As we prepared for church this morning, it seemed hard to believe that this is our 8th Sunday here. Time is flying by, but the Lord is on the move and we are thrilled by the things that are taking place. In the past two weeks we have started two Bible studies – one with the deacons and one on Mondays at the church in Paul's letter to the Colossians.
The deacons have started Jesus on Leadership, a study that looks at the many aspects of leadership based on the way Jesus called, equipped and empowered His disciples to serve the body of Christ. We were delighted to listen as they dialogued with one another during the first lesson about their individual callings and how they can easily see God’s hand in all that is taking place at Westoe Road. Tomorrow we will meet for the second time and this segment will cover their spiritual gifting and how that plays into their roles as deacons. The wheels are already turning in their minds as to the best ways to observe how God has gifted others to serve, provide them with places of service that fit them and encourage them to grow as they serve the Lord by serving others.
Brenda ended last week by being taken to the Lake District for a “Spa Day.” Now that’s a different twist on ministry, but don’t let it fool you. They had a whole day to talk about ministry, and life, and Scripture (or at least part of the day). In the final analysis it was decided that “what happens at Spa Day, stays at Spa Day.” Oh, and one more thing about Spa Day, Brenda had to buy a “swim costume” for Spa Day . . . translation – swimsuit. It was a blast! There are no pictures of this trip "to protect the innocent." While Brenda was “spa-ing,” Dennis had the opportunity to spend the day fishing with another local pastor. He reports that he caught tench, golden tench, orfe, rudd, roach (not A roach, but a fish called “roach”) and carp. It was a different experience from his usual fly-fishing, but a fun day none the less. There are no pictures of Dennis' fishing day, so who knows what size the fish were, but he say "They were HUGE!" The next day he and Geoff Aydon spent the day walking the coast. He says, “ . . . at least 20 miles,” but don’t believe him, because it was probably only about 10. They had a great day!
Last Sunday evening we were invaded by The Nathan Elder Band (http://www.nathanelder.tv/ )
from Crosspoint Church in Houston. They came to South Shields to do a concert at another local Baptist church and we had the wonderful opportunity to open our home to two of the four band members. They have just produced their first CD and are touring England with it. What a great group of young men! We spent Monday and Tuesday showing them the area and giving them to chance to spend time with Westoe Road folks. On Tuesday after Coffee Pot we drove to Alnwick (pronounced An-ick) and spent the day at Alnwick Castle. Alnwick is an incredible fortress-type castle that was begun in 1093 to protect Northumberland from northern invaders (now know at the Scottish). It is quite an impressive place. Adjacent to the castle are the castle gardens. WOW! Complete with a massive cascading water fall, a huge tree house and a maze to get lost in. Angela, Julie and Kathryn were great tour guides not to mention providing extra cars to get us all there. It was a whole lot of fun for all of us!
Back before we left Abilene we sensed that Colossians would be a great book to study should we get that opportunity and that study kicked off last Monday. We had asked that they sign-up for the study since we were going to be doing it in the time frame of 12:30 to 2 for the next 5 Mondays and would be serving a light lunch to provide a time of fellowship along with the Bible Study. Well, we had 14 names on the list, but when 12:30 came last Monday, there were 25 people. WOW! How exciting! Nathan Elder was willing to provide us with a song before we started and it was a great time of discussion and sharing. Dennis has structured this study the same way that our Sunday School class at South Side is structured and Brenda has the privilege of being “his lovely assistant” when it comes to handing out things. It is very discussion-oriented and provides a forum in which questions can be asked and answered in a very non-threatening way. We were thrilled that a couple came who are not members of WRBC but attend Coffee Pot on Tuesdays. He had done his homework and participated openly in the class with some great comments and questions. We can hardly wait to see who God brings tomorrow! One more little side note about the Colossians study . . . When we were making our preparations about this study, Julie Price (one of the deacons) suggested that we offer a Holiday Bible Club for the children where the children would study the same passages as their parents were studying. Kathryn Pino met with us one evening to discuss the children’s lessons and it quickly became obvious that this young woman not only has a heart for the children but is also quite capable of doing a great job bringing the book of Colossians to life for a child. We are so excited about working with her on this project.
Certainly one of the greatest blessings we have had during this past week was the home visits we made. One precious saint, Emma, shared with us how as a little 8 year old girl, she sat on the step leading up to the pulpit at Westoe Road and while listening to the choir practice she gave her life to Christ. Julie went with us to Emma's and had prepared communion to share with her. She is now in her 80s, almost blind, almost deaf and crippled to the point that she must use a walker. However, she is truly a young women in the eternal sense for the Light of Christ beams from those eyes and the smile never left her sweet face. She ministered to us that day much more than she will ever know. We will never walk past that little pulpit stairway again without thinking of that little 8 year old sitting in the dark in the Presence of her Lord and making her eternal choice. We can’t wait to go back to see her again. Similar experiences have occurred each week as we sit in the homes of these sweet folks who were only teenagers when Hilter's bombs dropped on South Shields. Some tell of the sadness of the war and there is a plaque on the church wall that honors the 80 men who fought in WWII, 12 of whom never came home. These godly older folks are the prayer warriors, the strength of this church, and we are so humbled to serve them.
We finally managed to take Friday off and so we headed to the Lakes District (http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/). What a beautiful place! Unfortunately, we were so busy looking that we didn’t take even one picture. We’ll do better next time. Dennis is doing a fabulous job of driving. We came back into Newcastle from the Lakes right at 5 p.m. and he got us home. It might be good to explain that we were given a Tom-Tom (Sat/Nav). She speaks in a beautiful English accent and we have named her Pippa, . . . very English, don't you think? We stopped off in a little village called Hexham and she was quite helpful in getting us into and out of that little place. So, we have to credit her with getting us around Newcastle and safely home. Pippa has a bit of an attitude problem though because if you don’t go the direction she tells you to, she gives you the silent treatment. It’s sometime very quite in our car for long periods of time.
So, that’s it for another week. Please continue to pray for our Bible Study in Colossians as well as the study that the deacons are doing. We have several upcoming events planned for which we would certainly appreciate your prayers. On August 8 Brenda and Liz will be going to dinner with the young women of the Modern Girls Bible Study. Up until this point there have been a very consistent 5-6 young ladies in attendance; however, in the past month their have been a number of young women visiting church, so they have been invited to join us for a pub meal and an evening of fellowship. Another upcoming event is a Texas Cookout at our house for the young men on the evening of August 18. Dennis and Geoff will be working together on this and it seems that as the guys are hearing about it, they are interested in coming. We’re hoping for about 12, but would be thrilled with whoever God brings.
As most of you know, we love seeing folks come to realize the greatness of our God in their lives and we continue to be amazed that God has allowed us to do this ministry together. Only He knows what is ahead for us here, but for now we remain encouraged and excited about what we see Him doing in the life of Westoe Road Baptist Church and in our lives as well.
Loving you from across the Pond. . .