FOCUS PRISON WORK
This report is by Keith Sherwood. Keith is a believer living in Hemel Hempstead. He has been visiting his local prison once or twice a week since 1988, when the prison opened.
When changes occurred to provide chaplains for other religions including paganism throughout the UK prisons a few years ago, a reduction in the numbers of part- time paid Christian chaplains occurred. I took the opportunity to become a key holder and part of the prisons chaplain’s team so the evening work could continue. Where before I always was a helper in evening groups run by one of these part-time chaplains, I now have an evening, which is my responsibility under the authority of the governor and the Church of England senior chaplain.
I run a conversational bible reading. It might be better to say it is my responsibility as it runs itself in a way. I am allowed twelve prisoners, though I might get more or less. I am told there are sixty on the list who want to come. I feel a great deal is achieved in helping the believing prisoners to grow and get used to conducting a meeting, speaking, reading and praying in public. Our work (that is the saved prisoners and we as visitors) is very much that of sowing the seed of the gospel and learning from each other. Others are better placed through spending more time in prison and having a greater opportunity for one to one conversations with prisoners to do the soul winning. But it is a great privilege to be ‘a cog in the wheel’ in the work of the Lord.
The set-up on a normal evening is as follows. One of the prisoners acts as chairman, another collects hymn requests (we start with four to six hymns), another will open in prayer, several will read sections of the passage and a visitor or prisoner will make a few opening comments and open the meeting for discussion.
My co-workers in the work are my wife Rosemary, Rick, a local believer and my longterm partner in this work, Andrew Wilson. As often as possible I get John Riddle and Tom Baker along to help. It is in my opinion a great team. In the summer months a lady called Janet loves to come along as well.
We are currently going through the gospel of Mark and Andrew Wilson plus John Riddle have been opening for a number of weeks.
It is hard to explain the atmosphere at our meeting, it is so courteous friendly, honest, keen and uplifting – it is like going into the kindest of person’s house for an informal bible study.
PRAY that the Lord will continue to bless the work of his servants in the prisons.
Snippets of News and Information
Robert Plant was at Bicester in January 2006 for a week of children’s meetings and school visits. A good number of children came to the meeting each night. It was also encouraging to note the significant number of new children who attended the meetings.
The assembly at Bicester rented the Towcester Town Hall for two nights in April 2006 as a follow up to the Seed Sowers effort there last year. Ian Jackson was invited to preach the gospel.
Two weeks of tent meetings are planned in Newbury during May/June 2006. Ian Jackson of Eastbourne and Dan Gillies of Scotland are the invited speakers.
A month of Tent meetings are planned in Bicester for July/August 2006. Eugene Higgins of the United States is the invited speaker.
Bicester and Newbury – pray for the spread of the gospel in these places over the summer months.
The "Via Magazine" is a gospel m a g a z i n e produced in Canada and distributed worldwide to assist in the spread of the gospel. In the year 2003 a total of 773,410 magazines w e r e distributed, 563,510 in English, 66,900 in Spanish (Venezuela and Chile) and 143,000 in French. English language versions were distributed in Canada, England (approx 100,000), the USA, Trinidad and Australia. A fresh consignment of magazines has just arrived in the UK. Believers and assemblies who are interested in getting copies to distribute should contact Paul or Elizabeth Jackson on 01423 505678 or email [email protected]
Late last year Philip Kaye held a week of children’s meetings in Airedale, near Castleford (Yorkshire). It was an encouraging time for the small assembly with over thirty children attending each night and paying good attention to the word of God.
The assembly meeting at Spencer Bridge Road, Northampton, has with much joy commended to the grace of God, Howard and Jane Hughes, who have been called of the Lord to serve Him in personal outreach work in the locality. Howard and Jane are already working with alcoholics, drug addicts, ex-prisoners and their families and Howard spends time prison visiting and door knocking in the locality of Spencer Bridge Road. A meeting commending the couple to the grace of God was held on Saturday the 29th of April 2006.
Cumbria Gospel Outreach
In 2005 the Cumbria Gospel Outreach Team visited seventeen shows in the county of Cumbria. Public gospel witness took place with tracts, booklets, New Testaments, Bibles and pictures for children being handed out. Gordon McCracken, Glasgow, was with the gospel outreach team for slightly over two weeks. Gordon particularly enjoyed the days he spent in Keswick both at the market and also at the show. Literally hundreds of people were contacted with potentially a lot more being reached as a result of the literature the people received being taken home and being read by the other members of their family. Contacts were made with people from Ireland, Japan, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada and Scotland. Gordon also conducted a number of weeks children’s meetings in Maryport. These meetings were very worthwhile with many new contacts being made. The believers were encouraged to see large numbers coming into the hall from round about the locality.
The Wednesday evening outreach to young people (’the Rock’) in Killamarsh continues to give encouragement. The numbers have been consistently between twenty-five and thirty-five. One of the elders recently received a phone call from the head teacher of a local junior school, informing him that children had been talking about ‘the Rock’, and saying how much they enjoyed it. The head teacher also told him that it seems to have had a good effect on some of the more disruptive children! As a result, the believers were offered the opportunity to visit the school and take an assembly from time to time. There is also the possibility of taking a religious education class in the school. The school is a Church of England school. The last time the believers approached the authorities about taking an assembly, the local vicar refused permission! Now it seems that the door has opened; and we thank God for the encouragement.
The work the assembly in Mansfield has been doing recently has been very encouraging. The believers produce their own tracts on a regular basis, often fitting in with a seasonal or topical subject. Over 800 ‘cards’ were delivered in envelopes with a message based around Romans chapter 5 verse 8 for Valentines Day. So that the householder could request a Bible or Bible study course a reply card was also included in the envelope. So far six requests have been received.
Deans Gospel Hall, Livingston hope (DV) to have a Bible Exhibition from the 8th to the 12th of May 2006. This will be followed by gospel meetings which will commence on Lord’s Day the 4th of June 2006. The meetings are planned for three weeks. The invited preacher is John Rogers from N. Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day
The usual annual St. Patrick’s Day conferences were held in: Aughrim, Co. Londonderry; Bandon, Co. Cork; and Monaghan, Co. Monaghan. All were well attended and the ministry was appreciated.
Last year the country of Romania suffered at least six severe waves of flooding. Many lives were lost, thousands of people were left homeless because their mud constructed homes had been washed away. Little of these catastrophes made the headlines in the West though the conditions being endured by many were horrendous. A group of brothers from N. Ireland has for many years provided relief for the spiritual and physical needs for the Lord’s people in this troubled land.
Many of the believers are living in tents or in schools and community halls. Many of the crops were destroyed, assembly buildings ruined and 300 bridges destroyed. Many roads have effectively been left impassable and some whole villages have been submerged under water.
Country folk who live mainly from subsistence farming have been the worst hit. Their lifestyle has been either drowned or lost. The vegetable stocks for the winter months were washed away and the winter fuel stocks have gone. Villagers who depend on drinking water from the wells now have to buy water.
The Eastern European Inasmuch Trust has been trying to work as quickly as possible to send money to assist believers who are directly affected. The rebuilding of some houses has already begun and urgent help is required as winter is now here. In one village the assembly is meeting in the open air as they have no building to meet in. Two 40ft. containers have been sent out each year, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn. There is an immediate need for financial support from the believers in the United Kingdom to soften and lighten the load for some of these dear believers. If the believers would like to be involved in this work they should contact Jonathan Kelso (028 92 622030).
A number of brethren from the United Kingdom visit India on a regular basis. Michael Penfold of Bicester has recently returned from a visit and here are some extracts from his diary of the trip.
After an overnight stay in Delhi the first port of call was Siliguri, a town in West Bengal in North East India not far from the border with Nepal. After the initial weekend, believers from four assemblies came together for five days of meetings. Each day there were two prayer meetings, three ministry meetings, three question sessions and a gospel meeting, all translated into Nepali. Those eighty or so dear believers started at 0730 and weren’t finished till 2200 at night. They have amazing powers of endurance. Most of them are Hindus and Buddhists converted inside the last fifteen years and it is always a joy to be with them. The brother that pioneered the area is called Raghu. He is a converted Brahmin who left Bombay with Lydia his wife eighteen years ago to serve the Lord in this remote place and has seen several assemblies planted.
The next stop was Calcutta, an hour’s flight south. As most will know, this is a vast city of many millions of people. It is a sad place of overwhelming poverty, filth, idolatry and cruelty. Beggars line the streets and the sights one sees in a day leave indelible memories on the mind. On one such day I went with an evangelist to the temple of Kali. Thousands of Hindus come here from all over India daily to worship the idol of Kali. The streets are full of stalls selling idolatrous paraphernalia. It is impossible to describe the darkness and evil of the place but suffice to say the need of the gospel in this city is very great.
There are three small assemblies in Calcutta. They all came together for two solid days of ministry on assembly and family truth all translated into Bengali. A dear brother and his wife called Paul and Jolly Varghese have served the Lord here for many years. Raising their two children in such a place is a huge sacrifice, especially since they left the more prosperous and pleasant southern state of Kerala to come to here. They need our prayers.
The next stop was Titilagarh in Orissa, the state in which Graham Staines was burnt to death by militant Hindus some years ago. We had three solid days of meetings with three ministry meetings and one gospel meeting each day all translated into Oriya. The saints were very receptive especially to assembly truth. One night in the gospel meeting while quoting 1 Tim 2.5 “There is one God”, unknown to us the local Hindu bank manager was just walking past the Gospel Hall on the dusty road outside. He heard the verse and stopped to listen through the open windows. Later he told the evangelist with whom I was staying (Ajay Chhatria) that he was interested in the message. He said “I have money but I have no peace”. It would be good to hear of that man’s salvation in days to come. Ajay Chhatria and some other brethren in Titilagarh run an orphanage called ‘Bethlehem Boys Home’ which houses just over twenty boys. They are hoping to expand to thirty boys in the near future as the Lord provides.
A visit to Bahrain in the Gulf was scheduled on the way back to England. On the way there I happened to sit next to a man in a bus in Bombay Airport who was dressed in orange robes. He had violet nail polish and an elaborate piece of golden jewelry in his nose. He was continually mumbling ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Rama’. I turned to him and said ‘Jesus Christ is the only way to God’. He stopped, smiled briefly and carried on with his vain repetition. When I entered the terminal another man who had been on the bus approached me and said, ‘Do you know who that man is?’ It turns out he was until recently the third highest police official in Delhi who had given up his career to become a guru/Krishna devotee. He is currently one of the most popular gurus in India and there were press photographers and a small crowd waiting for him outside the terminal. May the little word spoken resonate in his heart in days to come!
There are over twenty assemblies in the various GCC countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE and Oman. These are made up almost entirely of Indian believers who have come from India to work in the Gulf. The week was spent with just one of the four assemblies in Bahrain that has three hundred in fellowship. They are a wonderful group of believers who are very receptive and respectful to the preaching of the word (translated into Malayalam). They are active in gospel outreach to the many foreigners who live there, and also take opportunities as they arise to witness to the local population. One evening we drove out to sea to look at the border of Saudi Arabia. So sad to think of a country totally closed to the gospel where conversion to Christianity brings great dangers.
There is much to thank God for in India and the Middle East. There are over 2,000 assemblies in total yet untold millions still lie unreached. The work in many areas is very young and is not without its problems, but the Lord has worked mightily and we in the West have a lot to learn from these dear believers. It was a privilege to be among them for these three weeks’.