Uganda

20180918_131403Last week was crazy. At 3:30am, at Heathrow airport I met the group I’d be spending time in Uganda with for the next few days as part of the Compassion vision trip organised for church leaders.   By 10:00am Friday morning I would be back at Heathrow, having been on a life changing visit to Kampala and back in just four days. You may know of Compassion as the child sponsor charity that we talk about at RBC. Twenty-five children across the world are sponsored through people at RBC and for this reason I was invited on this short trip to see some Compassion projects first hand.

After a gruelling day of travel and some fun and games getting my visa, we walked out into the African heat of Entebbe airport ready for a few hours’ sleep before our visit began.

20180920_130641Each day we were taken to diverse projects around Kampala where we saw different aspects of how Compassion work.  We saw churches on the edge of slums where families now have hope because their children are part of Compassion projects. We saw local churches fully engaged and integrated as centres for their communities providing education for the children and teaching job and life skills to the parents.  We saw children taking pride in learning to read and write but also about the importance of hygiene and even lessons being given about the dangers of STD’s!  We heard from Compassion graduates who now work or volunteer with Compassion projects, giving back some of the goodness they have received.

But there’s a couple of incidents that I think will always stay with me. We sat in one20180919_123715 woman’s home to hear how the projects were helping her family. I call it a home, but we’d probably condemn our shed if it were in such poor condition; dirt floor, holes in the corrugated steel roof, no water or electricity and one bed to sleep three or four people.  The mother explained how her son had been taught to wash his hands before eating, and he had told his friends, who told their friends and so on. Now all the children in their community wash their hands before eating and there’s been less cases of sickness.

Another moment was the night after hearing four Compassion graduates share the horror story of growing up in poverty and the hope that had saved them. These four had now finished education and had good jobs. ‘Sarah’ heard people commenting she must be rich because she was so clever and always looked so smart, but she grew up living next to an open sewer in a shack like the many we visited. The next morning as we sat in a church and played with the young kids and there I realised that these young children in 20 years’ time will also be telling the stories of how they were rescued from poverty by a stranger in the West spending £25 a month.

20180918_134650I’ll just say it, having seen some of the projects with my own eyes I think every household should sponsor a child through Compassion. It only costs £25 a month, which for many people is a very small amount (approximately two large Costa lattes a week), yet the investment profoundly changes lives and communities. Currently twenty-five children are supported by RBC related people, which isn’t that many for a church our size.  So, if you don’t yet sponsor a child, why not have a look at the Compassion website and see how you could be part of the story of lifting a family out of poverty. https://www.compassionuk.org

See you on Sunday

 

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Much Given- Much Expected

SAM_6132Last night at the church meeting I was telling folks some of the ways God has been challenging me over the last year at RBC. It’s al based round Luke 12:48, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one trusted with much, much more will be expected’.

I find this verse intriguingly challenging because it moves the focus of the gifts and blessings we have received from Jesus as being purely for ourselves; instead things are given to us to help, bless and prepare others. Dig deeper and we see that even our salvation is not just for our own end game but so that others may also be saved.  Paul J Achtemeier writes, ‘We are chosen not simply for the privilege of knowing God, the joy of forgiveness and the certainty of eternal life, but also – and inextricably – to serve God’s purpose of bringing salvation to his beloved world’ .

Personally, as a Dad this has challenged me greatly; a Christian Dad told me recently, ‘I hope my children find faith, but I never talk to them about it’ I was shocked until I realised that was me, I was outsourcing my children’s spiritual growth and understanding to the youth ministry.  But If much is demanded of me, I need to take my responsibilities seriously, so I’m setting up a young lads’ discipleship group, as I take an active role in my kids’ discipleship.

But also, as a church we’ve been blessed with much but the purpose of which is to bless others. For example, our lovely buildings. I’m really pleased that we can bless the homeless of Redhill by hosting the winter night shelter next February.

We are putting on a big Christmas show this year, but not just for our enjoyment, we’re doing it to connect and invite people to Alpha – starting in the new year. We’re not running Alpha just for us or as a refresher, we’re running it so people can meet Jesus.

Even looking at our budget- we could play it safe and just cover our running costs, but that’s not the heart of Jesus’ teaching. So, with the much we’re given we want to support more local ministries and many of our ‘home grown’ missionaries.

And wait till I tell you about the idea for a Pentecost party in the park! – That will have to wait for another blog, but all I’ll say is we want to use our amazing creative, musical organisational talent in the church – to bless our town and to tell our town about the extraordinary fulfilment that comes from walking with Jesus.

There’s a lot of other exciting things I talked about last night- a new outreach team, a new street team and me joining the toddler team!

Much has been given to us, let’s start giving back.

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Be Uncomfortable

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Greetings and welcome back after the summer break! The chances are as you read this I will be with the motley crew of men in North Devon at the annual ‘surf and camp’ weekend. I’ve heard so many stories and tales about this yearly gathering I thought I’d go and experience it for myself. As I write this I’m not sure where I’ll be sleeping, and this is concerning me because I like a familiar and comfortable bed to sleep in. Am I wrong in that?  Maybe, but there’s some guys at RBC who wouldn’t even contemplate weekends like this or ‘The Gathering’ in June or ‘The Forge’ next week because it is camping and …  it’s uncomfortable.  Come on men … you’re better than that!

During my summer break I have been forced to confront my penchant for comfort many times, as we backpacked through South East Asia we stayed in some very ropey places where luxury was not high on the landlord’s agenda.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, we also stayed in some lovely places too).  During my first year at RBC I fear I have got a little bit too comfortable in how I live and act out my role as your pastor. You’ve given me a lovely study – have I been spending too much time in there?

Jesus has been challenging me through his teachings and stories, particularly Luke 12: 35-47 about getting too comfortable and complacent.  I want to do something about it.

There’s going to be a much greater, more purposeful and intentional emphasis on outreach, mission and discipleship this next year. To start with we have Andrew Hawkins coming next Saturday morning to help us with evangelism training. Andrew trains churches in outreach and evangelism and he is bringing with him Micheal Harvey, the pioneer of ‘Back to Church Sunday’.

It’s only two hours next Saturday 15th September, it will be over by 12 noon. I would love to have a minimum of 50 people come, so please join us. Andrew will be giving us the tools to tell our faith story and tell Jesus’ story in a succinct and powerful way. Maybe you have questions and objections about evangelism, come along and ask them.  Maybe your faith has really gone lukewarm to non- existent of late, come along and challenge us and yourself. It’s two hours so come along…or are you worried you’ll be too uncomfortable?

The Church Leadership Team have been talking and praying about how we can use our buildings and premises and even our budget in ways that may be uncomfortable to some, but we believe it’s the right thing to do as followers of Jesus.

Jesus’ challenges have taught me this: he doesn’t lead us into discomfort out of some sadistic pleasure in our ill ease. No, its when we are in these situations, for the sake of the gospel that he brings out the best in us; and for those moments we are at our best because we are living out the purpose we were saved for.

I’ll be back Sunday…. see you then

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