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.
Nicolas Thebault continues to bring an update on the situation in Guinea.
The Church is growing at a steady pace (approximately 30% every year for the past 4 years)
Baptisms, baptisms and more baptisms…
We passed the threshold of 100 baptisms between September 2010 and June 2014. There are visitors every Sunday. We have a dozen house groups against 2 four years ago. The church is now predominantly Guinean.
The challenges are therefore for us to be able to help all these new Christians to become Jesus’ disciples and to form new leaders.
Weddings and Marriage
We celebrated our first Christian wedding in Koukoudé. Since then, we have celebrated 6 weddings in 2 years.
This is a main challenge for a lot of our young Christians who have to get their life in order.
Nearly all of them come from other backgrounds and some conceptions concerning relations between men and women are very far from what the Bible teaches.
It is a long-term endeavour but we had the privilege of seeing lives transformed by God’s work and couples becoming pillars in our church.
We had our first conference about this issue with Dave and Leslie Nunn in February 2014.
Half the population is under 15 in Guinea. Between 80 and 100 children come to our Junior Church. For the moment they meet in our living room! Elaine is training a new Junior Church team made up mainly of newly baptized Christians.
The praise team is organizing itself too but we don’t have enough musicians. Elaine and her team have translated songs into Guinean dialects. We are still waiting to be able to write our own!
In June 2012, after years of search, we signed a lease for a piece of land just next to our home. The church consequently moved into our garden! We have already seen financial miracles but we still need more to carry out this project (we need at least €50,000). With a growth such as we are living now in the church, our material needs (excl. Ebola) are enormous: Buses to transport everyone, chairs, better sound system, musical instruments, a children’s room there are 80 to 100 children in our living room every Sunday morning). As Elaine puts it, it’s the kind of problems everyone dreams of having one day! We need your help and prayer.
Don’t hesitate to contact us for more details and information
For many Guinea in West Africa was an unknown nation until recent weeks. Now with the outbreak of ebola it has become headline news across the world. But there has been a Newfrontiers church in Guinea for many years, originating out of the civil war in the 90s and early part of this millennium in neighbouring Sierra Leone which caused many to flee across the border to avoid the fighting.
Some will know Nicolas and Elaine Thebault from Newfrontiers leadership events. I have recently received a Newsletter which I shall post in slightly edited form over the next few weeks.
It has been two and a half years since we have sent a newsletter. Since the Brighton conference finished (Together on a Mission) we have lost contact with many of you, so, how can we describe two and a half years in a few pages! Here are the main headlines of what we have done and seen these last 30 months.
God is faithful with us as I am sure he is with you! Despite all the daily challenges that one faces here we are persevering and the church is continuing to grow. So I trust that you will take as much pleasure in reading about what God is doing in our church here in Guinea as we have in seeing what he is doing among us!
Troubles in Guinea.
From the end of February 2013 to October 2013 there were demonstrations in Conakry; the opposition was contesting how the legislative elections were being organised. In 8 months 60 demonstrators were killed. We had to close our school (Jubilee School) for four months which caused us enormous financial difficulties since people pay fees only for days attended yet the staff have still to be paid. At the same time the mining companies announced they were leaving the country. We need your prayers for the presidential elections due to take place in June 2015.
In one week in October 2013, for example, four children of less than 10 years from families we know in the church died. As you probably know, Guinea has been affected by an epidemic of the ebola virus.
A woman in the church, Sia, has lost 18 members of her family at Guekedou (see photo). The main centre of the epidemic was in the forested areas of the country 400 miles away from the capital, but it is now in the city too. 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.
Guinea is not a ‘Christian’ country
Some of our members are going through difficult situations. They are chased from their homes, rejected by their families and find it difficult to find a job or a place to live.
Next time Nicolas will share about progress in the church
Since this is a personal reflection on the past decades it is important to mention a sermon preached by Simon Pettit in 1998 at the Leaders Conference which deeply affected my life and the lives of many others. Simon spoke from Gal 2:10 ‘Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do’. Through this he exhorted us to see that ‘remembering the poor’ was an apostolic mandate. No sphere or church should ignore the plight of the poor if it is to fulfil its Kingdom role to its community. No one who was present could have failed to have been impacted by that preach. God had clearly spoken to us as a movement.
The result was the launch of a one-year initiative, Act 2000, to help UK based churches engage with the poor in various ‘model’ ministries. Then, on March 23rd 2000, while I was in Guinea in West Africa, God woke me and spoke to me about becoming actively involved in helping Newfrontiers churches internationally to reach out to the poor with excellent ministries, the very thing that I too ‘was eager to do’. Even as a child I had a heart for those who are disadvantaged.
Having weighed this leading with Terry, and both the UK and international apostolic teams, I was commissioned to launch a five-year initiative Act Together to initiate the fulfilment of this mandate. Since then I have had the privilege of travelling widely, particularly in India and Africa but also to Mexico, Philippines, Russia and other nations. This is a passion of my heart and I do not believe that my current move represents an end to that ministry.
I could write so much more! Clarendon Church, now Church of Christ the King (CCK), has a vibrant and godly new eldership led by Joel Virgo. On a Sunday 13-1400 people regularly gather across four sites in nine meetings. There is a vision to see both the city reached with the gospel and the fulfilment of another prophetic word that, as the tree is fed and the roots are established, branches would grow which could be fashioned into arrows to be fired to the ends of the earth.
Much of the ministry of the church reaches into the student population; there are two universities in Brighton and many other colleges. My own passion for the nations has caused me to become involved with the post-graduates, many of whom come from other nations. I and others have sought to impart truth and Kingdom values into them so that as they return to their homes they take with them some of what God has taught us over the years.
There are also some vibrant ministries to those who are poor or disadvantaged, particularly those who may be homeless or out of work and need help to be made ‘job ready’ by training and building some discipline into their lives. Others have suffered the trauma of abortion or miscarriage and, working with other churches, we have a long-established ministry of compassion and healing.
Moving to Bath is an exciting new adventure. The Living Hope Church is much smaller than CCK and I look forward to seeing what God has for us to do there. I expect to continue to minister overseas as God gives opportunity, and also within the UK. On my business card I have ‘On mission with Newfrontiers’. I believe that is still our calling – local and international. May both Janita and I run like Caleb and burst through the finishing tape whenever the end comes!
Meanwhile, as we have now left Brighton and Hove it is with a great sense of fondness and gratitude that we say ‘farewell’ to CCK, our home for 33 years. May God continue to bless you abundantly!
One key element of the growth we were experiencing can be attributed to prayer. I mentioned in the last posting that Clarendon Church had dynamic prayer meetings. The same was true for Newfrontiers where regularly, on a Thursday morning, leaders from Newfrontiers churches in given geographical regions would gather to pray together. There were also two days of prayer and fasting three times per year to which Terry invited all church leaders. At these days substantial time was given to worship, seeking God through intercession and listening to his voice through prophecy. Indeed, much of the development of the family of churches came through prophetic revelation, which was carefully weighed in a biblical fashion.
In the mid-80s we started to have regular visits by John Wimber from USA who was being mightily used by God to bring an understanding of healing to the church. Indeed, the first conference we helped him run at the Brighton Conference Centre was entitled ‘Healing in the Church’. Through this and subsequent conferences we learnt about and were equipped in an expanded Holy Spirit energised understanding of local church. This was underpinned by various books which Terry wrote: Restoration in the Church (now out of print), No Well-worn Paths, God’s Lavish Grace and, more recently, Spirit-filled Church.
Stoneleigh Bible Week
Following the EGG tour (Enjoying God’s Grace) God spoke to us about starting a new Bible Week, and so the Stoneleigh Bible Week was launched in 1991 on the Royal Agricultural Showground at Stoneleigh, in the heart of the UK. For 11 years tens of thousands of people gathered (8,500 in 1981 growing to 28,000 in 2001) for teaching, envisioning and commissioning. These were mighty days of growing in understanding of God’s purposes for our generation. Then, to our surprise, God told us to close the Bible Week and to ‘Go to the Nations’. We were about 200 churches at that stage. Now Newfrontiers represents about 850 churches in over 60 nations so it seems that his strategy has been effective! (Exact numbers are not and cannot be known due to the need for confidentiality in some parts of the world.)
Since the mid-90s we have held international leaders conferences, Together on a Mission, initially in alternate years but, since the closing of Stoneleigh, every year until 2011. At the last of these Newfrontiers was redefined from being a family of churches to becoming a family of multiplied apostolic spheres. At that conference about 15 men and their wives were invited to come forward for prayer. These men were seen as those with proven apostolic ministry and they were commissioned to develop their own apostolic spheres with the exhortation to network with other such spheres. The centrality of Newfrontiers as one sphere looking to Terry would cease and the future would be built on relationship between these spheres. Thus Newfrontiers could continue to grow indefinitely without the encumbrance of any centralised management or administration.
In the final part I will return to my personal situation.
The 1980s were years of steady growth of Clarendon Church. In 1984 we ran out of space and multiplied onto two congregations; a further three were added two years later. But we then realised that we had effectively created five churches. This ran counter to a prophetic word we had received in the early days that we would be like a substantial tree whose branches would reach over Brighton and Hove, a tree that would have visibility across the town. And so we started to meet again as one congregation in the local cinema complex with its six halls, allowing us to carry on the children’s ministry in parallel with the main meetings.
There was an urgent need for us to have our own larger building. As a step of faith (and to save money hiring the cinema!) we returned to the Clarendon Villas building and had multiplied meetings on a Sunday to accommodate the 8-900 people who attended. In 1991 we found our present building, built originally as a warehouse for storing precious metals. It was very substantial and could have a third story added. This would provide the space we needed. After being turned down for outline planning permission followed by much prayer we were granted full permission on appeal. The amazing story behind this turnaround is too long to recount here but it gave us the confidence that God was with us!
Prayer has always been an important part of church life. No one who was in church in the early days could forget the memorable church prayer meetings on a Saturday morning where it was standing room only! Often God would speak through prophecy in ways that shaped us as a people and give us direction once the elders had carefully weighed it in the context of further prayer. In those days every day of the week the elders would be in prayer together in some context.
In February 1992 we took possession of what came to be known as the Clarendon Centre and started to renovate it. Major work was required. Phase 1 sought to give us sufficient space to meet on a temporary basis and by May 1993 we were able to use it. It became fully utilised in 1994 when the widespread outpouring of the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Toronto blessing, caused us to hold frequent meetings during the weekdays as well as at weekends. Meanwhile the top floor was built on the previous roof and, when we opened it in April 1996, we were able to seat nearly 1000 people.
What was happening to Terry’s team ministry during this time? Originally called Coastlands from the prophecy in Isaiah ‘the coastlands wait expectantly for your instruction’, referring to the ends of the earth, the name was changed to New Frontiers since people misinterpreted ‘coastlands’ by assuming it referred to the south coast of UK, where Brighton and Hove are located. Our vision was large not localised!
When the team first met in September 1980 (L to R: David Holden, Richard Haydon Knowell, Henry Tyler, Ray Lowe, Alan Vincent, Terry Virgo and myself) the members had contact with about twenty UK churches and one in Bombay, India. Gradually, through invitations and the profile gained though the Downs Bible Week these numbers grew and new nations began to be reached. But we believed in the autonomy of the local church and the plurality of elders so we were not seeking to build an organisation. Nevertheless, God’s favour was with us and growth was steady; some Churches were being planted and others sought adoption.
Next time we will look at what contributed to that growth.
I believe that full time ministry is more a function of practicalities than a calling. It is not a status or promotion, but a necessity when it is not possible to carry out what God has called us to without devoting more time than is possible while pursuing a secular job. Twice God had spoken to me about being in ‘full time ministry’; once when I was 9 years old and again in 1974 while leading a research team in a paediatric hospital. I mentioned this to Terry in 1978 in a crowded context. He did not respond so I assumed that he had not heard and I did not repeat myself. However, I was later to discover that it had registered, as we shall see!
Downs Bible Week
In 1979 God led us to launch the Downs Bible Week. Bible Weeks are peculiarly British events where thousands of Christians spend a week camping in some location and being built up in their faith through times of worship, teaching and fellowship. In that first year we gathered 2900, a large number at that time. By the time God told us to close it in 1988, when he told us to ‘take the Downs to the nation’, resulting in a tour of 16 cities with a conference entitled Enjoying God’s Grace (the EGG tour!), the Downs Bible Week had grown to 8500 across two weeks.
At the second ‘Downs’ the main speaker, Bryn Jones, a pioneer to whom we owe so much, exhorted Terry to consider starting a team ministry, an apostolic team (‘apostle’ was a whispered word in those days!), to share the growing demands upon him and to complement his gifting. Through the summer Terry prayed, a hallmark of his life.
At the end of August he wrote to six of us inviting us to work with him in this proposed team ministry. In my case he reminded me of the sense of calling I had told him about a few years earlier (so he had heard!) and asked if I would be his administrator. I can only assume that he was happy with the way I helped run the Downs! ‘I don’t know what an administrator does’, he said, ‘but I know I need one’. ‘Well, I don’t know either’, was my response, ‘but “yes”’. And so, in July 1981 I left my research post and, in November, my family and I moved to Hove to be near him. We joined the church Terry had helped Henry Tyler and David Fellingham to plant in 1978 as the Brighton and Hove Christian Fellowship which, by then, had been renamed.
The BHCF moved into a building in Clarendon Villas, Hove, in 1979 where about 20 people had been meeting as Clarendon Church. The building had been founded as a ‘mission to the poor of Hove’ in 1883 and had a substantial building in which 1000 people regularly met for prayer and Bible study. What a heritage we have! This continued until the mid-1930s, when the founder died. The children’s Sunday School outing numbered 1200! But sadly, by 1979 those heady days had long since passed.
Numbers grew steadily and by the time Janita and I joined in November 1981 there were 200 members. After sitting in elders’ meetings to serve Terry for several months I was invited to become an elder, a role I fulfilled for nearly twenty five years. (I was also chair of trustees for over thirty years). That eldership body was a wonderful team to be part of with great friendships and a lack of competitiveness, every person contributing to discussion out of their particular gifting. By the time I resigned (I was away overseas too much to be effective as an elder) that team had contributed over 150 years of eldership to the church!!
Next time I will reflect on the early growth.