I guess I wasn’t prepared for it.
Bob and Mary Cheesman had spent the previous evening with us and stayed the night in our flat. We had been reminiscing about our early years together. Bob had led the Bermondsey church and was one of the early London-based pastors who associated with me before we ever called ourselves Newfrontiers.
He reminded us of the journey he took every Thursday morning to come to Hove and pray with me and a growing group of pastors who were increasingly valuing one another’s fellowship and loved being together in God’s presence.
He also reminded us that when he and Mary, together with Ken and Carol Shelley, first moved to New Zealand they were a tiny group of 13 people, and they constituted the sum total of our missionary involvement east of India. In two weeks time I will be speaking at a church weekend conference in New Zealand where just under 300 will gather from the three churches planted in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.
Pacific Rim leaders’ conference
Bob and Mary were staying with us prior to and following our Pacific Rim leaders’ conference. We talked on the Saturday evening and on the Sunday morning I found myself joined by them as we prayed fervently together for this vast area and for the Sunday morning meeting that would shortly take place.
At the church that Peter Brooks and Steve Brading lead, over 50 of the 65 leaders who had gathered stayed on for the Sunday morning meeting. The church was packed. The worship, led by Kate Simmonds and a great band, was magnificent. God’s presence was very tangible.
I was particularly overwhelmed when one of the young men in the church, a certain Andy Gunstone, led us in prayer. Andy is the son of a former elder of the tiny church in Seaford, Sussex where Wendy and I first started. I remember him as a very small boy (Wendy remembers babysitting him!). Now here in Sydney, his wife alongside him and his two teenage daughters behind him, he was worshipping God. Suddenly the extraordinary faithfulness of God overwhelmed me!
Young guys and girls together on a mission
Across the room I could see Anthony Meczes from Perth, Simon and Sanna Finch from Auckland, and Murray and Ash Smith now from Sydney – all formerly student friends in Newcastle, UK now on an international adventure with Jesus.
Tom and Julie Eaton, formerly student workers at CCK, Brighton spoke with clarity and courage, and shared photographs of their church plant in Nagoya, Japan.
Eden and Fe, formerly from Dubai, together with their friends from Manila spoke and showed photographs from the Philippines, telling of their newly acquired land in Manila on which they hope to build a meeting place and centre.
Steve and Midge Smith, formerly from Worthing, UK now from Phnom Penh, spoke accompanied by three Cambodian young men. Bob Cheesman showed us photographs of the freshly acquired church building in Christchurch, New Zealand. Brian showed us pictures of the growing Brisbane congregation.
We had enjoyed an excellent three-day conference three hours north of Sydney where God had been wonderfully with us. This was the final meeting before everybody scattered again.
It’s pretty difficult not to be emotional in such a setting, being among a crowd who had left home, friends and nations to serve God with courage, tenacity and guts.
Years ago, when I saw a vision of South East England with a bow and arrow superimposed over it, arrow pointing outwards, I know God told us to pull back the bow by planting churches all over the UK with a view to arrows being sent from resourceful churches to the ends of the earth.
Well, it’s great being here at one of the ends of the earth with some great arrows, hitting key targets!
Please pray for these lonely and often hard-pressed guys as they soldier on, believing they are in the centre of God’s purpose for their lives.
When Kate led us to sing, ‘You said, “Ask and I’ll give the nations to you”,’ it never had more meaning or significance. Please pray for us as we go to New Zealand (21-26 November) and Japan (4-8 December) before leaving here for South Africa and eventually arriving back home in the UK for the New Year.
I believe God is making us a blessing as we speak in many settings, sit and talk and listen to individuals, and pray for many. At the end of the Sunday meeting I prayed for a man who had been standing right throughout the meeting as he was in too much pain to sit because of a slipped disc. Praise God he was immediately healed and his wife told Wendy at the women’s meeting on the following Tuesday that he had had no more pain. Praise the Lord! What a privilege!