Monday, October 31, 2011

Sam, Hannah & Project Tehila

Many of you will know the wonderful Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam. They first came to Kerith after someone put a church leaflet through their door, and I first met them when they came on the Marriage Course, which Catrina and I were leading back then.

At the time Sam wasn't a Christian, but after doing the Marriage Course Sam went on to do Alpha and there became a Christ follower. Now a number of years later they have two daughters, Isla and Amba, and are firmly embedded in the life of our community. As a couple they embody God's heart for justice - Sam works with the homeless and Hannah has a job standing up for marginalised children.

Sam came with us on the very first trip to Serenje. They now have a plan to spend a year living in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, working for the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, developing a child protection programme which will be rolled out across the whole of Zambia. You can read the latest about what they're up to on their blog. They're going as volunteers, which means they're currently fundraising to raise the £30,000 they'll need to support themselves for the year. They're already nearly three quarters of the way there which is amazing, but I know they'd appreciate any extra help!

Tehila isn't an "official" Kerith project, but Sam and Hannah have the full support of me and the rest of the leadership team. Hopefully they'll have your support too. Their plan is to go in March 2012 which isn't too far away! Please take a look at their blog, be praying for them all, and consider supporting them financially.

Simon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Michael Ross-Watson Preaching on Sunday

This Sunday Michael Ross-Watson will be preaching at all three meetings. Michael and his wife Esther are just back from their latest mission trip to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia where God was powerfully with them. I'm sure on Sunday we'll get to hear some of the stories of their trip, as well as hearing God's word preached with Michael's fathers heart.

Please remember also that it's the last Sunday of our offerings for Serenje. We're aiming to raise £80,000 for year four of the project and £90,000 to get the rest of the money to build the girl's dormitory. Please don't be intimidated by the totals, or by the current economic turmoil, but let's give as the Macedonian Christians did - "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (2 Cor 8:2-3). If you can't be there on Sunday you can also give online here.

Simon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley


Many of you will already have heard that Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley are going to be doing a one day leaders conference at the Kerith Centre on Monday 30th January 2012.

Most of us have heard Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit. He is the most inspiring Christian leader I've ever met, not only through the way he speaks but also the way he lives his life has been an inspiration to me.

Andy Stanley is an outstanding communicator, as well as leading an incredibly dynamic and innovative church. His book "Communicating for a Change" is required reading for all the Kerith preachers, and my iPhone is full of his podcasts.

Getting these two leaders together on one day in the UK is amazing. If you're a leader in any capacity then please plan to be there.

You can book on the Willow website, £60 for WCA UK members and £75 for non members (which is amazing value - in my other job we were being charged £250 for a day learning how to use email!), but if you're part of Kerith you can get an even better rate of £30 for the day. To get that rate you need to go to the Kerith Centre reception and register there.

And if all that wasn't enough then the day after we're going to have a guy called Pete Scazzero with us. He speaks and writes on building emotionally healthy churches and Christ followers, and comes very highly recommended. More details here. Why not invest in yourself and come to both days.

Hope to see you there on the 30th and 31st - I'm excited about it already!

Simon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rice and Beans

This week we're encouraging everyone to eat more simply, in order to identify more closely with the people of Serenje. I know some people are planning on eating rice and beans for the whole week, others are doing a day and still others a single meal. If you really can't face rice and beans then why not miss some other luxury, go without chocolate or skip your Starbucks Latte. Whatever you do please use the opportunity to pray, to talk about our friends out in Serenje, and to think about giving to the Serenje offering this Sunday.

Happy eating!

Simon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween

First of all apologies to those who are used to me regularly updating the blog. It's been a crazy, although fruitful, couple of weeks including the Willow GLS, the Serenje pastors being with us, Serenje Sunday and Monday and Tuesday this week in Lincoln with a group of UK leaders. I've struggled to find time to blog so sorry about that. I'm also taking a break for some of half term, but once that is over normal blogging service should be resumed.

This Sunday we're going to be looking at how we deal with the Halloween season which is soon to be upon us. Whether you're a parent deciding what to allow your children to do, a teenager deciding which parties to go to, or are about to have your front door knocked by lots of trick or treaters we all have decisions to make about how we handle Halloween. I'll give a bit of the history of Halloween and then outline a series of Biblical principles which should hopefully help each of us to decide how we are going to deal with it. The principles will also help us understand how we deal with similar related issues such as Harry Potter. Should be interesting!

Hope to see you there on Sunday.

Simon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harvest Festival Season

It's harvest festival season, which means a seemingly endless stream of food from local (and not so local) schools, churches and other organisations being delivered to the Kerith Centre, ready to be transferred to our warehouse. We even had deliveries last Friday during the Global Leadership Summit - fortunately they came during the sessions, so they could be packed away before the delegates came out for their next break. It's amazing what goes on behind the scenes at events like this which most people never get to see!

It's amazing to see the generosity of our local community, and their support for what we do. Today I had the privilege of going into Garth Hill College to be presented with a cheque for £5,000, which they raised through a series of events including a walk to school day. All of that money will go towards the girls dormitory which is going to be built in Serenje. In addition we last week got a grant for £10,000 towards the cost of the reception works, and next week a team from GlaxoSmithKline will be giving up their time to volunteer in Foodbank. Amazing.


Sometimes we can have a sense that as Christians everyone is against us and develop a sort of siege mentality. Yet in the book of Acts it says "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people" (Acts 2:46). Acts 2:42-47 is often quoted as a description of church at its best - let's believe that part of that will mean us continue to enjoy the favour of those around us.

Simon.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walk to Church

This Sunday we're celebrating all that has happened over the last three years in Serenje, the rural community in Zambia we are partnering with, as well as looking forward to what our relationship there will mean in the future. As part of our identifying with the community in Serenje we'd like to encourage everyone who can to walk to church. It might not be possible for you to walk all the way, I know some of you travel a long way to get to us, but perhaps you could consider parking at the house of a friend who lives closer, or walking in from one of the local car parks. Go on, give it a go!

We've got a superb meeting planned, which will include:

  • A great opener - please don't be late for the 9, 11 or 7!
  • An update on all that has been achieved in the project so far
  • Hearing from Bishop Samson Kasele on how the whole project started, from a Zambian perspective
  • Hearing from teachers involved in the schools links
  • An update on the hospital links 
  • Updates on fundraising and planning for Project 125 - building a dormitory for 100 girls in Serenje
  • Hearing what Kids2, LIFE and Garth Hill College have been doing to raise money
  • Pastor Bernard Ngosa talking about what the future holds for our partnership
  • Matthew Frost, the Chief Executive of Tearfund, giving their perspective as our partner in the project
  • The chance to eat some Nshima, the staple food in Zambia
  • And most of all thanking God for His hand on all that we have attempted to do.

We will also have the first of three weeks of offerings, looking to raise £80,000 for year 4 of the project, and £95,000 to get the girls dormitory built.

We will also be joined by a number of leaders from other churches who are considering embarking on similar projects. Let's be praying that God will speak to their hearts too, and remember to make them feel incredibly welcome.

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Please Do This :)

The funding of Kerith will always, I believe, come primarily from the direct giving of those who call it home. That was certainly true last year, when our overall income was just over one million pounds, over 90% of which came from direct giving (regular offerings, gift days and gift aid on that giving). But we will always look for other opportunities for funding, to allow us to do more. Just last week we got a cheque in the post for £10,000 as a result of a grant application to help fund some of the costs of the reception redevelopment.

I want to let you know about two things you can do to help us access more external funding.

Firstly our Konnections Ministry (providing support to families with children with special needs) is in the running for a £6,000 grant from NatWest. The money is awarded on the basis of which charity in an area gets the most votes. Please can I ask you to go through the voting process (which is slightly complicated, but not too bad), and to encourage everyone you know with their own email address to do the same. If everyone who reads the blog were to vote I'm pretty sure we can win. The details for what you need to do are as follows:


First follow this link.  

Then click on the “I accept...terms and conditions box and click on the “vote for us” box.

Click on the “register now” words in the red box.  This will take you through a short form to register your name and email address.  A confirmation will then be sent to your e-mail pretty instantaneously.

Once you have received your confirmation enter your email and password and log in
This will then return you to the Konnections screen and you once again click on the “I accept...terms and conditions box and click on the “vote for us” box.

You should see a screen confirmation that you have been successful in casting your vote.


Please do the above now!

Secondly for those of you who shop in Waitrose in Sandhurst, our Konnections Ministry is one of the chosen charities for the Waitrose community matters scheme for the month of October. There are three charities chosen every month, which get a share of £1,000 in proportion to the votes of shoppers in the store, which they indicate by putting a green coin in the appropriate bin at the exit of the shop. If you normally shop in the Sandhurst Waitrose then please be sure to vote for Konnections.

Thanks for your help with this.

Simon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Reading Family Church

This Sunday Reading Family Church are celebrating their tenth birthday. For those of you who weren't around when Reading Family was planted out from Kerith it was ten years ago that 35 people went from us to start a church in Reading. The church emerged from the combination of a desire from Kerith to plant a church, and a number of students starting to come to us from Reading University. I remember well the early days, when numbers of us would travel over to Reading to run Alpha courses and other events on the University campus there, and also how a number of people from Reading came on the first Alpha course that Catrina and I lead in Bracknell and were saved.

I would count Sean Green who leads the church as my best friend outside of Kerith. We've got very different personalities, and lead in quite different ways, but he is usually the first person I phone when I need to get something off my rest (in the words of Wayne Cordeiro he's my lightning rod) or need some advice or to bounce an idea off someone. His wonderful wife Liz lived with us for a year, and they got engaged in our kitchen! Sean and Liz not being a part of Kerith felt like it left a big hole in our lives, but it's so exciting to see all that God has done in them and through them since they went.

There were many other dear friends who went to plant the church as well. Craig and Karena (Karena is so sadly no longer with us), Scott and Barbie, Keith and Lesley and the one and only Tino spring to mind. Since going they've seen remarkable growth. They now gather 300 on a Sunday and are looking for a warehouse as their home for the next few years. This weekend they have a celebration in Reading Town Hall where they'll be joined by their local MP and mayor. Ben Davies will be there representing Kerith and speaking. All very exciting, and humbling to see what they have achieved in then ten years since they went.

So please join with me in praying for their birthday, and that their next ten years will be as fruitful as their first ten.

Simon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The GLS Buzz

I'm sitting at, home drinking orange juice and eating a muffin with jam (very nice), having a bit of calm, reflection and prayer before heading up to the Kerith Centre for what is going to be a full on four days.

Today the building will be buzzing with the 40 overseas guests coming to see how we run the GLS, and get training to take it back to their own nations (last night I met the Lithuanian crew, two people from Norway, a guy from Holland and Larry from the US who will be training them all - many more nations are arriving today!). Also around the building there will be a load of preparations going on. Bookshops being set up, hedges being trimmed and lawns being mowed, DVDs being tested and then tonight a rehearsal for the GLS. Also tonight our two Zambian pastors, Samson and Bernard, fly in.

Then for the Friday and Saturday it will be full on with the Summit. Over 350 delegates booked in, some amazing teaching and many inspiring moments. Catrina and I have the privilege of hosting it all.

Then on Sunday Saulius, our great friend from Lithuania, will be preaching at all three meetings, as well as us having an opportunity to hear a little bit from Samson and Bernard.

As I reflect on all this please can you join me in praying for all that is going on. Pray for the key people who will be incredibly busy over the next few days. Sue Ranger who is in charge of the event. Jules Rutland who is overseeing the delivery of the conference itself, Colin Boyle who as ever will do an amazing job of pulling it all together and the host of incredible, amazing volunteers who will be car parking, welcoming, selling resources, cleaning toilets, playing in the band, running the tech desk and doing a multitude of other tasks. Pray for all the people who will come into our building over the next four days. Overseas guests, conference delegates, our own people attending, visitors on Sunday, the children in K2 on Sunday, the guy who delivers the post in the middle of it all, the bank manager who I'm meeting today and will see all that we are doing.

And most of all please pray that through it all Jesus will be exalted. That through all this activity and effort people would speak His name with a deeper reverence and awe, that they would have a fresh understanding of His passion and plans for their lives, and that the kingdom of God might be a little bit more on earth like it is in heaven.

Thank you.

Simon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finding Rest - A Series of Sprints, Not a Marathon

I spoke on Sunday about finding rest in our days, weeks and years (all of which starts with finding rest for our souls). Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to do some blogs just to remind us of some of the key principles I touched on, and hopefully to encourage all of us to actually put some of them into practice!

Quite a few years ago now I ran the London Marathon. Well, I say ran! I actually managed to run the first 20 miles, then "hit the wall" and had to walk the last 6. It strikes me that I often treat my day as being like a marathon. From the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep I'm on the go, answering emails, meeting people, doing jobs around the house, all with little time to stop, often even having breakfast and lunch whilst still working. And often my day can feel like my London Marathon experience. The longer it goes on the more tired and frustrated I feel and the slower and slower I get, until I'm forced to stop.

It was only recently that someone pointed out to me how differently God approaches work. He clearly has no need to stop, He is all powerful and could keep going for all eternity without a break. Yet several times in the Genesis accounts of creation we see God taking stops, not only after 6 days to have a Sabbath rest, but also during the days of work, where God stops what He is doing, sits back and reflects that all that He has done so far "was good". He stops.

So here's my encouragement for today. Have lots of stops. Every 30 to 45 minutes take a break (and if you've still got it, eat the Kit-Kat you got on Sunday of you were there). And when you stop do something which isn't work. Go for a walk. Make a coffee. Play angry birds. Read a book. Listen to a song.

And what you'll find over a day is that by finding the rhythm of work and rest you'll achieve far more in a day than you could by working flat out. You'll avoid hitting the wall and keep running all the way until you cross the line for the day. More about that next time :)

Simon.

ps For anyone looking for more ideas on how to split your day into a series of sprints take a look at a time management technique called Pomodoro - it makes me laugh how all the "new fangled" ideas like this which actually work find their root in Biblical principles.