Alison Fenning was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and Don Egan introduced some of the sessions and helped with the baptisms at the end of the conference. Don is a Trustee of Proclaim Trust, which is based in Rochdale. Along with Barry Woodward, Don and Alison are Associates of J John.
This afternoon I drove my work colleague, Alison Fenning, and her husband and RSVP Trustee, Richard, to Heathrow. They are now in the air, enroute to Rwanda, for RSVP’s Mission of Hope.
RSVP’s Mission of Hope will include speaking to a gathering of women involved in prostitution, providing food and bedding for the poor in Bugesera, community outreach, food and bedding for the poor in Kayonza, speaking on National Radio, speaking in churches, lecturing in Bible School, leadership seminars, visiting in the slums of Kigali.
Many thanks to all RSVP Partners who have donated finance to make this trip possible. Thanks to those of you who, I know, will pray for Alison and Richard every day through this mission. Please pray for good health, especially for Alison who suffered a serious health attack on an Africa Mission last year.
RSVP has been working in Rwanda since 1997, when I first visited the country with my Rwandan friend, Charles Mugisha.
The story of those early days is told in the book Beautiful on the Mountains (available from RSVP). Since then we have helped build a school, built an orphanage which we continue to support every month, helped educate hundreds of children, feed street children and support vulnerable women. We have supplied tons and tons of food to the hungry, provided matresses and bedding to widows and the elderly. We have helped women out of prostitution and start small businesses.
I had hoped to join Alison and Richard on this trip but funds have not been sufficient. So I did my small part and drove them to the airport. We greatly value all who support our work in transforming lives in Africa.
We still need to meet the full costs of the mission and it’s not too late to make a donation, however small, to help us meet urgent needs.
Thanks for your partnership and support.
Last week I found myself in a chip shop cafe in East Belfast. Before I left England I made a mental note to avoid East Belfast. Once a year or so, I meet up with a small group of Christians who are trying to make a difference. This group is made up of people who want to think outside the box and pioneer new things. We are not afraid to experiment or to try something that may or may not work. Our passion is to see the life of Christ touch the lives of ordinary people.
So I made my mental note to avoid East Belfast, because of the riots about the flag I had seen every night on the TV news. And you probably have to be Irish to understand the passions stirred up by the changes in when the flag is flown.
However, the Irish members of our little group are ministering at the very heart of East Belfast. They are engaging with the community at street level.
So, to my surprise, we spent most of the 48 hours we were there, in the area where the current troubles are focussed. The Irish are resilient and one hallmark of their character is to keep business as usual in times of riots and bombings.
So we shared our thoughts and ideas on ministry and community, in the chip shops and coffee shops at the various flash points of the current troubles. We found a friendly Irish welcome everywhere.
We wandered around Belfast docks where the Titanic was built and recalled the long history of this place. But the fighting about the flag goes back much further than the Titanic. And really, it is not about a flag at all. But fear and hurt and a broken past.
My paternal ancestry goes back to Ireland and I grew up in Manchester because my ancestors fled the famine that the English inflicted on the Irish.
Down at the chip shop the portions were large. I was struggling to finish my chips. But in a land where potatoes were once valued like gold, I felt it would seem ungrateful not to finish them.
Politicians have a part to play in resolving conflict. But the real solution, I think, is found in the discovery of a new life in Jesus. An encounter that can transform hurting, frightened people into people who can bless and even embrace their enemies.
So this week I am praying for my Irish friends, still there in East Belfast – quietly praying, befriending, helping, feeding the hungry with good things, weeping with those who weep – that Christ may shine through them, and his life and healing be revealed through them.
My abiding memory is, shortly before leaving, we had coffee in a coffee shop at one of the flash points of the riots. An armoured Police Land Rover was parked outside on 24 hour security duty. The owners were glad to have customers. It almost felt like we were doing something positive just being there – making it business as usual.
For we visitors it was an adventure. For my Irish friends it is a life style. Food for thought.
Alison Fenning writes about a recent encounter:
I was chatting with my friend last week who used to be in the sex trade. I totally believe being a positive influence in people’s lives can bring lots of changes – I think the Bible calls this discipleship.
As we chatted we laughed about the times when I have taken her out with me as part of my preaching team to helping me to pray with people. She started to tell me how doing that has helped her understand the reality of God’s power. So much so that the other week her boyfriend’s back got stuck. He couldn’t get up and was in lots of pain. So she prayed with him like I had shown her, laying hands on him and asking Jesus to heal him. Five minutes later he was stood up and had no pain!
She is loving the reality that “being part of Gods people brings” and is wanting to learn more about God. At the end of her telling me the story we prayed together and thanked God for his work in our lives.
Alison has always been passionate about investing in the up and coming generation of young people so they can carry on the work of communicating Jesus Christ.
Last night she was out speaking by a campfire in Norfolk with the young people from Billericay. She spoke on the much needed work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and using the spiritual gifts given by God to further the kingdom.
Without the understanding and sharing stories of such things we can go ahead and use our natural abilities which is alright but, with the Holy Spirit, mission and ministry becomes dynamic!
Michelle Smith was part of the RSVP Team that travelled to Nairobi recently. These are some comments on how her ministry impacted the people attending the School of Ministry.
Whilst being part if the team I was able to lead a seminar dealing with The Conflict between Men and Women.
The challenge in Africa and actually all around the world is for people in ministry to have healthy home lives first before ministry. Within every culture we have strayed from the Kingdom of God principles and there is a desperate need to have an open discussion and teaching on communication with each other, as Jesus modeled when he walked the earth.
There are 42 tribes in Kenya, each with their own customs, so this raised some questions and we shared openly and discussed where tribal custom ends and kingdom custom begins.
Those who came loved it and there was laughter as we talked about the challenges of modern inventions like TV and mobile phones being either a useful tool or hindrance to our communication.