Wednesday, 29 May 2013

AMEN Programme Day 3

Wednesday morning and we were all at the Farm Central Offices early to travel by minibus to Kings Church, Medway.  Heading south, the rain gave way to drier weather.   I chatted to Desmond on my right and Rukundo on my left.  Soon the old subject came up of the emphasis on wisdom in the West and the dynamic of power in the global church.  Desmond said that in parts of Africa, witchdoctors, aware that they are losing influence, have declared themselves as Pentecostal pastors!   He mentioned that one recommendation from the previous afternoon's discussions was for the Trust finances to be committed to a small exec, and all the guys would abide by their determinations.  This is great, because we've wanted to share the decision making.

Rukundo opened up about his personal need for admin and pastorally-gifted men to join his leadership team.  He's come a long way since, last year in Tanzania, he shared his sense of inadequacy in the face of the challenges he was facing.   Here he is again at another point of need.  He'll be coming up to Sheffield some time after this week.  Stephen and I got our heads together over dates and an itinerary for the trip next Spring.  Daniel asked me about an acclimatisation programme for our J Gen taking part in projects.  This is all the benefit of prolonged time together.

Matthew and his team in Chatham greeted us warmly.  He gave us a quick look around the main facility before coffee.  His church is involved in many points of action in the local community.  It started 13 years ago with Caring Hands, a drop-in project just across the road.  Then the local Pentagon Court shopping mall was looking for charity to run an information point, so the church was donated a retail unit to set this up.  The Medway NHS Trust, impressed by the efficiency of Caring Hands (serving 200+ meals a day) invited the church to run two cafes out of their four Healthy Living Centres.  Most recently the Council Social Services have entrusted their £600,000 Local Welfare Fund to church staff to administer under a service contract.  Now they are discussing if they can run - again as a contract service - the family mentoring support department. 

In terms of church development, their membership has grown from 30 to 300 in Matthew's time (not exclusively under his leadership).  Sunday meetings are live-streamed and then edited down to DVD.  This year they've taken responsibility for a church in Gillingham, and will appoint an elder to be its pastor.  Matthew and his family, inspired by Jesus Fellowship's common purse commitment, have joined with others in community living. Their present need to for a bigger place to spread in to, and they're waiting for the outcome of a planning change of use on a property they've found.  Since we had guys from eight different nations with us, we need to mention 'Light the Way', the church's international activity.  Through this they install solar electricity systems for lighting and clean water.

With this background, we climbed back into the minibus for a whistle-stop tour, first to NHS Rainham.  Then we doubled back to the hoped-for community property.  We joined hands in prayers of faith for this to succeed.   Next it was Caring Hands, where to my astonishment they explained that annual harvest festival donations from 41 schools provide the bulk of their food needs for the daily meals and snacks.  Next door is the the present community accommodation: uncluttered and welcoming, and full up!  Finally we walked across the town centre to the shopping mall contact point; then back for lunch.

Of course, many questions.  Tim from London and Len from Brighton had joined us.  Matthew gathered us all in the main hall.  He introduced a couple who had previously been notorious trouble but had found Jesus and started a new life.   The he outlined the personal journey that lies behind the church's outward achievements.  This engaged both our understanding and our brotherly affection.   We're privileged to have Matthew and his team in Multiply.  They'll be with us at London day, too, in five weeks' time.

We'd overrun our schedule, but I don't think anyone minded or would have missed any of the richness.  As we tumbled out of the minibus at 8pm, Piet asked if we could have a lie-in before tomorrow's start.  Huw was adamant we shouldn't.  I called in at Skaino office to print some acclimatisation briefings.  I'm glad I still have a key.  Maybe I'll get a desk-space at Central Office after the reorganisation?

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