My visit to Marlow in the United Kingdom was a very busy time and I would like to give you a glimpse in some of the activities I participated in.
We went on a several walks with sometimes only one or two friends and on other occasions we were groups of members from other churches. It was around 0 degrees Celsius on most of the walks but that did not stop us. The walks helped to build relationships and we had good conversations and prayed together for the work in England and in Mozambique.
Our Marlow friends prayed and will pray a lot for the work in Mozambique, for the future of the Taking Hands ministry and for the work in Gods kingdom also in England. They testified that this visit was a blessing for them. It helped them to feel closer to one another and it created a new peak in their enthusiasm for their calling. The visit also cemented our long distance friendship and together we are determined to keep our zeal alive for God and His kingdom.
Talks with other dominations in Marlow and neighboring towns:
In Reading there is a weekly meeting of leaders from many denominations. In the first meeting we had about 35 people and when they were introduced to me, they asked me to speak of the work in Mozambique. I used the time to tell about the challenges of the church to make the Kingdom of God visible. We have many churches but mostly the Kingdom of God is still not visible outside the church. We talked about the challenge of being church but without an influence on the community.
I told them how I and pastor Ualize visited the house of a Lomwe speaking elder. We found him in his garden and helped him for a while before going to his house. There we sat down on small wooden benches about 10 cm high. After greeting and talking about family, he told us about his past. How he dreamed about a man that was convicted and died but was innocent. Later this man rose from the dead. Only years later he discovered through missionaries that this man is Jesus. He dreamed another dream where this man asked him to go to the protestant church. From that time he participated in the church and became an elder, but he do not manage to pray. Firstly I told him how God see our problems and want to help, the way He did it, was to become a human himself. He came to the earth. Today He continues to do that by living in us and as we visit one another we demonstrate His presence to one another. I went and sit before him in the dust and demonstrate how God came to His house not to judge him, but to be with him and to serve us. So today he may know that God is in his house even closer to him than me sitting before him. I told him what He did to our sins, so we can be free to be near Him. Do not feel afraid or burdened by our sins and weaknesses. Then I told him that we do not have to use good language or beautiful words like some in the church. I asked him if he can talk to me. He replied, yes. I told him that God is in his house like me and that he can talk to Him even in Lomwe, like he talk to his wife and children.
This is a small story to demonstrate to the Lomwe man that God came to his life in his house, this story can be in a business or factory or parliament etc. If God are the reason for what we do, life will be transformed. You change from being a receiver to a giver. You change from looking at membership and buildings to look at a life that serve and change corruption to righteousness, etc. Gods Kingdom is becoming visible in our community. We can’t accept a structural church with a lot of programs but without making His kingdom visible in our communities.
Some of the leaders came back to me to talk more about this challenge and how to help the church to be effective in influencing the community. They were touched by this challenge.
We had a second meeting with more than 40 leaders. I heard about many initiatives of working with people that do not have enough to eat, with prostitutes, with youth and ex-offenders. Furthermore they prayed together and had joint meditations.
Chefs for Jesus and Costa Coffee:
I visited two other interesting programs. One they call “Chefs for Jesus”. They give food and clothes to street people and some members are available to listen to people, evangelize and pray. It was still snowing when I was there, but still there were people coming in, eating and talking. The other program is the initiative of the minister of the Marlow congregation. Richard Becher sits in a coffee shop every Tuesday with a sign that he is ready to listen to people. Some people do come up and talk at this table in the corner of the shop. Richard is also involved in the Hospital Chaplaincy and I had the privilege to visit the Hospital with him.
To put the focus on mission work we also had one evening where the church asked a chef from Kenya to make African food and they had decorated the hall in African cloth. They had invited people from all churches in Marlow and the neighbouring areas to come and 55 people turned up. I spoke about the importance of relationships in mission work. The evening was rounded off by a half hour choir concert of the local school, singing gospel songs. The local paper also reported about this evening.
I also ran a seminar called “God’s Plan for Us” which was 4 hours long and spread over two evenings. We made a short analysis of the community of Marlow and then talked about the roots that cause the problems of the community. We then talked about the new roots in Christ and how we can grow to be rooted firmly in Him. Then we talk about transformation of communities and how we can create a better future through service. We all walked away with a homework assignment to practice doing small deeds of service.
I preached the Palm Sunday and was given the text of Phil 2 and some verses in Mathew about Jesus on the donkey. We looked at a King who demonstrated His kingdom through service.
On the Thursday we had a meal together in the church with Holy Communion and meditation. I lead this meeting and talked about the reality of God as the basis of everything. It has a specific liturgy, but I enjoyed this experience. They call it the “Maundy meal” in remembrance of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples. They served traditional food like lamb, unleavened bread and basic vegetables. A part of the service is to wash people’s feet as humble servants, just like Jesus did.
On Good Friday the Churches together in Marlow arranged a walk through town with a cross. After the walk we met in the park where we praised the Lord together and had a meditation. Then we went to the big Church of England across the road. It is a big building full of symbolism and many graves, candles etc. I was asked to talk about the two murderers that died with Christ and the promise of paradise. I talked about the criminal who could see hope and something special in the life of this man Jesus and how he gave himself to this man in his final hour on the cross. I talked longer than they asked me to, but according to people who were there, God blessed us together. It was a unique experience to talk in one of those old massive churches with a lot of symbols and traditions. I think that church should be about 700 years old.
On Sunday the minister and I jointly performed the church service. I talked about Mary who went to the grave and thought that Jesus was the gardener. How Jesus called her name and demonstrated how He committed Himself to a relationship with us within all our pains and fears. How He brings new hope and future.
Time to see the sights:
There also was some time to be a tourist. One day we went to London and saw Trafalgar Square, Buckingham palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, bridges, Art Museum, travel shop, Science museum and the underground trains. In spite of the cold we bought ice cream. It did not melt! Another day we spent visiting the Queen’s castle in Windsor and heard about its amazing history. On another day I went to Oxford the university town, another town with a huge legacy. We saw the places where they made the Harry Potter films in Christ Church. In the church were names of many South-African towns in the Free State, because in these towns some of their members died during the Boer-war in 1902.
The radio interview:
One evening I came on a discussion of the local radio station in a program called Faith Matters on Marlow FM 97.5. Richard Becher was the interviewer and he interviewed me and two other ministers. Between playing Christian music we talked for two hours about discipleship and I shared stories from Mozambique.
Christian men’s night:
One of the highlights was an evening meeting with a group of Christian men. We really shared very honestly about our faith and challenges of the church. The challenges in our days are big challenges, but we also shared about a hope for change much bigger than that. Our God is bigger than our understanding and therefore also bigger than our questions and doubts. We believe that He will bring transformation through us. They confirmed later that they really enjoyed this evening, the Mozambique stories and the challenge to think where the church happens from Monday to Saturday.
All in all, I was blessed and my world became much bigger than before. As my life was enriched, I intend to share myself more and more where ever the Lord will place me next. It is also good to hear that the conversations we started are still continuing. Together we are planning and thinking about the future and believe that it is part of Gods plan, although we do not know how it will look like. Thanks guys!