Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Happy Christmas 2015

Happy Christmas 2015 Everybody!

With all the mild weather we have had through most of November, it seems to have caught up on us all of a sudden!  We have just come back from the Winter Fair at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Showground where the main crowd puller is the judging and auction of the sheep and beef cattle in prime condition.  Such is the attraction that the auctioneer's voice is relayed across the showground so that those getting on with their Christmas shopping around all the stalls don't have to miss a beat! Welcome hot cuppas and mince pies flow freely from the various feed merchants to the onlookers. People come in their thousands, from all over Wales, to the big two day event, whatever the weather. This year about fifty cars were swamped in the bottom car park when the river overflowed its banks.  Oops!
A group of Young Farmers from clubs around Wales took a live Nativity, complete with donkey, past some of the stalls to the bandstand where carols were sung in conjunction with the Christian Council for Rural Wales.

This coming Sunday we will be dressing up the children for an impromptu Nativity during a carol service in one of the rural chapels, as we will the following Sunday in another chapel. These are usually well attended by the local community.

On Christmas Eve in a village in South Breconshire they have a popular Nativity Pageant through the village, calling in at the two pubs and finishing in our farming friends' barn for carols among the animals.  Last year this attracted 250 people!

One of the Anglican churches is doing a Nativity Labyrinth which will give opportunity to reflect.

On our family front, our brave new little
granddaughter and her family have been through a lot since she was born in mid October.  At four days old she went to hospital for a few days with bronchiolitis, spending time in an oxygen tent and on drips. Then a fortnight later she was rushed into hospital after what turned out to be a bleed into the brain fluid. She was later transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital where they kept her for a week, doing lots of scans, X-rays and blood tests for both that and severe reflux as she finds it difficult to keep her feeds down.  She is home now and improving, but still under Alder Hey.  She's such a happy little girl when she's not feeling poorly.  Her little brother who has just turned two is coping well with all the upheaval although its not easy for him.  Please keep them in your prayers.

If you would like to read more of our news during this year, please see our updates, with lots of photos, on

May you all have a very special Christmas, be it quiet or bustling or somewhere in between.

Ifor and Penny

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Following The Spread of the Early Church in Photos

Our ten day holiday from the end of August to the beginning of September was one to remember forever.  It gave us so much insight and a deeper understanding of how the early apostles carried the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to the then known world, and how it spread from there to be by far the largest "religion" in today's world.

We took over a thousand photographs!  Here we have selected just some of them to help you catch for yourselves something of what we experienced.

We flew to Thessaloniki and travelled by bus to Kavala, the old Neapolis where Paul and others landed before travelling the 10km inland to Philippi, the leading city in Macedonia at their time.

The numerous earthquakes have taken their toll on the Roman and hitherto Greek (Hellenistic) cities they visited, but still a lot is standing.  Even where there is little remaining from that era, at least the geography of the places is there to understand the locations.

In Acts 16, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled by foot through Turkey to Troy on the northwest coast.

After the Holy Spirit closed the doors to them to visit other places in Turkey, Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man (a very tall race) called him to cross the sea to them.  Luke joined them as they set sail in a small ship towards Macedonia, stopping overnight on the island of Samothrace, with the coast of Macedonia in sight. Samothrace is visible on the horizon beyond the harbour of Kavala, previously known as Neapolis,
founded 700 yrs BC and
 today a busy fishing port.

From this lovely spot, Paul and his companions walked along the Egnatian Way, the ancient Roman road that stretched from Neapolis to Brindisi in the foot of Italy!
The tarmac road covers much of this today, but it was thrilling to walk along a section of it on our way inland to Philippi like Paul and co. It crosses a pass then follows the valley, past two big natural lakes on the banks of which lie Amphipolis (a town built on both sides of a river) and Apollonia, both mentioned in Paul's travels.
Philippi, being the capital of Macedonia, was huge and there is still lots more to be excavated. The Romans had occupied this ancient Greek city by Paul's time.  Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke made their way to the River Zegato at the foot of the hill of Philippi. There they met with Jews who gathered there to pray on the Sabbath.  Lydia, a wealthy tradeswoman from Thyatira near Troy, was one of them.  She was convinced by what Paul was preaching and, along with her household, was baptized there in
the river. The foursome stayed with her after that.

On another occasion on their way down to the river they set a slave girl free from a spirit fortune telling, much to the annoyance of her owners who would no longer get an income from her!  They dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities in the public square in the agora or forum (left) and the crowd joined in the attack.  After being whipped and beaten they were thrown into the inner gaol just to the right of the steps up from the forum with their feet secured. At midnight, as this battered pair were praying and singing, there was an earthquake which shattered their chains and burst open the doors. They stopped the frightened gaoler from killing himself,
assuring him they had chosen not to escape.  On his request they introduced him to Jesus and he and all his household were converted as they washed their wounds as they heard the stories.

The next day Paul, Silas and Timothy left along the Egnatian Way,                                                 passing through the cities of Amphipolis, built in a meander of the river, and Apollonia which both lie on the banks of two big natural lakes.  All that is left of the latter is the name given to the present day village there. According to tradition and the name of a nearby hill meaning 'of Paul' the apostles established churches there which became significant over the next few centuries. They continued on to Thessaloniki where many believed Paul's message but others opposed it and formed a mob. That night the new believers sent Paul, Silas and Timothy on to nearby Berea where they were
well received.  But the mob from Thessaloniki came hot on their heals to cause more trouble.  Some of the new believers took Paul by boat to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy to catch up with Paul there later. This would have been several days journey, but we went by plane and stayed there in a hotel with a garden and swimming pool on the roof,  overlooking the floodlit Parthenon on top of the Acropolis - the high place of  a city with the temple of the main god or goddess.
We climbed up Mars Hill, on
which the Areopagus was built,
overlooking the Parthenon,where
philosopher Paul spent much time
debating with philosophers and the city council there. Paul did his research of Athens. The photo shows the tomb of the unknown soldier, but Paul found a shrine to the unknown god (built in case the Athenians had missed one of their hundreds!) and took this as his starting point to explain who the supreme God is.

TO BE CONTINUED ...... keep looking!


As Autumn gets into full swing in all its glory in the hills and valleys of Breconshire, we look back on this last quarter and are encouraged to realize how God's Kingdom is quietly breaking through and spreading as we seek to raise the Spiritual climate around here and beyond.  Two signs of this are in Brecon where a small group are looking to start Street Pastors in the town - a ministry hardly
 heard of in this county, although becoming a household name elsewhere.  Also a couple, with helpers, are launching a group called Snak, (Sunday Night at Kensington). It is aimed at teenagers who would like to explore more about God and His relevance to today's issues. Please pray for take-up in these two new ventures.

As we were leaving Pembrokeshire over five years ago, two people
independently said "Don't forget the Gurkha population in Brecon." (the photo shows some of the Gurkhas involved in the 600 year Agincourt muster commemorations in Brecon). We have not been able to find a way in, until this summer we hosted an evening to hear a couple who are missionaries in Nepal. One is Nepalese and the other is English.  They were pleased to hear we knew a retired Gurkha couple who regularly attend a church in Brecon and    
so I joined them as they went to visit the next day. That was a helpful cultural learning experience. When their granddaughter in Australia died a few months ago, the members of the small Baptist church in Brecon they attended supported them as much as they were able.  As far as they knew there were no other Nepali Christians in the town and they felt somewhat isolated in this respect. We prayed with his wife against what appeared to be a large tumour, and later heard from her husband that she is now well.  Sadly two weeks ago Mr. Limbu went into hospital for tests and died there. Please pray for his wife who speaks very little English but has started going to evening classes. She will be moving to Australia to join her son and family there at the beginning of November.  Ifor had been asked to give a tribute to him on behalf of the chapel they attended, which is
where his funeral was conducted in Nepalese by a Nepali minister from Ireland. This gave us an insight into what his wife experienced all these years of faithfully attending English speaking services without knowing the language. The music of the Nepalese hymns was beautiful and reminded me of the sound of wind blowing through the prayer flags and bells on the Himalayas.  Most of the chapel members came, filling just over one pew. About 200 Nepalis came, many of them bringing bouquets of flowers which, at the end of the service, they piled around and under the coffin which was opened for the people to file past to say their goodbyes. After walking all the way up to the cemetery where there was a lot of singing around the grave, we all enjoyed a Nepalese meal. I was able to give a prophetic drawing the Holy Spirit gave me, to a young Nepalese woman.   Mr. Limbu was a strong Christian who, after he was converted and baptized, built and started a church in his village in Nepal.  When I went to visit the bereaved family after the funeral I was introduced to a retired Gurkha who wants to know more about Jesus. This man invited us to his home to regularly teach him and some of his friends about Jesus, the English language and British culture. Thank you God.

Another sign of the Kingdom coming closer is that after five years of failing to get opportunities to talk at Young Farmers' Club meetings and National Farmers' Union (apart from early on doing a Uganda talk at our local club), suddenly opportunities came like London buses!  Last month Ifor was asked to speak about his work with Farm Community Network (a kind of Samaritans for farmers) at a county NFU meeting.   All the farmers present took cards to give to neighbours who might benefit from FCN.  This resulted in a phone call the next morning from someone needing help.     The following evening Ifor was the guest speaker at a large YFC which also responded well.  The free pens and wrist bands disappeared very quickly! All these will end up in their homes and round about, where their families and friends will have access to a phone number in time of need.  Statistically, farmers are the third highest group in the UK, of people taking their own lives.  Ifor has been dealing with quite a few cases recently, one of whom actually did try to take his life. That man is now doing well.

The following week Ifor was asked to speak at the annual county YFC Harvest Festival in Brecon. His talk concerning the ridiculous sharing of the world's resources with some eye opening facts and figures, really gripped the Young Farmers and tied in well with the Christmas shoebox appeal for Eastern Europe in which the clubs had participated.  Ifor has also led quite a few other Harvest Festivals this year in different chapels. This is often the only service many in the rural community attend - apart from funerals.  A number of the chapels only open for their Harvest Festival and sometimes their anniversary service, like Capel y Ffin which Ifor was asked to lead again this summer.

Yet another sign of the increasing closeness of the Kingdom was the encouragement I had when going around the mothers of young children in our local vicinity to see how many would be interested in coming to our house for a mums' and young childrens'  Bible fun time for just 45 mins, with the opportunity of staying on for a cuppa and chat afterwards if they were able.  Many of the mums feel rather isolated. Although they were keen to start over the summer, only a very few actually made it during the holidays.  They had more commitments than they'd realised.  Those that came enjoyed acting out the story whilst dressed up, then clothing empty loo roll
and ping pong ball figures and doing the story again through them, whilst singing the story all through well known nursery rhyme songs with new words.  Several of the mum's, who had been to Sunday Schools when they themselves were little, would like their own children to have the same experience, but there are none around here.  (Another sign of the veil beginning to lift is that a few of the Anglican churches have started doing Messy Church).  I was only able to run it for two or three sessions as I have not been well, but hope to start it again next month.

Ifor took his second senior school assembly this autumn, in a high school where he is now on the rota.  Although in Pembrokeshire he was regularly doing assemblies, that was over five years ago. It seemed to go well and a year seven boy stopped to chat to him afterwards about something he'd said.

                                                      We took our Uganda stall to four
village shows this summer.     At Cwmdu show Ifor had a go at the popular competition to hang a long gate on obscured hinges.  He held the record for the shortest time for two or three hours before eventually being pipped by two other farmers!   At Llanigon show
a women's clothing shop owner inquired about buying a selection of necklaces to accessorize their dressed mannequins and having my publicity cards available in the shop. Llyswen and Gwenddwr shows were also very successful. I was able to give a prophecy to one of the other stallholders. As well as raising money from sales of their paper bead jewellery, the publicity often results in requests to do slide shows.  The
slideshow I did at a village gardening club on Horticulture in Kenya and Uganda was enthusiastically received.  Afterwards they bought lots of  the paper bead jewellery made by the two schools we support and gave a generous donation.  After seeing photos of some of the healings we witnessed in Kenya, two of them requested prayer for themselves. there and then. The leader of the gardening club asked if I could do a slideshow at their W.I. And so it continues.

In October I once again did a whole morning Uganda experience with the school near Newport where our son-in-law teaches. It really opens their eyes and the school always does half a term focusing on life there. They ask lots of questions and have fun especially trying to balance things on their heads whilst trying to copy an African dance at the same time! The children will now learn skills in marketing as they go on to sell the paper bead jewellery made by their counterparts in a school in Uganda, as well as having a go at making some themselves.

As well as taking services in the little chapels, two or three most Sundays, Ifor has recently also done two weddings, with preparation, and two baby dedications at the request of families he has got to know well. It was also wonderful to go to our grandson's dedication in the same week that we helped them move into their lovely new house!  Another special dedication service was the opening of the new building on the site of the the old stable for a little chapel high up in the Black Mountains.  This will provide kitchen, toilet and rest facilities for hikers, as well as an extra room for the chapel.
We've been to a few funerals of friends in the county, one of which was a Quaker funeral which was very different.  We were also able to get to John Pullin's memorial service last month.  He was the minister of our sending church in Tenby when Ifor was called to train for the Baptist ministry and helped him develop his preaching.  Ever since then John has been a missionary in Brazil where he has been Principal of a theological college there and planted several churches.
Ifor was asked to preach at the funeral of BMS missionary Dr. David Wilson who founded a hospital in a clearing in the jungle of the Congo. Patients would be carried by foot or by canoe, sometimes covering a distance of 1,000 miles to the hospital which specialized in orthopaedics.  He was one of only eight doctors serving the whole of the Congo. On his return to the UK he had a big influence on the NHS, transforming the A&E section. He loved his Lord and the people He created.

Bristol Baptist College held a conference on bi-vocational ministry at which Ifor was invited to speak, focusing on his work amongst farmers. Milking three mornings a week (a lone deer seems to have joined the herd in recent weeks!) adds credibility to his role as Rural Chaplain and FCN worker. So does being a rep for Bowketts Farm Supplies, selling feed and fertiliser. This gives an open door onto all the farms in the county and beyond. Of course they also see him leading the huge funeral services of the farming community.  So he is quickly becoming familiar beyond the small chapel network. At a Farm Open Day, a speaker made the point that no matter how much fertiliser you use, grass won't start growing in the Spring until the soil temperature reaches 8 degrees. Ifor was struck by the spiritual application.  We're beginning to realise that much of our work throughout the County is about raising the spiritual temperature, and we won't see any significant growth until the spiritual temperature rises. It makes sense of the many, varied, and seemingly unconnected aspects we're involved with. Every part is helping to raise the spiritual temperature across the County and that is noticeably happening.

A farmer whom Ifor helped with TB testing, showed his appreciation by bringing us 70 pallets for firewood! What a palaver cutting those up!  The last couple of dozen we gave to a grateful local farmer for use in his barn. 

In June at Momentum, the annual Baptist Assembly in Wales, Ifor completed his year as President by stepping in at last minute when one of the key speakers was unable to attend. The advertised theme for that session was 'Hope in a hopeless world', and Ifor was able to speak about the varied signs of hope we are now seeing in what once seemed a hopeless situation. In an earlier session on personal spirituality, Ifor gave a strong challenge which had a big impact on many in the congregation.

Local boy Rob whom we mentioned in our last update, has gone from strength to strength with his table tennis and recently won the doubles in the Paraplegic European Championships.

This year has not been an easy one for me.  After being ill for the first few months of the year, I had just a couple of months feeling normal, before experiencing excruciating pain which lasted three to ten hours at a time for the next few months and the blood levels in my liver went haywire.  Weekly blood tests, a scan and endoscopy showed this was due to a gallstone stuck in the bile duct. Ongoing liver problems, combined with a hiatus hernia, brought me low and I caught one virus after another. The consultant is now talking about a Gall Bladder operation.  I was concerned how I would cope as the departure date for our amazing holiday of a lifetime, planned for my 60th birthday, approached.  I had my final major attack just a couple of days before we left. Thank you Jesus!

The leader of our group of 16 was Mike, our minister when Ifor was training in Cardiff for the ministry all those years ago.  The tour called "The Spreading Flame of the Early Church" took us following the footsteps of mostly Paul,
but also John, Peter, Timothy, Silas and others, through Greece, Turkey, Patmos and Rome. We visited ancient Neapolis, Philippi, Lydia's brook, Thessalonika, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrae, Patmos, Ephesus, Hierapolis,
Laodicea, Philadelphia, Sardis, Smyrna and Rome. It has been calculated that Paul travelled at least 10,000 miles by foot and sea over the course of his mission trips. It was an amazing ten days for us that brought to life and gave us greater understanding of the book of Acts, the Epistles and Jesus's words to the seven churches in Revelation.  Experiencing these locations and the stories in their contexts was quite eye opening. Reliving the adventures of these early pioneers was both helpful and reassuring to us in our pioneering work in Breconshire. On a separate post in this blog I have put together a short photographic summary of this tour so you also can reap some of the benefit we experienced. A church in Cardiff has already asked for a presentation which I am putting together to be shown wherever people would like it, both inside and outside of churches.

A few days after our return it was lovely to have all my extended family here to celebrate my birthday on a warm, sunny September day which continued into the evening with a sing song around a campfire.  I was given two particularly amazing presents.  Our children had clubbed together to buy me a nestbox with a colour and infrared  camera inside which connects to our television!  Many of the rest of the family combined to present us with two vouchers for a trip in a hot air balloon during these next twelve months!

We have been having trouble with our ducks these last few months.  Quite a few have been sitting on their eggs but a stoat has been taking the eggs from underneath them, leaving just three to hatch - which have all turned out to be drakes! You can see them trying to climb the 'cliff' up to their mum!  Sadly eight ducks have quietly been taken one by one, we think by a mink which might have taken up residence somewhere nearby. The ninth one pluckily escaped with a nasty bite to his leg and a large chunk of feathers torn off his back.

Our big family news is that we now have a little granddaughter.  Emily Grace was born to Katie and Sam just a fortnight before her big brother's second birthday. She is such a sweetie.  Sadly she contracted bronchiolitis and had to spend quite a few days in hospital on a drip and sometimes in an oxygen tent. She is now recovering well and back home with her new family.  Thank you Lord for many answered prayers.
Also thank you for answering so many of our supporters' prayers and for the joy of seeing the Good News of the Kingdom spreading, little by little.

Monday, 13 July 2015

God in Action!

overlooking Erwood
Summer is here and its about time we updated you on what has been happening in Breconshire these last few months.

In our last update we mentioned that Ifor led the funeral of a lovely Christian lady.  As there were so many comments after this, we requested that the next hill prayer gathering be overlooking her village and neighbouring villages.  Over the few months since this prayer gathering we have seen God working dramatically in that area.

A relation of the deceased was involved in a quad bike accident.
We were third on the scene, having followed a prompting to go via the back road to our destination.  The first person on the scene managed single handedly to lift the heavy quad bike off our farmer friend, while the slight woman who was second on the scene pulled him out.  We saw this happening before we got out of our car.  God must have given them both supernatural strength.  Our friend, in a lot of pain and shock, was taken away by ambulance to the nearest hospital where we caught up with him a few hours later. By this time he had been diagnosed with a broken sternum, eight broken ribs, a punctured lung and a fractured shoulder blade and pelvis. He knew God had been looking after him as it could have been infinitely worse.  We remarked how fortunate he was not to have been under the heavier engine end of the quad. His reaction was "What do you mean? I was holding all four wheels up off the road with my chest!" We prayed with him for a speedy recovery but were not prepared for the speed:  a couple of weeks later he drove himself to Hereford market and a week after that was singing a solo!

That same day of the accident his wife, driving home tired, found herself in a ditch when she dozed off.  God was obviously looking out for her as well as she was not hurt although the car was written off.

Our diocesan missioner friend who had been living in that same village found she needed a house to rent for eighteen months.  To cut a long story short, the diocese are now renting my parents bungalow for her so we have taken it off the market.  She had befriended a lady in that village before she moved into our bungalow and took me to meet her. She was happy for us to pray with her for an
injury to her ankle and fractured bones just above. Six months after the accident she still could not
put any weight on it and was in severe pain.  She was due to see her doctor a few days later about the possibility of further surgery. He had given her something like an ice pack to wear in her shoe but this didn't help much.  As we prayed she felt a sensation in her thigh, then the ankle area went hot before going "nice and cool" and the pain subsided. When her doctor saw her he decided not to operate after all because of the sudden improvement. As arranged I saw her later that week.  She had just walked the length of her kitchen without any crutches! I told her that on the drive to see her, Jesus spoke to me about her having shattered nerve endings.  She confirmed this was very much an issue but she had omitted to tell me. As I prayed this time she felt the ankle and lower leg start to tingle and the pain reduce further. She was due to go with a group of friends on a walking holiday at
the end of the week and was happy to take "The Shack" as a holiday novel to read. I encouraged her to keep receiving her healing from Jesus whenever she had her leg up resting. She managed a short walk using Nordic poles with her friends' encouragement. When I visited her on her return I found her working in her shed at the bottom of the garden, having left both her crutches in the house! She had loved the Shack which helped her work through some personal issues and has gone from being an atheist to the beginnings of discovering a relationship with Jesus.  She is back driving again and as a result I haven't been able to catch her in lately, but she has become a good friend.

I got to visit three others in that area.  One, who has read Angus Buchan's book, is now also reading The Shack.  Another, who has read Angus's book and Heaven is for Real, is now reading Corrie Ten Boom's "Prayers and Promises for Every Day".  The third person has recently discovered she has secondary cancer and listened when I tried to encourage her with the story of how Ifor and I prayed for a young woman several years ago who Jesus healed completely of cancer. She is not open to prayer yet.  Please pray she will be.

Other hill prayer gatherings have been over Glasbury, over Builth and over Hay on Wye before the Hay Festival at which Christie Glossop, Christian Chief Vet for Wales was speaking on the controversial topic of badgers and TB.  She is a part of the Goshen Project at Bronydd Mawr which prays for farmers. All the farmers that asked for prayer before having their herds TB tested had clear results.

Before we went through the gate into the stone circle above the  
quarry to pray over Builth Wells,  Barbara had a strong prompt
to pray for our protection. As we did so we sensed shields
surrounding us and over our heads like Roman soldiers, and an angel carrying a huge sword went ahead of us.  We had a sense that whatever had been going on in the past on that hilltop was still somehow affecting the town and valley below and needed forgiveness and cleansing. Three of us prayed with banners around the stones and over the gulley alongside. Much prayer was prayed over the town.  Afterwards Barbara was going straight on to an arranged meeting on the showground with some of the management and county leaders of the Young Farmers' Clubs to ask again for a live nativity to be staged by the latter group at the Winter Fair whereby Young Farmers dressed as rowdy Biblical shepherds spring up in different parts of the showground and ultimately converge at a central point where carols will be sung. Unlike last year, this time they were all very enthusiastic and started putting forward their own ideas along those lines!

The YFC have an annual drama or pantomime inter club competition.  This year our small, local club of Aberedw won not only at  county level, then at the Wales level, but then went on to Torquay for the UK level ... and came second!  A number of these brilliant actors and actresses were in the youth group I led. I went to watch their dress rehearsal before the long journey and could easily see how they had got through to the grand final.

This spring the Anglican Renewal Ministries, which used to host Flames of Fire at the Builth Showground, put on "Flames Rekindled" for a day. It was good to catch up with old friends from around Wales and parts of England, and meet new ones. In between the speakers, individuals were invited to share what God is doing in their areas; Barbara spoke about how the Lord has recently enabled CCRW (Christian Centre for Rural Wales) to have the upstairs rooms above the Glamorgan Building throughout the year. The following day it was good to have Stuart and Pru Bell, who stayed in the county overnight, to speak at an extra gathering for local Christians.

Also since that prayer time over Builth Wells I have been invited to show slides on Uganda at both the Anglican church there one Sunday and Builth Wells W.I. Both seemed to have quite an impact on the audiences.  Moses, who runs one of the two schools we support in Uganda, has recently sent me some photos of their new location on the edge of Kampala after being pushed out by their landlord from the original school.  Now they have built classrooms, a dormitory where the children share mattresses which they now have, sown and harvested their first crop of maize and have a few goats and pigs as they aim to be more self sufficient and learn new skills. Even so they have had to weather a hunger gap between crops in these early days. Do visit their Facebook page "Tentmakers minis." Both Moses and Pastor John Okello  need your prayers.

I had the opportunity to pray for healing for a farmer's wife recently and it was great fun watching Jesus do just that!  He seemed to be giving her the works, removing the pain and bringing back full movement to her neck, spine and various other parts of her body that He knew about but we'd not mentioned.  Such joy!

Rather than trying to gather a group, we have started inviting individuals and couples around for a meal so that each feels special.  This has helped us in building stronger relationships as well as being enjoyable all round. One of these guests who came after the hill prayer over Glasbury, was keen to borrow the book Waking up in Heaven.  This is the true story of a young, damaged mother who found Jesus and His unconditional love in a remarkable and life transforming way when in hospital.  This is the latest of a number of books our friend has borrowed, the first being The Shack. It is certainly a book to recommend.

You may remember Mrs Pugh, our wonderful 104 year old neighbour who died last year. (Her twin sister died a few months later)  She was an enthusiastic member of Erwood Chapel and the members and friends dedicated a bench to her in the chapel graveyard, overlooking the River Wye.  This attracted a large crowd who afterwards enjoyed a table tennis demonstration by her great grandson Rob who did well in the Paralympics and is currently number one seed in the world. His one handed serves, while his other hand maneuvered the wheelchair, had a terrific spin! What an outstanding example to everyone who has suffered a major injury and refuses to be restricted in life by it. Mrs Pugh was rightly proud of him.

This spring we had a wonderful few days at the annual Christian
Farmers' Gathering at Top Barn near Worcester where Andreas Keller from Switzerland talked about spiritually understanding and healing our land. As we walked the farm, Andreas taught us how to be aware of the different atmospheres, ask the Holy Spirit about them and pray and proclaim as He leads. We soon tuned in. It was very eye opening.  He taught us about how God sees our bloodlines too and the relevance of past and future generations.

The first three or four months of the year I have been slowed right down by a virus, followed by a condition in my ribs triggered by that virus.  During that time God has clarified and focused my calling and particularly what He wants me to be doing this year.  It has also given me time whilst resting to read some very inspiring books He has put my way.  The first was a Christmas present which I can thoroughly recommend and from which I have copied many quotes. Incidentally, we have since heard that a woman at Mervyn's baptism (see last update) whom I prayed for who was about to have a hip operation did not need one afterwards as all the pain has left her and full movement has returned. Thank you Jesus.
A book I found at Top Barn was by Angus Buchan, called "Jesus ... a Farmer ... and Miracles".  Another good book.  A farmer suffering from severe depression came to the huge Angus Buchan event we helped organise at Bronydd Mawr last year. During the evening he went forward in response to what Angus had said and instantly felt the depression leave him and be replaced by the Holy Spirit.  The former has never returned and the latter never left Him.  He's a changed man, full of joy and has a new job which he enjoys.
The book I am currently reading, "the Freedom Diaries", was recommended by a good friend. It is book of conversations with God which started much to the surprise of the author.  I find it affirms what I have believed increasingly over these last years.  So many get stuck at the cross, forgetting that it opened the door for us to walk through to have a two way relationship with our Creator.  Its a book that needs to be "out there" but currently it is only available from the stockists in New Zealand. However it does have its own Facebook page by the same name.

It was encouraging to have Benjamin Francis stay with us for a few days. He is very involved in mission in India and a number of the counties in that region, heading up Big Life and also the BMS overseer for India. We drove him around a bit for him to get a feel of the area. During that time we hosted an evening where a number of Christians in the county came to hear him. Being used to densely populated cities, he jokingly remarked to the group that he understood how it was difficult to find people around here!  Despite this contrast in population and culture, what he said and demonstrated were very natural and helpful.

Ifor has been involved with a number of cases with Farm Community Network, helping farmers and their families who have contacted the Christian charity looking for advice, help or simply a listening ear.  So many isolated farmers these days are going through so much turmoil that there often doesn't seem to be a way forward for them. Because of the huge mid Wales area and the few FCN counsellors, this has often meant him travelling long distances.  This is well worth it when people can be linked up with what they need, problems solved and even lives saved.

As well as preaching most Sundays, helping a widow with no family, taking huge farming funerals and being heavily involved with the Baptist Union of Wales as president in what has been a difficult year, Ifor is still working as a rep for Bowketts.  Not surprisingly he has not been able to do as much of this work as he would have liked to.  However, he did stand in for someone with a broken hand for six weeks in the stores.  This gave him an insight into the work involved there and surprised a number of the customers who knew him with different "hats".

 The store work included  filling sacks with whatever feed had been ordered using a fascinating Wallace and Gromit type machine, getting to grips with operating a bobcat that uses levers instead of a steering wheel and of course the forklift truck. Sorry the short video is on its side!

The dairy herd where Ifor milks has expanded to 550 cows.  When there was a busy period of getting the cows back in calf, they had three milking in the parlour at a time for six weeks. During this time Ifor was milking five or six mornings a week, but is now back to three mornings a week and enjoying it.

We have had four big events on the family front this year.  First was the arrival of our nephew Owen, first grandchild to my brother and sister in law.  Its so good having the cousins close in age.  They will no doubt have lots of fun together in the future. Then we celebrated Ifor's mothers 90th birthday.  She is happier in her new surroundings than we have seen her for many years.

It was wonderful to welcome our new
daughter-in-law Ellie into the family on Easter
Day when she and Kevin were married at St. Denys's church in Lisvane, Cardiff.  It was lovely that they asked Ifor to preach, me to do the flowers and for the whole family to involved in various ways.  What a joyful occasion for both families.

The following day with all the family together (apart from the newly weds!) we had a slightly early celebration picnic for Thomas's first birthday in the warm sunshine. This was also the occasion when he took his first couple of steps!

The family continues to grow - we were all thrilled to hear that Katie's and Sam's second baby is on the way, arriving in October.  Quite a birthday present for Caleb who will be two that same month!

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragements which keep us going. Bless you all.