Sunday, 26 June 2011

Pith helmet: check

In the last post, I wrote that I would be talking about things I want to take to Zambia. I was thinking I would do a kind of Desert Island Discs theme with books and music that I feel I must have with us in Zambia. However, since I wrote that post, I have been on a bit of a journey, which is making me reconsider.
It all began when I went to the Heaven touches Earth conference at the King's Arms Church in Bedford. I was excited to have the chance to listen to Angela Kemm and Julian Adams. Angela was involved in establishing the first brick built houses in Gugulethu and was involved in planting Khanyisa Church where my eldest daughter, Esther, was a member when she was in South Africa. Angela shared her story of how as an Afrikaans woman in 1980's South Africa, was led by God to go into the Townships and befriend Black South Africans. Her journey was remarkable, but more so was her insistance that she was just an ordinary person, in the hands of an extraordinary God. Not only was she able to persuade the apartheid authorities to allow the brick houses to be built, but she has seen remarkable healings as well. If you get the chance to hear her story, take it. If the talks are put online, I will provide a link.
At the conference God did something in my life. I have always felt the need for a precedent before God would use me. I felt that If I read enough and accumulated enough knowledge, God would use me in the way I hoped. God spoke to me in Bedford, that the only precedent I need, is to be His child, the precedent is dependent on the type of Father He is, rather than the type of child I am.
Because I am slow, I was reminded of this at a prayer meeting, where someone had a picture from God of me wearing thick spectacles (entirely appropriate as I am optometrist) God said, if you take off the spectacles you will see much more clearly, don't rely on aids like spctacles.
So, the first thing I am taking with me to Zambia is a renewed confidence in the wonder of being a child of God.
A little while ago I preached about Noah sending out the dove. Because it's a well known story, we can miss the picture. The type of bird that is made for flying over the ocean is an albatross; doves are not designed for flying over large expanses of water. So why did Noah send a dove? He sent the dove, because the dove was designed for the promise of dry land, not the prospect of the ocean. As we go to Zambia, I am reminding myself that we are created for the promise of what God will do, not the prospect of the need in Zambia, or the size of the task, or our limited abilities. I am not sure we look like missionaries or even Chuch planters, but I know we are made for what God is going to do. I have begun to understand Eph 2:15 in this way, the gospel makes us ready.

A friend of mine shared a Chris Tomlin song which sums up a lot of what God is saying.

I will be taking books however, these books have shaped my thinking the most.

The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy
                    The Puritan Hope                                                    

The temple and the church's mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)


 The Temple and the Church's Mission

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community

                      Total Church      

The mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative

                      The mission of God

 The Spirit-filled Church: Finding Your Place in God's Purpose

                     The Spirit-Filled Church

Next Sunday, Gary Welsh is speaking at our Church, we are hoping he will bring something of what God is doing in Africa, especially Zambia. I will put the link to his talk in the next post.
We have been so encouraged by the way people are doing amazing things to support us. 5 guys have cycled the Whitehaven to Sunderland cycle route, raising money for Ukuthasa see BCCC2C if you want to add to the sum they raised or find about about the impact their brilliant eforts will make.

In just over a week, we are off to Turkey and then Together on a Mission in Brighton, when we get back I will post about some values I am praying we will see established in the Church in Lusaka.

So for now, I am taking the pith helmet out of the packing case, this probably won't be the last time.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

When are you going to Cleethorpes?

Zambian Flag

I have been asked about when we are going to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Cleethorpes. People have trouble remembering to which part of Africa we are going. Actually the Cleethorpes bit isn't true. We are leaving for Zambia on the 16th September, so I thought I would give some information about this lovely country,  about how Newfrontiers became involved and what we are hoping to see happen.

Zambia is in Southern Africa. North of Zimbabwe and Botswana, South of the DRC, with Angola and Namibia to the East and Tanzania and Malawi to the West.

Thanks to Graphic maps for the image
Newfrontiers' involvement with Zambia began in several ways. In 2001 Simon Pettit visited the country with Neil Rabey. Neil comes from the Church on the Rock in Guernsey and is now at Helderberg Christian Church (HCC) in Somerset West South Africa, with Gary Welsh. I met Neil when I went to Zambia in 2008 to see Jubilee Church in Livingstone launched. Jubilee Church was the first Newfrontiers Church in Zambia.
Meanwhile Joseph Mwila was studying in Bolton and became part of Bolton Family Church. After Joseph and his wife Lillian returned to Zambia, they founded Dayspring Ministries in The Copperbelt Province where they have a group of churches with several hundred members. Dayspring is also part of the Newfrontiers Family. There is a wealth of information about Newfrontiers in Zambia on the HCC website
In Lusaka, Tony and Val Harwood, originally from Honiton UK, have a business called Shakespeare Court.

They have moved to Zambia to see a Church planted in Lusaka. They are being joined by others from the UK and are gathering people from Zambia. Martin and Amanda Rider have recently moved out to Lusaka, they are also from Honiton you can read Martin and Amanda's blog here.

The vision is to see God glorified by building a multi-cultural, inter-generational, socially diverse Church in Lusaka and to serve other Churches in the country. This is the vision that increasingly fills my mind.
At the Newfrontiers Leadership conference in 2002 Simon Pettit spoke about risk taking, he said "As the Lord Jesus opens up further and even greater new frontiers for us together, we need to become bolder and more willing to take risks." A Church that glorifies God is always worth taking risks for.

I am finding that as we prepare our house for renting we are throwing out an immense amount of things that we had kept. Much of what we are throwing out had been kept because it represented a dream: a different type of work in optometry, things we would do to the house. It would seem that to make room for a bigger dream, we have to give up on other ones. At the same conference I referred to above, Simon Pettit said,"I want to get my own ambitions out and say Lord,'what do you think of them?'"

I am increasingly convinced that Our Lord Jesus has New Frontiers for us all. The new frontier for Elizabeth and I is not Zambia primarily but the untapped promises of God in Scripture. We must hold the name Newfrontiers lightly, there are many other streams pursuing God's promises who will cross into new frontiers, but we must be those who are motivated by the untapped promises of God.

Please pray us as we prepare the house for rental, there is a lot to do! Please pray for someone to rent the house and for a successful visa application.

In the next post, I will share about the things I want to take to Zambia.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

How can you know when God is speaking?

In the biography “A beautiful Mind” Sylvia Nasar tells the story of John Forbes Nash a Nobel Prize winner for Mathematics, who is stricken with schizophrenia. Under the influence of the disease his behaviour becomes more and more bizarre until he is hospitalised. When asked why he did the things he did, he replied that the voices telling him to do the bizarre things sounded the same as the inner voice that gave him his insight that won the Nobel Prize.
It seems that our head only has one voice. For me the voice that says I would like an iPad 2 “sounds” the same as when I felt God speak to me about Zambia. I thought it might be helpful to share the process we went through to decide if God was really telling us to go to Zambia...and why I won’t be getting an iPad 2 just yet!
Look for the track record.

I have been part of a Church that believes that God speaks to people today, for the last 30 years. The basis by which we judge if God is speaking is always does it agree with what God has said in the Bible. No matter how passionately we might feel God is saying something, the Bible trumps our feelings if what we feel God is saying disagrees with the Bible. However the Bible is silent about Zambia and iPads (unless you count Exodus 32:16) From time to time, I have shared with our congregation what I feel God has been saying and on a regular basis, people have said that what I have shared has been helpful for them in their walk with God. On occasions, God has spoken to people in situations about which I knew nothing. There have been many times I have heard from God. I have found it helpful to share what I feel God is saying, asking people to weigh what I am saying. I felt God saying “Risk a year” was like the occasions when God had spoken to other people through me.
Elizabeth and I had moved 11years before this, from Downham Way Family Church to Bexleyheath Community Church and we had both felt that God was leading us to Bexleyheath, coming to the same decision independently. The lessons we learnt in that move would prove helpful in discerning the way ahead for Zambia.

Take advice from sensible people.

When I returned from Brighton, I talked over with Elizabeth what I felt God had said to me. I also discussed it with the elders of my Church: John Radcliffe and Martin Honeywood and with Dave Nunn who oversees Bexleyheath Community Church. Everyone was remarkably positive! This in no way makes them responsible for what happens to us in Zambia, but if they had had misgivings, I would have taken their thoughts very seriously. We were also very heartened by the encouragement of our children to go and see what God would do.

Understand that the Gospel is about risk taking.

John Piper writes:
Is the vision of God that we savor in worship—holy, sovereign, free, gracious—is this vision worthy of all our might?
Are we committed with all our strength to instilling and supporting and nurturing this vision in each other's hearts and in the hearts of our children?
And are we dedicated with all the power God mightily inspires within us to spread this vision of the glory of the grace of God across this city and to all the unreached peoples of the world?
If so, then let us be done with wavering. Let us put our hand to the plow and stop looking back. What risk have we ever dreamed of that would be too great for this cause? Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God! And may the Lord do what seems good to him!

Take encouragement from God

Elizabeth and I had a weekend away in May 2010 and attended the Church of Christ the King in Brighton. We were hoping that we might get some encouragement and direction about our plans for Zambia but if I am honest were a little disappointed when we discovered that Joel Virgo was going to preach about offerings for the work of the Church in Brighton, but at least we could sit with our wallets secure as we weren’t members there!
Joel spoke about the charge that giving sacrificially to God’s work was irresponsible. He told the story in Mark 14 where a woman pours a flask of very expensive ointment over Jesus’ feet. The cost of the ointment was a year’s salary; how irresponsible to waste a year’s salary! But to Jesus it was a beautiful thing.
This is the key for us and the yardstick by which we will measure our time in Zambia: was it worship?

Test it.

Elizabeth attended the Lusaka Church plant day in Honiton in November 2009 and we prayed that if God was saying no, she would hear no. If she didn’t hear no, we would travel to Lusaka in 2010 to see how it felt. She didn’t hear no so, so we visited Lusaka in October 2010. We met Tony and Val Harwood who have moved to Lusaka and who looked after us wonderfully. Read their blog Let's go Lusaka.
We returned to seek God about whether we could and should “do” a year in Zambia. I knew that we both needed to hear from God. Elizabeth comments that everyone was saying to her (including me) there’s no pressure...this was quite a pressure! She felt God speak to her through a book called the Shadow of the Cross, studies in self denial, the decision was made we are going to Zambia. We are not entirely sure what we will be doing, but we want it to be beautiful for Jesus, radical worship for the King of Kings.
In the next post I will write about Zambia and the people who are part of the big adventure.

You can only understand your destination when you understand your departure.

Today I ordered our flight tickets to Zambia. Why Zambia, why now, what will we do, how will we do it? Where did it all start?
Once upon a time is a convenient start to a story, but it is often frustrating to the reader; did nothing happen before Snow White’s parents met? Why was the wicked stepmother wicked? We aren’t told, and the Snow White story can be told without these details. Our Zambia story has a beginning in our understanding, but as we plan, I am conscious of a bigger story, that will shape ours’ and go beyond ‘The End’.
Once upon a time...In January of 2009 Newfrontiers Churches in South London and Surrey held a Churches Together weekend in Butlins at Bognor. During one of the meetings, Wendy Virgo shared a series of prophetic pictures, all of them with the sense of transition or change. The pictures included birds migrating South, fish returning to the place of their birth to spawn and a bear preparing for hibernation by filling themselves in preparation for what was to come. The picture of the bear particularly spoke to me, eating a lot and then sleeping a lot will always attract my attention.
We were aware that we were reaching a stage of life where the parenting of our 3 children: Esther, Jonny and Hannah was going to change. Esther and Jonny would start Uni in September of 2009, Hannah would start the next September. With the children away from home for most the time, parenting would change and perhaps a new stage of life was coming. This was our thinking when we went to Bognor.
As a result of hearing Wendy's picture, Elizabeth suggested that I attend the Newfrontiers Leadership training Course. I hope to post more about this in the future.

The migrating urge was upon us, but where to go and what to do? The next piece of jigsaw fell into place in July of 2009. I was attending Newfrontier's Together On A Mission conference in Brighton. Whilst walking to my seat before the start of a session, I had the clear sense of God talking to me. "Are you prepared to risk a year for me?" It wasn't an audible voice, but I felt that I had been spoken to. I am not a risk taker by nature, I grew up as a good Baptist boy where even raffles were frowned on. The idea of risk, transformed how I viewed the future, until then, I was trying to work out how to fit my life into what God might have for us, now God was saying in effect, let's start with a blank piece of paper and let me deal with the details.

Whilst at the conference, I attended an informal meeting of people considering planting a church in Lusaka. The group was led by Gary Welsh who is a longstanding friend of mine. We had been at Downham Way Family Church before Gary and his wife Nicky moved to South Africa to serve God there. At the time Gary was living in Durban, but travelling all over Southern Africa. Gary also is part of a small Charity called Ukuthasa. I have the privilege to be the chair of trustees of Ukuthasa and because we have projects in Zambia had already been to Zambia to be part of the Launch of Jubilee Church, Livingstone and to find out more about the projects we were hoping to run in Zambia.
As I met with the group, discussing the plans for the Church plant, I felt God say, "Here is where you can take risks"

I returned from the conference wondering how to explain to Elizabeth that I thought God might be calling us to a year in Zambia.

I hope to share how we tested the sense of calling in the next post.