‘The blind were given sight, children could walk again and women regained their dignity…’

This month I will have been with Mercy Ships for one year – and it’s flown by. In that time I’ve learned so much and come to think of this as a dream job. In July, I actually set foot aboard the ship itself – the world’s largest floating charitable hospital – which was such a privilege. I met some of the crew and saw with my own eyes the narrow corridor that houses five operating theatres. Last year we performed over 2,700 surgeries – every one was offered free of charge, as we follow the model of Jesus to show love and share hope and healing with the poorest people on earth. The walls were full of smiling faces – patients whose lives have been utterly transformed; the blind who were given sight, children who could walk again and women who regained their dignity and were no longer outcasts.

At the moment I’m preparing for the Spring Harvest Local Church Tour, where I’ll be on stage talking about Mercy Ships. Please pray I do this well and God is with me.

Recently, I took on a number of additional responsibilities. I now manage a team made up of Christine, Gary, Mike, and Lisa, our amazing administrator.

Christine is the Community Fundraiser, she supports people who do sponsored challenges and fundraising events.

I also oversee our network of Volunteer Speakers, who tell churches and other community groups about our work. As part of this, I manage a great guy called Gary, he and I decide which Conferences Mercy Ships will exhibit at. I’m kept busy!

Mike is a volunteer who is helping to write the training for our first ever ‘Speakers Conference’ that we’re running on 3rd November (Manchester) and 17th November (London). Please pray for this, and for my whole team.

Please pray too for Val and the other volunteer crew on our ship. They’ve just arrived in Conakry, Guinea – which lost many medical professionals in the Ebola crisis a few years back. On the first day of ‘screening’ 6000 people queued up, each hoping to get the surgery they desperately need.

Thank you, your prayers and support make such a difference and mean the world to me.

‘And with tears in my eyes…’

“Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslave them.”

This verse from Ezekiel 34:27 was pretty much the first thing I read on return from my recent visit to Nepal. I recall looking up at a colleague, and with tears in my eyes, saying ‘I have seen this with my own eyes’.

One of INF’s newer work areas is in a district called Bajura. Bajura District is the poorest of Nepal’s 75 Districts, and one of the poorest places on the whole of the earth.

The headline statistics make grim reading:

Nearly half of children will die before their 5th birthday
Maternal mortality is 458 deaths per 100,000 (in the UK it’s 10 per 100,000).
Most families are only able to produce enough food for 3-6 months each year
To survive, menfolk migrate to India to do the most menial and dangerous of jobs
The practice of Chhaupadi – sending women to live in the cow shed during their menstrual cycle – is still widely practiced. Women also give birth in cow sheds, where they stay for 11 days if it’s a boy, and longer for a girl. Is it any wonder so many women and children die?

Then there is the caste system. A third of people are ‘Dalits’, the poorest of the poor, often referred to as ‘untouchables’. Dalits are not allowed to enter temples, touch food at common gatherings, or use public taps. They are often beaten by upper-caste people, and many live in modern forms of slavery and bonded labour. Few have land or farm animals, and are hardest hit by the shortage of food.

And Christians? When we started work five years ago there were just seven Christians in a District population of 135,000.

In Luke 4 Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

I saw these words being fleshed out:

Women proudly told me that they no longer practiced Chhuapadi
The mortality rate for children and mothers has reduced by over 50%
300 families now have enough food for 12 months
A further 300 families have sufficient for more than 6 months

‘Urban ministry is complex and never without setbacks and encouragements.’

Spring and summer is always welcome here in the northwest USA. Like Britain, we have dark, wet, and cold winters. April saw our annual fundraiser raise a good portion of what is needed to help our partners create options for the poor and needy.

As well as liaising with and meeting new partners (churches and organisations), I organise the compassionate product initiatives with our partners. For example, the next project is school backpacks in August. The partners who are under resourced themselves help pack and then take the backpacks to their contacts in the community who need them.

Urban ministry is complex and never without setbacks and encouragements. This summer, between 24th June and 4th August, about 20 students from all parts of the country are plunging into urban ministry and living in central Seattle. We have a wonderful collaboration with UGM (Union Gospel Mission) as we train and guide these young people for six weeks. Please pray for us.

This summer will see my first return to the UK in three years! I’ll be in the Birmingham area in September. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you.

Latest news from Restore

Jeremy Thompson

Jeremy Thompson

At Restore, we are delighted that we have expanded our staff team, we have recently employed a Befriending Men’s Worker Andy Ferrari from Christ Church, Summerfield. Please pray for the Restore team as we welcome a new colleague and adjust to new ways of working. Jeremy will be involved in the induction and training process and then will be focused on restarting Restore’s ‘Equipping Refugees for Work’ project.

Finding employment is one of the hurdles refugees face when seeking to integrate into our community and so we are really keen to offer them support in that process. Our group social activities offer vital interaction, recreation and new experiences. These included a recent family trip to Beaudesert Park in Cannock with coracles, climbing and pedal go-karts and a men’s activity entitled ‘Learning English through singing’ with Birmingham Opera Company. Please pray for us as we prepare family day trips in the school summer holidays, that these would enable families to relax and enjoy new experiences and places together.

And finally, starting in June, we are holding our next training course for new volunteers. Please pray that new volunteers would be inspired and equipped to offer welcome and support to people who have fled persecution and are seeking safety in our community.

‘Teslam’ May they flourish, May God keep them safe.

During recent weeks in the Middle East bombs have been falling like rain. One drop of this deadly rain and everything melts away. The lives of your loved ones, your children, your home, your belongings. All you’re left with is your breath and the ability to think that you survived one more day, praying and hoping that somehow, someone, somewhere will provide some rice and lentils for you to live another day.

The struggle for shelter, clothes, food and medicine is harsher than ever. The few community centres are like a little oasis of hope.  In one such centre GAiN is doing what they can to support 5,000 people, month by month.

‘Teslam’, ‘Teslam’, ‘Teslam’; one little girl kept saying after receiving food and clothes for herself, her mother and brother. She lost her home, two siblings and her father in the recent bombing. ‘Teslam,’ may they flourish, is what Syrians in Damascus use to say thank you and to show gratitude to people who donated the ‘bags of blessings’ as they call them in this Christian centre.

Please pray God’s protection over the people caught in the middle of this latest escalation and that the Christian community would continue to be a beacon of hope.

Winter clothes, blankets, medical equipment, women’s care packs, children’s school supplies, toys and money were sent to Iraq and Lesbos. Please continue to pray as a new collection appeal is launched.

Recently we have sent two teams to Lesbos to help with newly arrived refugees from Syria and many more places. Pray for the thousands of refugees on this Greek island. We are constantly recruiting for teams and individuals to help in Greece.

Please pray for my UK visa. I have an appointment on the 10th of May and would really like to get it the same day. I am planning to spend one month in the refugee camp in Lesbos as soon as I get this.

I am very thankful and grateful for your friendship, support, prayers, love, and especially for my health, which I am struggling with at the moment. Pray that my immune system gets stronger.

SERVICEstation, GOfest & more…

Planning is well under-way for the Easter event season. The teams for SERVICEstation (the advice area we provide for large events) are in place, and as part of our preparation, production of the next edition of iServe is in process.

This is very detailed work, so pray for me and my team as we put this resource together and that God will use it to point many to service opportunities.

The search for a new Executive Director for Global Connections is ongoing. Sadly, the person appointed in April last year stood down from the post just before Christmas. Team morale is good but we really need a new boss!

Please pray for those involved in the recruitment process – that they will have clear guidance and godly wisdom regarding this critical appointment of a leader for what is now a large network.

The next GOfest event will be at All Nations Christian College on 12th May 2018 and planning is progressing well. I chair the GOfest partnership. This will be a great day for all the family, celebrating what God is doing worldwide and exploring how we can be involved in His mission locally and globally.

Pray for good relationships to be built with local churches and the ongoing development of the programme.

We are currently planning for the next training cohort for City Pastors with a new promo video available to help our recruitment. We are also very grateful to receive the ‘Pride in Work’ award at the WOWs (Wonders of Westside) awards last month. Once again, we’re so thankful for the regard in which the project is held and don’t take this privilege for granted. You can watch our three minute video here:

Pray for more applications to come in – we need at least 15 to boost our numbers.

Messy Communion…

Jane ButcherChildren and Family Ministry. This area continues to grow along with the area of intergenerational ministry. We have valued leading the Family Ministry course at Cliff College and also the Bristol Baptist College training day, both supporting ministers and those working directly in this field in a variety of settings across the UK. We are currently in ‘conference season’ leading workshops across the UK.

Messy Church continues to grow both in terms of the number taking place across the world and in the development of materials. Recently the Church of England Liturgical Committee approved the liturgy for ‘Messy Communion’ offering the guidelines and outlines for sharing the Eucharist in Anglican Messy Churches.

Barnabas in Schools. This year has been a busier one so far. Our new theme exploring ‘Respect, Resilience and Responsibility’ supported by Bible stories is popular for primary schools as Values education is a focus area for church schools. Looking ahead to next year we will be developing a package exploring how the Christian faith is lived out in various countries across the world. Both of these themes support the recent developments within the national teaching of RE.

In addition to the creative days with pupils, we also lead training (Inset). This is valuable for all but particularly for those who don’t have any formal RE training or experience.

As always, we value prayers for God’s guiding throughout our work and for safety as the team travel around the UK and overseas.

Visit www.barnabasinschools.org.uk, www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk and www.faithinhomes.org.uk for news and information about BRF’s work.

‘Thank you St John’s…’

Thank you St John’s for your continued partnership and prayers for us as we serve with Betel. December was a very busy time for us here at Betel Manchester as we covered 60 Christmas carolling events over the 24 days leading up to Christmas, with a team of approximately 23 men. We were so encouraged by people’s kindness and generosity.

Mark and I are in a time of transition as we will be moving back to Betel Birmingham, with a desire to see what God wants us to be involved in. We will have been in Manchester for three years and we sense it is now time to move on. I feel somewhat daunted at the prospect of yet another house move, but we know God is in control. We have found a house and plan to move by 16th February. Please pray for these logistics and that God would prepare us, and Harvey, for the changes ahead and the new partnerships we will be working within.

The Manchester centre will be undergoing lots of changes in the coming months with a few other long term leaders moving to different pastures. Please pray for Anthony and Angela as they lead the team; pray for strength, wisdom and provision of much needed help. Praise God that the centre continues to grow in numbers, and pray for Godly leaders to rise up who have a heart to see the men change.

‘We’re about seeing young people’s lives changed by Jesus.’

I have recently taken on a new role as YFC Director of Missions, whilst still retaining my role as Prayer Co-ordinator.

YFC’s message and mission is simple – we’re about seeing young people’s lives changed by Jesus. Overseeing the hugely gifted missions teams gives me the opportunity to look at ‘how’ we do this effectively to maximise our reach and help young people reach their friends. I am also involved in exploring Gen Z research to establish where these young people are at, and therefore what missional tool we take to them as we share Jesus with them.

Currently within YFC, we have six areas of mission:
Marginalised and Inclusion – where we continue to maintain a strong presence within the youth justice system through chaplaincy, education and resettlement, and more recently within preventative and resettlement contexts in schools and community.

Stance – our dance team, and Sense – our worship team, tour schools and churches sharing through school curriculum, assemblies and CUs. Where many school doors are shut for evangelistic organisations, we are finding God is opening previously shut doors and giving incredible favour to share and build relationship with staff and young people.

The Cube – is our brand new touring team that addresses apologetics-led questions through a multi-sensory and interactive-media experience. This team is based primarily within school contexts and brings the bible to life through immersive technology, surround sound, interactive activities and challenging the barriers to faith that many young people face today.

Prayer – We have just completed #Pray365 – an entire year of prayer, with 68 of our centres committing to covering every hour of 2017 in prayer in a whole variety of ways, setting the expectation of a strong and dependent culture of prayer for our staff and volunteers.

The Year Out – YFC continue to run a very successful year out for 17-25 year olds offering eight different streams to meet the diverse needs of young people throughout the country. The young people are discipled throughout the year, receiving excellent training from expert teachers in their respected areas, including unpacking of Gen Z research, Open Doors, Romance Academy, Mercy Ministries and much more.

We do mission not in isolation but in partnership with the local church, and we are really excited and expectant to see how God moves as we seek to join with Him in reaching young people with His good news throughout 2018!

‘On board the Africa Mercy’

It really is hard to believe that I have been on board the Africa Mercy (AFM) for six months now! Sailing through the Atlantic Ocean (from Gran Canaria to Cameroon) was an incredible experience. The Mercy Ships Academy school year began on the third day of the sail so it was a busy time but there was also lots of opportunity to rest and spend time with the Lord – I formed a habit of hanging my hammock up on one of the decks and staring out at the endless ocean before me. Occasionally the captain would give an announcement throughout the ship to let the crew know that we had dolphin or whale visitors – my solitude was quickly gone as people rushed onto the decks but it was definitely worth it!

Once we docked in the port town of Douala, the ship became a flurry of busyness as the crew set about preparing to transform the ship back into a fully-functioning floating hospital. Within only a few weeks, the hospital was open to its first Cameroonian patients (who had been screened in advance by the Mercy Ships Advance Team alongside their Cameroonian medical counterparts).

I have to admit that no amount of video footage could have prepared me for the reality of coming face to face with these patients. It is an incredibly humbling experience to live out life on a day to day basis alongside people who have such extreme physical challenges, especially seeing the level of poverty within which these challenges are faced. Despite this though, they show such a determination and resilience – by the time they arrive at the dock to first embark on the ship, they have already endured so much.

It is within this context that I can say with sincerity how thankful I am for your continued prayers and support as my home church.