To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Fifteen Years Today

At about 8.40 on the evening of 15th October 2004 I was recognised as Pastor of Feltham Evangelical Church. Fifteen years have passed during which I have been:

  • loved
  • hated
  • told that I was the cause of someone’s death.
  • told that I had helped someone find life in Christ.
  • able to preach approximately a thousand messages
  • able to lead about five hundred Bible studies.
  • challenged to a fight.
  • stingy and hard-hearted in not giving to someone.
  • able to help strengthen some marriages.
  • a failure in helping other marriages.
  • able to undertake some baptisms.
  • responsible for leading several funerals (some joyful and some sad)
  • able to see people want to receive God’s Word.
  • the witness of those who have hardened their heart against God and His Word.
  • told I am the only person in the church they don’t get on with.
  • able to share great fellowship in the Word of the Lord and work of the Lord.
  • witness to church members disgracing the Name of Christ
  • a delighted onlooker as I have seen church members bear hardship with the joy of Christ.
  • encouraged to see the Word being studied in the homes and among the people of the church.
  • devastated to see youngsters walk away into destructive lifestyles.
  • let down by many people.
  • a let-down to many people.
  • supported by a great wife and family.
  • prayed for by many saints.
  • the recipient of anonymous letters.
  • sad witness to see people make bad decisions.
  • at services where people have boycotted because I was the preacher.
  • through periods of depression; one of which was very severe.
  • blessed by the provision of solid and supportive elders.
  • saddened by squabbling church members.
  • made joyful to see suffering saints get to church.
  • encouraged by our increasing missionary interest.
  • encouraged by our greater drive to evangelism.
  • told that someone has learnt so much through my preaching.
  • told that some just don’t get with my preaching.
  • made joyful in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
  • in the presence of God.
  • informed that I should not be pastor of the church.
  • frustrated as I have wanted to help people, but they have not wanted it.
  • saddened to see people want the world more than Christ.
  • gratified by the generosity of God’s people.
  • completely unable to help some people even when I so wanted to.
  • lacklustre in my devotion to Christ.
  • encouraged by many faithful servants of the Lord.
  • situated in a spiritual war-zone which has at times been intense.
  • deprived of sleep
  • granted sleep.
  • a receiver of wonderful hospitality.
  • a struggler with sin and idolatry (Arsenal Football Club in particular).
  • blessed to be able to study the Word of the Lord for a living.
  • delighted to see saints praying together.
  • frustrated when people just wanted it their way.
  • frustrated when I have just wanted it my way.
  • able to visit Ethiopia and India and see the Lord’s servants and His work.
  • glad to welcome people into membership.
  • sad to see people leave membership.
  • guilty of making bad decisions.
  • prayed for by my church
  • misunderstood.
  • guilty of poor communication.
  • endeavouring to shepherd the flock of God given to our care.
  • in despair to see people choose false teaching, rather than the way of Christ.
  • joyed to see people making steady progress in the Lord.
  • supported and provided for by the Lord and his people.
  • helped for several years by able PA / Administrator.
  • seeking to be faithful to God’s Word.
  • guilty of not preparing my messages and studies well enough
  • honoured too easily by some people.
  • despised by some people.
  • kept by a faithful God.
  • secure in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • anticipating the great day when I will be taken home to glory.
  • a sinner saved by rich and full grace; God’s grace.

We’ll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that’s to come. J. Hart

India (6)

My trip to India is drawing towards an end. I am due to leave for the UK tomorrow. Since September 12th I have spent four days over in Kerala. I was hosted by Alex and Jyoti Vergis.

The main bulk of the time was spent at a Christian Homeschoolers Retreat at Pligrims Retreat, Vagamon. This consisted of about eight families. The location was amazing; we were up in the mountains. The temperature was much fresher. There were several major storms whilst we were there. The food provided was marvellous.

And the group of people were such an eclectic group; not all were homeschooling (and there were different varieties thereof represented). But to listen to those involved in mission, those thinking about how we approach mission and those seeking to discern what is going on around us particularly from a spiritual perspective, was just great. I found so much of the listening into those informal conversations fascinating. So, in a sense, the home schooling slant was quite in the background.

One observation from this is the fact that spiritual realities are more open in these areas of the world. The realities are just as potent in The West, but hidden away.

To share like common faith with these people was just soberingly beautiful. Different backgrounds and differing perspectives, but one in Christ.

I preached three times on “Raising up a godly home”, “Fathers” and “The Living Love (based on 1 John 4:7-21)”. Happy to do such, but not sure how much was conveyed. I trust there will be blessing. Heard one talk on the Lord’s return; this was engaging, intriguing and fascinating.

Yesterday, Monday, I shared a special time with Biju and Jincy Mathews who were with us in Feltham thirteen years ago. Also met with Dr John Abraham and his wife (Jyoti Vergis’s parents) who have fond connections with Margaret Lee from our fellowship. It was special to meet them

This morning I flew back to Chennai and this afternoon/evening I have been sampling some of the happenings in the vicinity to where I am staying including having a haircut. The sounds, the smells, the hustle, the organised chaos, the contrasts between poverty and wealth, all provide a mix which is impossible to convey in words.

I have received so much kindness here. In Chennai I have stayed with the family of my friend back in the UK, Ramesh Chelliah. They have lavished so much generosity upon me; I have feasted like royalty everywhere where I have stayed.

The way people serve you here still chafes with my western habits. As a rule the ladies serve you, quite literally, and then eat later. But the whole idea of serving others is beautiful.

My stomach was iffy from 9th to 12th, but otherwise I have done well with a bit of due care and medication.

I have so much to ponder upon through the Lord’s gift of this time away. Looking forward to getting back home in our Lord’s good will.

Not sure how much it has all changed me. I trust I am a humbler man who has great cause to be thankful to my wonderful Father in heaven.

India (5)

I want to relate what must be the highlight thus far of my time here. It was preaching at a little fishing village at Pallepalam. This church is a branch church from the main one in Machilipatnam. What a joy to be among those people.

To see their vigour in wanting to praise the Lord, to see their faces in wanting to hear the Word and then to experience their appreciation afterwards. It was such a privilege.

Upon finishing Daniel, the pastor of the church, and his wife hosted us to their beautiful home for a great lunch based around fish dishes.

There is just something remarkably precious of going to such a remote place and finding those of like precious faith. All the “ones” of Ephesians 4:4-6 are shared between us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Above all we have the same Saviour who gave Himself for us, to save us from ourselves and our sins.

I can see some of their faces as I write this. Most of them sat on a hard stone floor to listen.Truly one  of the most special experiences in serving the Lord.

Subsequently, in returning to Machillipattnam the car ran out of fuel. As a result we had the striking contrast between seeing a Ginesh festival procession go past with all it’s vile paraphernalia (see here for my observations on this) and then having a further opportunity to meet with some of the dear believers.

They attend another branch church, Karagraharam, from Central Baptist Church, Machilipatnam and had joined with Pallepalem in the morning. Another precious fifteen minutes to see the Lord’s people in that area. Precious memories indeed.

 

 

India (4)

One of the intriguing things about my preaching experience in Andhra Pradesh was the desire that the people would have that you pray for them. What I mean is that after services they would come up to me and ask for prayer. The expectancy, if I fully gathered what was going on, was that they wanted you to pray there and then.

Here are some thoughts:

  • In many ways this is beautiful and something to celebrate in the life of the church. How wonderful to be in a church where the people want to pray, where they realise the need to turn over issues in their lives to God in prayer.
  • I did feel though that it would be better for them to be praying with one another rather than asking me to pray for them.
  • One concern was the whole phenomenon of viewing me as “the priest” or “the man of God” (a term which was often used) because I had preached. any sense that I had some special access into the presence of God is one I would want to reject with my whole heart.
  • Also, I wondered whether there might be some residual colonial attitudes here. After all, I was the white man who would have to be deferred to. Again, this would be an attitude that I would want to squash with all my being.
  • Out of courtesy, wanting to encourage spiritual attitudes and wanting to bond with these great people I did very happily participate. Often it would be a general prayer (to just pray for them) or prayer for some practical need (such as health or education). But, my heart delighted when I heard them ask for prayer for their family to be saved or some similar spiritual desire.

I did feel at times like I was a purveyor of prayers and all trades of that ilk. However, what I privilege it was to pray for and be with these people, whom I came to love. And may it be that the Lord might yet move through those prayers.

India (3)

Moving on to Chennai today. Pastor Sukumar Bandrapalli and his family have been such great hosts. Beautiful to be in their home. Things are so similar to Malaysia. In fact the house could be transposed to Kuala Lumpur and be in keeping. Marble floors, fans, ventilation, lizards scampering up the walls.

Machillipatnam is, in a sense, quite remote. Have not seen a non-Indian other than Morris and Ron my two co-preachers.

The roads are chaotic. So many cows wander around. Their nonchalance is a wonder to behold. They just sit down in the middle of the road and expect everyone to go round them – and they do!. Sitting in the house last evening the smell reminded me of the farm with the waft of cow-dung in the air.

The way they manage to avoid hitting each other is a wonder. Lots of tooting of horns.

It is a Hindu festival at the moment – Ganesh. It is grim; really grim. They put their bad omens and stuff on this god it appears and then bury the god in the water. It is interesting how it reveals the sense of another dealing with our wrongs. Sad that it is not the substitutionary offering of Christ. Alas that true offering they ignore and reject. And the whole carry-on as their carry their god on tractor and trailer is grim. Banging drums and powder throwing and imitating bulls.

 

India (2)

India continues busily. I have attended the Golden Anniversary Celebrations of Central Baptist Church, Machillipatnam. This was from Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th.

Everything was translated into Telegu. There was a Pastor’s Conference on Thursday and Friday. And also the general celebrations. I preached several times with a few impromptu things thrown in.

It was great to see people wanting to hear and receive the Word. Apparently, there were 700 people there on Saturday evening. Amazingly, they seem to give a full meal at lunch and dinner for all who are there at all the sessions.

There were lots and lots of presentations to people who have faithfully served the Lord, or are connected to others who have faithfully served. Some beautiful singing and music. Interestingly, it was all very loud through big amplification. It was great to see that the vast majority of the songs were indigenous songs. I think, during the days, I only recognised one which seemed to be a translation from English.

So much beautiful food to enjoy.

My stomach has generally held up well. However, I am a little queasy this morning with some diarrhoea.

The highlight of the conference for me was probably going to a small village church yesterday morning to preach. Such a blessing to see these dear people wanting to hear and know the Lord through His Word.

India (1)

I am now in India. I arrived yesterday at about 14:30 at Chennai Airport.

The travel involved a transit stop in Muscat; beautiful airport. Journey was uneventful in many ways. Great views of Chennai coming in. I embarrassed myself a couple of times.

Firstly, by messing up my Bluetooth connection on my headphones. I had my headphones on and was happily listening to A Gospel Coalition podcast. Alas all those surrounding me were also listening given that what I was hearing was not through my headphones, but from my phone. Drrrrrrrrrrr. Happily a man on a nearby seat alerted me to my predicament.

My second happened with me wresting to open a packet of potato snacks. I only prevailed when I resorted to using the connection on my phone charger as a dagger.

Notwithstanding the superficially uneventful journey , something remarkable did happen.

I left Heathrow in a pit of despair. Through, my indiscretion and weakness, May Lin and myself had a very difficult forty minutes or so prior to her leaving me at the airport. My behaviour descended into a vortex of self-recrimination combined with harshness to May Lin. Happily we were, through repentance and forgiveness, able to bind together over the phone and “draw a line” before I left. However, to have failed so spectacularly, cast a long shadow over me.

When I got to Muscat I was particularly cast down in my mental and emotional state. Memories of my experience of depression of earlier in the year cast me in a state of uncertainty as I looked ahead to my time away.

However, the Lord gave me much restoring grace at the beginning of the flight to Chennai from Muscat. How beautiful was that time as in my brokenness I felt Him putting me back together. Chastened by the whole experience as I trust I am, I have also been made sensible of my own weakness which must be “kept on file” for permanent reference. Since then I picked up and felt a sobered optimism. Conscious of my weakness and similarly conscious of our great forgiving Lord and the blessing of a good wife to me and mother to our children.

The hotel in Chennai was decent with a great room. Had a swim this morning which was very pleasant.

I managed to keep going until 7,45 last night before collapsing into bed. I woke at about 6.15. What a kindness from the Lord to be given a great night of sleep.

The roads are something to behold. There is a continual cacophony of blowing horns. People can suddenly appear on the side of the road going the other way. Cows mingle in with the traffic. Motor-cycles are in abundance. Ladies riding side-saddle and the carriage of cargo are a couple of the interesting motor-cycling sights.

I am now in Machilipatnam having flown up today. Picked up by Pastor Sukumar Bandrapalli in Vijayawada  and very warmly welcomed into his home here with his dear family.

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