25.9.16

Leading on Empty

Our pastor was very gracious towards us and never put any pressure on us to serve or get involved in church at all. We were allowed time to grieve and get whole again and so we just sat in church Sunday after Sunday with no desire to do anything or speak to anyone. We came, we sat, we listened, we left. One night in a dream God spoke to Eric and told him that he must connect with people at church and so we started to stay afterwards for coffee and a little chat.

King's Daughters Girl's Nights was set up at our new church before D7 Church had closed down. It was one of the things that I was passionate about and was what we did to help churches with their women's ministries. Where they had nothing in place we would offer to set up a King's Daughters for them at their church. So I was involved in ministry already and had connected with many of the ladies through King's Daughters. Somehow, despite all that we had gone through I managed to keep going with King's Daughters. Sadly most Tuesday nights all I could muster was dragging myself there, often without makeup on or any enthusiasm at all. I don't know how I did it, only God knows, but he used the empty shell of a vessel to someone still pour out into these precious ladies. My heart wasn't in it but I was sincere in my leadership and did my absolute best for the ladies. The anti-depressants did help for a while and kept me going. Looking back I do wonder if it wasn't really damaging to take the anti-depressants as they allowed me to continue to lead on empty when I probably shouldn't have been leading at all.

Thankfully, when I prayed about my year towards the end of 2015 I felt God saying that 2016 would be a year of rest for King's Daughters. That I was not to do our annual conference and that until I heard further instructions from him I was to do nothing in this ministry but rest. So I committed to spending the year praying and investing in the people not the ministry. It was our seventh year as a ministry so it made perfect sense to have a rest year! Girl's Nights continued but I didn't build or plant anything new. God knew what was to come in 2016..

18.9.16

Necessary Endings

It seemed that church was just not working! Everything became really hard work and the church grew emptier and emptier. Our very good friends from another church invited us to merge churches with them and we thought it may be a good idea. After some negotiations on titles, roles for our team and pay scales we decided to go ahead. At first it felt strange and we didn't feel that we fit in at all but we all tried our best to serve well. Perhaps it was wrong to merge and get stuck straight into ministry without taking time to grieve and to council our team through their grief. I certainly wasn't excited about Sundays at all and hated the season. It's not that there was anything wrong with the church at all. I loved the people! The service was lively, spirit filled and the teaching was spot on Bible based teaching. It was a beautiful church with beautiful people whom we loved and admired. But for some strange reason we were miserable and Sunday's became really difficult. One Sunday, Eric whispered in my ear mid-service that he wanted to go home, so we snuck out and went home. After a chat he said that he never wanted to go back so we left. Just like that. We hurt our best friends. We hurt their church. We just left!

My heart broke even more. I felt guilty. I had just started building new relationships and loving the people I was at church with. Despite my unhappiness with Sundays, I had done my best to settle and serve. Leaving just hurt all over again.  My heart was exhausted and ripped in pieces.

Our team agreed to leave with us and give D7 Church one final try and we gave it our all. Not that we didn't give it our all before but we gave it all we could possibly muster. We hung in for as long as we could. Everything that could be done to make church work was done. Our team were amazing even though it ended up being the same faithful five people always doing all of the work. Creativity blossomed as we tried new and unusual things to build our church thinking that perhaps God wanted us to think outside the box. One of our ideas even got us a radio interview. We announced that we were going to be giving away money to each person who came to a particular service. There would be no strings attached and the point was to teach on Biblical money principles and then give each person a starting point which is exactly what we did. Many were grateful for the small seed of £20 that we gave to all who came along.

Perhaps we could have made it, perhaps we should have hung on a little longer. No, it wouldn't have worked as the team went down to Eric and I and even I didn't want to go to church anymore as it was so depressing! What went wrong? Who knows, we have analysed it to death over the years, seen all of our mistakes and tried to think what we could have done differently. Our dream was to build a large thriving church where people would encounter the living God and be radically transformed. In our mind we saw entire communities being transformed and wanted to make a difference all the way to government level. It broke our heart when met for the final time on Sunday 30th March 2014.

Failure is hard, loss is difficult but when you have failed and lost in the things of God it seems harder. You feel as if you have let God down. One thing that no one tells you when you pastor a church is that it too, just like a business, can fail. If the books don’t balance and your income is less than your expenses, you can fail. If you don’t have a committed team to keep up with the work you can fail. If people just don’t feel like coming on Sundays you fail.  And on top of all that you blame yourself for not being good enough!  Not praying enough, not hear God well enough, not working hard enough, not loving the people enough and just about everything else under the sun. Failing in ministry is the worst kind of failure, it's horrible.

Eric said he didn't want to go to church for a while. Even though I was hurting I knew that I had to go to church for the children's sake. They too grieved. Sometimes they just randomly started crying and when asked what was wrong they said that they missed D7 Church. It took a lot longer than I ever imagined to start feeling a little bit better about it all.

I had become friends with the pastor of a local church through King's Daughters and so decided to take the children there so that they had somewhere to go while we figured things out. They loved it and were happy so I kept on going even though I didn't want to go to church at all either. After a few weeks God spoke to Eric and told him to go to church so he started coming with me. He did so out of pure obedience to God as he really didn't want to go to church either. Looking back I would say that the first year we were both numb and all we could manage was to pitch up and be present on Sundays. I became burnout and depressed and the doctor put me on anti-depressants.

11.9.16

Raging Storms

Storms raged all around me, not in the natural of course but the storms of life. The next season is a bit blurry as it was almost too painful to bear. First it was my second eldest daughter who left home. For the sake of her privacy and to protect all involved I can't tell you too much about it but let's just say that family life got really nasty for us all and it resulted in Jordan leaving home at only seventeen years old. Oh how I wish I could tell you the details so you could understand how much my heart was ripped out, how my marriage was hanging together by a thread and how losing Jordan not only hurt but confirmed my complete failure as a parent to her. Just believe me that it was nasty, unnecessary and very painful and left me broken in a way that I have never experienced before. I was even faced with a choice on one occasion where I was made to choose between my daughter and my husband! What would you do in that situation - it was not nice and I refused to choose either.

It may have been weeks, possibly months but certainly not very long after Jordan left that the next storm hit and if losing a daughter wasn't enough I had to face almost losing a son. We noticed that something was wrong with our son, Daniel who was 7 years old. He seemed fit and well and nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that he was drinking unusual amounts of water. It got so bad that he had to get up during the night several times to have a drink and of course go to the toilet. So after about a week of this I decided it best to go see a doctor even though it seemed like a silly symptom to go to the doctor for.

Everything from the doctor's appointment is a bit of a surreal haze and even two years and nine months on, I can remember the shock as if it were yesterday. The doctor did a urine test and afterwards looked gravely concerned and called the hospital.  Daniel was sent over as soon as possible and we were told to be prepared for him to stay overnight. He didn’t say what was wrong. Upon arriving at the hospital Daniel was seen immediately and had blood tests. I don’t recall exactly what happened or the order of events, all I remember is that his blood sugar was 33  (normal is between 4 – 7). They said they were surprised that he looked as well as he did and was not in a coma. He was that ill!

Daniel was admitted to hospital and we spend the next week at his bedside learning about type 1 diabetes, watching him crying as he had his finger pricked and blood taken often during the day and night. It was heart wrenching. Eric and I were in shock. After a week of excellent education by the NHS diabetic team, we were expected to start caring for him. They assured us that he would not be allowed home until they felt confident that we were able to manage his blood tests and insulin injections. We had to learn how to count carbohydrates, check his blood sugar levels and give him 4 to 6 injections a day. The severity of the situation was heavily impressed upon us and we were reminded that if his blood sugars went too high or too low he could die. It seemed every 5 minutes we were reminded that it was a life threatening lifelong disease that could not be cured ever.

Eric and I were exhausted from being in hospital, little sleep coupled with a lot of worry and uncertainty. We reached a point where we just wanted our family back home all together so we could get some sense of normality back into our life. Although it was clear life would never be the same again we craved some sort of routine. Each day we were asked if we were ready to give Daniel his injections. In the past Eric has passed out when he saw me have an injection during labour with Amy, I could not see him ever coping with this. I thought I would be fine but when they put the insulin pen in my hand I burst out crying. There was no way I could ever inject my son, or so I thought.

Much to my surprise Eric took the pen and gave Daniel his injection. I asked Eric how he managed to do it as I simply couldn’t and he said that he knew that if he didn’t, Daniel would not be able to come home. The nurses kept reassuring me that things would get better and giving the injections would become easier. Although I believed them and knew it was true I couldn’t see how. Eric became highly competent in caring for Daniel and so he was allowed home. I struggled. I couldn’t do the injections. I couldn’t prick his finger to test his blood. I was a mess. Shock, confusion and tiredness took over.

4.9.16

Mistakes, Regrets and Hopelessness

In my previous post I mentioned my many mistakes and regrets! There are too many to write about but I will do my best to highlight a few as accurately as possible. Even though I know God has forgiven me and hopefully the people involved have too, I cannot fully forgive myself even though I know I should. I want to keep the sting real so that I never make the same mistakes again. It's not that I want to punish myself and I have tried my best to forgive myself, it's just that I don't ever want to hurt people again.

Although church life had become difficult there was still much joy in the journey. We launched King's Daughters in 2009 and recorded our very first album, King's Square, with our original songs in 2010. We had so much fun both with King's Daughters and making music together as a church. Things seemed to be going well even though they were a little tougher than at first.

My first big mistake was based purely on my own insecurity and it shouldn't surprise you to know that I wrote an entire book on that subject too! So here is a little extract from Secure on the Rock where I recount one of my silly mistakes.

Huddled in the corner of the studio, I was sitting holding back the tears whilst telling myself to stop these silly thoughts. I knew I was being pathetic and there was no way I was going to cry about it! So there I sat, giving myself a telling off, all the while trying to look like I was alright. The band looks on from the other room, oblivious to my inner turmoil. It's hard for me to hide my feelings, my face always gives my feelings away so I thought I'd better put some distance between me and them so that they can't see my struggle.

The band has been awesome, incredibly supportive and regularly offering lovely comments about how well I was doing. Their kindness was consistent all through Monday and Tuesday, but this is crunch time, the final vocal recording time. The pressure was now on!

The journey has been incredible, I can’t even believe that I am in this position and able to be involved in something this amazing. It has been quite surreal really. Not only have I had the privilege of writing some of the songs for this album, but I also have this mind blowing opportunity to sing some of them. I never, ever dreamed I would get to do this. I have always loved singing... in the shower, and have always loved moments in God’s presence. Often I have found myself lost in His presence singing a brand new song from my heart.
Since I first became a Christian I have loved worship, but all through the years I never, ever considered joining the choir or the band. It never crossed my mind. I was turned down for the choir when I was about nine years old so since then I had decided that I wasn’t a singer. It was that simple for me and ever since then I have never considered singing in any capacity whatsoever.

It all started when the band started having practice at our home. I used to be in my room or in the kitchen washing dishes whilst they practiced the set list for Sunday. More often than not, I would sing along and enjoy a moment of worship as the band played nearby. I am not sure how it all started, but I got the desire to sing in the band with them. Occasionally I would help Eric with band practice by taking the singers to one side and helping them practice while he concentrated on helping the musicians.

I did this for about a year, and even though I have a good ear for music and was able to help them get the right notes, I still never considered actually singing myself. I was happy to help Eric in any way that I could and I enjoyed doing singing exercises with the singers.

As I worked with the singers I did notice that I was very insecure around one of them. She sang beautifully and was very pretty. She was also very outgoing, chatty and a bit flirty. She was everything I was not and somehow being around her highlighted all my areas of lack. Her boobs were a bit of a problem for me too because you couldn’t miss them, they always seemed to be on show! I have breastfed four children and it showed but I had never felt inadequate in that area until she showed up. My thoughts were that if I couldn’t miss them, then neither could Eric or any of the men for that matter! The insecurity crept in and although I genuinely don’t think I was jealous, I did feel inadequate around her.

I say I wasn’t jealous because I really don’t want such heavy boobs. At times I also felt that she didn’t really like them, she seemed uncomfortable when at church events, as she knew we expected her to keep them tucked away and not on display so as not to tempt the men and teenage boys into sexual thoughts. I could see her struggle, a part of her wanted to be sexy and have them showing as much as possible, while a part of her wanted to be a good church girl and keep them neatly tucked away. I felt sorry for her at times as this struggle was a result of a decision she made.

Yes, I know I have gone into a lot of detail, but I want to be real or there is no point to me writing this book. I know many of us girls think like this but very few actually say it. This girl was the cause of a huge six month struggle with insecurity which obviously caused a lot of friction in our church and between Eric and me. Of course people probably didn’t know that it was my insecurity that was the problem but I am very sure they knew something wasn’t right.

Generally speaking, I was secure in who I was and had a pretty stable identity. There were moments of complete and utter out of control insecurity though and those were dreadful, but I will get into that more later on. For now, let’s get back into the singing thing. She sang beautifully but had no confidence, like me she had never sung in public before and seemed to have never considered herself as a singer. I found myself encouraging her and trying to draw some confidence out of her so that she could flourish in this area. Even though I felt insecure around her it never once crossed my mind that I wanted to sing or be like her or take her place. That thought just never came. My insecurity was purely based on my own fear that Eric found her attractive and that was the one thing that drove me crazy.

Eventually I shared my struggle with Eric; I simply couldn’t bear this burden alone any longer and felt very guilty for even having this struggle. Surely a pastor’s wife should not struggle with things like this? Eric was great about it and assured me that she simply wasn’t his type at all and listed all the reasons, which I loved! He also went on to tell me all the things that he loved about me and how not only does he not need or want anyone else but also that he has chosen me and therefore will never consider anyone else but me. This really helped me and from time to time we had this conversation and my insecurity was consoled by my darling Eric’s kind words.

I better warn you though that this is not the way to deal with insecurity at all, you can’t depend on another human being to make you feel better. It is essential to cut it out from the root and build a strong foundation and strong identity. Even though I knew this, I wasn’t quite ready to get to the root of it. I used Eric’s kind words to buy me time until I was brave enough to eradicate my insecurity. His comfort was precious and he did his best to help me through patches of insecurity, all the while I knew that it wasn’t solving the problem at all.


This little story doesn't end here, it continues on and on as I dealt with this poor woman based on my insecurity and not on how God saw her. As a leader I know now that I should have asked God to show me how he saw her and also how he saw me. I should not have compared myself, I should not have been jealous of what she had that I didn't, I should not have been intimidated around her and worst, the worst part of it all is that I should not have used my position of authority in her life to make myself feel better. There are things that I did and said that should not have been done and said. Looking back I am so ashamed, she is such a wonderful, precious woman of God and I would give anything to just go back and do everything differently. I would love her, celebrate her, encourage her and help her find all that God had install for her.

Too many women are leading as I did - STOP IT! It's horrible and hurtful to too many people. You must know who you are in God's eyes and lead with confidence in who he made you to be. Comparing yourself to other people is the most dangerous thing to do every and can only bring misery into your life and theirs.

Let's move on from that lovely lady and onto the next one... yes there are many sadly. This lady was lovely too and was a good friend before I ruined it! She and her husband were faithful team members in our church, generous tithers and a real pillar to our church. They did the best they could and submitted even when they disagreed with our decisions or methods. They were older and wiser than us but never tried to lead us. All in all they were an asset to our church and great friends to us. I was an idiot and reprimanded her in front of a group of people. At the time, I thought it was the Biblical thing to do, you know, the two or three witnesses thing, but looking back I realise that I forgot the first steps and should have shared my feelings with her privately, as a friend. She would have heard my heart and respected what I said I am sure. The way I dealt with her was terrible and hurtful and I am sure I hurt her more than once too. Despite my terrible leadership they did their best to remain in our church and do their best until they could no more and had to leave. We suffered a terrible loss not only of a key family in our church but also some really lovey friends.

Our church started to shrink as the quality people moved on. More and more homeless people joined us as we offered free sandwiches and coffee to get them to church. It worked but without the mature Christian leaders in place to care for and disciple them we were stuck in a messy situation that we couldn't cope with. Hopelessness started setting in and church went down a path that we didn't want it to and seemed to have no control over.

28.8.16

Messy Church

If I could go back I would do just about everything differently! I am ashamed to admit how many mistakes I made in those early years of our church. Shame sometimes consumes me when I realise how me people I hurt simply because I was an immature and insecure leader. It breaks my hurt that I am the cause of some people's church hurts story. If I could go back I would take better care of your hearts, I am so sorry. Why did God even allow me to minister when I was clearly not grown up enough? With all my heart I only meant good, I only wanted to build a beautiful church and help many find and know Jesus. How did I go from such good intentions to such a mess? My only hope is Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  I pray that prayer for those who I have hurt and for myself too. Here is another extract from The Tale of a Church Planter to recount the first bit of mess in our church.
 
It was 2am and we were still sitting in our living room chatting with the two young men that might well have been our future sons-in-law.  Perhaps that was looking too far ahead, but as a mother, I was always on the lookout for potential husbands for my girls.  Very ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I know, but unless you are a mother with young ladies at home, you will never understand the insane drive within a mother to find a suitable match for her girls.

Lorah-Kelly, Jordan, Eric and I sat with the boys and were glad that we had finally met some Christians that seemed to be mature in their faith.  Up until this point, we had struggled along with raising the lost and the baby Christians that were born in our church.  Determined not to build a church on transfer growth, we pushed forward with what and whom we had.  It was a relief though, to think that perhaps God was sending some labourers to us, to help us with our work.

We began spending more and more time with these two young boys and were quite sure that they were sent as helpers to help us stir up our young teenage believers.   Very quickly we began to bond and it wasn’t long before they started bringing their friends and family to church.  We were thrilled, not only were they mature Christians but they were also bringers.

At the same time we started relying heavily on another family that joined us as soon as the church was launched. They too had been Christians for some time and they were also bringing their friends and family to church.  We were growing steadily and everything looked great.  For the sake of privacy we will change everyone’s names in this chapter, let’s call the two young boys Matt and Sam and the family the Smiths.

We also discovered that Matt and Sam, along with their friends and family, were well acquainted with the Smiths too.  It all seemed good, everyone knew everyone and they were all getting along very well.  Everything seemed fine and dandy, people were getting saved almost every Sunday and church was growing steadily each week.  We trusted Matt and Sam with our daughters and allowed them to go out together to socialise.  Great friendships were forming and there was nothing to be concerned about, or so we thought.

It wasn’t long before we allowed the Smiths to host a connect group and to lead in our church.  They truly were a wonderful family and they had been with us from the beginning, so it made sense to allow them to grow into a leadership role.

Matt and Sam started meeting up with our young Christians for Bible study so that they could help them find their way.  We didn’t offer the sort of ‘thing’ they were doing ‘officially’ in our church but we figured that there would be no harm in a bunch of young people getting together to study the Bible and pray for each other.  It was quite nice actually; it took the pressure off of us to keep finding new and creative ways to ‘feed’ our young people.

After some time we noticed that the young Christians were not doing so well.  We could not put a finger on it but the fruit simply didn’t seem good.  A few weeks later, we started to feel concerned - we were alerted to the fact that the Smith’s were hosting a Bible study in their home for all our young teenage Christians.  Again, probably not something that should raise an alarm, but we were concerned because it was being led by Matt and Sam’s father.  Their father was not a member of our church and had openly come against Eric and I as leaders, as well as against the pastor who had released us to plant our church.

We called the Smith’s in for a meeting and lovingly explained our concerns and that as leaders in our church; they really shouldn’t start things up without at least chatting to us about it first.  The content of the Bible studies were discussed which raised further concerns as it turned out that they were being taught exclusively about the end times and the Book of Revelation - not a subject that we would jump into with new Christians.

The Smith’s received what we had to say very well and agreed with our concerns.  According to their own free will they stopped the Bible study at their home as they realised that it was doing more damage than good.  This of course infuriated Matt and Sam’s father as he could not understand why they felt that they had to do this.  He continued to visit the Smith’s home almost daily to try and ‘teach’ them about the Bible and the error of their ways with regards to rejecting his Bible study.  He also made it very clear that Eric and I were not fit to lead a church.  A few weeks passed and we discovered that the new Christians were confused about many things.  They came to us with questions but sadly some of them went back to Matt and Sam’s father for guidance.

It wasn’t long before Matt and Sam became upset with our rejection of their father.   After many long debates in person and very long emails with them, they left our church.  They stayed in touch with our daughters and most of the teenagers and then began stirring the teenagers up against us.  Soon the teenagers started leaving our church too.  Many of them were totally confused and had lost the way of their simple faith.  They had too many unanswered questions.  Questions that really didn’t need answers but the teaching they received blinded them to the simple love of Jesus and opened up a theological can of worms – something they were not ready to deal with.

Eric and I were grieved.

Months later, the Smiths, and all their immediate and distant family, and their friends, left our church too.  They too became confused and found it difficult to find their way forward in our church.  A chain reaction had started and anyone linked to the chain ended up leaving.  We went from what we thought was a thriving, flourishing church to a struggling church with few left in attendance.  We had lost at least sixty percent of our congregation. Sadly, most of them didn’t even go on to join another church, they simply went back to worldly things.

During this season, we took a great deal of counsel from our pastor.  He very wisely advised us of every step we should take and we followed his advice to the letter.  In fact, in one meeting Eric actually wrote down every word he said and regurgitated it word for work to a couple that we were told to discipline.

Our mother church encouraged us every step of the way and gave us all the support they could, which is why it was a real shock when they too cut ties with us.  Three weeks notice was all we were given to set up a new church and take over all the bills.  If ever we felt totally confused and alone it was during the November of 2009.   It was the end of a very difficult year, we had worked hard, seen many saved but lost too many people when the ‘wolf’ attacked.  We were still wounded and recovering from this horrible process when the bomb of abandonment hit us.  Our mother church was not happy with our numbers.  In a nutshell, we had not grown sufficiently and were not producing enough income to sustain us.  They wanted to pull the plug on the church.

Shocked and horrified, we considered the way forward.  We were given a choice, either we closed the church down completely or we went back to being a connect group and found a way to transport everyone to our mother church each Sunday.  The third option was to continue on our own.  Our pastor said he would release us with his blessing and no hard feelings.

The first of many storms had hit. We felt abandoned and bewildered. When considering the faces of some of our congregation and their stories and how much they loved church, we decided not to close the church but to continue on our own. Realistically we could not transport everyone to the main church each Sunday, so one way or another we had to continue. And so D7 Church was born - the same church just a new brand and completely independent leaders who had to make it on their own.

21.8.16

The Tale of a Church Planter

King's Church was official born on 7th September 2008 under the watchful eye of our senior pastors. Leading a church was interesting. Mostly good at first, in fact I very clearly remember waking up each morning feeling on top of the world, wondering how life had become so good. Yes there were challenges but the joys of leading and building a church far outweighed the difficult spots. Eric and I were blissfully happy and so were our children. Everyone was flourishing and thriving. Our church was growing steadily, young people were growing in their faith and our lovely street people were getting to know Jesus too. Church didn't hurt - it was just as church should be, or so I thought. Looking back on those days now as I recount our story to you leaves me with a smile on my face. There really were a few years where things were truly great. You can read our full story in detail in my book, The Tale of a Church Planter. Here is a little extract with one of our many rewarding stories:
“He made it!” That was the remark I made to Eric when I read Ewen’s very first blog post. His post was rich with love for Jesus and gratitude for what He had done in his life. My heart swelled with pride. Ewen was turning eighteen and I felt as much pride for him as I did for my own children.

I first met Ewen when he was fifteen years old in 2008. He dropped in to see what was happening at our Friday night youth group when we were meeting in the community centre. Clearly he was a trouble maker. That night, I also noticed a display of deep cuts all over his arms. The image is still vividly imprinted in my mind as I knew that those bleeding wounds on his arms represented the state of his heart.

Many teenagers came to us with heart wrenching stories full of hurt and confusion. The first time I met Ewen, his manner and body language made a clear statement that he was not to be messed with. His foul language and rough exterior combined with the cigarettes, drugs and alcohol defined him. Worst of all I could see that he really believed that this was his true self. After a few incidents at youth I began to dread his return, it was clear he was there to make trouble and assert himself as a ruffian.

The first time I caught a glimmer of hope was when I ran a session on identity and Ewen surprisingly participated. I spoke of the confusion that I saw the young people dealing with and delved into the fact that they didn't really know who they were. As I spoke I saw Ewen's eyes well up. He nodded continuously as I described what I saw in the lives of young people and then he spoke of his inner turmoil. I had to hold back my tears. Behind his rough exterior was a heart of gold suppressed by anger and confusion.

That day changed my life, I began to pray for him and begged God for his salvation. It seemed impossible that someone so rough would soften enough to allow God in but when I prayed I placed the picture of his teary eyes in the forefront of my mind. On the 21st September 2008 God answered my prayer. It was our very first church service and Ewen was our very first salvation, our precious first fruit. Even now as I remember that special day I am overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy.

Since then God has done amazing things in Ewen's life, too much to begin to write here. At school the teachers wrote him off. Almost daily he was in some sort of trouble and his grades were so bad that they didn't expect him to finish school. It wasn't long before the teachers were gobsmacked by the change in Ewen and more than that they were shocked by his improved grades. I guess you could imagine their reaction when he announced his plans to go to university! What the teachers had written off, God had declared a ‘future and a hope ’ to. Ewen has since achieved the grades he needed to get into the school he wanted. No teachers’ words define him now. The word of God is the ‘light to his path ’. Ewen knows who he is and that he is called to do significant damage to the darkness that nearly killed him. His testimony is powerful and his influence in this nation will be too.

Yes, God did change Ewen's life, but more than that, Ewen has changed mine. I love him as my own son and am a very proud mama. To add a cherry to the top of the cake, Ewen wrote the most beautiful song on our debut album which I had the honour of singing with Lorah-Kelly. It’s a powerful song written by a truly grateful heart.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
- Galatians 6:9

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:13

That day, his eighteenth birthday, was one of those special days, the day where I reaped a rich reward. I confess I did grow weary; perhaps I did lose heart a bit too. There were many sleepless nights praying Ewen through rough patches during college. At times I wanted to give up but I couldn’t, there was always that ‘what if?’ What if he was only one day away from victory? What if he really needed our love and support for just a little longer to make it? What if something really bad happened to him because we lost heart? What if he was intended to be the prime minister of England and we let him slip away? The ‘what ifs’ lined up and suddenly the small sacrifice of prayer didn’t seem such a big deal after all. So we prayed, we loved him and every now and then we had a few awkward chats too.

The reward for me that day was to see him celebrate his eighteenth birthday knowing deep down inside of my heart that he had made it. He is safe. He pulled through the dark times and I am utterly convinced that he is going to be all that God wants him to be! I don’t think the verses about growing weary meant that we should not grow weary. Growing weary will happen. If we are working hard, there is no escaping weariness. No, for me, the not growing weary is of ‘doing good’. You will get tired but don’t stop. Don’t stop doing good even though you are tired. Keep doing good despite the weariness.

This is one of many amazing stories that made our life rich and full, we were happy and were seeing other people find joy and freedom too and it was great! Little did we know that sadly, this wasn't to be our real life, only a short season before a long season of storms.

14.8.16

The Flood and a Church Plant

Church was awesome! Our children were happy and loved it. Lorah got baptised. Daniel was born. We started leading a home group, which was awesome and meant less travelling too. One day, out of the blue, Lorah asked I we could lead a youth group like I did in South Africa. When she was little a did a lot of children and youth work and even though she was young it obviously had an impact on her. I immediately responded yes. It made sense to me and if it helped her make friends at school then why not.

The Flood was born! It was a structured youth group that we help on Friday night's at our home. It started with just four girls and then they requested that the boys come along.  Gulp! I was a bit nervous to add boys to the mix but agreed and the following Friday we had twelve children (one of them named Samuel Beard.... who is now our son-in-law, but that's a whole other story). From there it grew and grew until we were averaging 25 children a week in our apartment. We enjoyed cooking and eating a meal together, some open question time, games, some sort of Bible teaching and of course music as many of the children played an instrument or sang. It was amazing, we love The Flood. It wasn't long before we outgrew our home and annoyed the neighbours too much so we moved our little youth group to a local community center and continued to grow to fifty plus children. At one point we had 112 young people on our database and many of them were accepting Jesus when we shared the gospel with them.  It became obvious that we needed to disciple them and although we were taking some to church with us on Sundays we simply couldn't get them all to church.

One Sunday we arranged a meeting with the pastor of our church and asked if we could set up a Sunday discipleship group rather than attend the evening services so that we could care for these young Christians. After a good discussion we left the meeting with permission to plant a church! What!! To this day I have no idea how that happened but it happened. Our pastor asked us to send him a written proposal for the church and a proposed start date. I guess he didn't expect the massive document that was emailed over to him within a week, perhaps he didn't expect us to get back to him at all. But we did and proposed a September launch date to which he agreed.

That was it, Eric and I were about to become church leaders! We worked feverishly around the clock trying to get ready for the launch. Our pastors didn't really offer any guidance or get involved at all but we knew that they were available if we needed them. One amazing man from our home group was immediately appointed the youth leader and agreed to take care of our children. Eric of course was a brilliant guitarist but other than that we didn't really have a worship team. So when we needed a singer Lorah offered to do it. She had never done anything like it in her life but knew that someone needed to step up and do it so she offered. Sam played drums so he offered and then some of the boys from our youth group quickly learned to play some guitar and bass. Within months we had a worship team.

Next was the preaching.... gulp! Eric and I had never preached yet. EVER. But we put that to the back of our mind and just got on with it. We shared the very first sermon for the launch event, Eric planned to say some things and I would say other thing and together we were hoping for a halfway decent first sermon.

The launch date was set, the band rehearsing their set list, the sermon written, promotional cards printed and the coffee and tea ordered. We were conveniently able to hire the community center where we held The Flood on Friday nights so the venue was set. We were so excited and the launch date couldn't come quick enough. Life was so good and made perfect sense to us as a family. Oh and did I mention that I was pregnant with Amy at that time, she was due in December of the same year. There was no way we could have anticipated the intense roller coaster ride we would go on from that September.

Our church was planted, our baby born and we were having the time of our life! But more about that in my next post...