September- the season of new beginnings. This is annually the case in schools and universities and many of us probably have it hard-wired into our heads that the new year really starts with September. Right now this is, of course, especially true of us at St George’s.
Jason and Rachel are our mission partners, reaching out to the Afghan speaking world through the use of media, enabling Afghan believers to reach out to their people both in Afghanistan and in the wider community, some of whom are refugees that have arrived in Europe.
For the last two months, they have had a film student interning with them. He is studying at an Аmеrіcаn university that they visited in the spring and he wanted to come and help after he heard them sharing about Pаmіr’s ministry. He has been a great asset, improving the quality of their video repertoire, and making some new resources such as a DVD with the new Аfցhаn-Pаshto Jеsսs Film and also the existing Dаri, Наzаrаɡі, Turkmen and Sоuthеrn Uzbеk versions to create a single “Аfցhаn languages” disk.
Some of their team are in Turkey this summer, working with Аfցhаns who have migrated there. There have been “water events” in partnership with an Ιrаnіаn mіnіstry. At one event this month, ten Аfghаns were bаptіsed and they were excited to meet more fellow Аfghаn Сhrіѕtіans, especially those who are mature and can dіscіplе them.
A Pаѕhto-speaking team located in their target region have been dubbing some new videos. Jаѕօո has provided a new admin interface so that they can populate the Pаѕhto TV website with their new work. This week, Jаѕօո was encouraged to see Аfɡhаn team members in Gеrmаny and Ιndіа receiving technical training by video-call from one of the Аfɡhаn radio producers based here. They are always in need of more technical support for their team and so it was such a blеssing to hear that their team were training each other.
Jason has helped to develop an app that can be used for the discipleship of new Afghan Christians, as well as a Bible app in languages that are native to them. The “People of God” course app has been downloaded by 900 people and another 100 people have accessed it on social media. Last year, there were 74 downloads a day on average of the Bible app - please be praying that this reaches more people!
Please also pray for the Germany Telecast which will run during the autumn. Pray for God’s wisdom and direction, as well as for its participants and all the planning.
Over the last nine months, I have had the privilege of stepping back from work to concentrate on caring for a new baby and learning how to be a mum. It has been such a gift from God to be able to have this time and a huge challenge as I sought to learn a vast new range of skills and ways of doing life. There has been laughter and tears in abundance. During it all, one of the main challenges that faces all new parents, is working out new patterns of spending time with God.
When every time you sit to pray you fall asleep you need to try a different tack. With a little one who is always more cheerful when outdoors this has meant for me a lot of prayer walking. Listening to God as I walk miles and miles pushing a pram has been a life line for me.
It’s not just babies that cause us to have to rethink our patterns of life. Whenever a change comes through a new job, ill health, the needs of those we care for, or circumstances around us, we have to ensure that in the midst of it all, we find new patterns of prayer. Even when it comes to something like the summer holidays we’re presented with both new opportunities and new challenges for our daily time with God. Are you able to take more time with God during the summer season? Are you able to visit new places and get new God perspectives on the world? Or are you battling with having to work extra hard to cover the jobs for those who are away?
This September we face a new season as a church, as Lizzy is licensed as Rector on the 2nd of September. Do be praying for Lizzy and her family as they move to Leeds in August. Pray for them as they get used to a whole new way of life and for good new patterns.
For us as a church, we need to ensure that our priority is listening to God for what he has to say to us in this new season.
Whatever the challenges of your season at this moment, may you find ways of connecting with God and know the privilege of hearing him speak in the day to day.
I’ll keep walking!
Our St George’s Angola team is now (mostly) back in the UK. Hannah and Debbie are spending some time traveling in Namibia and Zambia, and Dave is staying on at the hospital (CEML) in Lubango for two weeks.
It’s been an amazing trip, on so many levels. We were able to do far more than we had imagined. There is much to be thankful for. God is indeed faithful!
Thank you so much for your support and prayers. It was a massive blessing to be sent with the support of the church.
Here are some of our highlights, and thankful prayer points:
- Spending time with the Angolan church – we helped out with the children’s work at a local Anglican church in Lubango (São João Baptista) the day after we arrived. We played lots of parachute games, and shared the story of Jesus calming the storm. It was amazing to see the children singing wholeheartedly to God, and having fun. It was also an encouragement to see the way their beautiful Sunday school leaders care for the children, and faithfully teach them about Jesus. The following evening, we also got to hang out with around 20 of the 18-30’s from the church. Singing songs in both English and Portuguese was like a glimpse of heaven! We led a bible study on Colossians 3:12-23. It was wonderful to hear what they had to say, and see their passion for God’s word.
- The welcome and hospitality shown by the missionary community during our stay was amazing, and we all soon felt very at home. Seeing the way they do community is both beautiful and challenging - a picture of the church in the book of Acts.
- The Spiritual Life Conference (SLC), which brought together missionaries from different organisations from all over Angola, was INCREDIBLE!
- The kid’s program, based on Genesis 1-3, went really well. It was great to see the children growing in confidence each day, and there was a really sense of joy. They loved learning / singing ‘God’s love is BIG’! The parents of the children were so grateful to have an enthusiastic group to look after their kids.
- We had a time of all together worship each morning, and there was a real sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit and people meeting with Him.
- It was such a blessing to be able to connect with so many of the missionaries and to hear about their varied work through which they share Jesus and serve others: from healthcare, to engineering, to teaching, to stone masonry, to flying planes, to bible translation, to agriculture, to IT, to church planting…. there is certainly room for all skills, if you ever feel called to go!
- Just before SLC, one of the missionaries, who became a great friend during our time became unwell and required IV's. After lots of prayer, she got better, and was able to make the conference.
Afternoon 'all age' activities (including a 4x4 obstacle course/ egg and spoon race) were lots of fun, and again reflected the beautiful way they do community and include everybody.
- Lucy and Debbie had the opportunity to help out in the clinic at the farm the day before the conference (in place of Sarah when she was poorly). The whole team also visited the missionary hospital, CEML, in the city and had the opportunity to see first-hand the vital work that goes on there. Alex also gave blood for someone needing emergency surgery.
- After losing 3 suitcases in transit to Angola, they were thankfully returned just in time for SLC. Thanks be to God, and to the MAF pilot who collected them from Namibia!
- Praise God for safety on the roads, and (mostly) good health for all.
- We are also thankful for the opportunity to visit some beautiful landscapes close to Lubango, and marvel at the beauty and vastness of God’s creation.
Continued prayer points:
- For the team as they process their experience and re-adjust to UK life. Pray that God would show us how to respond to Him and to the needs overseas now that we are home.
- Health and safety for Debbie, Hannah and Dave as they stay in southern Africa for a couple more weeks.
- For the missionaries in Angola returning to work after SLC- that they would remain refreshed and spiritually revived. May God continue to protect, strengthen and sustain them.
Jonathan & Mary
Following our Global Passion Celebration on Thursday 13 July, Jonathan and Mary sent us the following message:
Our year here has been great, an adventure with ups and downs!
There have been many frustrations such as the heat/traffic/ language/technology, as well as many delights such as fresh pineapples, mangoes and Tom Yum soup! It's also been such a blessing meeting great Christian people from all over Asia, and the world, including some very impressive missionaries. (Do think of coming out here to join them; but it's tough too, and the language is difficult).
In terms of what we have done, we've encouraged people, been encouraged and had many one-off significant conversations. The Alpha course for Asians/Thais/Buddhists has grown to 20+ people with 2 groups acting as a spiritual hub in Christ Church. We have also started a follow-up Small Group which looks at the Prayer Course (by Pete Greig and Jonny Hughes), as well as training up future leaders in the area. Please pray for this as our time here is short.
Having time out from leadership has been a breath of fresh air this year. It's allowed more time for us to think, relax, see the world from a different angle, and spend time with visitors. All in all, it's been a great gift, but there have been challenges as well. We have been missing you all and definitely missed being out of the UK during the tumultuous times of recent months. It's also been difficult being away from people we love.
Discernment for the future is beginning to come clearer. Thanks for your love, and for praying for us.
We remember you all with great affection.
Jonathan and Mary
Snap! General election time.
I’ll be honest with you... I don’t know all that much about politics. I care about it and I have my own views, but there’s no point me claiming to be an expert in something I’m not. This post won’t go deep into parties and policies, because I would be speaking from ignorance.
What I am trained in, thankfully, is scripture and Jesus... and whenever I get stuck or stumped by anything, I go back to Him. So for me, when it comes to politics, I simply look to Jesus as my model.
A theological exposition of who Jesus would vote for would make fascinating research, but so nuanced and loaded is that question and so easy it is to reconstruct the Saviour in our own political image that I’m not sure how well it would work. What is clear is that Jesus stood for sacrifice. This stands out in scripture time and again.
God the Son come to Earth, born as a baby, laid in an animal’s trough.
God the Son who made the Earth and then washed it from his followers’ feet.
The Saviour who said that the last would be first and the greatest must be the least when it comes to His Kingdom.
The Saviour who told his people to be like little children, full of innocent faith.
The King who entered the capital on the back of a donkey, subverting the power of Imperial force.
The King who was crowned with thorns and hung on a cross, whose greatest victory was won by sacrifice of life itself.
And we are called to live the same way.*
So when it comes to this general election, here is our clerical advice. Yes, vote. Yes, get involved. Yes, use our democratic rights that so many through history have not been blessed with... but do so on the basis of sacrifice, not seeking what serves your own best interests, but what looks to the interests of others, of humanity as a whole.
In the midst of that, know that what unites us as Christians is greater than what divides us, and that, to summarise Archbishop Justin, 'how we disagree is more important than what we disagree on'.
We commend to you the video below, made by three committed Christians who are heavily involved in politics. They, and their content, are a living example of how to go about politics as followers of Jesus: fully engaged and yet learning to disagree well.
Happy voting. May you know the peace of God as you engage in the gift of democracy.
*Rom 12:1; Phil 2:5
We recently completed our 2017 Vision Series on the theme ‘Stand As One’. This being my first year at St G’s, I hadn’t really reckoned on how big a deal this annual season has become. Over the course of three weeks we used the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to reaffirm our four point vision and look at how we ‘stand as one’ in Risk, Wholeness and Generosity.
All three themes go together in the Bible passage. Both Peter and Cornelius take a risk in meeting one another. Both have to step up into wholeness as a response to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and both exhibit generosity in their time, prayer and finances.
It’s the same for us at St George’s. Our vision is to Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders. That requires faith-filled risk, growth into wholeness and a marked generosity of time, money and talent. The only option is stand as one and give our best if we’re to see our vision achieved.
Sending Out Leaders is particularly exciting in this year’s vision series, as the Bishop has invited Mark and Kathryn Harlow to go with a team from St G’s and partner with a church in North Leeds. We had several independent prophetic pictures in a recent Prayer Gathering that line up with this and the church in question happens to be one that the Harlows have been praying about since they first drove past it two years ago. In many ways the timing seems bizarre as we are without a Rector, and yet it seems that God is in this. The PCC recently voted unanimously that in principle we want to go for this.
All this requires risk and generosity on many levels, but there’s no getting away from the fact that part of that is financial. In some ways it’s awkward to be writing about money, but it’s actually a great opportunity to move forwards in our discipleship. I firmly believe that when we get our heads around giving it often unlocks so much spiritually in our relationship with God. Many Christians struggle with this issue, and often what it comes down to is a ‘fear of lack’- the feeling that ‘if I give x% to God, I won’t be able to afford my overheads’. I empathise with that, but I do wonder, what does that say about who we think God is? When we flip that fear of lack on its head and commit to giving on principle, some ‘Kingdom Economics’ kick in and we are often left amazed at the ways our God is able to provide.
The biblical principles of Christian giving are twofold: sacrifice and joy. On the one hand we should give to the point that it actually changes our lifestyle, otherwise where is the sacrifice? On the other hand, it’s not supposed to be begrudgingly coerced; rather, our giving should be joyful and exciting. As Tim Keller puts it, though, that requires work not on our wallets but on our hearts.
Our hearts always follow our money*. What we spend on, save for or give to shows what we value, and over time will become what we care about. Personally, I’ve still got a lot to learn about giving, but I do know that it’s becoming more enjoyable as the years go by and I slowly grow in it. When I first started trying to tithe my earnings, I didn’t really want to- I just felt that I was supposed to... but over time our hearts soften and our capacity for generosity grows. We learn to do away with the tick-box mentality of getting away with as little as we ‘have to’ give, and instead we grow into a more true generosity.
As I say, I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s really helped to learn this:
Materialism can tether our hearts to the earth,** the temporary toys and joys the world might wish for. Giving to Kingdom vision is the alternative and the antidote. It breaks our hearts free from the shackles of worldliness and makes us more attuned to the things that last for eternity.
Practically, the way to do this is simple but profound: give first, save next, live off the rest. Many who have applied this actually find their overall finances grow rather than shrink resultantly... but the bottom line here is not about giving so that we can gain; it’s about the fact that we’re blessed in order to be a blessing. As we do that, as we stand as one in risk, wholeness and generosity; as we give to the vision to preach Jesus, make disciples, serve the city and send out leaders... I honestly think we’ll be amazed and inspired by what we see our great God do next.
If you missed our vision series talks, you can catch up on them below. If you would like to give to the vision of St George’s, please click here.
Vision Series Talks
*to paraphrase Jesus in Matthew 6:21
**taken from John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount)
Politically we are living in fascinating times. If you had told me a year ago that America would have Donald Trump as president and he would have signed an executive order to build a wall, temporarily closed down the refugee programme and banned seven nations from entering the US for 3 months - I would have thought you were joking. Even the idea that we would be on our way to a Brexit and with Theresa May now as Prime Minister would have been a stretch for me to believe. But this is where we are.
I am interested that, as political vision has shifted, economics has moved and changed with it. Trump has proposed that the Mexicans will pay for the wall through a tax on imports. The Mexicans have pointed out that, through the price rise in goods, the American consumer will ultimately pay for it. As the landscape of politics shifts, across the world trade deals seem up in the air and renegotiation is the order of the day.
As we look at our Vision to Share Life and Love Leeds - that too has economic ramifications. As we long to Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders, there is a financial cost. We have laid out some of the detail of our current expected income and expenditure in the extended letter (click here to view). As a church we are predicting a deficit of £110,000 in our budget next year. Once we have accounted for the surplus from Church Centre income this looks more like £40,000.
In the book of Haggai, the returned Israelite exiles have started to rebuild the temple. But they have got distracted and become focussed on their own living conditions. They have lost sight of the vision of rebuilding the temple that was ruined when they were conquered, now they are throwing their resources into luxurious housing.
Haggai is bringing a renewing of the vision of what the temple is for, and a correct perspective on their finances.
““This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Lottie spoke this week of the 'Shalom' peace of God (click to listen), and this is at the core of God’s vision for the temple. It was viewed as the place that brings the nations together in the peace of God and was was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The provision to bring that vision into being is already God’s, as all things belong to him.
As we approach our Vision Gift Day on Sunday, we are encouraging members of the church to prayerfully (the risk starts with prayer!) consider their giving to the Vision of St George’s and come together to respond as an act of commitment and worship. We do this because we want to see the wholeness, fullness, peace and unity of the gospel in Leeds, in every life, community, and church across the city as we seek to Share Life and Love Leeds.
We are at a point of transition at St George’s; but Our Vision of Sharing Life and Loving Leeds continues in our four practices to: Preach Jesus, Make Disciples, Serve the City and Send Out Leaders. These points of transition can be challenging but can equally open up potential opportunities for us. As we move forward, it is important that we ’Stand as One’ in both the challenges and opportunities.
Last week, in our sermon series we talked about ‘Risk’ - that when decisive moments come which can change the future for an individual or a community they will involve risk. As followers of Jesus, these decisive moments come out of prayer because “the risk starts with prayer”. We pray that God will give us vision, as he did for Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10. This vision may lead us into risks of reputation and resource as we are called to see the Kingdom of God grow. As church we'll be 'starting with prayer' this month, gathering together to pray as a church family, on Tuesday 31st January at 7:30pm in the St George’s Centre. It is our hope that as each of us pray through this period that we will be open to the vision of God in our own lives, our communities, workplaces, and networks.
This is something St George’s has a long history in. When Don Robins opened the Crypt beneath the church in the 1930’s it was a risk; when Community Church was planted across the bridge it was a risk; when we were invited to partner with Wrangthorn it was a risk and when Lighthouse was established it was a risk. All of these required a risk of resource, and a risk of reputation, but started from a place of praying with eyes open to the opportunities around us. We have an opportunity for a new risk at this time as we explore a new partnership with another church in Leeds, but it is a risk that has started from prayer and we will be guided through the process in prayer.
However, we need not live in the fear of risk - because “the risk ends with Jesus.” It is not that we will not be afraid or wrestle with thoughts of success or failure, but that we will not be defined by that success or failure, fear or doubt, because we are defined by Jesus and it is his life that defines us.
It is in the hope of Jesus that we 'Stand as One'.
Barbara Eykel and Andy Eaves recently visited Uganda to visit projects that are part of the Tearfund/ PEP programme. St George's has supported this project since 2013
My recent trip to Uganda to visit PEPprojects (participatory evaluation project) with Andy Eaves and others was truly inspirational. Tearfund and the PAG church in Uganda are working together on a process that changes people’s mindset from dependency to one of realisation that they have God-given resources that they can use. A change from ‘if only someone would give us’ to a realisation that ‘we already have….’
We visited four churches in the Soroti area with Judith who is incharge of PEP for PAG in the Eastern area and led by Owen Crane from Tearfund. Transport was by Land Cruiser driven very ably by Moses. It was fantastic to go to Lale on the first Sunday after arriving there and I found it a place of such joy. There was a sturdy roof in place and an amazing welcome with much singing, cheering and dancing!! There are several churches in the Lale area and many had come from the other churches so it was very full with other denominations there as well, all working together.
After the service we went to see some of the local projects while lunch was being cooked. We visited Jimmy who has developed his mango plantation and has learned how to graft them to produce a better variety. He also had a field of tomatoes. He told us he used to only have one pair of trousers but now he can have more! We then visited a family who have a brick house which makes them feel safer and protects them against the weather. He has made the bricks from the ant hills which are plentiful and he can sellextras to provide for his family. It took quite a while to visit these two as the projects are quite spread out.
Lunch when we got back was rice, potatoes, cabbage, interesting pieces of chicken and sauce - and this was the pattern that followed on each of our visits to other churches. As a parting gift we were each given a chicken - a really precious gift to be given. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do with them but they came with us for the rest of the week and Moses the driver ended up with them - probably eaten by now!
We visited a church where the project has not yet started and the difference was tangible. One man asked us what we had come to give him - no change of mindset yet. We also visited another project which has been going for twelve years and they are involved in successful advocacy as well as saving small sums of money, initiated by the women themselves So we can see how Lale might develop.
We met with the Bishop Sam of Soroti and he wanted feedback so we talked about the difficulty of communication as it was plain to see why there was little information coming from Lale. He and PAG and Tearfund are looking into how this can be improved so that supporting churches have more up to date information .
There is a committed prayer group from St George’s who have met regularly for the last three years to pray for Lale, as well as the Nunn family who are in Ethiopia. It was therefore thrilling to be able to share up to date information as well as photos and see what a change has taken place since the process began.