Archive | January, 2018

The journey to finding God

30 Jan

person-clinic-cross-religion-54333.jpegOn spring bank holiday, May 1987, as I left home to walk the short distance to catch the coach to Derbyshire: the day seemed like any other day of the year. The neighbourhood was quiet and calm as people were still asleep. On this particular day I was among several members of our church party attending the final celebration weekend convention held yearly at Cliff College.

Cliff College was established in 1883 and provides theological and practical training in Christian evangelism, service and ministry for Methodism and the wider Church to students of all denominations and many countries.  The College is situated in Hope Valley in Derbyshire, in the beautiful Peak District National Park.

My only knowledge of the place was that one of my church sisters’, Carole, had studied there for a year and had invited others from our church to attend the various yearly conventions. On our way there I felt a sense of happiness to be travelling outside London for the day unaware that this journey would prove to be the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

As soon as we arrived we were confronted with the view of hundreds of cars, caravans, tents, and numerous coaches. Then there were those on foot. People seemed to be coming from everywhere.

The service was conducted in the open air with a make shift rostrum. A group of singers led the worship, which was very vibrant. From the expression on the people’s faces you could see they were happy to be there. They were smiling; more over they were very welcoming and made every effort to make space for us to find a spot. Their singing was joyful and their entire bodies were caught up in the act of worship. Some raised their hands in adoration, whilst others clasped their hands as if in prayer and occasionally people yelled Hallelujah, Amen, thank you Jesus. This was unusual to me; however I settled down unstirred by the emotions of the people around me and waited for the preacher to be announced.

As he began to speak it was as if he had mysteriously picked me out from among the crowd of people. He seemed to speak to me personally and every word spoken made a demand on my life. His voice penetrated into my entire being, which made me feel conscious that the congregation too was aware that his message was directed to me. This preacher was making a demand on my life telling me I had certain duties to perform in the church, and I certainly was not prepared to get involved there. By now I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable and had a great urge to leave the meeting. I simply switched off and went to a pity party with myself thinking of my own sad state of affair of the heart, the breakdown of my marriage, which was very painful. How was I going to cope? What would become of me? These were a few of my questions. I was not particularly good company and was getting rather critical of this group of people who seemed so full of themselves. Clapping, smiling even looking happy in Church: whatever next? I thought.

The church where I worshiped was quiet in contrast to Cliff College. In fact, all four churches in the circuit were quiet and reserved. Our church in particular could be full on Sundays and yet you’ll be forgiven if you were passing in the street for believing that only a few people worshipped there. The singing was soft and it was one of those places where no matter how hard you listen you could not hear the voice of the other person standing next to you. Peradventure someone came to church whose voice could be heard above the pitch of the others everyone turned to see who had violated the sacredness of the atmosphere.

This place was certainly different and instead of welcoming that form of worship I rejected it because of its vibrancy.

At the end of the meeting we made our way in search of somewhere to sit and eat. Once outside I was made even more aware of the vast numbers of people who had come to the convention.

The multitude of worshippers filled the park as far as the eye could see. They were coming from the upper tent, the Terrace, the children’s meeting, the big tent, and the lower tent. People were ascending and descending the hill, some were sitting in groups on the grass at the top of the hill others were sitting around their caravans. The beauty of the colours of their clothing amid the green grass and the surrounding hills was magnificent to behold. The sound of music mingled with the voices of children filled the air, and I could picture a biblical scene with Jesus on the hillside of #Galilee and a multitude of people coming there to hear him speak. I had never been in a place as this before. The scene was mesmerising, as I stood and gazed at the beautiful Derbyshire hills I said truly: “God is in this place”.

As we sat down for lunch the feeling of unease came again. There is definitely something spooky about this place I thought. The message about getting involved in the mission of the church was being transmitted in my brain and I was hearing it loud and clear so much so that I felt the urge to run away once more.

As I pondered over the situation my thoughts went on the bookshop up the hill. I loved reading and thought it would be good to browse around in the shop and see if anything on display caught my fancy.  Feeling more relaxed I began the short walk in search of the shop. On the way to the Terrace I remembered passing a sign that showed the position of the shop, so I went directly there. I was only there a few minutes when a friend who had arrived to the weekend celebrations ahead of us, approached me.  She was quite happy to meet up with me, but somehow she seemed to be in a hurry and quickly pointed out two books she thought I should read. Together we went to the checkout and paid for the books, the Holy Spirit and you and Nine 0 clock in the Morning.

She then invited me to the lower tent to hear Rev Colin Urquhart speak. In her excitement she told me all she knew about him. He was an Anglican Priest previously, but he was now an Evangelist and: “You‘ve got to hear him” she insisted. I had nothing against this man of God, but I was not particularly interested to sit among people who instead of sitting quietly and listen to the preacher respond with #hallelujah and #amen and this #Jesus thing. “Why were they saying his name so often?” I came to the conclusion that they were new to #church and thought they had to say his name. In my heart I was protesting: “No I’m sorry, but I’m not going.”  but I did not want to let her down.

All my life I‘ve tried to please others; never wanting people to think badly of me, after all this friend was enjoying the #conference. She happily told me what I had missed over the past few days. The bible study, Morning Prayer meetings, speakers, walking along the prayer paths, the new friends made etc. I could not tell her how uncomfortable I felt being there so I went along quite unwillingly to the lower tent. I did not know at that time that my life would never be the same.

Up to that period of time my life was a boring one. I was a very sensitive person, who took offence for the simplest of things said about me, kept very much to myself and I did not make good company. This meant I had no friends and was the worst off for being lonely and isolated.

I was brought up in a small country village in the Caribbean in a family that kept very much to themselves, which meant I had a very reserved upbringing. We lived across the road from the Methodist church that my family attended religiously every Sunday. The little chapel was used for Christian worship and sufficed as a school that provided education to children from the age of five to 16. My village and those from other areas also used this chapel/school.

The chapel was a hive of community events, as it provided various social activities organised by missionaries who taught several Irish and English folk songs.

I was very shy and particularly choosy in my dress sense. Unlike other girls of my age who wore ordinary below the knee dresses I liked mine ankle length. I also felt unable to have my arm, chest and back exposed and people referred to me among other things as being old fashioned, stupid, and why can’t you be as everyone else? I was constantly being criticised and felt very unloved, rejected, and condemned just for being me.

So here I was at Cliff College with various emotional feelings. I felt alone, abandoned, rejected and thought that there was definitely no hope for me finding my dreams come true. Now I was hearing testimonies of people who had similar life experiences. In communicating their life story they told of a loving father who came to their rescue when they called, they spoke of heartaches, pain, rejection, abuse suffered in silence and the bitterness they harboured in their hearts and of the release and freedom found as they invited Jesus into their lives.

I had never been at a place where I’ve heard of wonderful things like these. I felt myself wanting to be free from my pain, and gradually I was opening up but remained sceptical.

These were young people: I was now 43 years old and I still felt rejected, unloved, humiliated, scorned etc. “God, I will like to have a testimony, but why are they talking about Jesus so much.” I thought. Up till then I very rarely heard people calling on the name of #Jesus or even asserting that he did something for them. Were these people real? Again, I felt uneasy and wanted to make my exit, as I was about to do so a young man sitting somewhere along the pew decided to get up and beckoned me to his seat. We exchanged places just at the point of introducing the speaker the Rev. Colin Urquhart. Perhaps I’ll stay and listen to him after all. He came from the Church of England they won’t dare express themselves whilst he’s speaking.

He invited people to give their lives to #Christ. Even though I was brought up in the church, had attended #Sunday school regularly, at the age of 12 attended reception classes, learnt my catechism and made a commitment to follow Christ and was finally received as a member of the Methodist Church this didn’t feel right for me. As I reflected on these things I became aware of a headache that I had all day. I was beginning to feel miserable again, I thought about the difficulties of my life and of my longing to find peace, and happiness. As far as I knew peace could only be acquired in death, right now my life seemed to be of no real value what so ever. In fact, I was fed up of life.

As the minister prayed for people to accept #Jesus as #Lord of their lives I finally thought I might as well give him my life. I needed his #intervention and without any more #resistance I closed my eyes and said: “Jesus you can have my life. I don’t want it anymore. Have it. Here, catch.” I threw myself in the hand of Jesus and as he caught hold of me immediately I felt as though a large burden had fallen off my shoulders and I was filled with the most wonderful sense of #peace imaginable. From that moment I had no recollection of the people standing there in the tent with me.

The Marquee that contained hundreds of people suddenly seemed to be empty except for the #Spirit of God at my side and me. Suddenly I could hear the preacher speaking in tongues, but in English I heard a voice calling me by name (Jean), and telling me what he wanted me to do. I wondered how he knew my name and how did he find me among such a crowd. When at last I was able to open my eyes I found that the people were all there and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something #miraculous had taken place. Even the atmosphere seemed changed; inside me was a hushed silence. My very soul was at peace and from that moment I had no recollection of the rest of the service. I was simply lost in wonder pondering over the mysteries of God.

I’ve heard the phrase born again but I had no idea how this came about now I had experienced a change and I suddenly knew. The person who stood there in the spot where I stood was not the same creature now. A transaction had taken place and I knew I was born again. “Why didn’t I learn about this mystery before?  Did everyone in the tent have the same experience?” I was deep in thought and was not aware of the time until a tap on the shoulder by one of my colleagues made me realise it was time to leave the meeting for the three hour journey home.

As I ponder upon the event of the day the words of two hymns came to me, one was by John Newton:

 Amazing grace how sweet the sound that save a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.

Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come

God’s grace has brought me safe thus far

And he will lead me home (John Newton)

The other hymn was by Charles Wesley:

And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Died he for me, who caused his pain

For me, who him to death pursued

Amazing love how can it be

That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

 

 Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light

My chains fell off, my heart was free

I rose, went forth, and followed thee

 No condemnation now I dread

Jesus and all in him is mine

Alive in him, my living head

And clothed in righteousness divine

Bold I approach the eternal throne

And claim the crown the through Christ, my own. (Charles Wesley)

I’ve sung those hymns in church since childhood without understanding their true meaning. Now for the first time I understood the hearts of the men who penned those hymns. They too had met with the risen Christ and had left something powerful behind for other people to reflect on the grace of God. I felt free, and was later to comment that before I went to Cliff College I was a sluggish caterpillar with a diet of cabbage leaves, but by the time I left I’d become a butterfly with a totally new diet prepared for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obstacles

26 Jan

pexels-photo.jpg

Before any individual can #succeed in life, he/she has to put up a fight to #overcome the daunting situations that present themselves in the person’s life. Having a #vision means encountering problems and discouragements galore. It can even cause family friction which will certainly lead to #isolation and #loneliness. Twenty-six years ago I found myself fighting a battle I never started. The moment I embarked on the #mission of caring for the welfare of others a #ragingstorm arose around me. I was accused of every immoral act and wickedness I never knew exist. The accusations were enough to deter me from going through with the work. The areas of the attack came from within a very loving circle, and relationships were broken beyond repair. But by the grace of #God and a #passion to bring about change in the lives of people the mission is still alive and active. Perhaps you have a vision and finding it a #challengingexperience and have even considered walking away from the task: before doing so read my book #WhenGodIntervenes. This #inspiringbook will give you #renewedstrength, determination and #confidence to #pursue the #vision. You will then find that behind every success there are several #obstacles to #overcome.

Who said it was easy serving God?

16 Jan

Gray Stone on Grassy Field during Under Cloudy Sky during Sunset

Serving #God can be dangerous even in this society. People are being persecuted simply for laying down their lives for the gospel. At the age of 14 I had accepted #Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, but through the lack of teachings I was unable to grow spiritually. For years, I felt my life wasn’t what it should be, and that there was something more to being#Christian than just going to #Church on Sundays.

New meaning

I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that simply through attending a #Convention I could come to #know Christ in a personal way. Being someone who liked to please others I went unwillingly with a friend to this particular tent meeting. Within half an hour I had recommitted my life to #Christ Jesus and found new meaning to my life. The burden and cares of this world that I carried over the years fell off and I felt free.

I had found a new and vibrant way of expressing my faith. The day I made my commitment I was told to go and bring comfort to the broken hearted. Having suffered bouts of depression over the years I knew how it felt to be lonely, broken , sad and living without hope. During a crisis situation prior to my conversion I realised no one was available to offer any support or #comfort that could help me through the difficult times of my life. I pondered on the fact that the #Church did exist but asked myself what is the Church for? If it could not offer #healing, #direction, and #love: what was the point of belonging to such an institution. In my own despair of finding support, I then began to take notice of other people.  I suddenly realised that my own personal circumstances was not isolated. The reality was that there were many others like myself who had various unmet needs that was not being addressed.

Ministering to the “Outcast of society”

In 1987 Six months after my encounter with God. He directed me to start a #prayer group. I packed in my job as a care Assistant and made myself available to those who came. Within three months there were thirty eight people attending prayer meetings. My home had become an open door to the community of suffering people and this had caused a great offence not only to members of my #Church but to my family as well. At that time many incidences of violent attack on members of the #community was attributed to people suffering mental disorders. Relatives and acquaintances said I brought shame on the family in associating myself with people termed ‘dangerous’. I felt despised and isolated as several individuals wanted nothing to do with me. For the first time in my life  I began to encounter persecution.

Before surrendering my life to Christ people saw me as a good person. Now that I had given myself to be used by God to bring comfort to those suffering the effects of mental illness I was accused of being evil, worthless, insane, and confused.

Qualifications

I had no special qualifications to give expert support to these individuals, except that I had gained a City and Guild certificate in Community Studies. This two-year full-time study of life from birth to retirement had given me some insight into the various conditions that presented themselves in these individuals. Apart from prayer this enabled me to use those acquired skills to give good counsel with relation to the taking of medication, getting them to talk about their feelings and involving them in group work, so as to help them to become motivated. This simple act of caring led to the birth of my organisation #WaysideCommunityCentre, with no funding what so ever.

I was trained as a local preacher and I’m carrying out my duties in the Church now for the past twenty seven years. However I still feel rejected for my dealings with victims of mental ill health and the reason why we are not being recognised for the hard work and dedication provided over the years. I personally feel like a recluse  even though the organisation is credible and reaching out not only in our community but also internationally. Do you believe it’s easy serving God?

Hostility among nations

2 Jan

pexels-photo-818252.jpegCan there ever be #peaceinourworld? After all the hostility seen among nations, the fear, pain, and suffering experienced by groups of people in our world there are those who may not know what it means to have #peace. “Peace is an occurrence of harmony characterised by the lack of violence, conflict behaviours, and the freedom from fear of violence”. (Wiki quote)

We hear of the violence in the Middle East and North Africa with nine civil wars going on in Islamic countries between Pakistan and Nigeria. Over two million Syrian forced from their homes and none of these wars shows any signs of ending. Then there’s the plight of over sixty-five thousand Rohingya people who had to flee Myanmar to Bangladesh. We also hear about the abuse, pain and humiliation suffered by children, young people, the elderly, and those caught up in modern day slavery in our own part of the world. Then there’s the blatant discrimination of refugees landing in the West, and one could almost emphasise with them as so many of us have experienced rejection in a foreign land, among strange people ourselves.

What is it that possesses mankind to believe that they have some claim to a certain part of the world or that their race or culture is superior to others? Have they not heard; all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the grass of the field, the grass withers and the flowers fall. (1 peter 1:24). Those who show power over others need to know that there’s someone who is more powerful than they are who holds the key to life and death in his hand. His name is Jehovah, God Almighty, he neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is very much aware of the atrocities carried out by vicious men/women throughout the world. He is known as the Comforter, he promise to wipe away every tear from the eyes of the broken hearted and those who mourn.

The prophet Isaiah tells of a time when hostility between peoples will be a thing of the past. He speaks of a time of peace and tranquillity when hostile man and vicious animals will live in harmony. He refers to the time when Christ reign over the earth. Scripture say in that day the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and the leopard and goats will be at peace. Calves and fat cattle will be safe among lions, and a little child shall lead them all. #Isaiah 11: 6-9.

To believe that peace is available to all can be a hard thing to imagine. The fact is that #ChristJesus came into the world to offer us his peace as a #giftfomGod. This is a state of quiet or tranquillity from agitation as from fear/ terror. Quietness of mind, calmness, a quiet of conscience, and this peace is freely available for those who will put aside malice and strife against their fellowmen and turn to him. We have all experience hurt in one form or another and #forgiveness is the key to #findingpeacewithGod and each other. I pray that Men, Women and Children throughout the world will experience HIS peace and live in harmony with God and one other beginning today.