Monthly Archives: June 2009

How Lay Witness Missions came to the UK

For me it began with a waking dream: one word, MACEDONIA, like a place name I saw once on a Welsh railway station, with the letters embossed,  standing clear of their background.  Pouring over a map later, I realized that, for the apostle Paul, the call from a man of Macedonia was a call to take the gospel west across the sea to Europe.  Was God calling me to go west across the sea to America? I knew no one in America and saw no reason to go there.

Ten years later, in 1974, when I was the Methodist minister at Bolsover near Chesterfield, I was in my study thinking about this again.  By then I had an open invitation to visit someone in Florida and a pressing request to allow two Americans, Charles and Lucille Gipson, to take me to a Lay Witness Mission if ever I visited the U.S.A.  I was also keen to see how the Lord was at work in various situations being affected by the Charismatic Renewal which was then at its height.  I decided to go for it.

So it was that I found myself in a remote community in the Appalachian mountains where a small Methodist church was having a Lay Witness Mission.  I could see the potential for the U.K.  Several months later, early in 1975, I had a letter out of the blue from Dr. Roger Haining, a dentist living in Seattle, asking if I would be willing to help him introduce Lay Witness Missions to England.

The idea was that we would have a joint American and British team for the first weekends that Roger would lead.  My task was to find the British team members and the churches to have the first missions.  Roger was hoping that they would be held later that year but as time went on it became apparent that though it was easy enough to find some volunteers to be the first British team members, finding enough churches willing to have an American led mission about which they knew nothing was a different matter!

The Lord knew that I needed help.  I recall vividly the day when Nev  Marples, a neighbour and a member of the church at Bolsover, called at the manse looking very worried.  He told me that he had been putting on his boots ready to go to work at the local Coalite plant when he heard a voice telling him to go to America.  When he recovered from the initial shock and asked whereabouts, the answer came back clear as a bell “Spokane”.   This was totally outside Nev’s experience and when I asked him why he was looking so anxious he told me that he thought I might recommend him to see a psychiatrist!  He had never heard of Spokane (neither had I for that matter).  Looking it up on a map he found that it was near the west coast!

After Nev’s visit I came across the word ‘Spokane’ on three separate occasions, one of them in a letter from Roger saying that the Methodist church in Spokane was thinking of sponsoring one of their young people to join the team.  I realized that Spokane was not all that far from Seattle and asked Roger if he would like to invite Nev over to sample a LWM so that he could then come back and help me find the churches to have the first missions.

The day came when Nev was dropped off at Spokane and told that he would be collected again later in the day.  Looking around and wondering what he was doing there, he noticed a building with a cross on it.  When he went to investigate he found that it was a shelter for disadvantaged men.  Nev ended up having lunch with the director who told him how he had been a successful cattle rancher when the Lord called him to the work in which he was now involved: how reluctant he had been and how he had been thrown from his horse, ending up on his back with plenty of time to think.  He told Nev: ‘If the Lord calls you to do something you’d better do it!’

Nev was taken to a Lay Witness Mission and also saw their potential for the U.K.

When  Nev came back home he had an amazing story to tell and was the one who encouraged churches to have the first missions as well as becoming a member of the management committee and going on missions himself.  Sadly, Nev died a few years ago.

The 1,000 Lay Witness Mission was held in October 2006.  This coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first mission being held at Bolsover.

Looking back it feels as if I had the privilege on entering into something that God was doing.

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Angels

This is what the writer to the Hebrews says about angels:

‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ Hebrews 1:12

The psalmist says this: ‘If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.’ Psalm 91: 9-11

My daughter Clare contributes the following:

‘I was about 18 years old and on a walking holiday in the Lake District with a friend.  This particular day, we were walking up Coniston Old Man.  As we headed towards the summit the mountain became enveloped in a thick mist.  We couldn’t see a thing, perhaps only 3-5 metres ahead.  We lost our way and had no idea which way to go.  We sat on a rock and prayed for God’s angels to look after us.  Soon afterwards, while we were still sitting there, and trying to decipher where we were on the map, a man walked towards us, a hiker, and asked us if we were OK and needed any help.  We told him we were lost.  He gave us some directions and then went back the way he had come.  We followed his directions the best we could and ended up going down a scree slope towards the bottom.  We eventually came to a country lane that had a house on it with a cross on the wall next to the door.  We decided to knock and see if we could get a lift back to the car.  They were very welcoming and gave us cups of tea and some cake/biscuits and got us back to the car.

It was an interesting series of events because, although we weren’t sure that we followed the hiker’s instructions accurately, we were led to safety and a means of getting back to the car in one piece.

Maybe the hiker was an angel.

Another incident took place more recently.  One day I was driving up Ecclesall Road in Sheffield.  This road splits into two lanes as it heads towards Ecclesall Road South.  I was in the right hand lane getting ready to turn up Ringinglow Road.  As I was driving, I was feeling very heavily tired and was fighting sleep.  I kept telling myself not to fall asleep and that I would be at my parents very soon anyway.  However, that heavy half-conscious state started to fall over me and I would probably have gone out completely if I hadn’t heard a voice from the back seat shouting ‘CLARE!’.  It was loud enough to give me a start and make me turn round quickly to see who it was.  There was no one there. What I saw instead was a car coming up towards me in the left hand lane, with me veering towards it.  I quickly regained control of the car by steering it back towards the right.  The other car carried on past me in the left hand lane.

All I can say is that if I hadn’t been woken up at that point, I would have swerved into the car coming up on the left hand side.  I definitely heard a voice, and I can remember thinking that it must have been an angel.’

Praise the Lord for the ministry of angels!