Church Planting Passion – Give me the Hebrides or I die.

Church Planting Passion

Thea, UK

I am writing from an affluent, elderly, seaside town in the South East of England called Eastbourne. I am an alien to these parts as I herald from Manchester, England. Manchester is a metropolitan city in the industrial North West of the country. The last three months since God called me to Eastbourne have been challenging, but this season has been full of growth and refinement – praise God! I have come to Eastbourne as this is where my husband-to-be lives, his family have generously and lovingly opened their home to me until we are married – what a blessing that has been! Until now, I didn’t realise one could have culture shock staying within your home country! Eastbourne and Manchester are poles apart and as such ministering in these two places are starkly different.

In Manchester, I lived on a troubled post-world war two satellite council estate where I could truly feel the presence of God, where lives and communities were changing because of the good news of Jesus Christ and where I met some of the most humble, generous and servant-hearted Brothers and Sisters of the Kingdom. Ministering in Partington; the town I lived in required Christians and the Church to go to the people and meet them where they were at. To name a few, this was done through holding Alpha courses in public places, conducting detached youth work and making Church services accessible and relevant for all. The area had a bad reputation for high crime rates and large numbers of children being known to social services, so local people were used to feeling unwelcome and ashamed. Ministry in Partington was all about loving people and affirming the truth and freedom of life in Christ. God loves Partington even if the world struggles to at times – Amen!

Ministering in Eastbourne is a whole different kettle of fish! It is fair to say that God has given me a heart for the poor and marginalised, Eastbourne doesn’t fit this criterion, and it has been a season of struggle to see what God wants for me here as my heart, gifting’s and competencies don’t lend itself naturally to my new home. I have found myself in an area full to the brim with Churches which are mainly depleting, ageing and dry. Christianity for many here is like a social status and part of being ‘a good middle-class family’ with the real rulers of the town being materialism, consumerism, greed, money and envy. The cost of living in this part of the world is extraordinarily high, and so debt advises and witnessing to the love, peace and joy of a modest way of life lived to the full in the Lord are two essential elements of ministry here. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit needs to be reinstated to set this town on fire – God is not a bloke in a book, He is alive! God is doing an amazing work with me to teach me how to love all His people and for that I am grateful for his grace on my failings and his faithfulness for using unremarkable people like me to work through. I believe that God is working things out in me so that I can love people from all over the UK regardless of class, denomination, etc. I have come a long way since becoming a Christian, but I have a long way still to go.

I was saved six years ago, from a local Church in Partington, Manchester. I gave my life and was Baptised after doing the Alpha course. God has transformed me, and I am truly a new creation – praise is to the King of Kings! God met me in a place of brokenness and hopelessness after being the victim of a violent relationship and wanting to take my life. He has saved me and given me life in abundance. The path has not been easy, and I have stumbled on many occasions, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat – I love you, Jesus! I feel so blessed because He not only is a God who has answered my prayers but has exceeded my expectations awesomely every time. The two prayers on my heart when I came to faith were that my Mother would be saved and that God would have a Christian man for me to marry. Both prayers have been answered – thank you, Lord! Coming to faith has changed my life forever.

My ministerial calling beckoned three years ago. In the interests of honesty, I was very reluctant to take up the call because I felt totally unworthy. I have been well supported and tested in Manchester through the Church of England who has granted me opportunities in different areas of leadership and Church life to explore this call. I was blessed with the opportunity to go forward for ordination training through the Anglican Church, but I didn’t feel that was what God wanted. Despite this, I am thankful for their mentoring, love, wisdom and generosity as it has brought me to CLI. The calling that I have a Church planting passion for the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. My husband-to-be also feels the same call – he is a wonderful blessing on my life. Only tonight have we had another word of confirmation of this calling. I feel an urgency to equip myself, so I am ready to serve him wholeheartedly to His glory for when the time comes to go. A recurring key experience in my life which prompted me to both give my life and to pursue ministry is God speaking to me through dreams. While doing the Alpha course, I dreamt of a Church which I later attended and my first call to ministry came in a dream in which I saw myself in Church at the front leading. I adore that the Lord penetrates the busyness of life and the fullness of my mind to speak to me. I am so grateful that God keeps giving me confirmation and steps to take – He is a good, good Father.

I have been blessed to live all over the world due to my parent’s work, but since coming to faith, I have had a real heart for the UK. The UK is in a season of political and economic uncertainty which is fuelling those who want us to divine. In this time, I feel that the light of Jesus needs to shine out to those living in fear and darkness of the world. With the Lord as my strength, I will go in peace to love and serve Him in the Hebrides. I love God; I love the UK, and I pray for His Kingdom come in this place. Some of the unique challenges to the Hebrides are that it is very isolated from the UK mainland, it has an ageing and decreasing population which is scattered over a rugged and rural terrain, 90% of the population consider themselves Roman Catholic, but Church attendance is low, and poverty levels are exceptionally high which manifests in short life expectancy, high crime, low education and so on. As I am sure you know, the Hebrides had a revival. However, the spiritual atmosphere in general (not everywhere – there are pockets of wind) is very dry there again now. Praying for revival!

My family; my husband-to-be (Anthony), my mother and my father are all interested in coming to Church plant. Anthony has been ordained with the help of CLI – thank you for blessing him! He is a wonderful teacher and has such an anointing for evangelising men from difficult backgrounds. My mother; Elaine has given her life to Jesus this year after six years of searching and falling away – Alleluia! Elaine has such warmth that people flock to her as a maternal figure, her spiritual giftings are already being revealed as she evangelises at work, extends hospitality to all who cross her path, and gifts administration to the Church. My husband-to-be has family who will pray fervently for us and will visit us regularly. We are very blessed to be so wonderfully supported.
I come from a loving family who have always supported me as does Anthony, however, we do not come from a wealthy background. A scholarship at CLI is essential to my ministry dream because I do not want to be a heretic, damage the Kingdom or give anything less than my best to God. CLI will mean that I am better academically equipped in Bible and theological studies which alongside my practical experience and training will make me an all-round better servant for God on this quest. CLI and its mission just blow my brain; it does set a standard in Kingdom mindset and generosity – thank you so much!

I thank you in advance for your prayers. Please pray that I hear God’s will clearly, that I obey Him fully as I walk His path and that I love the Lord, my future husband, my family, my Church and all who cross my walk with a salty wind of love and light!

In the name of Jesus, I bless you, Lord! Peace be with you Brothers and Sisters.