Compassion in Togo: Coronavirus update

Christians are called to care for the poor, and one of the ways we do that at Welcome Church is by encouraging people to sponsor children through Compassion UK, specifically in the African country of Togo. As a church we currently sponsor 141 children in one particular area of that country, and there is always room for that to increase – just ask me how. You can read more about it here.

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What is happening in Togo with coronavirus?

The government of Togo has taken preventative measures against the spread of Coronavirus in their country. Gatherings of more than 15 people are banned, travel is limited, borders are closed, and schools have been closed. The major cities are in lockdown, and a nationwide curfew is in effect from 8pm to 6am.

Although official figures for infection rates in the country are not high, there is very little testing going on in most developing countries. In reality the virus is spreading across Africa at an alarming rate, especially in the cities where many people live in poor and cramped conditions.

What about the Compassion project we support?

Across Togo, Compassion staff and local church partners are working hard to provide support to children and families wherever possible.  While many Compassion projects are temporarily closed to group activities, that doesn’t mean all the activities have stopped.

At the project where most of the children we support are based, the group activities are currently on hold, and our letters and gifts may take longer than usual to be delivered.

In the mean time staff and volunteers are providing much needed information to children and their families about hygiene and disease prevention as well as distributing food packages to the most vulnerable.

Individual home visits are also continuing for Child Survival Programmes, helping pregnant  mothers and their babies. 

One of the strengths of the way Compassion work, and one of the reasons I appreciate them so much, is that  the local church directly implements  the programme in their own community; it is not a programme run by ‘experts’ or ‘saviours’ coming in from outside.

Because it is all delivered by the local church, they are uniquely positioned to provide support, and don’t depend on an ability to travel in order to ensure children and their families receive the love and care they need. Many churches in Togo are also providing hand-washing facilities to serve their community.

Should I still write letters?

During this time communication will inevitably take longer, but please keep on writing.

If you’re struggling to know what to write, Compassion have put together a few tips, including how to ask appropriate questions about COVID-19, how to be sensitive to the situation, how to encourage your sponsored child and how to pray. You can read that by clicking here.

How can I best pray for my sponsored child?

  • Pray for protection from the virus for all the children registered with Compassion and for their families, especially the child(ren) you sponsor
  • Pray for the church (Lumière Espérance), and for their staff and volunteers
  • Pray for the health and safety of all of the staff in the Togo office
  • Pray for children still longing for a sponsor to be encouraged, loved and cared for during this long wait
  • Pray for sponsors and their families who have been impacted by the virus

If you want more information, click here for some frequently ask questions

Finally: A Big Thank You

Here is a short video from Justin Dowds, the CEO of Compassion UK, specifically thanking us at Welcome Church for what we do:

Sad News; Hope in Jesus

I have some sad news to share today.

bruckshawMany of us know Steve and Sue Bruckshaw, and will be aware that Steve has had pancreatic cancer for a while.

Sadly Steve died at 8am today, Thursday 11th June. He is now at home with Jesus.

Steve was a kind man and was loved by all who knew him. He will be greatly missed by many people in our church and even more so by his family. Let’s be praying for Sue and the rest of the family at this time as they grieve. We are the body of Christ; when one part suffers, we all suffer.

Steve had a strong faith in Jesus, a faith that gave him great hope that goes beyond the grave. We know that, because of this faith, death is not the end for Steve; there is a resurrection to come which Jesus promises to all who trust in Him. We will see him again.

But for those who are left behind there is now grief.

Please watch this video for more information on this situation and also for some encouragement:

Getting Spiritually Match Fit

On Sunday, Christoper Hawes spoke about our need to be ‘spiritually match fit’ as lockdown eases and something closer to normal life returns (click here to listen). Just as footballers will need to be fit to play the full 90 minutes when football returns, we need to be spiritually fit for God’s call and plans for us.

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Have you lost some of your spiritual fitness during lockdown?

2 Timothy 3v16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Among other things Christopher talked about the Bible as being like a ‘spiritual coach’ for us, helping us to attain full fitness.

He listed five ways to approach the Bible that can help us:

  1. Listening: such as listening to our Sunday preaching
  2. Reading: actually reading the Bible. Have you read it all yet? There are loads of apps and reading plans available for free to help
  3. Studying: a lot of the Bible’s riches do not ‘lie on the surface’; we are reading literature that is thousands of years old and written to different cultures in languages we don’t speak today. Study guides are so helpful for us to mine the depths, taking our understanding and interest to whole new levels
  4. Memorising: learning verses or chapters by heart; being able to call them to mind when needed. Jesus did this to fight temptation (see Luke chapter 4)
  5. Meditating: filling our mind with scripture; rolling it round and round our thoughts

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When Christopher talked about ‘studying’ the Bible, he mentioned some resources to help us. I have listed some of these here, along with a few extra suggestions of my own:

1. Study Bibles
A Study Bible is a simple tool to help us as we read. I own two: The NIV Study Bible and The NLT Study Bible. They have comments on many of the verses and explain things we can easily miss
2. Daily Devotionals
These are short daily reading guides that give insight to what we’re reading. There are lots of these available, both in online or paper formats to suit your preference for example, Every Day With Jesus or Daily Hope, both of which I would recommend
3. Bible commentaries
A good Bible commentary can help us mine the depths of the Bible, and lots of these are well written and easy to read, such as ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ (which has a commentary available for every book of the Bible) or the ‘New American Commentary’ series (which go far deeper and are personal favourites of mine) or the ‘Holman Commentary’ series (which take a chapter at a time and point to the key things in it) or Phil Moore’s ‘Straight To The Heart Of’ series (very readable and applicable to daily life)
4. A Systematic Theology
Reading a good systematic theology can take some effort, but it’s manageable by anyone with reasonable reading ability and the courage to take the plunge. Reading one through is like taking all the bits of theology we know (and a lot we don’t know) and organising it into a neat filing system. I personally like Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology, but others are also available.
5. Commission Training
As a church we are part of the Commission family of churches, and Commission have just launched a whole range of new training courses, starting from September. There are four levels of training on offer, starting with something basic and going all the way through to a Masters Degree. For details click here. They also talk about an internship year in a church, which could be done here at Welcome Church – feel free to ask.

What next?

There is no bad place to start. The key thing is not to worry about what we don’t know or haven’t done, but to start somewhere. All the things I have listed above will do us good, so why not try something?
To return to a sporting analogy, the ball is in your court.

 

UPDATED!!! Building Community Together

DETAILS FOR SUNDAY EVENING’S ONLINE COMMUNION HAVE CHANGED BECAUSE THE PRIME MINISTER WILL ADDRESS THE NATION AT 7PM – SEE BELOW FOR UPDATED DETAILS

Coronavirus, social distancing and lockdown have created challenges for us all, including a sense of isolation. I’ve certainly had some ‘down’ days along the way and I know others have too.

There will be things we’re each missing, and one I’ve heard mentioned often is that people are missing meeting together in person as a church community. In response I want to highlight two things we’ve got planned to help us connect together.

Evening Communion

This Sunday (10th May) at 6.00pm (please note new time), we will hold ‘online communion’ together. Everyone is invited to join us for a ‘Welcome Church, Come As You Are, Online Communion’.

We will do this on Zoom, and all the details are shown in the picture:

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Everyone is welcome. Come as you are. Come as a family. You don’t have to be part of Welcome Church to join in; just bring your faith and an open heart.

At the end of our time together we’ll take communion, so please be ready with bread and wine (or Ribena or grape juice or whatever you’ve got). Please don’t worry too much what it is or put yourself at risk to get something.

The items that we use are always symbolic of a greater reality; what counts is being together as one body of people with Jesus at the centre. Jesus is the ‘bread’ we all share. His death for us is what we remember.

This is a great way for us to be together in the presence of Jesus

Virtual Coffee

Community is so important to us that as well as being able to post comments and to share “hearts” in the chat area during the meeting itself, we’ve now introduced “Virtual Coffee” after both the 9am and 11am meetings, for about half an hour. Please do grab yourself a drink and then come and join us online for a ‘Virtual Coffee’ and chat.

Everyone is welcome to join in – just log on and be friendly. If you’re new to our church or connecting from another town or even another country, you’re welcome too. Come and say hi for half and hour or so, and let’s build community, get to know one another and have virtual coffee.

Again, the details are in the picture:

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Exciting Staff News

We have some exciting news regarding a staff change at Welcome Church.

Part of our role as a church is to develop and release leaders, and this applies to those who are employed by us as much as to anyone else. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.38Many of us will know Ben and Nancy Martin. Ben has been employed at Welcome Church for a number of years, first as a Kids Worker, and more recently as our Children’s and Youth Pastor. About a year ago, as part of our plan for his development, Ben was offered a secondment to Gateway Church in Basingstoke.

Over the last year at Gateway Church, Ben has been involved in lots of activities to help him develop, including setting up a brand new CAP Debt Centre like the one we have here at Welcome Church, alongside involvement with discipleship, pastoral care and lots of other things that have nothing to do with children or youth.

Ben’s aim was to develop further as a leader, and I’m delighted to announce that he has now been appointed to a new, permanent role as Lead Pastor at Life Church in Hook. Life Church is part of the Commission global family of churches, just like Welcome Church, so we will still see him and Nancy at Commission events including Connect Festival next year.

Ben will start this new role on May 18th, and this will bring to an end more than ten years of employment with us, and also his secondment to Gateway Church. It also means he will not now be returning to us in the summer, as was the original plan.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-22 at 16.57.31As part of this move Ben and Nancy will be relocating to Hook. They already have a buyer for their house and a purchase agreed – all subject to contract of course. In case you missed their other piece of exciting news, Nancy is pregnant with a due date this August.

Please do join me in congratulating them both on this step they are taking; this will be an exciting new phase of their life and ministry together. Ben and Nancy will be missed, yet this new role is a great step into their future together and will be a huge blessing to Life Church.

Here is a video that Ben and Nancy made to share the news in their own words. Enjoy!

 

 

Domestic Violence: Helping Victims, Getting Fit

During Lockdown incidences of Domestic Violence have risen at the same time as charitable giving has fallen , so we’re raising money for Your Sanctuary, a Woking based charity who help victims of domestic violence and their families.

Our Fund Raiser is off to a good start with around £1,500 being raised already and a distance of over 1000 miles being covered so far (which takes us across Holland and Germany and to the far side of Poland …)

We will post distance updates and photos on our Welcome Church social media accounts each weekend, so do look out for those.

You can check out the details of our ambitious plan by clicking here or reading this recent blog. People have been joining in by running, walking, cycling, scooting and even roller skating. However you get about, as long as it’s under your own steam, you’re welcome to join in.

We’ve started a Strava Club too – (“Welcome Church Goes Around The World”). You’re welcome to join that and help us rack up the miles. Why not see if you can top the leader board?

However long or short your daily exercise, every distance counts. We want everyone to join in, whatever their age or fitness level. Don’t forget to submit your distances by emailing them to aroundtheworld@allwelcome.uk.  We don’t mind if it’s in miles, kilometres, yards, centimetres, cubits, stadia, furlongs, fathoms or leagues – we will convert it and add it all up.

Let’s have fun doing this together and let’s give generously to make a real difference. This fun video will tell you more:

The Welcome Church Building Work Is Finished

I am delighted to announce that the building work at Welcome Church is now complete, bringing to an end an important chapter in our church’s history and opening up a whole new one. I’m looking forward to the time when Lockdown measures are over and we’re able to start using it properly.

We had expected the current crisis to delay completion, but government guidance permits building work to continue as long as appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures are in place, and our contractor made the call to continue. They were inspected regularly along the way by Woking Borough Council for compliance.

Yesterday I had to go over to the building to collect the keys. Sadly we were unable to have a proper ‘handover ceremony’ because of the times we are in, but I was handed the keys by Simon Powell, contracts manager for O&D Construction, on the end of a 2m pole!

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The new offices are looking good, as is the whole site, and hopefully these pictures give an idea of the finished result. Let’s pray it’s not too long before we all get to see it in real life and enjoy meeting together in person.

If you’ve never visited us at Welcome Church, we’d love to see you when we’re open again. In the meantime, you can join us each Sunday online for our meetings at 9am, 11am and 6pm.

There are of course some small jobs outstanding on the building which social distancing or availability of raw materials at this time have made impossible, and there will undoubtedly be snagging issues to resolve once we get in; we will deal with these along the way.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project. Please let me encourage you, as far as you are able (and I recognise that some are facing huge challenges right now) to keep giving generously so that we can meet our monthly mortgage payments, and perhaps clear the mortgage altogether.

God has given us this building for a reason and we have not been called to stand still. We are here to be a blessing to our town and further afield, and we have a big vision that we want to fulfil. I can’t wait to be back in our building again and I look forward to seeing you there!

Covid-19: Facing Our Fear and Our Disappointment

At Welcome Church we’ve just had our first online Sunday. What a different experience it was!

The message I spoke was about handling our fear at this time. I looked at David and Goliath and what we can learn from that story about our need for a saviour to stand in our place.

You can watch it here:

We hosted the video as a watch party on our Facebook page so people could all watch it together at one time. Don’t forget to join us for that at 10am next week on the Facebook page.

Kids

Welcome Kids was also on line. They will go live at 9am again next Sunday. Be online and ready to go if you want to enjoy the full experience.

Here is a link to the talk that formed part of their time together:

And here is the craft they did:

Some Encouragement

Each day at 4pm, Monday to Saturday, we are posting Daily Encouragement videos. You can find all of them by clicking here.

Yesterday’s was about dealing with our disappointments. I’ve posted that here in case you missed it:

Finally if you want to know how to stay connected with us throughout this unusual time in our lives, here’s a link that will tell you all that you need to know

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Coronavirus and Welcome Church: what happens next?

It’s been a momentous 48 hours!

On Sunday we were together for two encouraging morning meetings. Our Encounter meeting in the evening was superb too. I spoke during the morning about living with Contentment in this time of crisis.

For the first time we videoed the preach, so it’s available to watch. The podcast is also available as usual here, but for those looking for the full experience, here is Welcome Church online (be warned – subtitles are still being worked on and amended – there are some howlers in there right now!)

The situation has changed a lot since Sunday

I said in my preach that it could be the last time we were together for a while; sadly that turned out to be true. On Monday afternoon Boris Johnson briefed the nation on the latest measures the Government would like us to take to help manage the national Coronavirus situation.

Amongst other things it was said, “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and non-essential travel” and that we should avoid “all social gatherings and social contact”. He has also asked people to work from home wherever possible.

In order to comply with this guidance, with immediate effect Welcome Church has postponed all meetings including Life Groups, Welcome Youth, Welcome Crew, Welcome Tots, Alpha, all courses and prayer meetings, and we’ve closed the office until further notice too.

This does not mean that church life has ceased!

Church is a family, not a meeting, a building or a ministry. Church is us; the people! We are the church!

Over the next couple of days we are looking at how things develop and what it will all mean for us as a church. We are also, right now, developing ways for us to function together as a church using online resources and strategies. I am so grateful to God for the existence of the technology that makes this possible.

Here is the first of our online video updates and encouragements. Please watch and enjoy. More will follow in due course.

This situation is not going away any time soon and it will get worse before it gets better. Let’s all get our hearts right and our expectations right. Let’s not give in to fear, but stand firm in faith.

We are here to be a blessing to our town in this challenging time, whatever may happen. God has a purpose for us in all of this.

And remember: God is never taken by surprise. Let’s not be fearful;  He has us safe in the palm of His hand. Even if we die, we live.

The church is made for a time like this!