Walking on water – stopping the traffic

(WARNING: some of this blog’s content could be upsetting)

Inspired by “Life”

One of the things Jo and I were most inspired by during our recent trip to India was meeting Keith and Ramona, who run the Chaiim Foundation in Mumbai. Chaiim works to restore victims of human sex trafficking and to reinstate them to live a full life again. They provide hope by teaching life skills and offering vocational training, education, housing, counselling and spiritual development to victims.

keith-n-ramona-chaiimKeith, who started out as a businessman in Mumbai, had a change of direction after God spoke to him – and I do mean that God spoke to him. It happened during a visit to one of the very under resourced, government run homes that are intended to tackle this issue within India. These homes are very overcrowded and under resourced, often with nearly 200 girls living in a space designed for 50. Some are in such a poor state that the girls can even feel life is worse than before they were ‘rescued’.

During a visit to one of these homes Keith heard an audible voice say to him,

“Keith, get out of your boat. “

He turned to see who had spoken but there was no one there. And then the voice spoke again, “Keith, get out of your boat”.

It sounds very dramatic – a call to step out and to ‘walk on water’ – and talking to Keith he said that this moment shook his life’s foundations. After some internal struggles, and facing the fear of the unknown, Keith and Romana chose to obey God. They knew God was calling them to take action and it has changed everything.

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Before Chaiim was set up Keith had become aware of a young girl – 12 years of age – who had been trafficked, and he had wanted to help her. When he located her, in a government  home, she seemed unwilling to speak to him. Wondering if this was because he was a man, he asked about it. He was told that she had been beaten so badly by her ‘pimp’ that her jaw had been shattered and her teeth had ripped through her tongue leaving her completely unable to speak.

Keith left the home determined to help. He did some research and preparation and then returned to the home. On arriving they found that the girl was no longer there. They were told she had ‘gone home’. Enquiring into this further they were given some more information by the home manager: “I am sorry sir. Sadly this girl has now expired”. This young girl,  just 12 years of age, died before Keith and Ramona could help.

Devastated at not having been able to help in time, God spoke again, “There are many other girls like this, and I want you to help them.”

Out of this calling Chaiim, which means “life”, was born.

It has been a huge journey of faith for Keith and Ramona, learning to trust God as they have pursued this ‘out of the boat’ calling. The results are fantastic to witness.

During our visit we saw how some girls were being taught to make clothes as a vocational skill. The clothes made in this way, which are of high quality, are then sold through an ethical clothing company in Germany.

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The profits Chaiim makes from this provide a portion of their funding (the rest comes from donations – all from people in India)

Chaiim have now helped many victims of sex trafficking. Keith and Ramona’s love for Christ, and that of their team, has transformed lives. When we were with them Ramona was working out what to do in response to being asked to take in four girls from the government home, when they only had space to take in two. They were also delighted at having seen one of their girls recently get married – a total transformation.

This work is not without challenges and risks. This photo of the girls making clothing was carefully taken by Keith so that it didn’t show any of the trafficked girls faces, something that could put them at risk.

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Chaiim is a great example of faith in action.

Keith and Ramona’s example also provokes some questions that we should consider:

What is God calling you to do to make a difference?

How is he calling you to get out of the boat?

And one more thing to remember:

Sex Trafficking is not unique to India

It’s a worldwide issue, affecting even the UK. In fact it turns that the United Kingdom is one of the most prominent destination countries for people to be trafficked to in Europe.

So, before you click on a link to view some “harmless” pornography, stop and think.

Remember the story of that 12 year old girl. Remember that she represents many other victims, of all ages, all over the world. Her story is not unusual.

Please look at these links … here … and here for more information on the link between human trafficking and pornography – it’s truly shocking. Please educate yourself on this. And remember, even an apparently ‘free’ site provides funding to this industry, via advertisers, when you click on it.

It turns out it’s not so harmless after all.

To find out more about Chaiim check out their website here or their latest newsletter here

If you want to see their clothes for sale then the link is here

And you want to find out more about human trafficking you could start here

Wall Building Heroes of the Week: John and Mollie Oldfield

In this blog I’m giving you a chance to honour some great leaders in a tangible way, so please read on to the end to find out how.

My Privilege

As the Lead Elder here at Grace Church I am privileged to work alongside a high quality group of leaders at all levels: worship leaders, site leaders and leaders in all of our different ministries – there far too many to list them all – you know who you are!

The team I personally spend the most time with is our eldership team – a group of men for whom I am so grateful. This group, who oversee the life of our church, set the vision and bring pastoral care and direction, are a joy to serve with.

Changes are afoot

Those who were with us at our Prayer and Vision night on Wednesday will know already that, among other things, we had a mix of stepping up and stepping down on that evening:

  • Simon Taylor stepped up to join the site team for Bognor Regis
  • Greg Bell and Jez Cooper stepped up to join the Midhurst site team
  • and we announced that John Oldfield has decided that the time has come for him to retire from eldership

Honouring a fantastic couple

John and Mollie have been huge blessing to us – personally and as a church – since they arrived at Grace Church back in 2013, serving in so many ways and bringing blessing to so many. The good news is that they are not moving on, they will still be living here and serving the church:24410_103853996323857_7087165_n

  • John will remain on the Bognor Regis Site team
  • They will still be looking after the Life Groups in Bognor
  • They will still do much of the pastoral work that blesses so many
  • They will still be involved in mentoring some of the younger couples in the church
  • And we will still hear John preach from time to time

However John has decided that, before he hits his 75th birthday (what a shining example of faithfulness!), the time has now come to lay aside the eldership role. We want to thank and bless him for all he has done, and to thank Mollie for all that she has contributed too.

Honouring this couple

Those who don’t know John and Mollie well may not realise the huge variety of things they have done in the past. They have served God and the Great Commission in many ways, including:

  • Church planting in India
  • Being the lead elder at a church in Dartford
  • Being the lead elder at a church in Chatham
  • Leading mission work and teams in Yemen
  • And, of course, helping us establish a congregation in Bognor Regis

This is a couple who are a great example and deserve to be honoured by us all … and here are three tangible ways we can each do that:

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1. Keep listening to them

Although John may be stepping down from eldership, this couple still radiate a passion for God and His church, and they carry a huge wealth of experience. Please keep pressing in to learn from this couple.

2. Say “Thank You”

We are all grateful to this couple, and because they are still here and serving it could be easy to forget to say, “Thank you”. Please don’t just assume they know you are grateful … tell them. This moment, when John is significantly changing his role, is a great chance to show them your love and appreciation.

3. Help them on their way to India

We will soon be waving them off on a six week trip to India, to visit some new places and to revisit some of the people and the works they were so involved with. Commission has a lot going on in India, and John and Mollie were a foundational part of that for many years. They are so well loved over in India, that everywhere I go there people ask if I know them and how they are!

Because of their health, and because we love them and want to honour them, there is a small thing we want to do for them as they go – something we can all do together:

let’s send them business class.

This will really help them to make the most of the trip, and to start and end it well (it’s a long and tiring journey!), so we are inviting anyone who wants to show their thanks to give financially towards this. Anything over and above this will also be passed on to John and Mollie.

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If you feel inspired to say thank you to them in this way, please give it via Grace Church in the usual ways and mark it clearly so we know what it is. (And if you’re not part of our church and you’ve been blessed by John and Mollie and you also want to give to this, you can do it via our website here – and please send us a message so we know who you are and what it’s for)

Finally – be inspired by scripture

1 Timothy 5:17 says this,

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour”

here is a great chance for us all to put that into practice.

Back from India – impacted by mercy

 

IMG_0497I’m pleased to report that Jo and I have returned safely from India this week after a great time with friends from some of our Commission churches. It was a very worthwhile trip and we will tell you more as time goes by. First though, we want to say thank you Grace Church for your prayers. It was a joy to be there and we remained healthy throughout, although it is monsoon season so we got very wet! I am trusting that we have been a blessing to our Indian friends; certainly the trip was a blessing for us.

 

Time with friends

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Sydney and Cheryl at the Gateway of India

Without going into too much detail, the first six days were spent with Sydney and Cheryl, based in Bandra in the south of Mumbai. Sydney is lead elder at Living Word Church, and it was our privilege to meet people from the church, making some new friends, and to spend time with some of the church leaders too. Sydney also invited me to speak at their two Sunday morning meetings. It was such a joy to be with Sydney and Cheryl again – they are great friends to us – and also to revisit this church which I have been to once before in 2014.

 

 

 

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Lunch with Jennifer and Praveen

In the middle of our trip we caught up with our friends Praveen and Jennifer. Praveen leads a church called ‘The Life’ which is also in Mumbai. As a church they do some incredible works among the poor in the slums, one of which we visited.

 

 

 

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Vinu and Julie

The final leg of our trip was spent with Vinu and Julie, based in Borivali in the north of Mumbai. Vinu is lead elder at Living Hope Church, and also leads the Commission churches in India. Once again we were privileged to make new friends, spending time with leaders and being invited to speak in various contexts, including at three different Sunday morning meetings. Vinu and Julie are already good friends, but this was the first time we have had the chance to visit the church.

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A thoroughly Indian experience

In addition to some excellent times with these friends and their churches, Jo and I also enjoyed seeing various tourist spots including the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the Khaneri Caves in the Sanjay Ghandi National Park. We enjoyed meals out and time with friends old and new, trying new foods and experiencing a different culture … and Jo enjoyed a fair amount of shopping too.

The most impacting thing

The most impacting thing for us though was the opportunity to visit some incredible works among the poor being run by some of these people. These works included:

  • The Krupa project – caring for abandoned elderly women in Nashik
  • The Chaiim project – rehabilitating female victims of human trafficking, rescued from sex work
  • The Raah street kids outreach – an incredible work to teach and feed street children
  • A project in the slums to provide nursery education and day care to slum children

I’ll write bit more about these projects in subsequent blogs, but I do want to write a few words about the Krupa project first.

Krupa

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Jo and Clara – and a Christmas Tree

This amazing work was set up by a woman called Clara, from the church in Nashik, to provide dignity and care for elderly women who have been abandoned by family and friends. This is the church where John and Molly from Grace Church were based for some years; it is a church they helped to plant with Sydney and Cheryl.

On the wall of the Krupa home are photo boards of some of the elderly women who have entered the home, listing their name, their date of arrival, their age and the day they died. These are women who had nothing. They have been rescued from begging, or from extreme poverty. Some have experienced violence or rape. One lady, who is both blind and deaf, had been left to live in a sewer pipe, surviving on food left by strangers.

The Krupa project has taken these women in and given them a bed and food. They are washed and cleaned. They are fed and clothed. Their hair is cleaned and freed from lice. They are loved and prayed for. Birthdays are celebrated. They are given the care and dignity they had been denied. This is God’s church in action!

I was struck by the joy and gratefulness these women showed. Most smiled; one sang for us; one just sat quietly on her bed and wanted to show us the small photo that she treasured of her dear friends from England – can you see who they are?

God’s church in action

It was certainly impactful for Jo and I to visit this project. It was inspiring to see God’s church in action, providing such direct love and care to people, and there may be some things we are able to do to help this project in the future – we will let you know.

One final thing I noted is what Sydney said to us afterwards, “These women are not all what we might call deserving.” Some of their life stories are certainly sad, yet others are somewhat mixed – but all have been abandoned and needed help and grace. In that way they are a just like us: none of us deserve God’s love or favour; all of us need grace.

Here is the church, showing the love of God to those in need. And Krupa is the perfect name for this project.

Krupa is a Hindi word that simply means “Mercy”

Off to India again!

On Friday this week Jo and I are off to India: a return visit for me; a first time visit for Jo. We would so value your prayers for our trip, and for the kids left at home, and do look out for updates via Twitter and Facebook. I am so pleased that Jo and I get to go out together this time.

Why India?

Our ongoing friendships and connections with India have come about because we are a part of Commission, which now has more works in India than in the UK. John and Mollie, from our Bognor site, lived and served in India some years ago, and they opened some doors of friendship for us that it has been our privilege to push wide open. I have been out to visit in the past, as has David Thompson and also some others. We have a growing number of friendship connections with this incredible country.

Steve Petch Trip to India | Commission | Steve Petch BlogVinu & Julie

Many of you will remember Vinu and Julie coming to us from India at the end of Westpoint last year. Vinu’s time with us helped to reshape our approach to multisite, including moving our Midhurst Sunday meeting to the morning. By the way, in case you missed the news, that site has grown and is now meeting in a new and larger venue each Sunday morning at Rother College.

Sydney & Cheryl

Last October we also had Sydney and Cheryl with us. This wonderful couple blessed us in so many ways, not least their demonstration of some ‘mighty fine’ barn dancing skills. These Indian friendships are so valuable to us!

Steve Petch Trip to India | Commission | Steve Petch Blog

So on this occasion Jo and I are going to Mumbai to spend time with them. We look forward to experiencing some Indian culture, developing further friendships and seeing first hand what is going on with all the various things they do.

The trip is certainly going to be very busy, and I have had to spend time preparing. As well as the usual things you might expect us to be doing there, we will also see their work with children in the slums and with sufferers of Hansen’s disease (Leprosy).

Pray for us

A trip like this to India is a great chance to renew old friendships, to make new ones and to bring them encouragement. We will also undoubtedly learn a lot and be blessed by them in return. Sometimes these trips can be challenging, especially health wise, so do pray for our wellbeing, our fruitfulness and our safe return.

I’ll try to let you know next week how we’re getting on.