WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL 2015
As I send this greeting to you, I am very aware that so many families in all parts of the world, both those we know and those we hear about in the News, have experienced a very difficult 2014 with much suffering and injustice. Our hearts go out to them at this time. It makes me feel very humble and grateful that Chris and I have been able to see all our family recently, on both sides of the Channel, and they are all well. It was particularly special to be able to be with my Dutch family in December to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. The snow in Sheffield nearly kept me from getting to Manchester airport! However, we are very thankful to be living in Sheffield at last and feel our new home is in the perfect location for us. We are on the edge of the beautiful Peak District and walking distance from the hills so have no excuse not to keep fit! We are also close to Dan and Abi and our little grandsons can pop in after school. We have found a spiritual home in a beautiful church just a few minutes walk down the hill from our house.
In August I celebrated my 70th birthday in Holland and it was a great joy to be surrounded by both the Dutch and English parts of my family – it was very noisy, with much catching up taking place between my children, their cousins, aunties and uncles.
2014 was also a significant year for me as it was in the summer 50 years ago that I made my first trip behind the Iron Curtain, as it was then known, to secretly bring Bibles to pastors and churches where they were forbidden.
That experience profoundly impacted the rest of my life. It was then that I lost my heart to the believers in those countries as I saw what the Lord was doing in their lives. Although the church faces different challenges today, it is still a privilege to see how God is moving in that part of the world.
(Brother Andrew, Keri Jones, Corrie ten Boom, John Spiller, and myself!)
Many of the church leaders have become close friends over the years and it was not unusual for the leaders in Poland to ask me to visit them in November. However, when I arrived in central Poland they really surprised me with a belated birthday party!
My close friends Jacek and Alina (below) had invited a number of my friends from different corners of Eastern Europe for a special weekend together.
25 were able to attend – even Vitaly from Siberia was there! What an amazing time I had as one after the other shared what our relationship had meant to them. I felt so privileged – as I told them, it was like being at my own wake!
Although I am regularly in touch via FaceTime and Skype, it was very special to do it while enjoying the banquet that had been prepared. As Vitaly (below) and I were catching up I learned about the latest developments in Russia.
The situation for the team sent out to Odessa, Southern Ukraine, by the churches in Siberia is very tense. Sadly, one of Vitaly’s friends, a leader of one of the churches near the city of Mariupol, was shot and killed by the rebels in the Donbas region who are just 10 miles away. Nevertheless, the young church is continuing to grow. When I was talking to Vitaly the week before Christmas he shared that the economic situation is now having a real impact on the church in Siberia.
Please pray that during these difficult times the Church will shine brightly in the midst of the encroaching darkness. This is their moment of opportunity.
In October Chris and I were invited back to Manchester to celebrate the 30th birthday of Kings Church. So many memories flooded back of how the Lord led us in those exciting pioneering days. It is wonderful to see how God has blessed the church over the years as it has grown out to be a real Antioch Church – over 35 countries were represented in the three anniversary meetings!
The week before Christmas I was with one of the churches in Eastern Europe and somehow I could not sleep and as I was meditating on the Christmas story, the passage about Simeon and Anna struck me with new force. Here were two people, well advanced in years, who had maintained that sensitivity of spirit which enabled them to recognise that all the promises for Israel and the whole world were being fulfilled in the Christ child.
My prayer for all of you who read this is that in the hustle and bustle of life, the many people and situations you will find yourself in, you and I will have that same spiritual sensitivity to realise that this Christmas and New Year is a God moment – to experience over and over again that amazing reality that He is visiting us with His presence. That is the real miracle.
Chris and I wish you a blessed and peaceful 2015,
Your brother in Christ,
PS. Again I want to thank you for your continued prayer and financial support, without that I would not be able to continue.