Hope this Christmas letter finds you hearty and healthy, warm and well. At the time of writing in late November we have had frozen snow for 3 days, and last night a record low temp of -18c was recorded not far from where we now live. This morning the River Wye was freezing over and an outside valve on our oil central heating system froze. Penny wasn’t too happy when I wrapped a piece of newspaper around the oil pipe and put a match to it, but it did the trick!It seems a long time since we completed our ministry at Broad Haven on Jan 31st, bringing to an end a very happy 21 years in our first church. The church put on a wonderful meal and leaving do, and even arranged for Max Boyce to ring me that morning! I can’t remember what he said because I spent most of the conversation trying to work out who was winding me up, before I realised it was the man himself! He even sent me a poem written specially for the occasion. That’s what comes of quoting Max Boyce in my sermons!
We moved to Waterloo Cottage on Feb 2nd and we can’t believe how God has been so good to us. We loved our life in Broad Haven, and this is completely different but equally wonderful. Goodbye sea but hello mountains; goodbye to life in an active church and hello to life in the country; goodbye to being a church minister and hello to being a missionary. The last may seem a strange comment but that’s probably the best way to describe our new role. Missionaries in Breconshire. There are 20 Baptist chapels in the county, averaging 8 members, without a single full time minister between them. Many of them meet for Sunday worship only once a month, and some of them only 3 or 4 times a year. Our role is to start new work outside the chapels. We started by getting to know the chapels and other Christian groups and have been able to build some good relationships around the county.
A key moment occurred in June when at a local Baptist gathering half of the congregation dropped to their knees in prayer recognising their desperate need for help. Nine days later I had a chance conversation with a Baptist minister called Anne Roberts, and to cut a long story short Anne has felt called to come and work alongside us, but as an Association minister supporting the local chapels, which leaves Penny and I free to focus on getting out into the community. A few weeks after that chance conversation, a local farmer struggling with lots of personal issues cried out to God for help and within 24 hours God turned his life around. Four months later his life has been transformed and we recently started a discovery bible study in his house. Discovery Bible Studies, which we encountered whilst attending a church planting conference in Sussex recently, may well form a major part of our work.
Despite those encouragements I have struggled at times with the adjustment from our previous role, sometimes wondering what I am supposed to be doing. I have come through that and now have a much clearer picture of what we are called to do and how we can do it. Penny on the other hand has thrown herself into our new life and is loving every moment. She has joined the local WI and spoken at WI, Mother’s Union, schools, and Young Farmers meetings, as well as preaching in the local chapels and taking a stall around the local Agricultural Shows this Summer. She has also started a group for teenagers meeting monthly in our home. In October she had another major op and is recovering well, though she is not very good at pacing herself. What’s new?
Becky and Pete are very settled near Newport, especially since Pete finished his PGCE and got a teacher’s job just 15 minutes from where they live. They will be going to Pete’s parents in Dubai for Christmas. Lucy meanwhile is still working with YWAM in Norway, and thoroughly enjoying it. She is currently on staff for the School of Evangelism, but from next September will be leading the school herself. Staying abroad, Mary is planning to leave for China in February, taking a post teaching English for six months in a school at Yantai on China’s east coast. She is presently living and working in Carmarthen. Kevin is the only one still in Pembrokeshire, based at Sealyham Activity Centre. After putting his shoulder out 17 times, he finally had an operation this Summer which has hopefully sorted it.
Coming back to Waterloo, we are very happy in our new home. Rosie enjoys her walks on the common and along the river bank, and the ducks have never been so happy, with their own stream, pond, and even a few waterfalls! If anyone fancies a break in beautiful countryside, we have two spare bedrooms!
Have a wonderful Christmas, and we wish you all the best for 2011.
Lots of love,
Ifor and Penny