The new year started not just with a net of colourful balloons being let down at midnight in Erwood Market Hall after supper, dancing and games, but also with a lovely encouragement of acceptance in the area when Ifor was asked to join the committee organising local celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year. Also we have been asked to judge all the fancy dress competitions at a local show in the summer. Its great to be asked and involved. People in the local community, apart from the actual village of Erwood, live in scattered houses and farms over a wide area. They enjoy coming together but there are not that many opportunities. With this in mind we have started using our home as a mini “cinema”, projecting DVD's in the winter months and inviting our new friends in the neighbourhood to come together to watch films with a break in the middle for bring-and-share food and chat. Showing The Nativity to 16 people in this way just before Christmas proved so popular that people were keen to do this again. So in January we showed The Invictus, directed by Mel Gibson, to 20 very local friends. This inspiring film shows how Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, used rugby to unite the blacks and whites in South Africa after apartheid. Our offer to show the film of Ian McCormack at the end of February was met with great interest. He is an Australian surfer who was stung umpteen times by box jellyfish, had an encounter with God in the ambulance, died for 15 minutes, woke up in the mortuary and today tells about what happened, esp during those 15 minutes. Please pray that many will come to this and be encouraged to explore more about God.
The group that formed in the Sennybridge/Crai area out of the hilltop prayer gatherings have now started praying regularly over their own area. They have followed a very successful six week dvd course of Journeys in their village hall with a couple of Farming and Faith dinners there. 65 local farmers, their wives and neighbours gathered for the second of these dinners to hear Mervyn speak about how God has transformed his life and farming. They are now following this with an Alpha course in their home. Mervyn himself is constantly sharing his faith and last month invited a friend he recently led to the Lord to look at the bible together with us and himself. Another person whom he led to the Lord that same week would also like to be a part of this, but lambing has put paid to all this temporarily.
Our own hilltop prayer walks continue enthusiastically, the most recent being over Builth Wells last week.
Two of this prayer group have also started praying monthly from different hills overlooking Abergavenny and Crickhowell where they live. These two are part of a group of about 30 Spirit-filled women from different churches who meet together monthly to worship God, pray and study the Bible together each week. This group – W.O.W. (Women of the Word) invited me to teach on Prophecy last week. This went down well and they were all enabled to prophesy over each other in small groups and hear God in many different ways. I was also asked to preach to just seven people in a nearby chapel last week. Speaking about the Kingdom of God on Earth, I forgot to offer prayer for healing afterwards, but even so two of the people came and asked for healing prayer anyway! Very encouraging.
Ifor has been away a lot lately with several trips to Baptist Union of Wales Headquarters in Carmarthen on various boards and committees looking at ministry and mission in Wales. Also to the three day BUW conference in Saundersfoot where the two main speakers were considering how today's church structures may need to change considerably to reach the non church going communities. It was encouraging for us to see how well our new position places us to be more effective in this. A church planters' day in the BU of Great Britain headquarters in Didcot was also encouraging. It seems many in the country are looking at new ways of going about fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus left us with.
Tomorrow Ifor will be joining a gathering Christian of farmers from all over UK. Peter Farmer will be speaking at this. We met him last year when we went to Sussex for the four day conference on church planting movements which he also attended. Peter is doing a similar thing around Nottingham and Ifor went to a weekend he was running just before Christmas which greatly inspired him. So we have invited Peter to speak to a gathering in Abergavenny on his way to staying with us over the weekend. On monday we have invited twenty to thirty people to our home to hear him and consider ways of growing the Kingdom in a multiplying way through our varied contacts. Please pray for much fruit from this in terms of people being motivated to start reaching out in ways that will multiply Kingdom growth across mid Wales.
Back here the discovery group we meet with weekly are continuing to grow in their understanding and experience of God. As well as receiving continued healing and deliverance, they are looking more outwards and sharing their faith and testimony with their friends and neighbours. The monthly youth group has taken a break since before Christmas because of the three days a week rehearsals for the Young Farmers Clubs Pantomime competitions. We are considering starting the Journeys DVD course with them when we resume next week.
Ifor has received some training in all the legislation and paperwork that seems designed to swamp farmers nowadays. He has been helping a farmer who due to personal circumstances has seriously lapsed with his records which could result in the loss of many thousands of pounds. Just today we heard from the officials that all this rectifying work has been accepted and he will not now lose all this money. Praise God!
At the end of February Ifor and Bruce Collins will be going around together meeting with different church leaders in Breconshire and Radnorshire with a view to starting up a New Wine Leaders group in Mid Wales. Prayer into this would also be appreciated.
Breconshire may be a whole county but in this rural community the bongo drums work well as people know people who know people. Whilst having my hair cut two weeks ago I was telling my hairdresser Lisa about how I ended up telling Ian McCormack's story in a church on the weekend because I failed to get his DVD to work; this after preaching on heaven in the morning at the same church. She was intrigued to hear how someone who had been dead for 15 minutes came back to life. She then went on to ask if I new of a certain man in the county called Mervyn who reckons he can hear God. Apparently her aunt heard him at a church (where Ifor was preaching and had brought Mervyn along to tell his story) and she and my hairdresser looked up the video on YouTube of us and him. Lisa recognised me from the video. She also knows well the daughter of a good friend of mine where we may be running an Alpha course later this year. God has it all joined up!
As well as prayer concerning all the above, we have been asked to lead a church weekend in Stratford-on-Avon at the beginning of March. This will be on “God's Secret Weapon – The Tongue”. We really value your prayers and support. Although we seem to be making progress around the edge of the county, Breconshire itself is a tough nut to crack it seems.