Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled", Luke 14. 23.
The field of human need is very wide. This need in relation to the Gospel of Christ is not always apparent and people do not readily respond to the message. It is essential, as the work of evangelism is pursued, to keep the divine purpose in view. God designs that His heaven shall be filled, and we can praise Him for such a magnificent purpose of grace. There are many of God's people today who, having caught the vision splendid, are literally fulfilling the divine command. Not amongst the respectable or wealthy or even midst the materially poor or physically ill, but where the very dregs of society are found, de voted believers are seeking to rescue men for Christ. Such an effort is a "tramps" breakfast, commenced in 1872 among the down and outs of London by Mrs. Finn. This lady recruited a team of young men from the Clapton Hall assembly to work among the men who tramped the streets of London. At the present time, from November to April, free breakfasts are served in the lower hall of the Bethnal Green Medical Mission kindly loaned. Hot cocoa and a sandwich are provided for about sixty folk. After the meal there is a time of hymn singing and a gospel message. To those in need second-hand clothing is also distributed. Thus it is that on the level of human kindness the claims of Christ are introduced. In our sin-cursed society today, we often have to seek means of going out and compelling people to come in. High barriers have to be broken down. In-built resistance to God and His claims can so often be dissipated by practical kindness. In heaven there will be many who were found in rags and the wretchedness of sin but transformed by the sovereign grace of God. May these reports inspire us to continue the good work.
South of Ireland. In CORK CITY a burden was felt concerning the need to help teenagers in the district of the assembly. Some of these had been saved for a short while and expressed a desire for Bible teaching. It was felt that something more intimate than the usual meetings in the Hall was needed. So it was that Bible Studies were commenced in the New Year and held in a different home each week. This led to the involvement of different members of the assembly in the work. On average, about 25 have attended each week, including some who would not feel free to come to the Gospel Hall and also several Roman Catholics. It has proved a most encouraging exercise. Some of the brethren at CORK have worked among sailors who come into the port, and excellent contacts have been made over the past year. Some have professed conversion. It is usual for some of these sailors to attend the Lord's Day gospel service, having been invited by those who visit the ships. These lads come from many countries and are invited into the homes of people in the assembly. Friendship and fellowship provide some enjoyable and worthwhile times.
Northern Ireland. Various activities are reported from Ulster, most of which are briefly given. At ORMEAU Gospel Hall, BELFAST, where special gospel meetings were postponed because of bomb damage, the hall has been repaired and the meetings conducted by Messrs. H. & J. Andrews commenced on January 22nd. The meetings continued for five and a half weeks and deep blessing was felt throughout. One coloured seaman, brought along to the meetings, accepted Christ in his cabin in the early hours of the following morning. In the highly favoured little village of EDENDERRY, E. Wishart and S. Thompson (Knockbracken) held five weeks meetings for gospel preaching. Blessing was experienced in LISBURN at Wallace Avenue Gospel Hall as J. Flanigan and S. Jennings worked there. Five weeks meetings have been conducted by J. G. Hutchinson and R. Jordan in the Gospel Hall, DUN-DONALD. J. Preston and J. Thompson held ten weeks encouraging meetings at KEADY, near the border of Co. Armagh. Meetings are being held in GLENGORM-LEY Gospel Hall by S. Curran and R. Watterson (both from Brazil). In the little village of DRUMANESS, just outside Ballynahinch, E. Wishart and W. Radcliffe are working and J. Smith and R. Clyde are working in the Gospel Hall, LESSANS between Belfast and Saintfield. Details are lacking of these activities but it is good to know that in this troubled area God's servants are still at work. We can pray again for their protection and blessing.
Scotland. The continued work in ORKNEY calls for prayer. Much is planned in the will of the Lord for the next few months. Those responsible will be P. Harding, J. Hawthorne and M. Browne. A comprehensive Island outreach is specially planned from Feb. 27th until April 28th to include N. RONALDSAY, EDAY, PAPA WESTRAY, KIRKWALL, St. M. HOPE & BURRAY and HARRAY. These are needy parts and we can pray earnestly that God will bring blessing to many. Gaius Bews from WESTRAY, who visited Israel last year with a party of Christians from Scotland, showed slides of his tour at WESTRAY, PAPA WESTRAY and KIRKWALL The slides were excellent and the talk informative and devotional, and there was a good gospel appeal to unsaved who were present on each occasion.
SHETLAND is in the news. At Ebenezer Hall, LERWICK, the New Year conference was addressed by A. Noble and F. Kelling. Although frosty road conditions made travelling difficult, numbers were better than last year and the ministry was much appreciated. Also at LERWICK, David Smith of Scalloway, (skipper of the "Evening Star") was baptized at Ebenezer Hall and received into fellowship in the local assembly at Scalloway. This gave much joy to the local believers. Mrs. Chapman, an Irish sister, who dates her conversion back to 1950, was baptized at the same time and received into the assembly at Lerwick. At SELIVOE the bitter weather conditions caused the cancellation of all meetings for one week. Christian farmers were digging for their sheep for over a week after the blizzard. Prayer is sought for special meetings to be held by J. Merson in March.
From LIVINGSTON, West Lothian, comes cheering news of a special Gospel effort. R. McPheat worked with adults while David McMaster held meetings for children. The children came out in force and four professed faith in Christ. In the adult meetings four also came to Christ. These included a Jehovah's Witness aged 17 years, another 17 year-old youth, a policeman of 21 years and an older woman of about 60 years. We can join with the assembly, which was much revived by this effort, in praising God for His saving power. At HAMILTON Peter Brandon returned to Olive Hall for a short Gospel effort. The meetings were well attended and five people were wonderfully saved. At PEEBLES. John Spiers had a good effort in the assembly which is still in its infancy. Special prayer is much needed here as some young people who showed promise have disappointed. A mother and her daughter over from Belfast to get away from the troubles, were spoken to by the Lord and found blessing. A young couple in the assembly, who have done Stirling work for the Lord, invited a group of their neighbours—mostly professional folk— into their home to hear John Spiers. On another night the husband's employees were invited in to hear him. It is good, when master and employee relationships are such that the way for evangelism is opened up. An open home often leads to open hearts ! At Bethany Hall, GOUROCK the Annual Ministry Conference was well attended. J. Hunter gave helpful ministry on 1 Timothy. It is good to hear of a sense of expectancy in the DUMFRIES assembly. Growth in spiritual things is not only shown in the lives of individuals but also in assembly numbers. Neighbouring assemblies are also experiencing the Lord's hand in blessing and numbers are increasing. A brief note from NEWTON STEWART tells of an increase in the assembly during recent months with younger couples moving in. The monthly Saturday evening meetings this winter have attracted good numbers. Prayer now is needed for arrangements for summer work. News of prison work comes from INVERNESS. For at least a quarter of a century, the brethren in the assembly have had access to the prison. At present two brethren are responsible for one Sunday per month to visit. At one time three Sundays were allowed. The Lord has blessed this faithful witness and there have been conversions over the years and some have gone on well. There is one believer in the assembly here who is a living testimony to the value of this work.
North-East England. News is to hand which gives a more detailed picture of the North-East Assemblies Outreach. This came into being on July 12th 1977 as a result of a burden felt to extend the assembly work in this area. The main aims are to reach an area of the North-East where there is little or no outreach from assemblies, and also to give help to small assemblies needing support. It is also designed to encourage an aggressive effort in the Gospel in the North-East and to stimulate prayer for the deep spiritual need. Method of operation is to be team work, involving Christians working together with an evangelist, devoting a period of time to specific areas. During 1978 it is proposed, D.V., to work in SEAHAM, FELLING and HARTLEPOOL. These activities will cover a period from April to beginning of October. Let us assure our brethren of our prayers in this outreach venture.
Midlands. At Henry Street. ROSS-ON-WYE, the assembly have realized that many aged and lonely folk present great opportunities for gospel outreach. A quarterly "Senior Citizens" tea is held in the Hall on a Sunday evening. This is followed by some bright hymn singing and a suitable gospel message. For the meeting held during March the hall was full and the old folk, transported from various homes by willing workers, showed sincere appreciation of the love and kindness shown to them.
At Charles Street Gospel Hall, WORCESTER, a special Mother's Day family service was held. The Pioneer Sunday School children are mostly brought from a large estate by bus and on this Sunday evening many of their parents came with them. The hall was packed, and with the children's items, singing and a clear gospel message on Hannah and Samuel, a very useful evening was spent. The parents were sent home with a gift of flowers. We can pray that more than this they will find the Saviour. A brief item from R. Chilvers tells that in QUEDGELEY, Glos. several opportunities in the schools have been presented for witness. The children's work continues here without major problems but the adult work is difficult. Some have trusted the Saviour but have problems which at the moment hold back greater involvement. We can pray that God will bless the future work planned in this area.
East Anglia. News of prison work. Mr. Hunnable has been visiting the prison at CHELMSFORD for about fifteen years and over this period has had many rewarding experiences. He gives two interesting experiences of men who have found the Saviour in prison. The first is an old "lag" of about 50 years of age, who had spent about 30 of these in and out of prison. One day this man was visited in the punishment block. Here in a cell that was barren and comfortless, with his face a mass of blood and bruises as a result of a terrible fight, this man was told the story of the Philippian jailor. Subsequent visits in this block and then in solitary confinement built a good friendship, and the seed was continually sown. After twelve months, when his release time came, he confessed that seven weeks before he had accepted Christ. Another young man, sentenced to twelve years at 22 years of age, had a marvellous conversion. From three different people who visited, including our brother, he heard the story of the prodigal son. Completely irreligious, he was eventually led to the Lord. He still has six years to do. How wonderfully God works. Our brother writes, "I hope that these instances have been of interest and if other Christians feel able to tackle this work, all I can say is, 'Praise the Lord." There are difficulties but our prayers will help.
London and the Home Counties.
Martin Baker reports on small regular meetings for East Europeans which are held each Sunday in FULHAM Y.M.C.A., and also of monthly meetings held on the first Saturday of each month. Opportunities are open for visiting amongst East Europeans and also for distributing Scriptures in their own language among those visiting this country as tourists or on business. Place and situation are often such that it would be unwise to give any publicity to them. But God does give encouragement as a reasonable number receive His Word. News comes from a large new housing complex at MILTON KEYNES. Although the target area is still twelve months away from completion, the population has already reached 76,000. The assembly at WOBURN SANDS with other Christians in the area saw the challenge that the need presented. The Milton Keynes Development Corporation, were very sympathetic as they were approached for a building site and promised to allocate a plot of land. A small fellowship at BLETCHLEY, at that time meeting in a house, were encouraged to accept responsibility for initiating a building fund toward the project. An acceptable building plan, fitting in with the Development Corporation regulations, has been agreed. The small assembly of about twenty-five has a large task on hand to raise about £60,000 for a simple building, but already the Lord's hand has been proved in this. Prayer is earnestly sought that the Lord's guidance and blessing may be experienced in meeting the need in this area.
South of England. DORSET Postal Sunday School. As a result of Stephen Gillham's recent evangelistic campaigns in the county and the willingness of a couple from Pangbourne to undertake the work of administration, it has been possible to commence this work. Good progress is reported and increasing interest by the children in the outlying villages. Two regional prize-givings have recently been held. Most-of the 50 regular scholars and their parents attended on these two occasions. Prayer is asked for expansion. Following the three campaigns recently conducted in the large area of TRICKETTS CROSS by S. Gillham, and the need for a more permanent witness, a community centre has now been opened by the Residents Association on the estate, and the local believers have made application for the conducting of Gospel meetings in this new hall. In answer to many prayers, S. Gillham has been able to arrange children's meetings on the estate each Monday evening. One Sunday each month a Gospel service is held. It is hoped that eventually permission will be given to build a hall on this estate and prayer is sought to this end.
WYKE REGIS, WEYMOUTH. Some years ago a small hall was erected on the large housing estate of Downclose, but for various reasons the few believers who have faithfully carried on have seen little fruit for their labours. It has been decided to make a concerted effort with a Gospel campaign led by S. Gillham. An intensive programme of house-to-house visitation is in progress supported by folk from surrounding assemblies, and prayer is requested that when the campaign takes place at the end of May there will be a good response and power will be experienced in the preaching of the gospel.
South Wales. From BRECON comes news of a children's work that has been started. There is no assembly here in spite of campaigns held in recent years. A young couple who live in the town began these meetings and although attendance is quite small at present, they hope for further developments. This is a needy part of Wales with many surrounding villages without a testimony. We can pray that the good seed of the Word sown faithfully will flourish. From L. Taylor comes brief news of the South West Wales Evangelistic Mobile Unit. The winter months restrict travel, but travel to CARMARTHEN has been possible where the Unit always finds a welcome from the assembly. There are a large number of isolated villages within travelling distance of the town and very often the only evangelistic outreach to these areas is through the Mobile Unit. At Christmas, LLANELLI was visited and thousands of tracts were distributed among shoppers in the busy streets. Looking to the future, D.V., it is intended to assist with the work at EBBW VALE and ABERGAVENNY where special Gospel efforts will take place and also in a special week-end at MINE-HEAD with Gospel Literature Outreach. We can pray for the gospel "on the move". Telephone Evangelism has recommenced in SWANSEA area. This is an assembly based outreach. Short gospel messages are recorded by various brethren and anyone ringing Swansea 792222 will be able to hear the message of life. May the Lord richly bless this method of evangelism.