For the third year in a row, the believers at North Leigh have sought to reach out to the local area with a February half-term Children’s Holiday Bible Club. They were encouraged again this year to see a further increase in the numbers of children reached with the gospel. Following the publicity and visit to the local school, prayer was answered by the presence of thirty children over the three days, along with four parents! The saints were assisted by Steve Buckeridge who also helped in the evenings with a Gospel Campaign. Steve used his experiences working as a Chaplain at Heathrow to tell out the gospel, challenging those who came with titles such as ‘choosing your destination’ and your ‘final call’. Over the three nights, a further eight adults attended, all as a result of personal invitation, one of whom has since attended a subsequent gospel meeting. Friday Focus was set up four years ago with the primary aim to bring monthly Bible teaching to the young people of Oxfordshire and the surrounding area. The fourth in the series has been looking at ‘Pictures from the Old Testament’ and, in particular, covering the tabernacle and the offerings. Each September a weekend of meetings is held and last year a full day’s teaching was also introduced in March. Around eighty, mainly young people, were present as Iain Lewis, Aberdeen, taught on the topics of, ‘The biblical parties to marriage’, ‘The biblical purity of marriage’ and ‘The biblical pattern of marriage’. As society around seeks to normalize sin and undermines this divine institution, it was good to learn what God’s word has to say very clearly on these matters.
The assembly at Bracknell Gospel Hall held a Holiday Bible Club during February half-term with seventy different children attending throughout the week. As many as twelve unsaved parents were also present, with some coming every day. Good links continue to be established with the primary school adjacent to the hall. School assemblies have been taken and an Easter exhibition is planned for April. Permission has also been given to distribute children’s Bibles on an annual basis to the reception classes, which comprise about sixty children.
Coleford Gospel Hall is situated on the High Street of the village and is well placed as a stop-off for mums returning from delivery of their children to the village school. As many as twenty-five mums take the opportunity to come in with their tots – which can result in space being at a premium!
Over the February half-term, the assembly had a profitable Holiday Bible Club for children of school age with Gordon McCracken and attendance was approximately forty children each day. There was good interest from the youngsters and the subject of the week was ‘Animals of the Bible’. The family service was well attended at the end of the week, with a number of the parents present.
Last year a Coffee Morning was started on the first Tuesday of the month and this has been successful in bringing people into the hall. Many spiritual conversations have been held and literature handed out and some are attending the gospel meetings as a result of this ‘Building Bridges’ outreach.
In October, a Children’s Mission is planned and it is hoped that a number of visits will be possible into local schools to present Bible stories. Prayer is needed that the schools will remain open to visits by Christians seeking to make the gospel known.
The assembly at Kirkby continue their market stall outreach in the Idlewells Shopping Centre. This year they were to be charged for the stall but have been offered it for free for alternate months rather than every month. Prayer is requested for this opportunity to continue to be available. The assembly paid to have a stall in the Kirkby precinct for the Christmas lights switch-on. The weather was very cold but over 200 calendars were given out and one man has attended the gospel meetings ever since as a consequence of this outreach.
Jim McMaster reports, ‘A few weeks ago we heard of the death of Tony Pratt. I first met this man in jail in the late 90’s. He was part of a large criminal family who were well known and pretty high up in the local pecking order amongst the Tyneside law-breaking community. He was a heavy drug user but not a street person. For two years he had managed to avoid being brought back into prison but had sunk lower and lower in his drug use, depression and ultimately isolation. In December of 2012, at his lowest point, hungry and cold in a flat without heating, he made his way to our Sunday night soup kitchen, where we renewed our contact. The story is quite remarkable but Tony tells how, lost and confused, he prayed, and then decided to make his way home, “stumbling" on the soup kitchen at the very last minute. The fresh contact allowed us to encourage this man and, after several visits to be fed on a Lord’s Day evening, he became deeply impressed by the witness of two of our young brothers. Mainly as a result of their influence Tony attended our Carol Service in 2012 and often related how the Lord had saved him. He would tell how that after the service he walked home slowly, thinking seriously about what he had heard. “I had been brought up as a Catholic and always believed in God. I always thought a person had to work hard to get to heaven and even then it was never guaranteed. That night I heard for the first time that Christ had died for MY sins and that working was useless. All I had to do was TRUST! So I stopped half-way over the Tyne bridge, looked up to the stars, and right there and then put my faith in the Lord Jesus to save me".
By God’s grace Tony lived to prove his reality of faith in the Lord Jesus. Despite frequent personal difficulties and illness as a result of his former life, he was baptized and became a precious member of the local fellowship. The young brothers in the assembly regularly visited Tony in his flat for Saturday evening Bible study and encouragement. It was only a few weeks ago we wept as he stood in the morning meeting to thank God for His Son.
We were deeply shocked, then, when waiting for him to arrive at the gospel meeting an old friend of Tony’s arrived with the news that Tony had died last Friday. It seems that he died of natural causes. He was a very severe diabetic and, due to his previous life, was always in a very precarious position with his health. What a shock to all in the meeting that night, both believer and unbeliever. We are deeply sad still that we have lost one whom we were so close to, but rejoice in the absolute assurance that Tony was the Lord’s and that he is at rest in the presence of his Saviour.
The needs on the streets never decline, rather, the reverse; they seem to continue to increase both in numbers and intensity. It would be inappropriate to go into the details of modern drug abuse; sufficient to say that the recent national upsurge in the distribution and availability of “Legal Highs" fills our heart with fear and urgency as we watch young lives being ruined and sucked away by such dangerous material. Last night, we spent much of our time trying to stop several from openly using these drugs at our soup kitchen. While, in the main, respect is always shown to us aggression is never far below the surface. I am grateful to the Lord for special help in dealing with such an incident last night and grateful too for some “special skills" picked up through eighteen years of training inside prison. As I witnessed to Donna, I offered her a ten commandment coin (a useful and memorable witnessing aid). She told me she had seen one like that before. She related how her grandfather, who I knew from prison and the streets, had died a few years ago and insisted that the ten commandment coin I had given him was embedded in his headstone. I hope to try and find the location of the grave soon and get a photograph. The Lord is so gracious in showing the things that He is doing behind the scenes. The street work is challenging and is routine to us now. We have hundreds of contacts and scores of people who at one time or other come to hear the gospel at Bensham’.
Alan and Valerie Kyle from Hanches, France write, ‘The recent dramatic events in Paris and the surrounding area gripped the attention of the French nation and much of the world. A march to defend freedom of speech and the French way of life brought together a huge crowd of people from all walks of life and leaders from over forty nations. One newspaper called the tragedy “France’s 9/11”. The slogan that appeared rapidly after the events, “Je suis Charlie" put Christians in a difficult position. Yes they are “Charlie" if it means defending freedom of speech and condemning the dreadful attacks, but no, they are not Charlie if it means identifying with the philosophy of the French satirical newspaper attacked. There is no doubt that French Christians have had more opportunities to witness to their faith in Christ over the past two weeks but, unfortunately, it has increased suspicion of everything religious. We value your prayers for this great nation.
We continue to work happily hand–in-hand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Rambouillet. On Sunday mornings we welcome new people almost every week; some are just passing by, some are Christians, while others do not know the Lord as yet. There is a very international flavour, with over a dozen nationalities regularly represented. Among them are many young people; we long for them to make their lives count for the Lord. God willing M will be baptized in April, a first generation Christian. Do pray for Fred and Sarah who lead the young adults group. One of our young people works in the same street as the Charlie Hebdo offices and was there when the attack took place’.
Jonathan and Ruth Kelso write as follows, ‘Irina is a sixteen-year-old Romanian girl who has grown up under very difficult circumstances in the village of Gaura Râului. Her mother died six years ago, leaving Irina and her three siblings in the care of their elderly grandparents, Vasile and Jeni.
We got to know this family shortly after the death of Irina’s mother; we tried to help where and when we could and encouraged the family to come to the assembly meetings. They began to attend and Jeni was the first to profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Old Vasile (who passed away last year) was the next to be saved and, soon afterwards, both were baptized and became members of the little assembly. Irina and her younger sister, Vasilica, thirteen years old, have been very keen attenders at most of the meetings over the past six years. They have attended many camps and have always been a part of our lives here in Romania.
Last year, we decided that the girls should have a little house built specifically for them; living in conditions that were too cramped and unhygienic was not altogether ideal. They now live in a new house, which was built inside the courtyard of their existing home, improving their living standards greatly. Last September, Irina moved to the Christian high school in Sibiu and has been so enthusiastic about this new chapter in her life. It has been so encouraging to see how well she has “slotted into" life in her new school. She has the motivation to achieve and do well in class and so rising every morning at six and catching two buses to be at school on time for class at eight is not a big problem for her.
On the 13th of February this year, Irina courageously faced up to the biggest problem in her life – her sin! The burden of guilt was weighing her down and she knew that God was speaking very loudly to her. We were holding a birthday party at our home and, while the others were having fun, Irina went off to a room to seek God’s salvation. Later that evening, a much more joyful Irina told us that she had repented of her sins and accepted Christ as her Saviour
On Sunday morning something very lovely happened; at an opportune moment, Irina stood up and announced to those gathered, mostly unsaved folk, about the change that had taken place in her life. It was a very courageous thing to do, but was fully in accord with the words of Romans chapter 10 verse 9, that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’.