15 years of partnerships between Holland Road Baptist, New Hope Baptist and churches in Wales was recognized last week. If you’re interested in reading the next part, the past decade and a half is a crucial part of my story…
Mum and Dad met in a London seminary and soon moved to Devon to work and pastor at Teignmouth Baptist Church. In 1992, they moved for Dad to accept a Senior Pastor position at Holland Road Baptist Church, Brighton, where they raised us three girls (Meg being born in ’91, I in ’93 and Sarah in ’99). We absolutely loved life in England and church life was fantastic. We have fond and cherished memories of our time in the manse!
In the mid-90s, Rich Terry (current Chief Pilot at Delta, but then Delta pilot and missions minister at New Hope Baptist Church) visited our church in Brighton one evening and made a connection with my Dad. He began to stay with us any time he had a layover in London and we went on vacation to Fayetteville, Georgia a few times (a luxurious vacation spot, right?). It subsequently led to New Hope bringing a team of 30-something people to Holland Road for a mission trip in 1999. The connection between our two churches became very strong, and teams from New Hope soon joined Holland Road in ministering in Wales.
In 2004, New Hope’s Senior Pastor accepted a new pastorate at a great church in Louisiana. He and Dad were good friends, so we were worried that the partnership between our two churches would soon fizzle out with a new leader filling the position. Little did we know, the Lord had the position prepared for Dad. In August 2005, he accepted the position as Senior Pastor at New Hope Baptist, and although grieving to leave our home country, we knew without a doubt that God’s plan was evident. In late November 2005, we moved countries–a dramatic shift in lifestyle and almost everything. We are still learning new things, but have been immensely encouraged by our church family in the States. This November marks our nine-year anniversary!
All that to say, the partnership between the two churches has only strengthened–not because of my Dad, but because God desires for the people in the Welsh valleys to turn back to Him. He takes joy in His followers joining in Kingdom work, and what a joy it is to share the gospel in Wales!
Now, for a briefing of events! Unfortunately, my account is only a small portion of what happened each day. There were eight teams scattered throughout the area sharing the gospel at care homes, in all sorts of schools, on the streets and through handyman projects during the day. Night time gospel opportunities came through women’s events, concerts at rugby clubs and kid’s events. Many people amazingly came to Christ during these events!
We flew in to London on June 30 and drove five hours to Wales to be greeted by Holland Road folks and leaders in the Welsh valleys. Our home base for the week was the illustrious Castle Hotel in Merthyr Tydfil.
Day 1: After recovering from jet lag with a wonderful night’s sleep, we began team meetings and traveled to choir rehearsal in the afternoon while the ‘Connect’ team leafleted all over the town. 34 were saved that Tuesday night in Cwmaman. The Moriah Amman Christian Center was full to the brim–both the seats and the hearts!
Day 2: My team (Special Operations…yep, that was the real name) passed out leaflets in the Gurnos area for a few hours in the morning, publicizing a free photo and beauty day at the Christian Center. The people were so kind and receptive. That afternoon we headed to Ebbw Vale for our first beauty day. We had the joyful opportunity to cut and style hair, do makeup and paint people’s nails. You’ll be glad to know that I went with painting nails (only God genuinely knows how terrible I would be at cutting hair). It was so sweet to have the undivided attention of women as I painted their nails. The Lord gave me boldness to have some great gospel conversations.
After the day’s mission activities, we traveled for 45 minutes to Mount Pleasant Baptist in Sunny Blackwood. We presented the gospel in a “Gospel Choir Concert” setting. We sang songs from artists like Travis Cottrell and Hezekiah Walker–powerful pieces that raise the name of Jesus high and enable us to sing with immense passion. 25 people came to Christ that night. Hallelujah!
Day 3: Special Ops’ assignment on Thursday was Photo Day at the Gurnos Christian Center. I photographed 37 toddlers and families in four hours, and we gave each person a free CD with their jpegs. Bethany, the other photographer on the trip, did the same thing in the Mountain Ash area. The power of photography is huge, and even more so when tied to the gospel. Our team was able to have some great conversations with mothers and teenagers to tell them that God thinks they’re so beautiful. The pictures back up their statements. It was a joy for me to shoot pictures and shower these families with compliments and encouragements.
That night, we drove to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Abertillery for another gospel presentation with the choir. 14 people gave their lives to Christ that night! I spoke with a sweet girl who had a lot of doubts, and was able to pray with her and give her the gospel of John.
Day 4: Not only Sarah’s birthday and Independence Day, but a night on which 26 people gave their lives to Jesus! Bethany, our team leader and I did another photo day in Abertillery for a Friday morning playgroup, while the rest of Special Ops did beauty day at Gurnos. The three of us joined them in the afternoon to continue pampering these women and having great conversations. My sister cut 20 women’s hair that day, and we must’ve done around 50 nail paintings! Our prayer is that these families will return to the Christian Center and discover it to be a place of trust, a safe haven and somewhere that the gospel is proclaimed.
Upon arriving back and changing at the hotel, we were driven to Ebbw Vale to sing at the gorgeous Christchurch. The 150-year-old church was packed with townspeople. 26 people accepted Jesus as Saviour!
Day 5: After some long, full-on days, we had the morning free to go to Caerphilly Castle. It is the oldest castle in Wales, built in 1268, and was absolutely fascinating. We had a lot of fun and took a lot of silly pictures and videos! We got back to the hotel and crashed for a few hours before traveling to Caersalem for the gospel presentation at night. We ate at Tirzah Baptist Church but sang elsewhere. The church had spent the week clearing up their entrance way and taking down the gate–we found it very symbolic for their congregation.
After the presentation and souls saved, I spoke with the most energetic 80-year-old. She told me, “I’ve been a Christian for 29 years but in the past three I’ve fallen in love with Jesus. I don’t want anything in the world but Him.” It was a glorious conversation, and I left feeling so encouraged and challenged by her faith.
Day 6: Our last morning in Wales was spent sharing the gospel through song at Park Baptist Church, one of our long-time partners. Praise the Lord that people were saved that morning!
We drove the five hours to my beloved Brighton and Hove. We were so graciously greeted by Holland Road members who had just begun their Sunday night prayer and worship meeting. I stayed for a couple of hours, pleading for God to save souls in Brighton and worshipping Him for how He worked and used me last week. I stayed with some dear friends, actually the current pastor’s family, and it was such a blessing. They welcomed and included me in daily family life. Two and a half-year-old Jonah sang “Let It Doh” at the breakfast table while front-toothless Amy fed him the words and studious Lila watched and sneaked cheeky grins at me. We ate Indian food three times, walked the girls to school every day, woke up to seagulls and slept on the comfiest sofa bed ever.
Day 7: Gladly arrived at church early (In typical pastor’s family fashion. Another characteristic is always being the last to leave!) and welcomed the rest of the team. Eight teams scattered throughout Brighton and Hove, leaflets in hand, to invite people to that evening’s gospel concert. To divide and conquer seems to be the strategy! The Lord seems to be changing the heart of Brighton. Four years ago when we last visited, there was coldness, but now there is warmth among the people. Many whom we met that morning came to church that night!
Our family attended a funeral that afternoon while the rest of the team explored Brighton and ate lunch in town. For dinner, we ate classic fish and chips from Banker’s. It was a beautiful thing. The only thing I can really say about the gospel presentation that night is this: thank you Jesus. The church erupted with praise all night long. People were clapping, standing, dancing and smiling at hearing the gospel music that proclaims Jesus as Messiah! 25 souls were saved that night.
Day 8: Our last full day was a free day. Many team members took a day trip to London, while my family and others stayed in Brighton. I walked with the girls to school that morning, talked at church for a while, walked on the seafront with Laura, Jonah and an ice cream, met two sweet friends for coffee, had lunch with my family and an old friend, took a nap on the pebbly beach, ate (another) ice cream on the pier before shopping and eating dinner with three families we grew up with. It was Indian food again, which I was delighted about! The refreshing day ended by watching the 7-0 World Cup semi final and packing up suitcases!
The brevity of this blog post is nothing compared to what God did on the trip. I have so many stories of gospel conversations and salvation stories, as do the rest of the team. God sustained our voices as we sang seven nights in a row, gave us energy when we were wiped out, provided us with perfect weather (Britain is notorious for constant rain and cloudy skies. We thankfully only had one day of rain!) and gave us a glimpse of heaven when souls came to know Him.
When people become Christians, God turns His desires into our desires. God’s desire is for the nations to know Him; therefore, we have that same desire. If we share in that missional desire of salvation for the nations, we should be willing to go and share the gospel. Please enjoy these pictures (Bethany Walter took the first three), and ask that God would continute to ignite a missional desire in your heart.