Recent Travels & Some Future Plans

You may know that in addition to my role at Welcome Church, I’m also involved with Commission more widely. In that role I’ve been out and about a few times lately:

Regional Celebration

46503824_10157865078449692_8412979250755272704_nOn Sunday 18th November I was speaking in the evening at a Regional Celebration for three Commission Churches held in Epsom. The churches involved were Kings Church Epsom, Open Door Church Sunbury and Jubilee Church Shepperton. Epsom have just recently joined Commission so it was great to be there with them for the first time.

I spoke on the topic of Seeing People Clearly, covering some of the material from our own Belong Believe Become preaching series.

I really enjoyed the evening and was pleased to give one of my favourite shirts an outing too. Big thanks to David Maskell for coming with me.

Eldership appointments

The following Sunday evening, 25th November, I was at Bridge Church Newbury appointing three new church elders: Mark Landreth-Smith (Lead Elder), Pete Carter and Alastair Clark.

This was the first set of eldership appointments for this newly planted church, which is a church plant no longer … now a full fledged church.

Jo came with me and it was great to be with them for the evening, and to see the excitement, passion and vision of the people there.

On the same day, in the morning, Chris Kimbangi was appointed as the new Lead Elder at Centrepoint Church in Guildford following Boggles and Jill Harty moving on. Chris is married to Catherine and they have two small girls. Chris was also part of my team back at Grace Church (before I moved to Woking).

I wasn’t there for the morning, but it’s another big step in the life of a church that was planted from us here at Woking. I’m really glad to have Chris and Catherine just up the road and the early reports are that things are going well.

Week away

In between the two Sundays David, Dean, Dub and myself had a week away, as an Eldership Team, in a remote cottage on Dartmoor to talk, pray and plan for the future … with no phone signal or internet!!! 🙁

We had a great time that included looking at some 360 Feedback on our leadership styles (with help from Robin Willison), the role of eldership, pastoral care plans for the future, plans for life groups, plans for integration of new people (with help from Chaz and Mazz McCallister) and future leadership development. We also had the odd visit to a pub (purely to access their Wi-Fi!)

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We now have lots of plans formed for 2019 … YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!😃

Compassion UK

One more thing in case you missed it: Dean is currently in Kenya with the child sponsorship charity, Compassion. He flew out on Thursday morning … and landed back at Heathrow a couple of hours later due to the plane’s undercarriage malfunctioning!

He says it was pretty tense on the plane as it came in to land, but the stewardesses were excellent (nice one BA). He then flew out again a few hours later, this time getting all the way to Nairobi (we hope 😃). Do pray that he has a safe trip and a life changing experience.

This trip is giving Dean the chance to look at the work of Compassion in Africa, something I did myself a couple of years ago. It was an experience that still lives with me.

Next year we will be launching a project with Compassion as a church (although not in Kenya). Look out for more details of how you can get involved with that in the New Year.

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Compassion in the slums of Kenya: Trauma and Transformation

Returning from my trip to Kenya with Compassion has left me with a lot to process. I’m not a total newcomer to situations of poverty, and I’ve visited both slums and a refugee camp in the past, but what I saw in Mathare slum in Nairobi was well beyond my previous experiences. At a personal level I would sum the trip up in two words: ‘traumatic’ and ‘transforming’. I am still processing what I saw and heard.

One leader, returning from visiting a slum family, remarked that he felt like he had been on, “a walk through hell”. Entering the slums to visit people in their iron sheet and tarpaulin ‘homes’ gives a fresh perspective on life. (We were escorted by armed guards).

The Compassion Child Development Centre

The Compassion Child Development Centre, run by a local church based in the slum, is turning child sponsorships into real life action. They are doing a fantastic job putting their faith into action and transforming lives and families, but the issues they face daily are hard to think about.

 On one wall we spotted a poster that teaches children how to respond to rape:

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch Blog

A friend asked a development centre worker about the poster, and we thought she replied, in a thick Kenyan accent,

17% of the girls growing up in the slum will be raped.”

Stunned we responded,

“Did you say seventeen percent?”

The worker replied,

“No! Not seventeen percent. It’s seventy percent. Seven Zero.”

I had to walk away and regain my composure at that point; just one of several occasions.

Trauma

That evening we heard testimonies from students who have graduated from the Compassion Leadership Development Programme and are now looking to be a blessing to their country and community. The final testimony was very moving. The young woman told us how her single mother had worked as a prostitute to provide for her and her sister; she told us about being homeless and sleeping in shop doorways and railway stations; and then she told us how she and her sister were sexually abused from 4 years old by an uncle who supplied food … and demanded to be paid.

Transformation

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogEnrolment in a Compassion Child Development Programme, with a sponsor from the USA, created a context for her whole family to be lifted out of extreme poverty. It also created a safe place where the abuse could be understood for what it was, and be disclosed to someone who could help. She told us how, when the centre taught them about STD’s, she realised what was wrong with herself and her sister. She was able to ask for help and both sisters were taken to a doctor and successfully treated. And now she has graduated from university. Trauma … and transformation.

Grace Church’s role in Compassion

Compassion Child Sponsorship | Mathare Nairobi Kenya | Steve Petch BlogAnd one more thing to add. As a church, between us so far, we have sponsored around 170 children in the Philippines. Seeing projects in action in Kenya, similar to the ones we support, was a great opportunity. Let’s keep up the sponsorship and the letter writing.

In a quiet moment I asked one of our Compassion representatives from the UK if this was the worst poverty she had seen. Worryingly she replied that the only place she had seen worse poverty was … the Philippines. Our trip there leaves in April 2018.

Let me know if you want to come and see not only the trauma, but also the transformation we are playing our part in achieving in that place.

Visiting a Compassion Child Survival Programme in Kenya

I’m writing this blog entry from Kenya.

As a church, for several years, we’ve funded a Child Survival Programme through Compassion in the Philippines. They send us regular news updates and you can check out what we do and what they say about it here.

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Rift Valley Kenya | Steve Petch's Blog

Me in front of the Great Rift Valley, Kenya

Yesterday I visited one of these projects in action in Kenya. It’s not the actual project that we fund, but it’s delivering the same thing in a rural area of Africa. To say it was an emotional experience is to understate it.

Compassion’s Kenyan project

This project is currently helping 35 mothers and 36 babies (one had twins). 7 are single mothers. The others are not single, yet only 6 of the fathers are actively involved with their children.

The project is at full capacity

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

Mothers from the project greeted us with singing on arrival

Since they started, maternal deaths have been reduced from a high rate to almost zero, and childhood deaths from preventable illnesses have fallen dramatically in this area too. These reductions are not just among the mothers receiving direct help, but among the wider community as mothers are urged to pass on to their friends some basic encouragements: have their baby at hospital and get your children vaccinated.

Local Church delivering Compassion

One thing that encouraged me was to see that the project is not being delivered by Compassion, but by a local church who they partner with. You won’t find a Compassion logo anywhere – just the local church in action, led by Pastor Paul. The whole community, people from all backgrounds, are being helped as this local church delivers good news to,

the neediest of the needy

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

Enjoying baby cuddles

I enjoyed cuddling babies, eating Kenyan food and being sung too. I loved the incredible African dancing. I was amazed at the way they teach the mothers practical skills to help them earn money. I was inspired by their levels of faith. I was challenged to hear about how they select only the very worst situations to help and about how many others would benefit if they had the capacity. I was moved by the gratitude the project staff showed towards us for visiting them.

A home visit to one of the mothers from the project was even more challenging – to say that this home was poor was an understatement (you can see her and her children and home below). Three children … husband gone … the project has been a life saver here. The food growing here is from seed that the project provided too.

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

A mother of three supported by Compassion

Kenya Compassion Sponsorship and Child Survival Programme | Steve Petch's Blog

The house she shares with her children

Against a backdrop of the incredibly beautiful Great Rift Valley, is the horror of some serious poverty.

And against the backdrop of this poverty is the incredible beauty of Jesus’ church being what she is called to be:

good news to the poor

And that’s what we are funding in the Philippines too, so let’s press on in faith. We are doing good.

And in 2018 some of us will be able to go and visit that project too.

Personally I wouldn’t miss that for the world.