"Your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now”, Phil. 1.5. The gratitude expressed by Paul the apostle as he remembered his association with the believers at Philippi is significant. As he writes he is experiencing all the limitations and sadness of prison life. Although he evangelises in prison, it is obvious from the tone of his letter he would love to be free. Yet he is content with His Lord’s will. But in the solitude of the dungeon he has memories to cheer him-memories that lead him to thank God for Philippian Christians. Every memory causes praise, 1.3. How lovely! Every prayer that he utters for them is inspired by joy, 1.4. And he remembered their fellowship in the gospel. This was of such a quality that it stood out as something special. It began in the early days of persecution when he first visited Philippi- Acts 16 tells the story. But it continued “until now"! There was no break; it was consistent-unfailing-sure. The prison cell was not so dark, the chains not so arduous to bear, as he called to mind their warm love for him.
This has something to say for us as another report takes shape. There are several comments which draw out consideration of the value of support for those who are committed to busy service for the Lord. This whole-hearted commitment can be demanding in its extent and at times can give a sense of isolation. Like Elijah, they may feel, “I, only I am left”. Or with Paul, they can say, “No man stood with me”. Such a sense of loneliness can be used by the Enemy to create despair. So we must stand shoulder to shoulder with those who evangelise in the cause of Christ. To see a friendly face, to receive a warm handshake, to hear an assurance of prayer, to feel that brothers and sisters are involved with them-all these tokens hearten and encourage labourers in the field. “From the first day until now”. May we all, as we read these reports, learn more of the meaning of “Striving together for the faith of the gospel”, Phil. 1.27.
Northern Ireland.It was good to hear from Jim Graham in Belfast, that despite the coldness of winter weather, special efforts in the gospel continued. From the Belfast area several of these are mentioned. At Cioughfecn, Jim Allen and Tom Meekin were greatly encouraged by seeing souls saved in well attended meetings. Some were still interested as the meetings finished. At Fortwilliam, Harry Andrews held 2 weeks of meetings and there were some who were known to have shown a desire to be saved. At Kingsbridge, Reg Jordan and Lindsay Hunter preached the gospel. A few strangers attended but lacked regularity. At Glengormley, believers were encouraged as good numbers attended meetings held by Sam McBride and Wilfred Glenn (Brazil) and the Lord’s help was felt. At Edenderry, 5 miles outside the city, Bill Bingham and Eric Skates saw a number from the village come in to hear the Word faithfully preached. An interesting note-this is the village where brother Jim Graham was born and then born again in 1943. At Monrcagh, where a Sunday school work is carried on, Roland Pickering spent five weeks with encouraging numbers coming in. This area is Unitarian in outlook. In Antrim Town, Leonard Mullan (Japan) held some meetings in the hall. One man was saved at Bushmills where David Kane saw fair numbers attending. In a barn near Mos-side, Archie McLean and Arnot Caulfield were encouraged by the numbers attending. Blessing was seen while Bob Eadie and Sammy Maze preached in a portable hall at Staid, near Ballyclare. For twenty weeks, W. J. Nesbitt and Tommy Wright (Brazil) have continued preaching the gospel at Glenanne, Co. Armagh. Quite a number have professed faith in Christ. At Lisdown, George McKinley and Brian Glendenning have seen a few strangers come in as they have laboured there. An interest in the gospel was seen by John Hawthorne and Tom McNeill at Shanaghan. At Garvagh, Co. Londonderry, Norman Turkington and Sam Fergusson preached in a portable hall. Two boys were saved at Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, when Jack Lennox and Jim Brown preached the Word. There were those who seemed anxious to be saved at Dunmullen, outside Omagh, when Jim Hutchinson and Albert Aiken preached the gospel.
Some interesting items of news are contained in a letter from the National Bible Study Club, Dublin. It says that each day the mail brings fresh encouragement in His service. A young man tells of the fact that his brother, whom he introduced to the Club, is coming on well, daily reading the Word and his wisdom and insight into the things of God is marvellous. Because of family matters, he has no other fellowship outside his home apart from the Bible Studies. This new believer is one of many who need much prayer. Some are facing hostility in the home and at school because of their witness for the Lord Jesus. Others lack the means of fellowship with the Lord’s people. It is a matter for praise that during 1985, 5764 Bible Studies packs went to children throughout Ireland. It is good to hear of a young man, just learning to read and write as he studies the Word, saying that he wished to give thanks for the Bible Study which has been a great help to him and his wife. He says that it has helped him in his growth in the Lord.
Edward Jaminson continues to report on various features of the work in Belfast. All hospitals in the Belfast area are covered in visitations of Police and Prison Service personnel. A contact made with a young policeman resulted in him being restored to the Lord. A victim of a terrorist attack, lying in hospital paralysed as a result of an ambush, is visited. A policeman who survived a massive 1,000 lb. bomb explosion in which his colleagues were killed, is just leaving hospital. He is paralysed and suffers a lot of pain. These three people are among many who are being reached with loving witness for Christ. So many need prayer in unbelievably terrible situations.
Contacts with prisoners continue. A number of prisoners who are serving life sentences, have been saved and are seeking to bear witness to their faith in Christ. It is difficult for them to live a consistent life for the Lord under these conditions. A sad case recorded is that of a prisoner who is serving a long sentence and his father died. Edward Jaminson was able to sit with him during the time of the funeral. He professed salvation and so will need prayer as he grows in spiritual things. Visits to the Maze prison are possible, and prisoners are visited in their cells where they talk freely, giving opportunities for witness.
Scotland.Brief items of news come in from Tom Aitken in Forth. Robert Revie had meetings in Girvan and although no professions were made, good numbers of unsaved came in to the meetings. Baptisms have taken place at both Tarbolton and Glenburn, Ayrshire. This will be the third which has occurred at Tarbolton. John Spiers had some good meetings at Coat-dyke, Lanarks, with good numbers attending. Meetings were conducted by Jim Aitken at Bellshill during which believers met at 7 a.m. each day to pray. It was more difficult to get unsaved to come in here, and no one professed faith in Christ, but the believers were greatly blessed in their efforts. Three people were baptised at Hope Hall, Naillieston, much to the encouragement of the assembly there. George Forbes has been busy conducting meetings for children at New Stevenston and Sandy-hills, and the meetings were an encouragement to all.
John Campbell and Jack Hay conducted a mission in the Muirton district of Perth and they found the going tough. A very happy note tells of a good mission held at Whit burn with Jim Smyth. As the gospel was preached about seven people came out and trusted Christ as Saviour.
North West England.A note from Gerald Bourne tells of ministry meetings held during the winter months in various Manchester assemblies on Saturday evenings. Each second Saturday in the month, a Rally is held in the centre of the City and these have been well attended with the Ministry of the Word being much appreciated. In February, the assembly at Wythen-shaw held their Annual Conference. The Word was ministered to an appreciative audience by A. Leckie and J. Gillespie and the Word was much enjoyed. Special meetings with A. Leckie followed. It is good to hear of other Saturday ministry meetings which are held in other districts of Lancashire, such as Blackburn, Burnley, Briarfield, Farnworth, Cleverleys and Preston.
North East England.An interesting report comes from Derek Taylor in Newcastle. At Christmas, many of the North East assemblies held Carol Services with good attendances of parents and Sunday School children. Five baptisms have been reported since the beginning of 1986 at Whitehills, Gateshead and Walker, Newcastle.
The Annual N.E. Sunday School Workers Conference was held in January with practical ministry given by John Skingley of Shrewsbury. There are no believers’ children in the Sunday School at Walker, yet 40 children attend regularly. Many of the children come from underprivileged and broken homes, and they take the gospel home with them each week. The Sunday School at White Leas, South Shields, is small but the children attend consistently. At Whitehills, a new assembly there has no children’s work, so a series of meetings with Howard Donaldson was held. Only a handful of children came, but one father who brought his son was saved. It was decided to commence a “Good News” Club on Saturday mornings, and 200 invitations were given out at a local school. The response was again poor but one mother was saved. Her husband began to attend meetings, and praise God!, he too has been saved. Then he brought his brother and he now has been saved. They are now praying for this man’s wife. So it is that although no children have been saved, their parents have been brought to know the Lord. How wonderfully God in His sovereignty and wisdom works! At Prudhoc-on-Tyne, there is a small assembly of elderly believers and about twelve months ago a young couple moved into the assembly. They commenced a Sunday School and 20 children now attend. The wife and an elderly sister commenced a Women’s meeting and about 17 ladies attend.
It is encouraging to receive reports of work actually done week by week in local assemblies. How important to grasp the significance of a consistent local testimony. Often this work is hard, and becomes the target of Satanic attacks, but it is in the local church that the proper functions of witness are fulfilled and in this the Lord must be glorified. Let us prize this highly- and we would like to hear more of what the Lord is doing in your assembly.
Midlands.The Annual New Year’s Convention, held at Hope Chapel, Moseley, Birmingham, was well supported by local believers from assemblies. Whereas a missionary brother usually gave reports on the Lord’s work and then ministered the Word, this year was an exception. In collaboration with brethren in Cardiff, the “History of the Bible Exhibition” was staged at Hope Chapel from January lst-4th and ministry was given by Malcolm Horlock. The Exhibition has been quite expertly prepared and covers Bible history from the Creation to the end of the life of the apostle Paul. Illustrated by 24 panels, exhibits range from Exodus to the Garden Tomb. This was of great value to the Lord’s people as well as an encouragement to the people of the neighbourhood to visit. Many who had never been into the Hall before came in, talked and took away helpful literature, mainly appropriate scriptural S.G.M. booklets. A number of Jewish people were keenly interested, including an 86 year old senior member of a local synagogue, who gratefully accepted a copy of the Old Testament in Hebrew. Much prayer has followed for God’s blessing on this testimony to the abiding character of His Word.
The Charlton Road Gospel Hall, Birmingham, send an item telling of their new venture of monthly Saturday Ministry meetings. These have so far been a blessing to those who gathered and the Word given has been helpful. Speakers from various assemblies have given appreciated help.
An interesting report comes from Mr. George Gayton who is in fellowship in Nuneaton. It concerns a work for the Lord at Atherstone. Looking back, he says that although active in the Church of England, they had heard nothing of the gospel until a gospel tent was erected at Atherstone in 1935. One evening he went out for chips, heard a man preaching and was gloriously saved. During the tent mission his wife also was saved. For a while they met with believers at Nuneaton, but when three couples came to Atherstone fom London a meeting was held in a hired room with Gospel Services, Bible Studies and a Women’s meeting. One of the couples passed away and others left Atherstone, so the Gayton’s went back to Nuneaton. A children’s meeting had been commenced at Atherstone and they were asked to continue it. A Senior Citizen’s meeting was begun at a Day Centre and also one at an Elderly People’s Home. The children’s meetings were held weekly in the home of the Gaytons. At the Day Centre the meetings were weekly, the others monthly. An interesting point is seen in that the children of children who first came to the children’s meeting now attend. Several of them are disturbed and come from difficult backgrounds. It is challenging to realise that these faithful believers are in their late seventies and they would rejoice to see the Lord raising up others to carry on the work. May the Lord give His blessing to such faithfulness.
The assembly at Cranham Drive, Warn-dom, Worcester, continues to be encouraged with the numbers that come in to the Sunday evening Family Services. A special Mother’s Day service saw the hall packed, with a good number of children with their mothers, and some dads as well coming in. Such times give opportunity to meet the parents of Sunday School children from the locality. A challenging word was given by P. Bees from Wythal, Birmingham.
London & South East.Interesting points of testimony come from the South East London Mobile Unit. The number of journeys were reduced, but the Lord has given help during the last few months. At Trafalgar Square quite a number stopped to listen to the gospel, and some useful contacts were made. At Farnborough the village housing estate was visited, interest was shown and some good contacts made. A new area was visited at St. Mary Cray and several good conversations resulted. One man objected to the Unit being parked on the opposite side of the road. Each time he looked out, he saw the text on the side of the Van! At Peckham, a man at the take-away stood and listened. He was approached and a conversation was enjoyed with one of the workers. He showed concern about salvation and has been sent further literature. On a visit to Brixton, a young fellow on hearing the gospel proclaimed, stopped his car and approached a worker. He was interested in the things of the Lord but as yet is not saved. Literature was left with him to help point him to Christ. How thin the line is on many occasions, between acceptance and refusal of Christ!
We have a report from S. Mountstcvens in his new area of Milton Keynes. Having recently moved into the district he says that it has been a joy to labour with the believers in the home assembly at New Bradwell. A recent effort among boys and girls was encouraging with good numbers attending. Much help was given by believers from a nearby meeting, almost doubling the numbers on several nights. He remarks that it is a real uplift and encouragement when “the saints come marching in"! A parent attended on at least three occasions, and sat throughout, participating in the scripture quizzes. A 12 year old girl who had shown good interest, said as she received her prize, “Uncle Ted, you will get your reward in heaven’. Much prayer is sought for this huge and needy area, especially that the City Council will grant permission for open air testimony in the vast City Centre on Saturday mornings.
As a footnote to this report, the question is raised, “Does it matter whether believers turn out to gospel efforts in tents etc.?” Our brother says this, “I often wonder if the saints fully appreciate the tremendous uplift it is when they ‘turn out’, particularly at tent time. When saints enter it gives added power to workers and prayer volume is increased, it combats the attention of legions of demons to what is going on and it “strengthens weak hands and confirms feeble knees”. A challenge worth considering!
South Wales.An encouraging report comes from the assembly at Sebastapol, near Cwmbran, Gwent. A small group of believers had been worshipping at Sher-bourne Road Gospel Hall since its erection in 1939. The building had been at Leck-with, by Cardiff, until it was moved to Sebastopol. Over the years many of the believers had moved away, leaving mostly elderly folk to carry on the witness. No people from outside were coming in to the meetings and there seemed to be no results from the consistent open-air preaching, giving out tracts and Gospel Campaigns. Then the Penry Congregational Church came on the market for sale and in what was a great step of faith in the Lord, it was decided to purchase the building. Not only was there the cost of purchase, but the large added cost of renovation. Faith was rewarded, the Lord laid the need on the hearts of His people to give and eventually after 18 months, Penry Gospel Hall was opened. It is a large stone building on the main road between Cwmbran and Pontypool. Opening meetings were conducted by Stan Ford and Peter Franklin. During the two years the work has been in progress there has been much blessing, with a number of the local people attending regularly. There have been four believers added to the fellowship. Prayer is continually made that the numbers of this local church will increase through souls being saved. A magazine is produced which is used to contact folk in the area. Here is another testimony to the truth that those who trust God wholly, daring to move forward with Him, find that He is wholly true. He is willing to act! Looking round the villages and towns of our land, how many buildings could be used?
Paul Young gave help to the small assembly at Llwynhendy Gospel Hall, near Llanelli. Special contacts among Senior Citizens in the area were encouraging, and the good seed of the Word of God was also sown among teenagers. There is quite a growing interest among the young people in the Swansea area where meetings in Dun-vant, Manselton and Treboeth are all well attended.
From David Prosser comes an interesting item of news. During the Royal Welsh Show, a number of army personnel were contacted including Sergeant Ray O‘Mara. He subsequently made a profession of faith in Christ and as he was based at Crick-howell, he was put in touch with the assembly at Abergavenny. Here he has been nurtured in the things of the Lord and eventually before a good congregation he witnessed openly to his faith by being baptised.
Devon. One or two items of news come from Peter Smith in Teignmough. The 36th season of the village workers in the Teignbridge area is being planned and the workers are seeking in the will of the Lord to visit some 32 villages during the summer months. From May to September, tracting and open air work will be conducted and prayer is needed that support will be adequate to meet the need. The work at Bitton Park Gospel Hall, Teignmouth, continues and at the outreach hall at Coleman Avenue there is cause for encouragement. The Mothering Sunday Family Service saw some 56 gathering including 9 mums with children from the Sunday School. Monthly Rallies have been held for young people with other assemblies invited. The subject of the meetings has been “The Fruit of the Spirit”. Attendances have reached 61 and it has been good to see young people gather together to hear God’s “Word.
At Plymstock, Plymouth, the meeting had a visit from Dick Saunders during a week-end in February. People braved wintry conditions for a Ministry meeting on Friday evening. Then on Sunday about 100 were at the Gospel Meeting and 150 attended an after church rally. One man made an open confession of faith in the Saviour. At West Hill Gospel Hall, Plymouth, the assembly enjoyed good support and interest at their Missionary Conference where helpful and stimulating reports were given by D. Towse, Zambia and M. Thomas, Eastern Europe. The assembly here face a need of expansion because of the growth in the young people’s work. A large number of children attend the Friday evening clubs and the Venturers on Sunday, and space is desperately needed to accommodate the youngsters who come. Plans are being made and prayer would be valued that the Lord’s will shall be known in this need.
Cornwall. The assembly at Bodmin used a week-end to stimulate missionary concern, by setting up workshops, discussion groups and reports. Martin Baker, Eastern Europe, G. Beami, Zambia and D. Restall, Echoes of Service, were present to handle the sessions and give reports of the Lord’s work. It was generally felt to be an encouraging time and it was good to see young people present. Some time was spent in prayer.
At St. Austell, a reunion and get together of the pupils of the Postal Sunday School for Cornwall saw nearly one hundred gathered together. A number of parents came with their children and the Lord graciously gave encouragement to the workers in the worthwhile labours involved in this demanding work. This was followed by a well attended meeting for ministry when P. Hocking, Cardiff, gave searching word on “Spiritual Maturity”. The outome was a more determined effort to concentrate upon prayer and intercession for individuals. There is an increased desire for a deepening of spiritual life.