Hello from the hills and valleys of Breconshire! The season of Harvest Thanksgiving is upon us and we are enjoying the Autumn colours which are very pronounced in this part of the world. As I write the rain is pouring down and our waterfall is quite spectacular.
First of all, apologies for taking so long to write. Some things never change, including my amazing gift of admin(!) That apart, our life and ministry has changed beyond recognition. It felt really strange at first, not being based in a local church, but we have adapted to the change and are thoroughly enjoying our new life. Although our main calling is to start new work, we have felt it right to begin by building relationships with other Christians in Breconshire, both in Baptist chapels, other denominations, and various groups that meet in halls and homes etc. We have covered a lot of ground in recent months, have preached in most of the 20 Baptist chapels, and have built many good relationships with all sorts of people. We feel this is a necessary 'foundation' which we needed to lay before starting new work.
If anything, the state of the Baptist chapels is even worse than we thought. We knew there were 20 chapels without a minister, but we didn't realise that only half meet for worship every Sunday, many meet only once a month, and some just a few times a year. I took a Harvest service last week, which will be the last service in that chapel until Easter, partly because the building has no electricity and so they cannot meet during the winter. What amazed me even more was that many chapels, including the stronger ones, don't meet at all at Easter as nearly all of the congregation are busy lambing day and night. However, on the plus side many of the chapel folk are strong Christians with lovely hearts and a real burden to pray. Our new Assoc President preached on prayer at her induction, and at the end of the service over half of the congregation literally fell to their knees in prayer. Sometimes things are so low the only way is up! The new president, Ruth Hargest, has also instigated a monthly 'outdoor' prayer meeting, which usually involves climbing a hill and praying over whatever town and valley we look down on.
Another lady has been praying for her valley and local chapel for 15 years with little visible result. Until this July when the secretary of the four member chapel had an amazing experience of God which has transformed his life. He recently gave his testimony at a local Sankey evening, and those who knew him (all 60 of the congregation), were astounded at the change in him. We are currently meeting regularly with him and his wife, and they are both growing in Christ.
This Summer Penny had the idea of taking a stall around the local agricultural shows, which is where the whole community come out to meet and catch up with each other. We sold necklaces made by poor children in Uganda, which gave us an opportunity to speak about the work of the church out there, as well as our calling to Brecon. This led to many new contacts and relationships, and as a result Penny has been invited to speak at a number of schools and WI meetings, and we have both been invited separately to speak at a Young Farmers Club, which is a real answer to prayer. Earlier in the summer we had a BBQ for teenagers, and two weeks ago held our first monthly teenagers meeting in the house, with 13 in attendance. We had hoped to have started an Alpha by now but are learning to go at the Lord's pace not ours. As well as building many good relationships with Christians, we have also been focusing on those outside the church. Penny has joined the local WI and I am in the process of joining a male voice choir and a local running club.
One huge encouragement is that Anne Roberts, a former missionary in Albania who has since trained for the ministry, has felt a calling to work alongside us in Breconshire. She feels a strong calling to work amongst the chapels, which would release us to focus on new work. We get on really well together, she has been well received by the Baptist Association, and the BUW Ministry Board has just agreed funding. Anne is very excited about the new appointment and is hoping to start work in November. The details and final endorsement will hopefully be sorted out at the Assoc Half Yearly meeting on Oct 9th. Prayer points are as follows...............
- Guidance for the Assoc as we sort out the details of Anne's appointment, and guidance for Anne as she looks for a house in Breconshire. She already has her own home in Llandrindod Wells, which is only 7 miles north of Builth, so she can easily be based there for the beginning of her ministry.
- That the new ministry to teenagers will develop and grow. Most of them have a Sunday School background, but are not necessarily Christians.
- That the various speaking engagements with secular groups will lead to more contacts and openings for the Gospel.
- That God will bless our membership of various secular groups, and that the light of Christ will be seen in our lives and have an impact on the lives of others.
- That Mervyn, the man who give his testimony, will continue to grow in Christ and that his transformation will be a real witness to his neighbours and friends. Also for his wife Eleanor, that she would experience the same presence of God in her life.
- That Penny's operation on Oct 21st will go well and that she will have a good recovery. (Her major op last December has healed well but it wasn't successful in doing all that was needed).
- That the Holy Spirit will guide us clearly as we seek to follow Jesus who only did what he saw his father doing. Which sometimes means saying 'no' rather than 'yes'!
- That God's blessing will be upon a major worship event we are planning with Cath Woolridge and New Wine, to take place somewhere in Breconshire in the New Year. The provisional date is Tuesday Feb 15th.