Where to start…? The last 2 months have been an absolute whirlwind. We had the pleasure of having Bishop Fanta Clarke, his wife Helen and four of their friends visit Lima at the end of April, quickly followed by Hannah’s Mum, brother William and his girlfriend Stef. This was a really powerful time together as family, as William and Stef live in Australia we rarely get to see them and so we were so thankful for their visit. This was quickly followed by the visit of a wonderful Brazilian couple Hiram and Victoria from Recife – who were such an encouragement to us and to the church. Hiram hosted a men’s bonfire and testimony night, hopefully kicking off a targeted men’s ministry in Nazareno to accompany the established women’s ministry there. The next morning Chris (and Charlie) ran the Lima marathon (42km) raising funds for the church and managed firstly to complete it, and secondly raise £1186 for the Anglican Church in Peru! Hannah managed to make it to the finish line to support alongside Shalom. It’s debatable which was the greater achievement! Thank you all who supported!!!
On the 2-3rd June we then had the first youth service in Nazareno and the Alpha retreat with the Cathedral. The former was superbly delivered by the young leaders in Nazareno who we work with (see above), whilst the latter was hugely significant for the Cathedral group. For many of them, this was their first experience of prayer ministry and an overwhelming sense of the presence of God in their midst, revealing his love for them and touching their hearts afresh. One woman said “God has taken my prideful, hard heart and turned it into a heart of paper, soft and malleable.” A father stood beside his 9 year old son as they both received the Holy Spirit whilst a 70 year old man shared “I didn’t realise church could be like this!” It was amazing for us to pray for these people and minister to them – how great is our God!
New experiences: From the 7-14th June we had the opportunity to visit the Anglican Church in Santiago, Chile. This was a superb time of learning, making new friends (Cristóbal and Alé in particular) and sharing with their students and young people. It is rare in life to feel such profound connection in such a short space of time, but we absolutely hit it off with this pair, and look forward to our next meeting! Chris also got to preach in Cristóbal’s church (ISA – a church plant in a theatre in the cultural hub of the city). It was awesome to go up the Sky Costanera Tower – the highest building in Latin America, where we got a superb view over Santiago with the Andes in the background! This trip also coincided with our 6th wedding anniversary and so we had a lovely time by the coast in Valparaíso – the bohemian capital of Chile. Nazareno’s first informal Culto Juvenil – Youth service
“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skilful hands he led them.” – Psalm 78:72
Hearts and Hands (and Future!) In full time ministry both hearts and hands are regularly stretched. This is certainly the experience of many and ours has been no different. The skills of your hands are both honed and exposed, whilst your heart constantly tussles between being there for people alongside doing things well, and the ever present battle for integrity of motive. We read that when David was anointed that “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7), and we read in Psalm 78:72 that David led the people of Israel with “integrity of heart” and “skilful hands”. Early in our time here we were told that when you speak to Latinos who have worked with missionaries (now retired back to their sending country) often what is mentioned most is not how many churches they planted, how many people were saved through their ministry, or how many amazing sermons they gave, but who they were: their character, their loyalty, their presence. Whilst the skill of hands is so important it cannot be a substitute for integrity of heart. God saw integrity of heart first in David, and then equipped him with skilful hands. Ministering amongst both the poor and wealthy has brought different challenges, but requires both heart and hands to carry out. As we have wrestled with our future choices we have been so challenged, and inspired by this vision – integrity of heart and skilful hands. Therefore, after much prayer and wrestling over this calling to ministry, whether in Latin America or in Ireland, we have decided that the prudent next step is to seek further training that will intentionally cultivate our character (hearts) and at the same time equip us with ministry skills (hands). To this end we are currently in the process of applying to Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, to study Theology. This has been a decision that God has brought before us so clearly and whilst there are any number of places that we could seek study and training, we feel with such clarity that this is the next step. There are a number of reasons for this, the simplest and most important of which are outlined below.
Firstly, our hearts are for ministry as integral to life (in whatever job or place we find ourselves) and not simply in church roles, and whilst Chris is seeking specific pastoral ministry training, Hannah is interested in developing a theological vision for life through education. Regent was founded with this ethos and has an extensive, varied program exploring vocational ministry in the public square. Additionally, whilst Chris investigated studying here years ago as part of a long term process and calling, the timing was not right, as it is only recently that Hannah has felt this pull and desire too, thus making it an ‘us’ thing together under God now, instead of simply being Chris’ thing back then.
Secondly, we feel so strongly that God is asking us to dedicate and set apart this next couple of years for this training period to work on our hearts and hands. Whilst there would have been options to continue our training alongside roles either here in Latin America, or in Ireland, our default activist natures would have been simply squeezing it in alongside hectic schedules. Therefore, this forces us to step away from some responsibilities (that we would dearly love to continue) and truly set apart this time.
Thirdly, Regent’s reputation worldwide as an excellent Bible college, as well as hosting an international student body (including many from Latin America), and its links with a seminary in Costa Rica allows us to keep up contact with Latin America, which is firmly in our hearts, and keeps doors open for future ministry here.
This process of prayer and decision making, alongside discussion with friends, family members and mentors has been met with overwhelming support and affirmation, and so we cannot wait to get started. However, we will be back in Northern Ireland from August to December to allow some money to be earned (Chris will be going back to work in the hospital for a while) before moving to Vancouver in January to begin studies for at least two years there. Hannah has taken a step of faith and has resigned her teaching job, trusting in God’s guidance for this next season. She hopes to use these next six months to gain a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language, enabling her to tutor in Vancouver. Whilst we are hoping to work and earn some money before we go, without our asking, SAMS have very kindly offered to continue to act as a transparent method for us to receive financial support. Should this be on any of your hearts to continue to support us either with once off donations or monthly support we would be so grateful. However, above all we would deeply appreciate your continued partnership in prayer with us on this journey. Join us in giving thanks for…
Alpha – We can’t thank God enough for what he has done through Alpha as a tool for faith in community here in Peru. The combination of thought-provoking content and space to build relationships is genius. It is a true gift to the church. Family & Fanta – Visits from Bishop Fanta Clarke & Team, as well as from Hannah’s Mum, brother William and girlfriend Stef were just so refreshing and life-giving in so many ways. We have valued visits from friends and family so much and have a new appreciation for the encouragement it is to visit people serving in other cultures.
New initiatives – As Alpha in Nazareno came to a close, it has been encouraging to see new faces continue to come and be part of the youth group after the ‘course’ has ended. The young leaders organised and delivered an excellent Youth Service and a few from Alpha came to a church service for the first time! Praise the Lord!
Leadership Conference 2018 – Karla and Melany had a wonderful time in Mexico as part of the Latin American Leadership Conference, meeting the new Alpha CEO and sharing with others from across Latin America. This was hugely significant for them, being their first time on a plane but more importantly being encouraged and challenged in their faith. Chile – We had a wonderful time there. It was a privilege to meet and share with our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church and to have the opportunity to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary in beautiful Valparaíso.
- For transitions – We have begun to hand over leadership of the two groups. Please pray for vision, passion and commitment to see these communities flourish and deepen in faith. Please pray for us as we say our goodbyes in a few weeks – the relationships that we have developed here are precious to us and we will truly miss the people we have worked with during these past 10 months.
- For teams – There are two Exodus teams coming from 6-20th July that we are helping to host. Please pray for safety, logistics and outreach opportunities but most of all for the presence of God to fill and flow through this time!
- For us – As we move back to Northern Ireland and experience some reverse culture shock, please keep us in your prayers as we navigate relationships, expectations and working life. Also please pray for preparations for Regent, for visas to be granted and applications to be received without problem. Most of all, pray that our hearts and hands would be shaped and equipped through this next phase of life.