“It’s great to hear the testimony of someone who has served onboard the ship” said one of the delegates at the Logos Hope ship fundraising dinner.
Our friends Steve and Heather Packwood (Steve was my boss on Logs Hope) invited us up to the beautiful city of Edinburgh for the weekend to attend a dinner to raise funds for the ship ministry. While we as crew members needed our beloved supporters to provide for our needs during our two years on the ship – other supporters donate directly to the ship ministry to pay for repairs, upkeep and fuel to keep the ship running. We were invited to this one of two dinners (the other in London) to share our experience of what we did onboard and how it changed our lives. Speaking about the ship experience together in front of people really brought back some great memories of our time on board and reminded us of just how much God has done in our lives since we walked up the gangway in September 2009. Firstly that Ruth and I had found each other, but also that we had found a place and a ministry where God could use us for great things, and that when we have no idea how to do something He will happily guide us through.
“I thought I spoke English before I came to the UK” I exclaimed to those gathered at the table. The night before the big celebration a few of us close friends from ship days gathered together for dinner and were sharing our experiences of adapting to British culture.
A little over a year since we shared two years of our lives in close quarters with so many people we called friends, I cannot describe to you how refreshing it was to be back in the company of these old friends. Chief amongst these for me were some of my closest friends from my time onboard. Ruth also enjoyed meeting with friends of hers. I was encouraged by others sharing their stories of difficulty adapting to british culture after marrying Brits. Calling crackers biscuits and calling biscuits cookies, parking on the wrong side of the street and misunderstanding social cues. Sometimes I feel totally foreign and at other times I feel like I belong here.
The celebration lunch happened the day before they left for the US and just weeks before their US wedding and held all the hallmarks of a wedding reception. It was a delightful affair – and it was so nice to see them walking the road to marriage so well. I was very impressed by the way Colton had prepared every detail for their future life together in the states.
Christian weddings are often a great witness to God’s goodness to us and our ability to celebrate without excess in drinking and the like – and this celebration was a shining example. I loved the way the speeches reflected God’s provision and guiding in their lives, that whilst alcohol was available it barely featured, that we celebrated with such a lovely barn dance – and mostly that we could all gather around Claire and Colton to pray God’s blessing upon them as they travel onwards and together. They say that Christian marriage should reflect the way Jesus loves the church and we love him – and this is already evident in their lives.
One way to measure how we have settled in Carlisle might be to ask what church we go to. Well we haven’t really had the chance to decide.
Recently we’ve taken a liking to st Paul’s. It’s actually an ELIM church that recently purchased this quaint old church building (says the Australian).
We feel really welcomed by the pastor and the congregation every time we visit and we’ve found the service style very enjoyable. There are lots of churches in Carlisle, each with it’s own style and strengths and weaknesses – and we’re sure we’ll never find anywhere quite like NBC or Grace but we think we could be quite happy here. We’d like to hear the senior pastor preach (as so far we’ve only heard the associate pastor) before we commit to coming every week.
We’re also thankful for the Christian community of OM. This morning we spent 2 hours in prayer for outreaches and ministries in Europe and the Mediterranean as part of our work time. We also have worship times together 2-3 times per week and devotions together. We’ve often been invited to people’s houses for dinner – and this Friday we’re going to a worship evening at someone’s house. Praise God for community.
Please pray for us as we slowly settle in to our new surroundings, new leaders, new friends, new church family.
“We have lived for such a long time in the abnormal that we call it normal, and when we touch God’s normal we call it abnormal”. A weekend with Northchurch Baptist in Hertfordshire proved to be more than simply time with our friends – it was a real wake up call to what it means to be kingdom people.
Often times we can feel like we are living good Christian lives by going to Church, participating in ministries – even doing mission work! But none of those make us kingdom people. I once heard “Going to church no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car”. Three points challenged me in my walk with God- Kingdom people need:
To be refreshed by the Holy Spirit daily
To reflect deeply on Scripture
To be involved in prayer as God intended
I realised that too often I bring to God a shopping list of prayer requests – things I struggle with myself. And as payment for my prayers (I exaggerate for effect) I read my daily portion of scripture. Oh how much more wonderful to be filled by and refreshed by the spirit daily. How much more beneficial to sit and think about what I have read and how it applies to my life. How it would glorify God to allow his word to renew my mind and transform me into His likeness. And how mountains could be moved if I would bring the needs of others to God in prayer.
Recently, OM started a prayer focus. We launched a website subdomain http://pray.om.org/. If you’ve ever wondered what in the world to pray for – start here. There are many needs around the world, and many amazing and inspiring ministries to support in prayer. For the first time this morning I used this resource in my prayer time, and for a change I felt like my burdens were lighter than they had felt before, and that I was a part of what God is doing to reconcile the whole world to himself.
It was of course also a joyous occasion to spend time with so many of our friends from the Berkhamsted area. People who not only have been supporting us financially and in prayer during our time with OM, but who have invested deeply into Ruth’s life and also into mine ever since I arrived in the UK. We felt blessed and refreshed by it.
On leaving the conference we identified another point that convicted us: Kingdom people need to recognise that they are accountable. We have been blessed with wonderful mentor relationships in Northchurch Baptist and on Logos Hope, but we are yet to establish that kind of relationship here in Carlisle. We know that it takes time, but it also takes intention. Would you please pray with us that we find a couple to guide and mentor us in our lives, our relationship with God and each other and our ministry?
Normally I just let Chris write these entries but somehow last night I found myself saying ‘I could write this week’s.’ I’m still not sure why I said that but here I am, writing it anyway!
Amongst all the changes in the last 3 months one of the ones I’m most struggling to get used to is having a desk job. The last time I spent so much of my day sitting at a desk was when I was at school and many days I find myself wondering how people manage it. Having been used to a job where I’m nearly always moving about, switching from one thing to another and never being totally sure what will happen next, the predictability of sitting in one place for several hours is often demotivating (not to mention that I don’t know how to keep awake!). It doesn’t usually take more than an hour before I’m fidgety and looking for some reason to move.
Last week this challenge was stretched even further by 3 days of sitting in meetings. My role as Family and Educational Support Advisor falls under the International Human Resources (IHR) team. This is something of a virtual team as less than half its members are actually based here in Carlisle but last week the majority of the team came together for meetings. Being something of an introvert and new to the team meant that most of the 3 days I simply sat and listened, filling my schedule sheet with elaborate doodles. At various times I wondered what I was doing there and even what I’m doing here with OM at all. However, as the discussions went on around me I realised how much I was learning. I was able to get to know people who so far have just been a name on an e-mail (including my new boss), better understand how IHR is structured and get a feel for the heart that is behind everything we do. The majority of our time focussed around 2 areas: what is our dream for the IHR team and how can we really work as a team when we’re scattered around the world. While there are no easy answers, it is exciting to see the potential we have in this department to support the rest of the OM world in offering people the care and development that they need. For this reason I’m glad of the opportunity to attend the meetings and persevere with sitting at a desk in order to provide what help I can to the families serving across the world.
So we’ve been here in Carlisle for just over two weeks now and we’re almost all settled in. We are so very thankful for the gifts that people have given us towards setting up a new home together. Every time I cut up vegetables I am thankful for sharp knives and nice (colour coded!) chopping boards. We love the concept of being able to store things in places other than our bedroom for once! One important part of setting up a home happened just last night – we finally got our new book-cases. Ruth had lots of fun putting out all her books on display, and I must say they look great. And don’t worry, I’ve set up the TV and Wii so we’re all set there!
But we’ve had little time to sit at home and play with our toys because we are already hard at work at OM. With the TeenStreet conference in Germany happening this month, Ruth has been planning a whole kid’s program and I have been training in the use of some pretty crazy sophisticated equipment. It is going to be a hectic two weeks so please pray for us as we go on this adventure together.
Yes, Ruth and I finally tied the knot on the 9th of June 2012 at Northchurch Baptist Church, Berkhamsted, England. We had a magnificent day that (save for a slight delay) turned out just the way we planned. The sun even made an appearance in the afternoon and there was an especially beautiful sunset to end the day. You can see lots of photos of the big day on our facebook pages.
We had a lovely relaxing honeymoon in tropical north Queensland, Australia before heading to Australia for a whole second wedding and reception! It was lovely to celebrate again with the people who are special to me, and who had already met Ruth and encouraged us on our journey together. It was also a time for last goodbyes as we flew back to the UK two days later!
We’ve been very busy setting up our new home in Carlisle, UK and we will have some photos for you to see soon. We’ve also started work already as volunteers for Operation Mobilisation – Ruth is working with families in the mission field and I am working with a multimedia ministry called OMNIvision. Between our day jobs, setting up a home, getting over jetlag and getting used to each other – we’re quite drained – so please pray for energy and grace for one another.
It’s only 9 days now until Ruth and I tie the knot here in Berkhamsted, England. We’re both super excited and thankful we can count the days on our fingers now. Everything seems to be coming together quite well for us as far as wedding planning and preparing for the future.
We will be broadcasting the wedding live over the internet from our church streaming channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/northchurch-baptist-broadcast
Note that this is not going to be a television worthy production, but you will be able to see and hear all the essentials if you want to stay up till 10:30pm EST. You can see another wedding has been recorded as ours will be to get an idea of the quality of coverage – though our ceremony will be quite different!
Our first couple of months in Carlisle seem to be shaping up as well. We have both been selected to be involved in TeenStreet – a huge Christian event challenging teenagers to live for Christ – in July and we have both been recruited for the Go conference – where new missionaries come to be equipped before going out into the world. I will be doing audio visual and Ruth will be looking after kids and consulting with families entering the mission field.
We can hardly wait for our new life to begin. We are seeing God’s provision for us every day in having enough money to buy food and bus tickets, to the big things like wedding rings and houses. Ruth’s monthly support income is almost at 100% – we are just seeking God for another £100 – £200. She is also looking for part time teaching work to give us enough to live on. If she is unable to find enough work, my monthly support will need to increase by up to $600 per month to give us spending money for things like groceries and public transport. Please continue to pray that the rest of the figures add up and we can begin serving God without being a burden to the organisation we go with.
“It’s such a relief that you could come to help out today Chris, you were a big help” a member of the OMNIvision crew remarked as he dropped me home late Saturday night. I was just thankful to God for the opportunity to be a part of the event.
Last Wednesday I left my lovely fiancee in Berkhamsted and caught a train to Carlisle to work on a software project for OM ships. I had wanted to spend some more time in Carlisle connecting and getting accustomed to the area, and OM had kindly paid my way up here for a week and a half. On Friday morning in devotions, a member of OMNIvision approached me and asked me if I’d like to go to Manchester with them for the weekend Northern Men’s Conference. I agreed without delay and was whisked off to the bus as soon as I could tell people where I was going.
One crew member had fallen ill and I was needed to help with setup, packdown and camera. I had operated a camera many times before on the ship, but this was a step up from that. Bigger cameras, more professional crew, and an audience that expect quality.
The Northern Men’s Conference was a one day Christian conference with keynote speaker Dr David Cook from Australia encouraging men from all around Northern England how to be the man God designed them to be. As I operated the camera, it struck me that he was saying some key stuff that mattered to me at this point in my life. I am moving from being a single man under my parents to being a husband and head of the household. Whilst I won’t repeat his talks, I especially like that he said God designed us in his image – to work as He does, to rest as He does and to Love as he does. This and many other truths washed over me as I operated the camera – I felt doubly blessed hearing this instruction and doing what I love doing.
The Audio/Visual side of things ran very smoothly and everyone was thankful that I could come along and fill in for the other camera operator. I am looking forward to the big events like Teen Street that I’ll be involved with this summer. I thank God for the surprise adventure, the blessing of growing relationships with the crew and the instruction I received on being a man of God.
Following our week in Carlisle nailing down the details of our future, this week has been spent connecting (or re-connecting in Ruth’s case) with the community of Ruth’s Home Church, Northchurch Baptist. I’ve been staying with two lovely families that live near Ruth. It’s been great to get to know them better by living in their homes and sharing a little in their lives. Ruth and I have been doing our best to share with others what God has called us to do in Carlisle. (you can read it here: Chris|Ruth) A big part of this has been participating in home groups. We’ve also had penty of time to spend on wedding planning – which as you could imagine, turns out to be quite a bit of work when you want to stick to a budget!
We are both really excited about continnuing work with OM, and sometimes I feel like I’d like to be there right now serving God with my skills and giftings – but He is encouraging me each day that building my relationship with Ruth and connecting with people in her life – laying down a good foundation for the future is the best use of my time right now.
This Wednesday I’m headed to Carlisle for 1.5 weeks to work on an urgent project, then I’m back here in Berkhamsted until the wedding on June 9th. We’ll disappear until our Australian blessing and reception on June 26th, and after that we’ll return to Carlisle to set up home and start work on July 2nd.
We’ve been really encouraged so far by generous gifts and pledges of financial support. it’s still early days as far as Ruth’s levels are concerned. I’m still resting at 70%. We can’t help but testify that God has suppplied all of our needs up to this point and we Trust he will continue to surprise us in the future.