, Chisinau, probably three times in order to get a visa for our stay here. This will involve a three-hour bus journey each way and possibly a stay overnight with visits to various offices. Please pray that this will go smoothly and that the various pieces of paperwork that we have been told that we need will be in order.
We hope things are going well and are always pleased to hear from friends
Thanks for your ongoing interest and God bless Mark and Arleen
Evangelism – taking message of the love of God out to those who don’t have much or any experience or knowledge of Him.
Following our recent ‘Evangelism Consultation’ that took place on Tuesday 25th June 2019 we have decided that evangelism needs to be a high priority at Gleneagles Church and that we should take action to increase the ways in which we, as a Church, are reaching out to our community with God’s love.
We decided to begin to do occasional outreach events. On 6th July we worked alongside the Street Pastors using their gazebo as a prayer tent. We gave out leaflets inviting people to ask for prayer. The rain literally put a damper on things, however we prayed with three people and had several other significant chats with people.
On 17th August we are planning to have a Prayer Activity tent at the Wellingborough Beach – see separate message.
We will be considering other such activities during the autumn, possibly based in our parish.
In the longer term, we will run the Diocesan evangelism training course, “Sharing your faith” early in 2020 and then Lent will have an evangelism emphasis for the whole church.
We will continue to meet to develop the programme and to review.
Rev Melvyn Pereira
5th August 2019