Friday, April 27, 2012

Overflowing Joy

Just back home after a journey of 30 hours from Zimbabwe my natural tiredness is tempered by joy.  It has been such a privilege to witness first hand that the sufferings and privations experienced by Christians in that land over recent years have not destroyed their infectious joy.  They may have little of what we Westerners would regard as wealth or material goods but oh boy do they rejoice in God!  Despite decades of struggle and isolation due to the antics of their political leaders these people are trusting in God not in man.  Their problems get put to one side when there is an opportunity for fellowship and worship.  The opening and dedication of a new church building seating 1,000 people was just such an opportunity.  It was such a blessing to be there last Sunday and to witness the celebrations.

Early on Sunday morning I woke in my hotel room and gazed out of the fourth floor window.  Below me the street was empty of traffic, but across from the hotel on a large area of wasteland, thousands of people were walking along makeshift paths.  They had left their crowded shanties on the outskirts of the city before dawn.  Each one was immaculately dressed and they were singing as they walked mostly in family groups.  Despite the early hour it was already getting hot, but these were Christians on their way to celebrate. Their joy is our joy too if we know and serve the same God.  May their example inspire us to keep praising Him whatever life throws our way.  Mwari Wakanaka (God is good!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eric's Missionary Journey

Can this be me?  Can it be true?  The guy who this time last year was clawing his way out of a 15 year hole is travelling to Zimbabwe in God's service?  But it is - at least it should be if all goes to plan.  I leave Guernsey for London on Friday morning and then depart Heathrow Friday evening to arrive in Harare Saturday morning.  On Sunday I will be part of the celebrations to open a new church in Prospect Park in the centre of Harare.  Early next week I will meet with leaders of the churches in Zimbabwe to discuss the training and equipping of pastors and leaders in that area.  What a privilege!  What a challenge!  What a turn around!

Diane, Matthew and I served in the great nation of Zimbabwe as missionaries in the early 1990's.  We love the country and pray often for its people.  Throughout the years of my desperate illness there was no possibility that I could be involved there directly again.  Just over a year ago I felt God spoke to me again.  It was in the early days after major surgery to implant me with £30,000 of electronics.  My heart was stirred with news of the re-opening of the Bible School down there and a real desire was born to visit and encourage them.  Then a friend prophesied over me in a Sunday service saying that what was in my heart was from God and I should pursue it diligently and fearlessly.  So I did, and I am, and here goes.

Pray that I might be effective to achieve all that God wants me to do.  Please pray also for the church in this amazing nation.  These are exciting days to be alive.  Yes - still alive and not finished yet!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christian Time Travel

I am discovering the all new Elim Bible Week at Telford in the middle of the UK, just north of Birmingham.  It is great to be back.  The last time I attended one of these events was 16 years ago and in those days they always happened in Pontins or Butlins holiday camps.  Memories of freezing cold chalets and beer soaked carpets come flooding back as I write!  But now the whole event takes place in a thoroughly 21st Century International Conference Centre and all we delegates are staying outside, mainly in hotels.  Very civilised!

It has been great to bump into people I know and remember well as well as meeting hundreds I don't.  Speakers like Mark Bailey (New Wine, Trinity Cheltenham) Jeff Lucas, R T Kendall and others are a great inspiration even though my limited strength precludes me from attending too much. What strikes me as new and interesting is that everyone is so upbeat.  Elim is on the move again and now has over 500 churches in the UK and thousands more in 50 nations overseas.  Church planting is very much at the top of the agenda and we have been inspired by stories of tremendous growth in areas like Cornwall of all places!

Pain is being managed well by means of my implanted spinal neuro-stimulator so I can contemplate even being here.  Strength and stamina will come in time.  For me, this event feels like a Doctor Who moment - as if I have been transported back to my roots but have found them almost entirely renewed and forward looking.  Christian time travel - in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

For You!

One of the highlights of the last year for me was to visit Israel with our son Matthew.  It was great to spend time once again in the ancient and fascinating city of Jerusalem as well as Massada and Galilee.  Among our many stops in the city we visited 'Gordon's Calvary' or 'The Garden Tomb' where many believe the site of the crucifiction may have been.  Whether the theory is right or not, there are many signs of a first-century garden with its cisterns and a rock grave with evidence that it was a very early place of Christian devotion.

Just down below the rocky hill where it is believed that Golgotha - the place of a skull - may have been situated lies a busy bus station.  There the many nationalities that make up this cosmopolitan melting pot press to and fro in a noisy huddle, all the while in the shadow of the cross.  The very busyness of the place seems to mock the idea that the Saviour of the world died there.  Yet, the shadow of a cross over a bus station seems as right as a king born in a stable.  It was for busy people Jesus died, as well as lonely people and sad.  In fact it was for you - and me!

As I stood in the nearby 1st Century rock tomb I was struck by the inscription on the door. 'He is not here He is risen!'  We did not go there to venerate a site or to see relics of a dead teacher or prophet.  We went because when He died for us He also rose for us and is alive today in the lives of ordinary people - in stables and bus stations and offices and schools.  It was interesting to see where it might have all started, but it is really exciting this Easter to realise where it all ended up.  For us!