Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
. . . stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord', 1 Cor. 15. 58.
Looking back over the reports for 1988, there has been so much to praise God for. Different features of the work of the gospel have each proved that God is very much at work. A lot of the service is far from spectacular, perhaps much is counted as humdrum and routine. But all has been essential in its own context as expressing and maintaining a testimony to the Lord's Name in various places. As we face the new year we need to encourage one another to go on. The above words tell that in purpose, in progress and in pursuits we must move forward, remembering at all times that it is His work, nut ours. Perhaps the verse of a well known hymn by Horatius Bonar, will set the tone for our labours during the coming year in His will:
Toil on, and in Thy toil rejoice; For toil comes rest, for exile home; Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom's voice, The midnight cry, 'Behold I come!'
Jim Graham, Belfast, shares with us news that there has been a bit of encouragement in the gospel in various areas of the province. At Ballywatermoy, Co. Antrim, R. Eadie held nine weeks of meetings which were well attended, and three made professions of faith in Christ. Guod interest was shown at Carncullagh, N. Antrim, where J. C. Hutchison and A. Aiken preached in an outreach hall. At Ballycastle, thousands of gospel tracts were distributed and the gospel was preached in the open-air at the annual Llamas Fair. The housing estates around Broughshane were visited by A. Aiken with open air meetings and door to door work. Support was given by local brethren.
At Conneen, near Armagh city, T. McNeil and J. Hathorne were encouraged by a large number of local folk attending meetings in the portable hall. The annual Lurgan Conference was one of the largest ever held, with helpful ministry given. The bible readings were conducted by T. Bentley, J. Baker, D. West and A. McShane. At the needy little village of Crossgar, Co. Down, T. Bentley preached the gospel. At Lessans, near Saintficld, R. Pickering held four weeks' meetings. People who had never been in the hall before came to the meetings and there was a sense of the Lord's presence experienced. At Gransha, near Newry, S. McBride and A. Davidson had an encouraging start to the meetings with good numbers attending. J. Thompson and A. Mitchell had nine weeks' meetings in a tent at Btackskull, near Donacloney. Two young men were saved during the meetings and others were showing interest in salvation as the meetings came to an end. The assembly at Hollywood was greatly encouraged by large numbers attending meetings conducted by H. Andrews. The believers at Knockbracken continue the outreach work at Carryduff and have seen blessing in a special effort among children conducted by R, Fry, Dublin.
To the west of the province, in Enniskillen, the half-yearly conference was well attended. Tent meetings conducted there by R. Pickering also saw good attendences. At Lisachrin, near Garvagh, Co. Derry, J. Brown and J. Lemon were encouraged when after six weeks' meetings they saw an increase in the interest. In the Belfast area, A. Carew saw blessing in people being saved at Ballyhackamore. J. Thompson and B. Currie were encouraged when they saw a lady in her eighties, and another lady, converted when she came in from the country to hear the gospel. J. G. Hutchison had well attended meetings at Fort William and J. Martin and W. Jennings were encouraged at Edenderry by seeing folks in the hall who had not been to the meetings for years.
It is good to have news for the first time from Sam Bargewell, who, with his wife serves the Lord in Bray, Co. Wicklow. During the past twelve months, four small tracts and two large supertracts have been published for distribution by hand, letterboxing and door-to-door visitation. In all, about 2000 of the small tracts and 3000 of the supertracts have been distributed. It has been obvious that the people hang on to the literature, by the length of time elapsing before they send a coupon in for further help. Little encouragement has been experienced, but the good seed is being sown in faith, looking for the Lord's blessing.
Speaking of twelve years' labours in Bray, mainly personal work, reflection records that salvation has come to at least 8 homes in the town. The majority of those saved are going on with the Lord, a few of them in assembly fellowship. Bray is reckoned to be the most Republican town in the whole of Ireland. Because a strong rural spirit prevails in the population, presentation of the gospel is made that much more difficult. The assembly that meets at the Dargle Gospel Centre, Bray, is still very small, but a rich sense of the Lord's blessing is experienced in the gatherings. Numbers in the Sunday evening gospel meetings dwindled earlier in the year, causing this to be discontinued. Rented premises are not the ideal venues for attracting outsiders, although they fill a need for gatherings of believers. The assembly held a one day Believers' Conference in a large rented premises when George Hall and Bert Gray gave very challenging ministry. The morning session was given over to a study of Ephesians 4. There was a rich sharing of thoughts from brethren present. About 60 were there in the morning and 80 in the afternoon session. Good support was given from brethren in the North. Because of its success, it is hoped to make this an annual event.
The Lord provided sufficient funds for sponsorship of another 40 young people to go to Bible Camps in July and August. Some of these gave indication of receiving spiritual help and time will tell just what has been accomplished through this way of getting young people to camp.
An interesting item of news comes from Colin Sheldon regarding the Rose of Tralee Festival. There were 14 workers in the team and these split into two groups operating in different parts of the town. Many street attractions brought the crowds and it was not difficult to get a gathering around the sketchboard. Many profitable conversations were possible; some went away challenged by the message. The hours of work were long. Most days the opportunities to witness were open from 3.30 p.m. until at least 3 a.m. the following morning. Although the stall attractions closed down at 1 a.m., there were still people around ready to listen to the gospel. One of the people Colin spoke to was a man of his own age who made a profession a year previously. As he lives nearby this man now attends the local assembly and is growing in the Lord.
Those who attended the Bible Exhibition at Dublin were a cause for praise. Not at the most suitable of venues, it nevertheless opened up many useful conversations with visitors. About 500 secondary students from across the city attended and arrangements have been made to visit the religious classes for feedback from the students. Prayer is that following the initial visit to the classrooms, further openings will come in these Roman Catholic schools our brother was able to visit last winter in this way. Many contacts are made with people, sharing the gospel through telephone calls, door step conversations and everyday contacts making use of every opportunity to witness.
At Trentagh, near Letterkcnny, Co. Donegal, G. Stewart and Sam Patterson had seven weeks in their portable hall with a few Catholics being present on some nights to listen to the gospel.
News from Kenneth Dickson was delayed by the postal strike but there are some interesting items. From Frank Reid in Shetland we learn that the assembly in Sound, Lerwick, which moved into a new hall about a year ago, have had their first baptisms. These were witnessed by some unsaved. A couple, who have a young family, and a boy of 14 obeyed the Lord in this way. As in previous years, brother Frank held meetings and visited homes in the Tingwall and Walls area of Shetland. There was a good increase in numbers and interest shown by children who came to the meetings.
Robert Eadie, one of the younger Ulster evangelists, visited the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides during the summer and hired a hall in the village of Tong, near Stornaway while living in a tent with his family. Very encouraging meetings took place with several professing to trust the Saviour.' The village postmistress was the influence behind the meetings and there are now enquiries about baptism.
The assembly in Arbroath, a coastal town in Angus, has been encouraged to see five young people baptized, three of them in the sea.
During July and August this assembly holds a Sunday School on the beach and many boys and girls who were on holiday heard the gospel. This year the Aberdeen assemblies Youth Camp returned to Forres in Morayshire. George Forbes spoke at the meetings for juniors and Robert Revie to the seniors' camp. Despite poor weather, the week went well and several made professions of faith in Christ. The Tayside assemblies Youth Camp was held at Aberdeen with 130 young people attending. It proved to be a very happy time with the children showing a great interest in the scriptures. Over 60 learned the memory text, John 14. 1-6, and received certificates. Several trusted the Saviour and a teenage girl showed interest in baptism.
News from J. Anderson concerning work in western Scotland. Jim Flanigan had ten days of very well attended meetings at the Glenburn assembly, Prestwick, for ministry on the book of Revelation. He also went to Crosshouse conference, and stayed on for a week's ministry on the Feasts of Jehovah. Robert Revic followed his gospel campaign at Ardrossan by a week's ministry with Jim Baker in the gospel hail. The first series of ministry meetings in east Ayrshire for a long time was conducted in Cumnock with A. M. S. Gooding-his subject, 'The Fall'.
David McMaster had a good week of children's meetings earlier in September at Crosshouse. Alistair Young conducted a Holiday Club at Annbank assembly during the October school holiday week. Each morning this took place in the Gospel Hall with over 40 children attending almost each time. Each evening a children's meeting was held in a hired hall in the nearby village of Mossblown. Numbers this year were a bit smaller but generally over 40 were present. Some 20 parents and friends attended the closing family night.
Al Low Waters, Hamilton, Sid Mountstevens conducted his first children's campaign in Scotland. This ten-day effort saw numbers of children build up to around 50 each evening. Contacts were made with parents and one father attended every night. Good numbers came on prize-giving night, and one mother was there for the last five meetings. One most pleasing aspect was the text memorization by boys and girls. On the last evening, a girl of 14 earnestly sought salvation. It was believed that she was truly born again and many prayers are that she will continue. Here was great cause for thanksgiving. It is essential perhaps, to continually reflect on the importance of the word in the winning of souls, especially with children. To learn the scriptures, to have the truth of salvation implanted in the mind 'from a child'. Let us grasp again the promise, 'My work shall not return unto me void'.
North West England
An interesting report comes from Gerald Bourne. The Manchester Village Work concluded a profitable season again, having distributed over 20,000 gospel tracts, complete with a coupon inviting application for the Emmaus Course, 'What the Bible Teaches'. Over 20 applications have been dealt with. Perhaps the most encouraging of these was from a woman, who, after completing the course, indicated that as a result she had been saved. She has attended the gospel meeting for four weeks up till now and already has brought her daughter, aged 23, and two others. Her daughter came along to see what was talked about, as she was staggered by the transformation in her mother. This new convert had smoked 40 cigarettes a day, but as soon as she was converted she stopped without prompting. She appears to have a thirst to learn and a desire to grow in spiritual things. It would be good to see such features marking more of present-day conversions. One of her friends is interested and has requested a Bible Course for herself. Some applications for Emmaus Courses come from districts that we have not visited. It can only be assumed that they have been passed on, possibly by relatives. Some arrive a long time after they have been distributed. Those who engage in this distribution of gospel literature should take courage from such happenings, even though they do not hear of any positive response. By this means, many believers outside assembly circles respond as they seek for bible teaching. A young woman wrote, T would like to know more about the second coming, and my friend is also interested. Can you help?' This of course involves time given to correspondence, but it is appreciated and we believe that it is in line with the apostolic teaching, that God not only desires the salvation of men, but also that they should come to the full knowledge of the truth!
Two weeks of meetings were held at Mauldeth Road Gospel Hall, Manchester, with Sid Mountstcvens, and they were very well attended by children and adults. It was sad to see the visible results of physical needs and wants in the children. A woman who was concerned about the death of her two-year-old boy, came on several nights, but did not continue the interest. She had been battered by one man and was seeking another. How tragic to see in the faces of children the effects of the stresses and strains, which often are the result of the breakdown in the moral life of the nation.
North East England
A children's campaign was conducted by S. Mountstevens at Killamarsh, Sheffield. Good numbers were brought in each night by a double-decker bus and over 100 children heard the gospel spoken nightly. At Skellow, Doncaster, numbers of children were most encouraging. The work in the gospel among the adults was very disappointing, yet one unsaved young woman was brought in on two occasions. Much prayer is needed for the ongoing of the work here. Large numbers of children live alongside the gospel halt, but few brethren seek to engage in the work. There was encouragement at Netherfield, Nottingham. Over eleven days children gathered in a nearby park in the mornings and in the gospel hall at night. Many contacts were made, and many needy souls came to the meetings. Several have kept up the contact by post.
Derek Taylor reports on various activities. The Annual Missionary Weekend was held in the Tyne, Tees and Weir areas. Interesting reports were given on work in various countries, by M. Reid, B. Aitken, M. Martin, A. Davies, C. Hope and A. Dexter. These were held at various venues throughout the region. There is joy in reporting on several baptisms. The assembly at Consett experienced a particular time of blessing, when the visit of George Waugh from Scotland coincided with the baptism of two older teenage girls. Both have expressed desire for assembly fellowship. A number of unsaved teenagers were present and the gospel was faithfully preached. Also in September, three girls were baptised at Pallion, Sunderland, and a lady of 83 years of age at Whitehills, Felling. At the end of October, believers at Whitley Bay baptized two young men. A large group of teenagers were there to witness the occasion, and both candidates gave their testimony prior to being baptized.
News from Walter Clarke, at Charlton. Road Gospel Hall, Birmingham. The monthly women's meetings on Wednesday evenings still see a good attendance and many are reached with the gospel. A woman who started coming to the hall for the gospel meeting when her husband died, was saved and has been recently baptized with another young woman and an elderly woman as well. This was a great occasion and the hall was filled-a time of rejoicing and encouragement.
The assembly at Cranham Drive, Worcester, held their autumn Conference, with Prof. Alan Linton as the speaker. The subject was 'Israel in Prophecy' and a fair number gathered together. The ministry was stimulating and encouraging, and was completed on Monday evening with an address on Israel's Glorious Restoration. The Saturday evening ministry meetings have begun in the county assemblies. At Crowle, Broadwas and Redditch helpful ministry is given by brethren from other places. These make a good gathering place for believers.
For the eighth year the 'Good News for Bakewell Show' tent was manned by workers from Bakewell, Beighton, Chesterfield and Matlock assemblies. While a large bookstall was used and 120 children enrolled in 'Discoverers Bible Club', the main work was done in personal conversation with the people who came into the tent for tea, coffee, biscuits and a rest. Much Christian literature was distributed.
A brief item of news comes from Stephen Ough, commended to the Lord's work in this county. He describes it as a very large county with 600 villages and 15 towns yet with only three assemblies. Looking west from Shropshire, the mountains of Wales stretch outwards with no assembly work in the 80 miles to the coast. 'The harvest truly is great but the labourers are few'. Regular tours are made into Wales preaching the gospel as well as working in the county. It is aimed to make a concentrated effort in a tow larger villages around Shropshire, e.g., Crosshouses, Ford, Longen, High Ercall, Bomere Heath and Shawbury. In each village it is planned to hold open air meetings at the same time each day for a week. Prayer is sought that the Lord will bless this more intensive outreach to these communities and that workers may be delivered from any disruption.
A report regarding summer open air work in Hove. It has been a privilege to hold 19 open air services on the Hove sea front and this has proved to be an ideal time, between 3.30 and 4.30 p.m., when most people are about. It is also the best possible site and thousands have heard the gospel preached. Many hundreds of tracts, including the new S.G.M. leaflet, have been distributed and a few good contacts have been made with promises to attend indoor meetings, only one of which materialised. Generally the indifference has been appalling. Moreover the few who gathered for this work enjoyed happy fellowship and it is hoped to continue in future summer months as the Lord allows.
We have a report from W. Beale, delayed in the postal strike, regarding work in the west. The annual conference was held at Trimsaran Gospel Hall, near Uanelli, with J. Baker and Ken Rudge as speakers and this was well attended. Helpful Bible studies were conducted by J. Baker during the week before and also the week after. Much appreciated reports were given by Marston Martin, on the Lord's work in Zimbabwe, in the assemblies in the Swansea area. The Swansea and district assemblies were again able to erect a stand at the Gower Agricultural Show. Bruce Anderson of Newport brought his tent equipment and led the team in their witness. A record attendance gave many opportunities for conversation.
A brief report of the summer camps for the young people. The Swansea and district assemblies camps were at Hangenneth and were "well attended with some saved and exercised about baptism. The P.S.S. camp with John Skingley was encouraging, and previous converts were going on with the Lord.
A report of the Christian Village Outreach in the Teignbrtdge area. In all, some 38 villages and small towns were visited between May and September. Sadly due to very small teams, only 14 open air meetings were held. Due to the large size of some venues and the smallness of teams, this season has concentrated more than ever on the posting of the Via magazines, and over 6000 were distributed. In each magazine an introductory leaflet to the Words of Life Bible School was included. Only one was returned and this was from a disabled lady who just then could not commence. A small number attended the Annual Report and Thanksgiving meeting in October-the great need of vision and those who will labour is evident.
Over the past few months the assemblies have been blessed and strengthened through conferences for ministry at Carbis Bay, Falmouth and Truro. At Carbis Bay, the believers held their first conference since the assembly was established and were greatly encouraged with the gathering of 60 to 70 believers. Roy Hill and I. Steed gave some stimulating and thought provoking ministry. God willing, the believers have planned another conference for 1989.
Two local brethren, G. Fox and C. Hares ministered the word at Falmouth, with liberty and power. Truro enjoyed the fellowship of M. Horlock and B. Osborne as they gave helpful ministry. These meetings have gathered scattered believers together for fellowship and edification and this is cause for great thankfulness to the Lord.
St. Austell ministry rallies have recommenced with studies in Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah. M. Horlock, G. Davies and A. G. Good ing have each given much appreciated ministry. Outreach in the gospel has been continued with distribution of Cornwall Postal Sunday School invitations throughout the large village of Probtis. This is the first of a number of planned invitations in this central area where a number of quite large villages are situated.