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:

George Varney: he’s a community hero!

Welcome Church‘s very own George Varney has deservingly won a fantastic award, and we could not be prouder of him.

The award has been given by Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network (CNI), who are an umbrella organisation for around 130 local projects working predominantly to serve people within the night-time economy, and this include Woking Street Angels.

aIMG_6734-1638x2048Because of George’s outstanding work as a Street Angel, where he is both a trustee and team leader, along with his most recent venture, The Useful Wood Company, George has been chosen as a community hero by CNI.

This is a Nation Wide Contest so George has done really well. You can read all about his award by clicking here – you may spot a few other familiar faces in the photos too.

Alice Potter, a Trustee from Woking Street Angels said,

“George has always been the person to step in the gap when we have had holes in our Duty Rota. He would be out until 4am in the morning and still turn up for an early start at church a few hours later. He has always gone the extra mile. He stands out in our Team and I am proud that he is part of our Church.”

Serving the poor and those in need is a key aspect of the Christian faith in action, so it is also central to us as a church. You can see lots more of what we do in these areas by checking out our Welcome Works initiative.

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:

John Kirkby, founder of CAP, speaking at Welcome Church

This Sunday morning, 1st March, we are honoured to have an excellent and much sought after guest speaker at Welcome Church for our 9am and 11am meetings: Dr John Kirkby, the founder of CAP (Christians Against Poverty).

Everyone is welcome to join us for this special occasion.

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About CAP

John started Christians Against Poverty in 1996, when God called him to sacrifice his career in finance and use his knowledge of the industry to help the poor. Since then John has seen CAP develop into an organisation serving tens of thousands of individuals every year, helping those struggling with debt, unemployment and life controlling habits, and equipping people to live well on a low income.

CAP has now helped thousands of people all across the UK to get out of life destroying debt. Our own CAP debt advice centre, which is one of our Welcome Works initiatives, opened in 2019, and is already making a difference to people’s lives. This adds to the work already being done with CAP in Woking by our friends at Christ Church and New Life Church too. You can see the full range of CAP services on offer at Welcome Church by clicking here.

CAP was featured last year in a BBC Two documentary The Debt Saviours, which followed the lives of some CAP clients and frontline workers in the middle of the current UK poverty epidemic. It showed how CAP is committed to transforming lives in partnership with local churches across the UK. CAP has also won many different awards, and John Kirkby himself recently received a CBE. CAP is also recommended by Martin Lewis, Founder and Chair of Money Saving Expert.

Come and join us for the morning

If you would like to hear John, please join us for either our 9am or 11am meeting. There will be great coffee, and tasty pastries and doughnuts available before and after each meeting – all free of charge. As for all our Sunday meetings there will also be kids and youth work taking place.

It’s an absolute privilege to have John with us, so make sure not to miss it.

Here us a link to the event on Facebook too.

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.

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.

Vision Focus: The Year So Far

Last night at Welcome Church we had our Vision Focus meeting for the Summer Term. It was great to see so many people there. I will post a few blogs this week to help keep everyone up to date.

Vision focus is a termly meeting  to communicate what’s been going on in the church  and what’s coming up; a mix of information, inspiration and prayer; a chance to find out what’s happening and what’s ahead.

It’s been an interesting and exciting year so far

In January we made the change in our approach to membership, talking instead about belonging. Other church leaders have been talking to me about what we’ve done; it’s a subject that seems to be under review in lots of churches.

Alpha is going well. We have 35 completing the current course. God is at work. He has put people in your life who you could invite; we are still barely scratching the surface. We had 17 baptisms in March, of which 8 came from alpha. If you want to get baptised next time, just let us know.

Kids and Youth work are going well. Our youth and kids pastor, Ben Martin, is currently in Basingstoke for a secondment and is doing a great job there by all accounts. Do keep Ben and Nancy in your prayers and remember that they are still living here in Woking,

Ben and Becca Corbett are leading the youth team well. The youth work is growing and they just had a great youth alpha.

The kids team is now being headed up by Steve Blowfeld, known to all as Blowers, and what a great job they did with a family service on Sunday morning – including some fun costumes for some of the elders …

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What happens when the kids work take over

This term we also launched Welcome Works.

Welcome works is our new initiative to draw together all our ministries to the poor. I love the new strap line: With You, For You.

As part of Welcome Works we launched our Compassion child sponsorship programme, sponsoring children in Togo. So far as a church we have sponsored 142 children as part of this new initiative. It’s not too late to sponsor – just ask.

For those who are already doing it, do be faithful to start writing letters and building a relationship with the child/children you are sponsoring

As I write this, our new International Cafe is in progress here at the Welcome Centre. Led by Marion Mcallister, this new event is a great chance for people who speak English as a second language to come along, make friends, and practice their English. I just stuck my head round the door and got very excited by what I saw!

Soon we will be launching our very own CAP Centre too. This project is about helping people and families to get out of debt. More details on this will follow soon – watch this space.

Good things are happening in our church  and we have a lot to be thankful for!

I’ll post some more blogs this week to detail what’s coming up in the months ahead, including information on Belonging, Life Groups and our Building Project.

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.