The Kingdom of God is here…..in Wednesbury!

If you’re not from the West Midlands  then chances are you have not heard of Wednesbury – unless you are an Ikea anorak.  Even most people in the West Midlands don’t seem to know much about the place.  Wednesbury is a small town of about 24,000 just off the M6 in the Black Country, situated between the bigger towns of Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.  And only 20 minutes from Birmingham.

We have lived here for just over 12 months and we moved here because this is where God’s trail of breadcrumbs has led us.  We’re passionate about the local church have been helping to plant and lead Grace Church in Wolverhampton since 2011.  We are now beginning to gather a team to partner with us in planting a church here in Wednesbury.  It is a wonderful little town with a rich and proud heritage, a great community spirit and home to the tallest rugby posts in the world!

World’s Tallest Rugby Posts

At a first viewing it seems that Wednesbury’s rich Christian heritage is in it’s past but our perception is that the Kingdom of God is here under the surface.  The local church leaders are working hard but there is a great need for more Christian mission in this town.  There is a great need for those who follow Jesus to serve him and his church here in Wednesbury.

Are you passionate about Christian mission?

Do you enjoy getting stuck into local community life?

If so, why not give some prayer and consideration to making a big call and joining us!?  I can guarantee you would make a real difference here.  Do get in touch if you want to find out more.

Riots in Wednesbury at the preaching of John Wesley!

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Cultural Perspectives: United States on Montenegro

The second post in the Cultural Perspectives series is written by Vicki Surbatovich.  Vicki is an inspiration in godly obedience, patience and hospitality.  I have learnt so much and experienced so many great times with Vicki and her family.

Nearly eighteen years ago we moved from sunny Southern California to Montenegro with the desire to bring the gospel, the living Word, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to this land.  We moved to a city with no evangelical church, no known evangelical believers, and no welcoming committee.    From being part of an active, loving, living fellowship, we were abruptly  on our own, a lone Christian family desiring to love and serve the Lord, and we knew we’d  experience both delights and hardships and learn many lessons.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning) is to view this life, this ministry, these years from God’s perspective:  Do not despise the day of small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10a, NLT).  As much as we would love to be able to report that as the Word is being preached faithfully, thousands have come to know the Lord and are being added to the church daily, we can’t: That is not what God is doing at this time and in this place; that is not reality.

This is reality:   After all these years, there are only five registered evangelical churches in the whole country.  When we hold our yearly All-Montenegro Believers meeting, where believers from every church and those believers scattered about the country join together for a day of worship and fellowship, there are fewer than two hundred people gathering.   Think about it:  Fewer than two hundred in the whole country after twenty years of ministry.  Pretty pitiful, at least by man’s standards.

But we do not lose heart, we do not despise the day of small beginnings because the verse continues for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zechariah 4:10b, NLT)

In the beginning, for years, we hosted all the Bible studies and meetings at our house—there was nowhere else to have them.  Now we are able to go from house to house as different families host our mid-week meeting and our Sunday services are held in rented facilities.  Back then, we were the only Christian family (husband, wife, and children) in the fellowship—all others were divorced, widowed, or married to an unbeliever.  Now there are several young families, committed to the Lord, raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Formerly, we were the worship leaders: my husband strummed the guitar and I led the singing—he was the only one who knew how to play and I was the one who knew the songs.  Now our singing is led by gifted, godly worship leaders.  We are blessed beyond our greatest imaginings.

All this is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.  Do not despise the day of small beginnings for this is the day that the Lord has made;  let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The Mission Continues

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I returned home on Monday night from an incredible fortnight with the Mission Possible team for the YMCA Europe Festival in Prague.  It was a wonderful time and when I woke up on Tuesday morning and made my way into work it felt like I was missing a limb.

The one thing that made it so fulfilling was that the entire time with the team seemed to be non-stop worship of God.  Whether we were eating, team building, planning, singing, dancing, discussing, acting, preaching, playing, laughing or crying God was in the centre of it all and so it just felt good and right the whole time.

So as I drove to work feeling a definite sense of loss I realised, as amazing as the people were and as much as I am bereaved by the absence of their companionship, it was actually the tangible image of God shining through them that seemed to be slipping away and was causing this sadness.

Of course, God is not fleeting and is still to be found in the slightly more mundane of life.  It just takes a little more effort not to be distracted by the less meaningful and to continue living purposefully in the presence of God.  I had a beautiful evening with 5 Black Country friends from church last night, again because God was in the middle of what we were doing.

The truth is that Mission Possible continues wherever God is acknowledged and I look forward to endless more Mission Possible experiences on my own, with my own wonderful family, with my lovely colleagues and with my inspiring church.

I still miss my friends though.

YMCA Europe Festival Day 2

It really would not be an overstatement to say that today was one of the most fulfilling days of my life.

The start of the YMCA Europe Festival in Prague was put back a few more hours so that the organisers could get the site safe and ready after last night’s storm.  They did a sterling job.  However, this meant the formal part of our Mission Possible programme was cancelled.  I’d been preparing to preach so initially I was a little disappointed.

However, the team, made up of young people from 7 countries, really came into it’s own.  We headed down to the festival gates early and from 1pm-5.30pm we brought dance, games, worship, drama and teaching in the open air to those who had gathered by the gates waiting for the festival to begin.

I really feel like we contributed to the positive feel of the festival and our energy and enthusiasm was received well.  The content of our message clearly moved some of the onlookers and there was delight from all those that joined in the crazy Peruvian and Colombian dancing.  I was privileged to preach to the growing crowd of at least 300.  I have never done anything like this before and it was really exciting.

Once the gates opened the festival came to life and the place was buzzing when I left.  It’s gonna be an exhausting but out of this world week.

This photo shows a few of the young people listening early on in the afternoon:

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Mission YMCA

I’m on the precipice of a little adventure.  Tomorrow morning I take an early flight to Munich and join up with a YMCA team made up of individuals from across the world.  I am hazy on the details but the general purpose will be to reach out into the YMCA Europe festival in Prague next week communicating the message of Jesus.

There are already 4500 young people booked into the festival and it should be a great week.  It will be exciting to meet loads of young people and help them explore the theme of this years feastival – “Love To Live”.  Also, really looking forward to meeting up with the YMCA Black Country contingency at some point. 

But in the meantime I’ll be spending the next 6 days with a bunch of strangers doing some team building, training and planning.  It’s wierd to think that there are people making their way to Munich who I have never met but who may well be close friends by this time next week.

It’s a great opportunity and I am very grateful and I feel privileged.  I’ll try and provide a few updates as we go along.

Preaching in Kotor

Kotor is an idyllic town and an icon of the Montenegrin coast.  As you drop down to the bay from the mountains you feel like you’re entering a Norwegian fjord.  It has medieval city walls looping back up into the mountains that were built when the town was part of the Republic of Venice.  As you drive along your breath is taken away with every turn.

Kotor

There is a small group of Christian believers who meet together to worship each Sunday.  Leading the group at the moment is Dragan, an old friend from Niksic.  Like me in Niksic, he iscaring for the fellowship for a few months.  We wanted to go an spend some time with them so stayed over Saturday night and I taught at their meeting on Sunday morning.

Dragan, Mikica & Ilija

 

It has certainly been one of the highlights of our stay so far.  The number one reason is the welcome and hospitality we received from Dragan & Mikica.  It was amazing.  I could eulogise them for many paragraphs but I will hold back.  Suffice it to say that they are wonderful examples of Christian love and mission.  They work hard and laugh hard and are a beacon of light to those around them.  It was one of those occasions for a preacher when you know you received more than you gave.

Please pray for the Christians in Kotor.

This final picture is of a young man I met.  He is holding his picture of ‘God’ and was about to launch into a graphic re-telling of David & Goliath.  His favourite bit seemed to be when David cuts Goliath’s head off.  He really wanted us to be sure how it was done!

Matija and God

 

 

The end of the motorway

Definitely the best day travelling so far.  The motorways in Slovenia and Croatia are top class and we made great time for the first 600km.  Then we began wondering why the road became more and more deserted the closer we got to Dubrovnik.  Then the motorway just stopped!  In my 2008 atlas it had said ‘under construction completion due 2008’ so I thought we were pretty safe but the end of the tarmac meant we had to take an abrupt right and find our way through the most incredible winding roads and scenery.  It was raining pretty heavily but an amazing journey all the same.  We eventually made it to Dubrovnik and Rada relaxed in the hotel while me and Anya went for a stroll before getting caught in more rain and running back to the hotel.

Not quite the ‘suffering’ of shipwrecks, floggings and a pending execution that St Paul endured but the journey has been a trial of sorts.  Of course all the problems are very low on risk in this day and age of breakdown recovery, mobile phones and tolerance for all but the effort it takes to drive nearly 3000km and keep good family and spiritual relations really focuses you on the task at hand.  We’re about to be loosed in Montenegro to lead a small group of believers and communicate the message of Jesus to non-believers.  It’s a serious job but one we’re privileged to be called to.  Watch this space to see how we get on!