Life is full of those defining moments when the things that happen to us or the decisions and choices we make have either positive or negative far reaching consequences for ourselves and others.
We can all remember those wises choices which seemingly changed the course of our lives and also those mistakes we have made. Defining moments are not trivial. They forever alter our lives.
The Bible is full of such defining moments for many of the characters in it.
Romans 15:4 ‘For everything that was written in the past was to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scripture we might have hope’.
From Sunday 7th September, we start a series leading up to Christmas looking at various people’s defining moments – what led to them making a good decision such as resisting temptation etc but also the mistakes that were made and how they and others suffered as a result of it. This series will also serve as a refresher of various people and stories in the Bible.
Learning from them then, how can we be prepared to make the right decisions in our lives and avoid making mistakes? What motivates our decisions?
Let’s pray for God to speak to our hearts through this series and be open for Him to do so.
‘The Moldova 2014 Team’ are back! The team consisted of Brian, daughter Michelle, niece Emily and Anna. Our trip was from Thursday 24th July to Monday 4th August (with the exception of Michelle who returned to the UK on 30th July). We thank God for a safe journey and a blessed time. Some brief highlights:
- Cup Cakes: Upon immediate arrival at Chișinău, en-route from the airport to the village of our stay in Malcoci, we required an immediate stop at The Metro, a huge cash’n’carry place in Chișinău, to buy resources. Michelle was set to spend the whole of the Friday making 160 cupcakes for the wedding. They turned out to be a novel delicacy for the wedding reception, enjoyed by all.
- Nastea & Victor’s wedding : Saturday 26th July. Those who have visited Malcoci over the years will have seen them grow from small children into two fine young adults; they both have a strong faith in Christ. Nastea is one of the key people who translates for us. The bride and groom looked stunning. The marriage ceremony and reception was held at the same location, a modern church in the capital of Moldova, Chișinău, called ‘Casa de Rugăciuni‘ (meaning House of Prayer). The interior has a novel design, shaped into a cross. The ceremony took place in the main part of the church, which is on ground floor level, and with the reception down into a spacious basement hall. There were about 160 guests who attended in total. Most of the guests brought bouquets of flowers for the bride & groom – this is traditional in Moldova and flowers are a home grown commodity. See above video for an overview of the day).
- 2 brothers for 2 sisters! On the Sunday, a day after the wedding,, there was a very pleasant surprise with the bride’s sister, Cristina, and the groom’s brother, Illie, announcing their engagement, so we were invited to another party, to celebrate but this time it was at the groom’s parent’s house Their wedding date is set for 20th December
- The children’s work: During last year’s trip we were told of a national project which was due to be introduced at the end of 2013-beginning of 2014 where community-based services such as primary education and healthcare were going to be provided as replacements for institutions that often neglected these basic needs. The after school support for the disabled and disadvantaged children in the local Malcoci school which, at that point, was being provided at “NAŞTEREA DOMNULUI” (the Malcoci Baptist Church) was in the process of change and set to be provided by the local school. This has meant that the church no longer operates its Monday to Friday programme of after school support for the local underprivileged children. However, it has continued to keep in contact with most of those children who had attended the “ANCORA SPERANTEI” after school club, and now offers a once a week Saturday Bible Study. Igor advised us that he has plans to extend this to a a further 2 evenings as there are further children in the area who are in need of support – despite the national project there are still some very sad cases where children are left neglected and abandoned, which demonstrates the extent of the social problems in Moldova. We were pleased to have 30 children attending on both of the 2 days of activities at the church. We were impressed that the children have a heart for prayer and are keen to learn more about the bible. Furthermore, there were 32 children and 18 adults who attended the day at the Acqua Park. On a separate day we took 8 of the underprivileged children to Chisinau for new school shoes and clothes
- The hospitality: The hospitality and fellowship we received was amazing. They love to offer what they can, which is mainly food based, a lot of it grown on their own land – it’s good food, beautifully tasty and delicious fruit and vegetables which is evidence of their fertile land. We also saw a lot of preparation to get ready for their harsh winters which require conserving their surplus fruit and vegetables in jars
- Church community: - the church strengths are prayer – they fervently pray for their community and for each other. They also love to listen and study the word of God; having a respect for the word of God, at the Sunday services they stand whenever a bible passage is read out and they appear happy to listen to long sermons. Furthermore, every Thursday they attend a one hour prayer meeting; on Fridays they attend a one hour bible study; on Saturdays there are three, two hour long, sessions for the children, teens and youth groups. Sundays is a when they all gather together for their church service. On the first Sunday of each month they have ‘An Agape Fellowship Meal’ where the church prepares a meal and the congregation sits down and they eat together following the church service.
Prayer Needs: Their main prayer need is their job situations. There are many who need to go abroad and leave their families behind in search of jobs. Moldova’s job situation is rather dire and the ones who hold jobs need to work long hours for low wages. They also asked for their faith to remain strong in God and to follow His will.
To Him be all the glory.
‘MOLDOVA 2014 TEAM’
They came to meet me. They welcomed me with open arms. They cooked every kind of dish imaginable for me. They took me out for delicious meals. As soon as I had taken an item of clothing off it was washed and on the line! Nothing was too much for them. Come whenever you like for as long as you like, they said. Our door is open – and they meant it. They loved me and welcomed me into their family. They epitomise what it means to be hospitable.
I have just come back from 3 weeks in Japan to finish writing a book. I lived there a long time ago for 13 years and the couple I’m talking about, Mr and Mrs Nakazawa, were friends from the church from the beginning. The gift of hospitality is a great thing to have. Quite often, with our busy lives and tight schedules today, we find it hard to make time to invite many people round to our house – let alone have an open door.
To be invited and warmly welcomed is a wonderful feeling. So many people are lonely or need a listening ear and would love to be invited to come and have a cup of coffee or a meal.
‘Practice hospitality’ Paul, in the Bible, wrote to the Romans.
Who could you open your doors to today?
Rev Julie Shimizu
Easter eggs, daffodils, chicks, bunnies – all very colourful, comforting and fun around Horsham town but the events 2000 years ago behind our Easter celebrations now were very different. Far from being fluffy and fun, there was pain, shock and horror as Jesus the Christ was nailed to a cross.
There was blood and sweat, suffering and tears and a whole range of emotions for His followers. They didn’t understand why the man they had seen do miracles, who had taught them so much and set them a powerful example of what loving God and loving others looked like, was now nailed to a cross and dead. So disappointing. They’d given everything for Him. Now – dead? They were stunned. That was Friday.
But then – came – Sunday. Alive again! Death could not hold Him. They saw Him, talked to Him, ate with Him. Hope restored, strength renewed, overwhelming joy.
No chicks or bunnies to temporarily gladden the heart but a mission very much accomplished that would change believing hearts forever.
Now that’s a Happy Easter!
Rev Julie Shimizu
At Life we have used the period of Lent to send out something every day – prayers or devotional thoughts. This year, starting from Wednesday 5th March and running until Easter Day, we are using this opportunity to help be clear about what we believe and hopefully this will help us be able to give an answer or discuss with those who are asking questions about the Christian faith. 1 Peter 3:15 says ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks to give the reason for the hope you have’.
We are using video clips by “The One Minute Apologist” on a range of topics. The clips are usually between 1-2 minutes and will provoke to at least consider the questions people often ask and how you might answer them.
Click HERE for the email for 29th March 2014 and ‘Why must we guard the gospel?’
For a list of the emails for each day click HERE
It was great to read last week that a Broadbridge Heath employee is taking on a trek across the Great Wall of China to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Those of us who have had family members with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia know how sad, painful and frustrating it is for people who gradually lose their memories and the ability to look after themselves but also for their loved ones to witness that struggle.
Good health is so precious and it is wise for those of us who still generally enjoy it, to seek to make every day count both for ourselves and for other people. Things can change very quickly for any of us and we never know when our final day will be. I remember someone encouraging me to live every day as if it were my last.
Another poignant article in the same edition recorded that ‘I love you’ were a young mother’s last words. Let us too make sure we try to ‘finish well’, whenever that may be, that we keep no relationships unreconciled as far as it is possible and that we make sure we are at peace with both our fellow man – and God.
Rev Julie Shimizu
Rain, floods, power cuts, falling trees – not quite the Christmas many people had planned for.
Our hearts go out to those for whom the storm affected in this way. It was unexpected hardship.
Life however doesn’t always go as planned. We can be confronted with sudden pain, loss and difficulties. What is important though is how we react. We can let things pull us right down and give up or we can cope as best we can and accept help from God and other people. Also important is how we respond to others going through tough times. It was inspiring to read the offer on Facebook of a lady who offered her spare room and a Christmas meal for anyone locally without electricity or made homeless by the storm. How kind.
We don’t know what 2014 will suddenly confront us or others with. There are those around who will hopefully help and God is always there to strengthen and comfort us – if we let Him.
But may we too be among those who are willing to stretch out kind hands, give of money, offer time, meals or homes to those confronting hardship in various ways this coming year. That will surely make life a lot easier for us all.
Rev Julie Shimizu