Summer Reading

In case you have a bit of time over the summer to do some extra reading while you enjoy the sunshine, here are some books that I found particularly helpful this year and want to recommend:

1. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This book, by Kenneth Bailey, looks at the life of Jesus from the perspective of those who live in the Middle East. A special focus is given to the stories of Jesus’ birth, his attitude to women, the Lord’s Prayer, the beatitudes and several of Jesus’ parables.

I found it extremely interesting, easy to read and personally challenging. It was packed full of insights that were completely new to me. I will definitely be reading more by this author and I would recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the life and teachings of Jesus.

2. A War Of Loves – the unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus

Jo and I have had the privilege of meeting David Bennett, having dinner with him and hearing him speak. This book is his autobiographical account of how he came to faith in Jesus, and the implications of this for his life. It is an honest account and doesn’t shy away from some deeply personal and challenging issues.

I would recommend this book to every Christian … I would even call it “essential reading”. Read it with an open heart and let God challenge you; it brought me to tears several times. And if you want to know more, David will be speaking in two seminars at Westpoint this year as well.

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3. Developing Female Leaders

This book, by Kadi Cole, is the one I’ve read most recently and is an absolute gift to anyone in the church. It looks at some of the reasons why women have struggled to maximise their leadership gifts in the church context and gives eight, easy to implement, best practices to help turn that around. It contained truths that I can now see are blindingly obvious, but which I had simply been unaware of before.

I particularly like how the author doesn’t have a big personal axe to grind; she just has a deep desire to help churches live up to the fullness of what they say they believe. Regardless of where we might sit on the “egalitarian” vs “complementarian” debate (and this book is not about that) this is relevant, practical and helpful. I’m looking forward to putting these steps into the practice in the months and years ahead.

4. Sustainable Power

Simon Holley’s book is not new (it’s been on my shelf for four years) but I only got round to reading it this year … and I’m so glad I did. It looks at the ‘rocks’ in our hearts and lives that can prevent God from moving in and through us to impact the world around us. It’s full of relevant stories and examples and is easy to read whilst being personally challenging to read at the same time.

If you want to grow in faith, grow in expectation and grow in your walk with God, this is the book for you. Just don’t expect to reach the end unchallenged and unchanged.

Hope you have a great summer …

… and if you do take the time to read any of these, feel free to (politely) let me know what you thought of them in the comments section below.

 

Final Gift Day Results

On Sunday we announced the results of our final Building Fund Gift Day. Here is an update in case you missed it  – and it’s gone up a bit since Sunday morning too:

Our target was £300,000

That’s a lot of money and, along with a mortgage, that would enable us to finish the job – albeit our finances would be TIGHT! What we really wanted to do was beat that target.

After the first week we were just under the half way mark.

Following the second Sunday I have the privilege of announcing the final result.

The total amount raised consists of three parts:

  • Money given and now in our bank account
  • Money that people have pledged to give over the next few weeks
  • Gift Aid that, as a charity, we can claim on people’s giving – reclaiming the income tax paid on the money that was donated

Adding these three figures together gives us a total amount of

£498,287

Wow! That is a lot of money! It’s just under half a million pounds … given over two Sundays … following two other huge Gift Days this year!

And for the first time we actually beat our target. 😃

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Hooray!

This result means that we can do everything we planned to do, and perhaps (we cannot say for certain yet) we may be able to borrow a bit less than was anticipated, which would make a huge difference going forward .

Giving some away

Our plan has always been to give away a portion of this giving to  Compassion UK, to help fund a Child Survival Programme in Togo (for details click here) and the amount that is eligible for this is just over £40,000.

That money will be doubled under a matched funding initiative from the UK Government making it up to more than £80,000.

We received this short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK and Ireland, saying thank you. Do give it a watch.

This video contains sub-titles – just click on the caption button to switch them on or off.

The video should be visible above, if it’s not then please click here to view it.

Thanks

I want to take a moment, on behalf of the Welcome Church eldership team, to say thank you for all your faithful giving. What a huge difference this is going to make to us as a church and to the lives of mothers and babies in Togo.

Gift Day: Reflections & Building News

Last Sunday (16th June) we had our final Welcome Church Gift Day to raise money for our New Building project. At this point we don’t know how much was given – we’ll announce it when we do know – but ahead of that news I wanted to share some reflections and some building news.

Seven Reflections

(Yes. I restricted myself to just seven. 😃)
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Reflections

My first reflection is how incredibly generous people in Welcome Church are. We are a church that knows how to give sacrificially! Whatever the outcome of these last Gift Days, we have given well in excess of £2m in one year. That is incredible. Miraculous even. I feel humbled, thankful and incredibly proud of us all. It’s a privilege to be leading this church.

My second reflection is the sense of responsibility this brings. We always need to be responsible with people’s giving, but the sense of responsibility feels higher with such a huge amount of giving. We will use it carefully.

My third reflection is that people have given to the building because it’s part of our mission together. We have to remember this as we go forward. It’s going to be a church building! It will be a centre for worship; a place for ministry; a resource to enable our mission together; a facility to serve and bless our town and the wider Commission family of churches. It’s not built to be a source of profit making; that’s not what people gave for so sacrificially.

My fourth reflection is the deep sense of unity we have. Despite a huge amount of change in Welcome Church over the last 18 months, people have been so clearly on board with this project and I’ve loved seeing the excitement it has brought.

My fifth reflection is that everyone has been involved. Although I haven’t looked in detail at what individuals have given, I’m aware of just how many people have given. Some have given small amounts and some have given huge amounts; both can represent a big sacrifice. Even our Welcome Kids have been involved, with some even emptying their piggy banks. My prayer for them is that this giving sets them on a path of generosity and trusting God that will stay with them for life.

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Everyone has been included in this

My sixth reflection is how God has blessed people in response to their giving. I’ve heard testimonies all along the way from people who have given in faith and afterwards have been incredibly, undeniably blessed by God’s unmistakable provision for them; Jo and I can testify to this ourselves. BUT EVEN IF THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED FOR YOU, even if you’ve given and have simply found yourself poorer afterwards, your giving does not go unnoticed by God; it is worship.

My seventh and final reflection is on the exciting future God has planned for our church. He did not give us this building just so we could run our Sunday meetings more easily. The way God has blessed this project creates an excitement in me that He must have some big plans for Welcome Church. Let’s look forward to our future as a church with expectation and faith!

I am so grateful to God

God’s blessing on us all along the way has been incredible. He deserves our worship, praise and thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to our first meeting in the new chapel; what a time of celebration that will be!

And whatever the result of these last Gift Days let me say thank you to everyone who has given! Even if all we gave last Sunday was a button and some chewed gum (it wasn’t 😮) our church has still given amazingly generously all along the way.

Some Building News

The building news I want to share is about God’s provision for us for these next few months. We need to move out of the Welcome Centre altogether from July 1st until the end of the project. We had been looking for a small office facility to tide us over, but we’ve been blessed far more than we could have ever expected.

Yesterday we moved into what used to be the Job Centre, just a stone’s throw from the Welcome Centre. We will be calling it The Annexe. A huge thank you goes to everyone who came along and made the move happen.

The amazing news is that this building has been given to us and to the Useful Wood Company, rent free, for a year. (Useful Wood is one of our Welcome Works. It is a new social enterprise being set up by people in our church to help long term unemployed people learn new skills and find employment. It will also recycle a lot of old wood.)

The Annexe is vast. It runs over three floors and I keep finding new rooms. It will meet every building need we have as a church during this time (except for Sunday mornings which will continue at HG Wells for now). It even has parking for about 20 cars.

The most amazing thing is that we weren’t even looking for a provision like this; God has given us incredibly more than all we could ask or imagine; he really did know what we needed before we even asked.

In case you need it, the official address for the building is: Welcome Church, 15-29 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6JT.

And when we know the result of the Gift Days – soon I hope – we’ll let you know.

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Time to get the calculator out

Buildings: the final push!

We’re now at the half-way stage with our building work at Welcome Church, and things are really starting to take shape. By July 1st we will need to move out of the existing building for 6 months while the work to redesign that is completed too.

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There’s a lot planned to happen to our current building, including: an extension to create new offices, new professional quality kitchens, new toilet facilities, a new entrance, doors leading through to the new building, a new reception area, a redesign of the current room layout, removal of the old baptistry and stage, a new boiler and heating system, electrical work, decorating throughout, cladding to the outside, landscaping, fencing, gates … the building will be transformed!

Gift Days

This Sunday and next (9th and 16th June) we will hold our final Gift Days to finish off our giving for this project.

Our target over these two weeks is to raise £300,000.

The aim of these Gift Days is to close the small gap in the funding for our current plans, and also to cover the cost of a few additional items/opportunities that have come up along the way. Some extra costs include:

  • Video: we would like to introduce video recording for our preaching, which will be key for our outreach and for reaching new places
  • Sound: this is very important and, after many quotes, we now know that it will cost more than we budgeted for
  • Folding doors: the folding doors we have need replacing and sound proofing is needed above them too
  • Drains: we have a collapsed drain, and twice during recent alpha evenings another drain has backed up and flooded the kitchen
  • Cladding: we want to clad more of the building than was originally planned
  • Windows: some windows need replacing
  • The Upper Room: a completely new room, above the new kids rooms in the current building. This room would have several uses: a prayer room, a place for people to meet with God, a place for pastoral and other meetings, a place for quiet study. It’s different, it’s stylish and we just need to fund it. 😃

More details about these extra’s, including the Upper Room is available by clicking here

We will also be giving away 10% of the money raised at these Gift Days to fund a Compassion Child Survival project in Togo, serving the poorest of the poor – you can see details of that by clicking here

Decisions to be made

If we raise the full amount we can do all of the work needed. If we raise less than our target we will need to make some key decisions fairly soon about what we leave out at this stage. I’m praying that we hit the target this time.

Let’s not be casual

Our target of £300,000 is lower than our targets for the previous Gift Days, but it’s still not a small amount; it will still require great faith and sacrifice from us all … especially since it comes on the back of the previous Gift Days!

So let’s not be casual about these two Sundays.

Please take them seriously. Please pray about them. Please seek God about what he is calling you to give. Please come prepared.

And please, let’s all step out in faith together:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9v6-8

 

 

Saving Lives, Helping The Poor

On Sundays June 9th and 16th we will be having the final Gift Days for our New Building Project. We are going to give away a tithe (10%) of what we collect to a project working with the poorest of the poor … and the good news is that every gift we give to them on this occasion can be doubled!

Child Survival

As a church we are already sponsoring many children in Togo through Compassion UK, and it’s a country with a lot of needs. One of the big challenges is around infant mortality and health in pregnancy.

At present in Togo:

  • 1 in 20 babies die before their first birthday … and most of these are from preventable causes
  • 1 in 58 women also die

These are shocking statistics, and Compassion are working to change this though their Child Survival Projects (CSP). These CSP’s are run by local churches in Togo. They work with mothers throughout their pregnancy and for the first year of the child’s life to provide:

  • Medical support
  • Vaccinations
  • Basic provisions – including safe water, hygiene kits and nutritious food
  • Education – on how to care for a child – remembering that many of the mothers are little more than children themselves
  • Skills training – to teach work skills that can help them earn a living
  • Spiritual support and mentoring

These projects are so important that for a short while they are receiving matched funding from our UK Government.

Our donations to this vital work (before Gift Aid) will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government

So what we give to them will be doubled

This means that if we hit our target of £300,000, and we pass £30,000 on to Compassion, it will be doubled to £60,000 – enough to fund a project for several years.

Jesus told us that he was sent to bring good news to the poor. Let’s join him in that mission as we come to our Gift Days.

If you have any questions, please do ask.

Buildings: Finishing The Job Together

In case you haven’t noticed, our building work is well underway! Work on the new building (behind our current building) is progressing daily and is on track for us to move into during January 2020.

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There are now two challenges ahead for us:

The first challenge is the work to be done to our current building

There is a lot that will happen to the current building, including: an extension to create new offices, new professional quality kitchens, new toilet facilities, a new entrance, new doors leading through to the new building, a new reception area, a redesign of the current room layout, removal of the old baptistry and stage, a new boiler and heating system, electrical work, decorating throughout, cladding to the outside, landscaping, fencing, gates … the building will be transformed!

Our challenge is that on July 1st we will lose access to the whole site while the work is being done, and we won’t get it back until the job is finished in Dec/Jan. To make things more challenging, everything has to be cleared before work starts.

While the work goes on any ministries or meetings that would usually run in the building will NOT be able to take place there. The impact of this is being worked through with each ministry individually: some will find alternative venues, others will stop for a term. We are also looking to rent some office space off site for this period – more details on that when we have it.

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The second challenge is finance

Giving to this project has been phenomenal. Our Gift Days in May and November, plus some giving outside of that, have raised £1.935 million pounds. I want to say thank you for that generosity.

The challenge is that we still need a little more to finish the job, so we will be holding a final set of Building Fund Gift Days on Sundays 9th and 16th June. We would like these Gift Days to close the gap in the funding for our current plans, and we would also like to cover the cost of a few additional things/opportunities that have come up along the way. 

Some of the extra costs include:

  • Video: we would like to introduce video for recording our preaching, which will be key for our outreach and for reaching new places – we want to fund the equipment and infrastructure for that
  • Sound: this is very important and, after many quotes, we now know that it will cost more than we budgeted for – this is essential for us going forward
  • Folding doors: the folding doors we have need replacing (they are beyond repair) and sound proofing is needed above them too – this is not in the current plan
  • Drains: we have discovered that we have a collapsed drain, and twice during recent alpha evenings another drain has backed up and flooded the kitchen – these need to be fixed
  • Cladding: we are cladding some of the outside of the current building and want to do more than originally planned if we can
  • Windows: some single glazed windows do need updating – this is not in the current plan but would make a big difference if we can do it
  • And additionally it would be great if we could reduce how much we need to borrow from the bank.

Then there is one last thing. It is the most expensive thing, and in my view the most exciting one. I call this:

The Upper Room

This would be the addition of a completely new room above the new kids rooms in the current building; our architect has put together a plan of what this would look like and there are some pics for you to look at.

This upper room would have several uses: it could be a prayer room for people to use, a place for people to meet with God, a place for pastoral meetings, a place for quiet study. It’s different, it’s stylish and it’s ours if we want it … we just need to fund it.

I feel a real conviction that this is something we should go for if we possibly can, and like all the work we want to do, to do it now is much cheaper and far less disruptive than to try and do it at a later date, when the main work is finished and the building is in constant use.

We have a target for these Gift Days

We set very ambitious targets for our previous sets of Gift Days, and we didn’t hit either of them, but undaunted I’ll set one for us this time anyway! It’s a lot less than before:

If we can raise £300,000 we will be able to do all of this work.

Anything beyond that will reduce our eventual debt.

There is another factor in the mix for these Gift Days too. We are about far more than buildings, we are also about serving people and caring for the poor. So …

… a tithe (10%) of what we raise this time will be given to a ministry to serve some of the poorest and most needy people in the world.

I’ll tell you what that ministry is in my next blog. (Of course, if you want to give solely to the building fund, that’s fine – you can just let us know, no problem at all – but do at least look at what it’s going to first!)

And please remember: No one is under any pressure to give!

This is entirely between you and God. If we hit our target, great. If we miss it, we will do as much of the extra work as we can.

Open afternoon

One last thing to mention: we have a “New Building Open Afternoon” on Saturday 11th May, between 1pm and 3pm. This is a chance to visit the building site and see the work done so far; it’s a chance to stand on the site, walk around it, see how it feels, pray.

It is a building site, so you will need to wear sensible footwear (closed toes, no heels) and trousers would be ideal if possible. It’s also not really for kids – sorry!

Faith

I’m believing God that, with his help and blessing, we can raise the money to do all this. Ultimately He is the source of it all. Many of us have given generously so far, and God has not hesitated to bless us in response. I can testify to that personally.

Let’s go again in faith and finish the job together.

And remember this is all about our vision as a church. This is not ultimately about a building; it’s about our mission and calling as a church in this town.

An Amazing Result

This weekend saw the launch of Welcome Church’s partnership with Compassion UK – sponsoring children in the African country of Togo (click here for more info ). This launch is the latest addition to our Welcome Works initiative.

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It was great to hear from Tim Robertson about how Compassion are:

  • Jesus centred
  • Child focussed, and
  • Church based

You can find out more about this excellent ‘three cord’ approach to ministry here

Or you can hear more of what Tim said by clicking here

The result was fantastic:

On Sunday Welcome Church stepped up to sponsor 111 children in poverty

And that number is already going up. This is really something to celebrate; lives will be changed as a result. Jo and I now sponsor a 7 year old girl in Togo. We’re looking forward to sending her a letter soon.

So what do I do now?

If you sponsored a child:

In the next few days you should hear from Compassion with some introductory information and confirming your bank details etc.

Once that is all in place I would recommend doing the following:

  1. Set up a My Compassion account with Compassion UK online – this gives you all the info you need, and will link you to information about the child you sponsor, the community they are in and how you can write to them
  2. Download the Compassion UK App onto your phone/pad. You can put your account info into it and it makes everything even more accessible. You can use the app to do everything, including viewing and writing letters; you can even do it on the way to work on the train.
  3. Write to your child. Try to do it a few times a year, and don’t forget a birthday card and gift when that comes around (Compassion will remind you). If you can, why not try to write at least once a term, after all you are looking to build a relationship with them? Remember you can include photos too. If you’re unsure what to write, the Compassion website will give you some great pointers. It doesn’t need to be long, just enough to show you care. If your child is very small, it may be the parents/carers who communicate with you at first, but that will change over time.
  4. Pray for them and their family, and for the church who are running the project. Remember, this is spiritual ministry and they need your prayers.
  5. If you have kids of your own, involve them. Let them write a letter or send a photo – it’s great way for them to grasp something of God’s heart for the poor.

If you have not yet sponsored a child:

You will get another chance to step up this Sunday and next Sunday at church, so in the meantime you could listen to Tim’s talk, check out the various links above, and see if it’s something you want to do.

For £25 a month you can genuinely change a life, and help to release someone from poverty in Jesus’ name. And that’s what our church is all about: seeing lives changed and communities impacted for good by God’s grace in action.

Exciting times!

Called to show Compassion

This Sunday at Welcome Church we are launching our newest Welcome Works initiative: we will be partnering with Compassion UK to sponsor children in the nation of Togo, Africa. (To find out what Welcome Works is, click here)

I love what Compassion do. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s precious.

They work with the poorest of the poor to help lift children, families and whole communities out of poverty and to give them hope. They also work to introduce them to a relationship with Jesus, meeting their deepest need of all. I love that Compassion do all of this by working through local churches in the countries they serve.

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By sponsoring a child with Compassion you get to build a personal link with the child you are sponsoring: they write letters to you and you can write back; you can send them Bible verses and encouragements, and ask how you can pray for them; you get to see them grow up; you get to see the impact that of the gospel in action through your sponsorship.

Jo and I have sponsored children in the Philippines through Compassion for several years now, and we are looking forward to expand that to include Togo as well.

Why Togo?

In short: because the majority of children in Togo are desperately poor.

Togo is one of the least developed countries in Africa.

Without decent healthcare, under-5 mortality rates are 45 per 1,000 live births. Even those children who manage to survive those early years face countless obstacles including disease, malnutrition and limited access to medical care and education.

Less than five per cent of children who attend primary school in Togo go on to secondary school. Many families simply can’t afford the school resources and for others the need to send their children to work is too great. As a result, many children are denied the freedom of childhood, and a quarter of children are married before they are 18.

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Just stop for a moment

Re-read those last facts.

Let them sink in and touch your heart.

These are children, just the same as the children we may know personally. They think and feel just like the children we know. They have dreams and fears like they do. They need food, clothing, healthcare, education and hope, just like them. They also need to hear the good news of Jesus.

Why Togo? Because the need is so great, and Jesus told us to care for the poor – and it seems from the Bible that Jesus has a particular place in his heart for children. (Matthew 19v13-14; Matthew 18v6)

Compassion’s work in Togo began in 2009. Now, more than 197 local churches in Togo are reaching out to more than 50,982 children through partnership with Compassion. We are going to increase that number.

So this Sunday come ready to let God touch your heart, and come ready to step up.

Our church vision statement says that we want “to see lives changed and communities impacted for good through God’s Grace in Action.” That’s what this is all about. We are going to take steps together that will change lives and destinies for children.

I actually believe this Sunday might be the single most important Sunday at Welcome Church since I arrived.

Welcome Works – caring for the poor

We launched a new initiative at Welcome Church on Sunday. We’re calling it Welcome Works.

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When Jesus started his ministry he described what he had come to do like this:

“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.” Luke 4v18-19

The poor includes those who are “spiritually poor” – people who do not know God – and it also includes those who are physically poor in all sorts of ways – people who are in need, or are sick, or in prison, or oppressed, or in debt, or stuck in addiction – they all matter.

God cares about the poor and those in need.

The Bible is full of verses describing our call to remember the poor. Here are just a few sample verses, picked from among many:

  • “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” – Psalm 82v3-4
  • “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” – Proverbs 19v17
  • “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” – Proverbs 29v7
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” – James 1v27  … an interesting verse in which God seems to give as much weight to caring for the poor as he does to personal holiness

Every Christian and every church has a part to play in caring for the poor …

… so as a church we’re launching a new approach to this area of our church life and we’re calling it Welcome Works. To support this initiative a whole new section of our website has now gone live and you can access it by clicking here.

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Welcome Church is involved in many different projects that aim to bring help to those in need in our community and further afield. Welcome Works is the unifying banner that pulls all of these together.

There are some amazing things going on among us! Check out the website to see what they are. Some of these things we do as a church, some we do in partnership with other churches or agencies and some are done by individuals as part of their personal calling.

There is a lot going on and each of these things matter.

There are too many things being done to list them all, but we’ve brought a number of them together under the title ‘Welcome Works’. We are doing this to create a context where we can give greater profile to them. We want to create a context where we’re making it easier for people to get involved or to seek help from them.

We want to create a more coordinated approach to those we help, for example some people may need help from more than one ministry. We want to enable the sharing of resources – people, skills, facilities, courses. We want to work more smoothly alongside other agencies or churches. This will also help us to give better oversight and support to the people who serve in these different ministries.

These areas of our ministry are central to the heart of Jesus so they must not be on the sidelines of our church life.

We want to talk about them, embrace them, give profile to them and encourage everybody to get involved in them. Our launch of this initiative also coincides with a whole preaching series about God’s heart for the poor. You can hear the first one by clicking here.

During the series we’ll also hear from some of the Welcome Works we are involved in as a church. This week we heard about some of the work we do in two local prisons. Is that where God wants you to get involved?

As we go through this series, let God speak to you. Keep listening to him carefully each week. He may lead you in a direction that could surprise you and set you on an adventure!

 “Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” 

Isaiah 58v10-11

Suffering a huge loss

As a church we suffered a terribly sad loss this week: the sudden and unexpected death of Lindy Zungu, a loving wife to Dunmore, and a mother of two small children. She was still in her early 30’s.

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Lindy grew rapidly ill last Wednesday and was airlifted to St Georges Hospital. Sadly she was declared ‘medically’ dead on Thursday afternoon, her heart and lungs sustained only by a machine.

As a church many of us prayed for the family and we also prayed for a miracle. We were led in that so well on Sunday morning by Meg at the first meeting and by Eugene at the second. Sadly it was not to be.

On Monday morning Dean and I were with the family – several of whom belong to Welcome Church – as the artificial support to life was withdrawn. It was a privilege to stand with them all in these devastating but dignified moments.

Saying goodbye

Gathered at her bedside we prayed for Lindy and we remembered the hope we have in Jesus:

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11v25-26

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We also remembered the promises of God to us: resurrection, eternal life, a new body, new heavens and a new earth. He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. We remembered that if our faith counts for anything it counts in moments like this. We grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope.

After the support to life was withdrawn, with many tears, family members took turns to tell Lindy that they loved her … that they would help care for the family … that they would miss her. And after about 15 minutes she quietly and peacefully left us for her new life beyond this world.

Keeping our promises

We are a large enough church that not everybody can know everybody else. We are large enough that there is probably always going to be someone who is experiencing sadness or grief. In fact, this is not the only family in our church to experience a sad loss this week. Despite these things, a loss like this is exceptional. Even those who may not have been close to the family will feel it.

We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn – and sometimes we do both on the same day.

Last year, on Mother’s Day, we prayed for this family as they gave thanks to God for their new daughter. This Mother’s Day Lindy won’t be with us.

During that meeting, as we gave thanks for the many new babies, I asked us all a question as a church. These were the words I used:

“So far as you are able, will you commit yourselves, over the years ahead to be a strength and an encouragement to these children and a support to their parents in this crucial, God given role of parenting?”

We were then all invited to stand as a sign of agreement to this promise. And everybody present stood. So now we have a job to do.

This family have been part of our church for several years now. They belong. Now is our chance to stand by our promises and to be a help and support both to Dunmore and the children for as long as we are needed.