Last time we saw the importance of having a good relationship between the elders of the church and the trustees of the charity under which it operates. When considering registering a charity – a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) is probably now the preferred option – there are three very important features to consider.
1. What are the objectives of the charity?
2. What is the geographical sphere in which the charity will operate?
3. Who should be the trustees? Since we have been thinking about the trustee/elder dynamic I shall first address the third point.
Who should be a Trustee?
In some ways it might be thought that, in an ideal world, the trustees and elders should be the same people to avoid the ‘double-headed monster’ syndrome we discussed last time. For a small church this may well be possible. Legally, provided that any trustees (or family relation) paid by the church are in the minority on the trustee body, such an overlap can take place. (This does make the assumption that the legal instrument for the charity has been written in a way that does not preclude this.) However, for any discussions concerning finances that affect the trustees (eg setting salaries) they must absent themselves.
In a small church there may be no elder (or relation) paid by the church (strictly speaking they would be employed by the charity) so the congruity of the two bodies can take place. Organisationally this can be convenient and allow decisions to be made quickly.
However, as a church grows there can be real benefits in the two bodies being distinct, though some common membership is very helpful in facilitating communication between the two bodies. There are four reasons for this.
- This distinctiveness brings the added value of extra skill sets to help the elders.
- The trustees may be able to take some of the load of implementation if, for instance, they can handle some specialist area such as contract negotiation on a building project.
- Trustees can be added ‘ears and eyes’. They are often in touch with the church members in ways that the elders can never achieve, despite the elders’ desire to do so. Having a lower profile than the elders, trustees may find it easier to sense the temperature of church opinion as members may be less ‘guarded’ in their presence.
- Following on from 3, trustees are also the first test of a good eldership decision – if the trustees don’t ‘buy it’ then the rest of the church almost certainly won’t either.
When considering specific people who could become trustees there are three criteria to consider: 1. Spiritual maturity, 2. Skills, 3. Team dynamics. (Potential trustees should be proposed by the elders who will be aware of their spiritual maturity etc).
Although trusteeship is a functional role it carries significant responsibility. If a trustee is more disposed to being rule-based than Spirit-led he or she can hinder rather than help the progress of the church by pressing the interpretation of charitable law and procedures too far (not that I am advocating breaking the law!). On occasion I have met churches where the trustee body has tried to take too great an authority, such as treating the elders as ‘hirelings’. This at best is unhelpful and at worst can lead to a breakdown in trust and relationship.
Our trustees at CCK took the role very seriously and prayerfully. It is important for trustees to be able to operate in their own faith, not just to be there to bring their skill set.
Professional skills should be considered to complement those of the elders and other trustees. Typically it is helpful to have people who are professionally trained in such disciplines as the law, finance, building matters, human resources, and so on. I was greatly privileged to have some highly qualified colleagues who offered their expertise graciously and willingly; a joy to serve with.
Trustees work as a team so there needs to be the easy give-and-take of a team while not submerging anyone who may be less extrovert. It is for the chair to determine the dynamics of a team meeting and ensure that all members contribute to the discussion without any one member dominating the meeting. In another blog I have given guidelines on chairing meetings where I have addressed this issue more fully,
In the next posting I will consider the Objectives and the Geographical Sphere of Operation.
A further word on finance
Following the last posting someone has kindly suggested that these two links are helpful on the subjects of Trading and VAT. Thank you David!
A preliminary observation
Since posting part 1 of this series I met with a staff member of a denominational church. That meeting reminded me that denominations often have their own legal frameworks, structures and terminology. The experience I have is based on independent, non-denominational churches and as such may vary in some respects from churches within denominations. So, I must reiterate that it is important that this series is taken as only my personal observations; appropriate legal advice should be sought when creating a new charity.
Although a church does not have to be a charity this is increasingly the norm, especially if the church wishes to enjoy the tax benefits afforded to charities such as the recovery of tax through Gift Aid (in the UK) on donations that have been made out of taxed income. But charitable status potentially produces a conflict:
1. Trustees are responsible for the governance of a charity
2. Elders (the term I shall use from now on for the spiritual leadership) are responsible before God for the leadership of the church
The result? A two-headed monster! So, who makes decisions?
There is a helpful paper (Guide to churches on spiritual leadership and trustees) available from the Stewardship website which very helpfully addresses this issue, the double-headed leadership of elders and trustees. Further, in the UK, the potential conflict between these two leadership bodies is recognised and understood by the Charity Commission. So any potential conflict should not exist provided that both bodies, particularly the trustees, are spiritually mature and do not try to push their remit too far.
For myself I chaired the trustees (in fact, directors – we had a charitable company structure) of Church of Christ the King in Brighton, UK, for 30 years and enjoyed a positive and mutually supportive relationship with the body of elders, of which I was a member for some of this time. Initially, when the church was quite small, the trustees did little but lend support to the elders in their decisions, ensuring that they fell within the charitable objectives of the charity. As the church grew there was an increasing need for specialists to be appointed as trustees who could bring ‘added value’ to elders’ decision-making with professional expertise in the law, building matters, finance and so on. They could thus complement the gifting represented in the eldership.
The role of trustees
I saw the primary role of trustees in the church context as having two main elements:
1. To be guardians of the objectives of the trust
2. To ensure responsible stewardship of the finances by carefully monitoring how these are administered and audited
This was obviously not their total role; for instance, trustees are also expected to explain themselves and the church policies/actions to the outside world if necessary, although this was rarely needed in the context in which I worked. So trustees were chosen as men and women who were comfortable for the elders to make decisions related to the direction and fulfilment of the church’s commission. But they were far more than ‘rubber stampers’. They actively monitored, commented on, adjusted and offered support to these decisions from the perspective of seeing that the charity aspects were run effectively. As faithful and faith-filled people committed to the work of the church they always operated to a high standard of excellence.
Risk v Faith – do they conflict?
What happened when elders made a ‘risky’ decision which required finances that, in the natural, were not readily available? Our responsibility as trustees was to look at the finances and the risks associated with the decision and ensure that the elders fully understood what these were. Once we were sure these were clearly understood we could then, as members of the church, throw our support and faith (and personal finances!) behind the leadership of the elders and join them in seeking God for his provision. We had many exciting times in prayer and, surprise surprise, God never let us down!
Next time we shall look at greater depth into the appointment of trustees.
Footnote re Tax
Several times in this posting I have mentioned finance. It is beyond the remit of this series to explore the intricacies of finance, particularly tax, in any more detail. However, I have found that many people live under the misapprehension that charities are VAT-exempt. This is not true. A charity is fully liable to pay VAT on its purchases and indeed fulfil all the relevant tax requirements of the law. It is particularly important to seek professional advice if, as a charity, you may be trading; there are some very specific requirements and constraints on trading as a charity.
In the UK most churches have charitable status. Several also have associated charities, often to help facilitate a ministry to those who are poor or in need. Most other nations have a comparable charitable structure, although inevitably they differ in the detail.
For well over 30 years I have worked within a charitable environment on the staffs of both the Newfrontiers family of churches and Church of Christ the King (Brighton), and at different times I have been a trustee of these and other charities, in some cases as chair.
Recently I have been contacted by several people for advice and opinion about setting up charities, how elders and trustees should relate, and so on. So I felt the time seemed opportune to share my thoughts and experience.
I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, so I must state clearly that this short series of blogs will be an expression of a personal view and experience. Appropriate professional advice should be sought by anyone setting up a charity. There is also much good resource material on the websites of the Charity Commission (for England and Wales), OSCR (for Scotland) and Stewardship, an independent Christian charity which helps people manage their giving and also provides a service to advise and set up charities etc.
What is a charity?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a charity as ‘An organisation set up to provide help and raise money for those in need’. This definition carries the three key elements pertinent to most charities:
Goal: To improve the lives of those in need
Purpose: Actively to provide help
Primary resource: Finance.
So, the following summarises the generally recognised characteristics of a charity:
- Must be for Public Benefit
- A vehicle to improve or enrich the life or lives of people, often those who may in some way be at a disadvantage.
- A vehicle for handling funds, but not for profit
The driver for setting up a charity is usually the requirement for finance, although the required governance associated with it also provides a good structure for running a ministry or project, provided the activity does not become clogged with administrative requirements. Indeed, a charity helps the church to take on an appropriately ‘professional’ stance in the way it handles such issues as policies on complaints, conflicts of interest, investment and risk management and, of course, child protection.
Clearly the outworking of charitable activity may be practiced in a multiplicity of ways related to: Health, Education, Religion, Poverty Relief, Crisis Intervention (both personal and corporate), the Arts etc. The remit is wide.
Trusts, Companies and Incorporated Organisations
For hundreds of years charities were set up as Charitable Trusts. In the city where I now live there is a charity that has been operating since 1174. Accountable to the Charity Commission the legal ‘instruments’ under which a charity functions give the trustees of a trust a high level of responsibility and liability, their personal wealth and assets being subject to meeting any liability the charity may not be able to meet out of its own resources.
Over recent years the Charitable Company has become more favoured. This has more of a company structure than a trust, for instance in the way it appoints directors, and is financially accountable to Companies House in the UK, while remaining accountable to the Charity Commission for its activities. One benefit is the limited liability it carries for the trustees (technically they are directors).
Very recently a new structure, the Charitable Incorporated Organisation, has been introduced by the Charity Commission. This combines many of the benefits of both the trust and company while removing the dual accountability of a Charitable Company both to Companies House and to the Charity Commission. It also streamlines many of the procedures and processes associated with the other two structures. There is a very helpful paper (Charitable Incorporated Organisations for church charities) that has been produced by Stewardship which describes the CIO. This is probably now the favoured type of charity, although still relatively untried and untested.
Next time I shall begin to look at the role of trustees/directors (in future I shall use ‘trustee’ to denote this function) including the relationship in a church between the spiritual leadership and the trustees.
In recent months I have written frequently about West Africa with particular reference to the effects of ebola. I have just viewed this TED talk on the subject of beating ebola, something that a few months ago when I started writing seemed an out of reach dream. Well it does seem to be happening and, rather than write more about the subject I urge you to watch this talk. Click on the picture.
Last time I reported on some of the challenges faced by our churches in Guinea and Sierra Leone caused by ebola. Now we shall look at Liberia.
Jonathan Nathan, from Monrovia, wrote recently to John Hammond (Bedford) who has coordinated the appeal, to report back on the use of the funds sent so far. It reveals some of the difficulties being faced there.
‘The churches in Liberia remain thankful to you all for coming to our aid when we really needed your help.
‘The first funds you sent (£2500) came at the time free movement was restricted. Hospitals and clinics were all closed and common curable diseases were killing people as a result of the closure of health centres. About 80% of our church members are young people who make their living by petty trading in the market, and so finding food and safe drinking water was difficult. Many of them could not afford to buy food because there were sharp price increases of food and anti-ebola materials.
‘We have been able to give:
- Food: $1500 for Rice, Cooking oil and eggs.
- Anti-Ebola materials: $1000 for Chloride, antiseptic soap, some buckets with taps for washing of hands.
- Medication and Awareness: $800.00 for essential drugs to provide emergency treatment for our people including Malaria treatments by our trained medical team. This is a mobile team organised by the church that had given themselves to do this. We also had a ‘Jesus is alive, Ebola is dead’ awareness team whose work was to carry on Ebola awareness in the various communities. This team has been very helpful in educating our people about Ebola prevention.
‘Another good achievement is the increase of people who come to out meetings because we always had something to share with them. Many have testified of the goodness of God for caring for them.
A smile at Christmas
‘The next £2000 was also very timely; many families who did know how they would eat and smile this Christmas were amazed and overwhelmed as we distributed food items. Traditionally, families buy their children clothes at Christmas; we distributed rice and used clothing to three churches and their communities. Over 400 people have benefited greatly from the money you sent us.
‘From the recent fund we were able to help a dozen students in our church who provided for us three truck loads of sand for our school building project to begin early next year. The guys were able to mine the sand from a river near our three plots of land and transported it on their heads to the church site. This would have cost us $1200 if we had a paid truck owner to bring it for us.
‘We have given some financial aid to one of our leaders who is a Ebola survivor. He spent one month and three days in the treatment centre leaving behind his wife and 6 children for us to care for. We have relocated him with his family at the newly planted church, (Fendell) where he is doing very well.
Plans for 2015
- Start our school building project on the church land
- Start the church school 2015 with three volunteers teachers in our temporary meeting tent. This will help our people who are not prepared for the heavy school fees after Ebola and a fallen economy
- Push forward with our church registration that was stopped for funds and evaluation
- Begin a small micro-finance project to help get potential petty traders back on their feet after Ebola
‘Ebola will end but we must move on after the storm is gone. Please pray with us to see our dream come true.’
John Hammond has been a faithful friend to the churches in West Africa for many years. For more details of how to give please contact him direct. Click here
First, may I wish you a happy New Year! I trust that the Christmas season has been one of joy for you as we have celebrated Jesus’ birth.
Sadly, I am starting the New Year on a sobering topic – Ebola. Twelve months ago most of you reading this blog would not have heard of ebola, so named from the river in Zaire near where it was first identified in 1976. Then the outbreak was short-lived. Now, the widespread reporting of the current outbreak has put both it and the three nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, in all of which there are Newfrontiers churches, into the public’s awareness. So what is happening?
Ebola had just been identified in the forest area of Guinea, near teh Liberian border and 400 miles from the capital, Conakry, when I arrived in Conakry last April. There was a great air of vulnerability and some understandable fear. After I preached on the Sunday we prayed for one member of the church who had even then lost 18 relations. But a very weak public health programme and the cultural norms in Guinea, as in the other two nations (with much physical contact when greeting people, the traditions of conducting funerals etc) combine to make containment of such a disease very difficult to achieve.
Nicolas Thebault made reference to the situation in Guinea in the report I published on November 6th: ‘The hospital treating victims in Conakry will soon have no more room for patients. We are hearing of outbreaks of the virus in parts of the city where some of our members live. Everyone is washing his hands with bleach all the time. As a result there are no more gastro problems! With the closing of the borders the economic situation becomes worse. Businessmen whom we know and who have been here for 30 years say they have never known an economic crisis last as long as this one. A minister from Sierra Leone has compared the current situation with a trade embargo across the region’.
It has not been possible to reopen the church school, Jubilee International School, since September, although it is hoped to do so shortly.
Momoh Sesay, lead elder of Grace Christian Church in Freetown, wrote recently to John Hammond (Bedford) who coordinated the appeal:
‘We are grateful to all those who have contributed to send us help at this difficult time in the history of our beloved nation. You came to our aid at the right time. Thanks be to God who has touched the compassionate hearts of the leadership of Newfrontiers to be a blessing to us.
‘In spite of the stay-home holidays this year every family in our churches had at least enough food. But we regret to announce that we have lost four members of the same family to Ebola. Please continue to pray for us.
‘With the money we received from you, we were able to buy food stuff and Medicare items such as rice, Dettol, soap, cheese balls for children and tokens to some people. We were also able to help a number of poor and underprivileged people in our community and provided relief items for quarantined homes of our members. Hand was also extended to widows and children.
‘We are still appealing for continued support at this time as we would like to bless our members and poor and underprivileged people in and even outside our church community. Please prayer that this menace is taken away from our nation’.
John Hammond, is based in Bedford UK and has been a faithful friend to the Newfrontiers churches in West Africa for many years. For more details of how to give please contact him direct: johnhammond36
Next time I shall report on the situation in Liberia.
This is unashamedly an appeal for the school children in Guinea.
Much has appeared in the press recently about Guinea due to the ebola crisis. I arrived on my most recent visit in April as the outbreak was occurring. Until this devastating news broke most people would not have heard of Guinea or have been able to locate it on a map.
Guinea is a desperately poor nation in West Africa with over 60% of the adult population being illiterate. The Newfrontiers church in the capital, Conakry, is trying to help change this through the Jubilee International School.
Jubilee International School
JIS started in 2006. Since then it has grown to over 300 children ranging in age from 3-26 years. Yes, I really do mean 26! Due to the various outbreaks of violence which are part of life in Guinea much schooling is lost, so students stay at school until they have been able to acquire a qualification.
The school has to be fee-paying but also has a vision to bring high quality education to those who are poor or in need. As a result, finding the fees is a struggle or impossible for many parents or guardians, despite the fact they cost only about £8.50 ($14) per month, less than a weekly cup of coffee at Starbucks!
How can you be involved?
Please would you consider helping by sponsoring a child? Click on this leaflet (JIS Sponsor Leaflet-FRONT , JIS Sponsor Leaflet-INSIDE) and download it to learn more about the scheme which we are launching. Alternatively request a printed copy from Deborah Hobbs of City Hope Church (Newfrontiers) in London who is providing the administrative support for this. Gift Aid can be reclaimed through City Hope Church for tax-payers in the UK.
I am personally launching this initiative and will be monitoring how this goes and is administered both in Guinea and UK. I hope to visit Guinea again next year.
Thank you so much, and Happy Christmas!
Do the poor deserve to be helped?
I have greatly enjoyed reading this book and strongly recommend it. My attitudes were challenged, and I was liberally marking and underling passagesas I read it. It has already caused me to adjust my thinking about a particular ‘live’ situation I am facing. Although the book is centred on the UK, its history and current situation, there are many Biblical and practical teachings that any reader can apply.
Poverty in Britain
Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams, two of the key players in the Jubilee+ initiative of the Newfrontiers family of churches in the UK, begin by laying a historical foundation. Taking the reader through the effects of the Poor Laws of 1601 and 1834 they trace how the relationship between church and state has waxed and waned through the centuries. They challenge the use of the terms ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’, the latter assuming that poverty is of people’s own making through idleness.
The 2nd world war and the associated austerity led to the recognition that supportive welfare was widely needed. The Beveridge Report of 1942, influenced greatly by the biblical perspectives of the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, laid the foundation for the Welfare State. But beneficial as this has been it has blunted the expectation of taking personal responsibility and also divorced ‘welfare’ from being acknowledged as the domain of the church. Some within the church even encouraged this, seeing social involvement as a watering down of the gospel.
The book is helpfully supported by very recent research carried out by one of the authors. This reveals, among much else, that the media have a strong bias against the poor, one of the researchers voicing the opinion that many media outlets saw poverty as a ‘character defect’. The research also revealed that there is little opportunity for the poor themselves to have a voice in the media, thus making the issue of poverty also one of justice. This is an area in which the church has a particular responsibility to become advocates.
A Biblical case for radical mercy
How should the church be involved? From teaching in the Mosaic law and Jesus’ fulfilment of the Nazareth manifesto of Lk 4, the outworking of the Kingdom manifesto of Is 61, it is clear that God’s compassion is unconditional. Jesus healed all who come to him and taught that we should love our neighbours. So no-one is ‘undeserving’, although Paul cautions against helping people who are not willing to work and also widows who should primarily be cared for by their families. Jesus also shows the outworking of compassion and grace in his parable about hiring labourers through the day and paying the same amount to all.
Who are the poor?
The authors suggest that there are four categories of poverty: economic, relational, aspirational, spiritual. But these are not mutually exclusive. Nor are the reasons for poverty, categorised as exploitation, natural disaster, accident or, on occasion, one’s own wrong actions.
Developing a heart for the poor
Then comes the challenge to the reader as the authors address our attitudes. They urge us to hold tenaciously to six Biblical values: People – Do we judge and group them as categories rather than as individuals made in the image of God? Truth – don’t believe the stereotypes. Kindness, Mercy, Justice and Generosity.
A call to action
The book concludes with some considerations that will lead to action. Specifically that we should consider a prophetic lifestyle choice of simplicity – not austerity but at a level where materialism does not determine our decisions. Generosity: budget to allow for giving to the poor. Proximity: be willing to be close to the poor. Community: the church is privileged to be part of the community to reach out to help those in need. Strategy: influence on public policy, involvement in local politics etc. Expectancy with faith: we have more to offer than a social programme from the world. Be expectant that God will not only change circumstances but hearts.
Your response now
What a book! Buy it. Here is a link. Give it away (Christmas present!). Be prepared to be challenged!
Here are two resources I strongly recommend – a book (The Myth of the Undeserving Poor) and a conference. Both come from the Jubilee+ initiative of Newfrontiers in the UK which helps individuals and churches engage with the needs of those who are poor or disadvantaged.
First I will tell you about the conference.
Faith + Justice Conference. Milton Keynes, UK.
Saturday February 7th 2015
What is your real attitude to politics? Do you find them a turn-off?
In the UK, Christians tend to be more likely to vote in elections or even be members of political parties than the average member of the public. However, many Christians would say they don’t ‘get’ politics, don’t care about them, or simply don’t understand the difference between the political parties. They may hold strong views on education or the NHS, for example, but somehow there is a disconnect between their experiences of and passion for these areas and their thoughts about politics.
The General Election is imminent, only 167 days to go (May 7th 2015). Just as Jubilee+ and many Newfrontiers churches are at the forefront of social action, so we must not shrink from the public sphere but take our seat at the table and make a positive difference for the common good when addressing issues and policy. We want to encourage Christians to get involved in politics. We believe that Christians have a unique, specific contribution to make to the decision-making process.
To help you engage effectively and meaningfully with politics and the election we are convening the Faith + Justice Conference in February. We will be exploring some of the hottest topics in our society today: immigration, welfare and benefits, the economy, and life issues. How can we think biblically on these matters, and on political engagement in general?
We are partnering with the Evangelical Alliance, Care and Tearfund. Christians in Politics will also be there, as will representatives from the three main political parties.
It is for you!
Whether you’re not sure what politics has got to do with faith, or you’re politically active already, this event will equip and inspire you to engage with the issues of our day and empower you to play your part in public life.
To save 20% on the registration fee, book your place by 9 January 2015. But since you may forget to do so with Christmas intervening why not do it now?! Click here.
The Myth of the undeserving Poor – A Christian response to poverty in Britain today
Next time I will share about the book but if you cannot wait here is a link.
This is the final part of a recent Newsletter, updated as appropriate.
Koukoudé, a fishing village
Koukoude is a very poor village a few hours from Conakry. Junior and FM, the 2 leaders are under a lot of pressure but they are holding on. They did their 4 first baptisms this year.
The school is still carrying on. It sent its first pupils to the NPSE (National Primary School Exam) May 2014.
Because of financial difficulties, the building project is frozen and the building we are now renting is getting more and more expensive. With only €5,000 we could build our school in Koukoudé.
Jubilee School, Conakry – ‘Education for all in an atmosphere of love and respect’
In spite of all our difficulties, the school is doing well. We have a real team of teachers working together around Maina, the principal. Nigel Ring came in April to evaluate our work here and to make a video showing the school.
We are hoping that the school will be able to re-open imminently but ebola has prevented this in recent weeks. We are hoping for an increase in the number of students for the school year 2014-2015. When we were still powerless Christ died for us… (Romans 5)
The British ambassador made it possible for the school to be repainted in October 2013! He even joined in with his paintbrush!
Education is one of the keys for Guinea. By offering the community that surrounds us access to a good education for all (whether the child be rich or poor, a boy or a girl, Christian or Muslim) we are bringing the Kingdom of God closer. Our Church is called Light for the Nations. And, just as light shines over all men, we want the love of God to be known to all. Our schools are a means to fulfil this goal.
These past 2 and a half years we had the pleasure to welcome George and Gill Tee, Nigel Ring, Dave and Lesley Nunn, and Moumouni Koudougou and a team from the Paris Church.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4: 6-7)
There are many areas of need:
- At least 50 elders in the next 10 years!
- That the young Christians would take their place in the Church.
- Church plant strategy: 1st plant before December
- Leaders’ training strategy: train to train, disciple to disciple
- Women’s training
- Teachers for the Jubilee School’s Science department (English speaking)
- Building project
- New Buses
- Helping poor people (see below)
- Jubilee schools in Conakry & Koukoudé
Helping the poor, with an encouraging update
In the October Newsletter, we met this
young woman who had been run over by a motorbike 2 years ago. Since she is poor, she wasn’t well treated and was in a great deal of pain especially since her leg broke again. Obviously she had to stop going to school. She needed €250 to avoid being amputated.
However, after the letter was sent, someone sent the money to perform the operation she needed. The timing was incredible. She was in hospital hoping that God would answer her prayers and ready to be amputated because the pain was unbearable. The money arrived just in time.
She no longer has a fibula. The doctor explained to us that there was just enough skin and bone to try a bone transplant on her hip. The operation went well.
Nearly every day we have people like her coming to ask for help from us. We need a contingency fund to help the worst cases like her (She gave us her permission to take and use these photographs).
That completes the update from Nicolas. Guinea needs your prayers and support. The church is a real beacon of light in the midst of huge challenges and difficulties. Not only is ebola exacting a great toll on the community, both directly and indirectly, but the great poverty and poor infrastructure make daily living a struggle. I will be sharing more shortly but if you wish to become involved please write to me via this email.