Moved by Compassion – again

What an awesome Sunday!

I know that many who were at our Grace Church meetings in Chichester and Bognor Regis  on Sunday found the talk extremely moving. We were thrilled to have Noel Pabiona with us. Noel is the CEO and Country Director of Compassion Philippines and he was in the UK for just a few days – we were very blessed to have him and every believer should hear his talk – it could change your life. The stories he told reduced grown men and women to tears across both meetings (myself included). 15037356_219847288440359_8346825870935785774_n

Those in Midhurst were blessed too, listening to Clare Hartley from Compassion UK. She also spoke brilliantly on God’s heart for the poor. All in all it was a fantastic morning. I’ve put links to both of these talks in the text above – please do listen! You can also get them via iTunes or our Grace Church podcasts.

Supporting Compassion as a church

For several years now, as a church, we’ve been supporting the work of Compassion, one of the world’s leading child development and child advocacy organisations. Working with local churches they create a link between a child living in poverty and a sponsor – people like us.

Sponsorship gives the child access to education, health checks and the care of a local church-based Compassion project. Through these programmes, children’s lives are being changed, along with their families and communities. I’ve seen this in action for myself in Kenya and it affected me deeply.

Our involvement: individual sponsorship

Our involvement has been focussed on a specific area of the Philippines: Negros Occidental. We’ve promoted child sponsorship in this area, and though our church over 200 children have been sponsored so far. The children in the photos are ones that between us we’ve sponsored  – and there are others too …

Our involvement: child survival

Additionally as a church we’ve provided funding for a Child Survival Programme (CSP). The programme works through a local church in the Philippines  and aims to rescue, nurture and disciple infants for the first three years of their lives. They aim to reach the most vulnerable before they’re even born. They provide antenatal care for vulnerable mothers, ensure children are vaccinated and that mothers are given the skills they need to earn a living. It’s about giving children the best possible start in life.

Grace Church has sponsored one of these programmes for several years. It’s called the Kairos programme and it’s being run by Good Shepherd Church.

Why should I care?

There are many reasons we should care about the poor

  • We should care because Jesus called us to care for the poor!
  • We should care because the whole Bible is clear that God expects us to be generous and to look after the poor and the needy (Matt 6:2-4; Acts 2:45; Gal 2:10; Prov 19:17; Prov 21:13; Prov 22:9; Psalm 42:1; Psalm 41:1-3)
  • We should care because no one should have to live and die in conditions like this:

Putting generosity into action

I know that many hearts were touched on Sunday. Every child sponsorship pack that we had available to us was taken and we have a list of requests for more. It looks like more than 30 more children will get a sponsor following Sunday morning, and it’s still not too late – don’t let the moment pass you by

You can sponsor a child, for £25 a month, via the Compassion website here. Or if you want to do it with us in the area of the Philippines we’ve been supporting then contact us here and let us know directly.

Next summer Tobi Stathers, from our Chichester site, is doing a sponsored bike ride from John O’Groats to Bognor to raise extra funds for the CSP. Please do sponsor Tobi; we want lots of people to back him. The money given will be extra to the funding  we already give. There are sponsorship forms available at any of our meetings, or you can give via our website here – just send us a message to let us know what it’s for.

And finally remember this …

“Generosity is not something we do to be praised; we do it because we are compelled by the love of Jesus Christ”

 

The Grace to go to Prison

One of the reasons for writing a blog is to keep everyone informed of the things we are doing as a Church, especially things that not everyone may be aware of. One of those areas is our “GraceWorks”. We use the name GraceWorks as an umbrella heading for the various ministries we do to serve our community.

Early Days

In the very early days of Grace Church, when I was laying out a vision for our Church’s future in a talk, I remember using ‘prison ministry’ as an example of something we would probably never do … simply because there is no prison in Chichester. Little did I know!

Fast forward a few years to now, to a time when our Church has a larger footprint than we ever imagined it would, and one of our key GraceWorks is serving the prisoners at Ford Prison.

HMP Ford – Our Prison Ministry


HMP Ford
is an open prison with around 500 adult male prisoners. A team from Grace Church, which includes people from all three of our sites, is actively involved in various activities at HMP Ford including:

  • Regular Sunday evening services in the Chapel at HMP Ford, with worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship
  • A Monday evening Life Group covering all sorts of topics and led by both Grace Church members and prisoners. This provides an informal time for teaching and fellowship, and also some social times, for example we held a quiz night that had around 50 people taking part
  • A prison Alpha course
  • A follow up Beta course

Well done Grace Churchers!

HMP Ford Christian Prison Ministry | Grace Church | Steve Petch Blog

Andy Nicholls runs our HMP Ford prison ministry

A few Grace Church members are also now part of the chaplaincy department at HMP Ford helping provide pastoral and faith related support to those prisoners. The need for this should not be underestimated! I want to say a personal, “Well done!” to the Grace Church team, and feel free to add your well done to mine everyone else!

Outside of the prison environment we’ve been working to look after a few ex-offenders who have connected with us on the inside and have now been released from prison and are living locally. The support and help needed in each situation is very individual, and we now have ex-offenders regularly attending Sunday meetings with us. What a privilege! We are truly blessed and I hope we are a blessing to them too.

Why minister to prisoners & ex-offenders?

In the parable of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25) Jesus said that, in the final judgement, he would say to his followers,

“I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

They will answer him, Lord, when did we see you in prison and go to visit you?”

Jesus’ answer: “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

Our prisons ministry, led by Andy Nicholls, is a great chance to put that parable into practice, remembering that it is Jesus we are serving. If you want to get involved then do let us know, and in the mean time let’s all be on the lookout to welcome and bless anyone who visits our church week by week, remembering that each person is precious to God, whatever their background.

“All welcome! Come as you are!”

And let’s remember that in some cases the only difference between those in prison and those who are not is this: they got caught.

So let’s make sure that we, ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.