Mission

A Year at Oak Hill - Part Two

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Following on from last week’s guest post, our mission partner Simon Oatridge reflects on a year at Oak Hill College.

“How do you summarise a year in 400 words? Here’s a glimpse of what being an Oak Hill student has involved…

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It’s been an enormous privilege to receive such a wide range of teaching and experiences: from Communications Workshops given by a former West-End Shakespearean actor; to a whistle stop tour of the first 1000 years of Christianity. Studying the first six books of the Old Testament, and the Gospels has enlarged my view of God; attending a two-week placement at Westminster Abbey; learning more about Anglican Ministry (from Peter Juckes’ Dad!) and most recently having a week with the Chaplain of St. Luke’s Hospice back in Sheffield. Through it all, it has been good to study alongside others from different denominations, backgrounds, and places, and there was even the chance to set up “The Oak Hill Open” – an end of year golf day for students and lecturers.

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Studying Hebrew and Greek has been interesting, confusing, rewarding, painful, and even fun (sometimes). My end of year exams included translating the parable of the sower, Genesis 22 and 37. I’ve come to (mostly) love writing essays, as they have given me the chance to consider a particular topic in greater depth. One assignment involved responding to Richard Dawkins’ view of God as a ‘moral monster’ based on the Canaan conquest in the Old Testament, while another gave me the chance to think more about God as Trinity. Each one has been practical: with essays on biblical youth and children’s work in church, servant leadership, and preaching being particular favourites.

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On the first day at College we were told “theology leads to doxology” – which is a fancy way of saying what we study is to cause us to love and worship God. Looking back on the year, I’m so grateful for how this has been a reality, whether in the prayerfulness of lecturers, in ending a lecture by singing together, daily chapel, or the example of faculty who model what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Studying has caused me to rejoice, cry, smile, and silenced me as I have seen something more of the majesty, wonder, beauty and goodness of our God.

It was lovely to see many of you on Sunday. Thanks so much for your ongoing prayers, friendship, and support!”

A Year at Oak Hill - Part One

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We recently caught up with our mission partners Simon and Becca Oatridge to hear how they’ve found their first year at Oak Hill College. Here’s Becca’s perspective:

“It is hard to believe it has been a whole year since we left Sheffield! It has certainly flown by and looking back there is so much to be grateful for. We settled quickly into our new home, roles, church and life down south and though we miss friends and the beautiful Peak District, the transition has been a really positive one.

This time a year ago, I felt overwhelmed with all the changes that lay ahead, it was as if we had thrown everything up into the air and were waiting to see where it all landed. So many ‘knowns’ being swapped for ‘unknowns’. Then slowly as things became more familiar, I realised I felt guilty about my Christian faith; there was so much I could do and people I could invest in, or the many conversations I feel I should have- where do I begin? I would find myself suppressing the feeling that I wasn’t doing enough, not being a “proper Christian”.

Chatting to my sister about this in October, she reminded me of the wonderful simplicity of Jesus’ commandments: to love him and to love others. Somehow that seemed to make sense; rather than getting lost in the many things I wasn’t doing, I saw the simplicity of loving God. As I consider what it means to be loving him with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, I am trying to focus on the daily choices. To be faithful to him when others slander him, to try and pray for people when I say I will, to ask questions about faith to my friends when I can. Trying to not get distracted by how it will all end up, or what the future will look like I have been encouraged by some lyrics of an Audrey Assad song:

“Lead, kindly light, amid the grey and gloom,

The night is long and I am far from home

Here in the dark I do not ask to see

The path ahead, one step enough for me, 

Lead on, lead on, kindly light.”

God’s love for us enables us to love him and others in the small everyday things of life.

Yet how often I try to see the whole path ahead, at the expense of taking the steps marked out before me. I would love to learn to be faithful in the small things and trust him who directs my steps.

 We are at church this Sunday and hope to catch up with many of you there. "

Please do keep praying for Simon and Becca and look out for part two from Simon coming up on the blog soon.

Summer Mission: Foremarke 3

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Every year, approximately 60 14-18 year-olds descend upon Foremarke Hall in Repton, just outside of Derby. In 2010, I was one of those teenagers. Little did I know, however, that this decision would have a huge impact upon my faith and life in general.

The summer camp itself is Foremarke 3 (the last of three consecutive weeks, each with a different leadership team) and since my first time, I have returned nearly every year and now help to lead. The camp itself is a mixture of Bible-based teaching, worship and seminars/workshops combined with various outdoor off-site activities. This year, the teaching will cover a Bible overview with the particular talk I am giving covering Amos 5. One verse in particular sticks out as I prepare and write my talk:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

In these turbulent and often troubled times, great comfort can be found in God’s universal justice. But also a warning to all of us, to love and serve the Lord with sincere hearts, for that justice will judge all people. Like the waters, it cannot be tamed or stopped.

I was fortunate to grow up in a supportive and Bible-believing family and wider church family. Particular emphasis was given to the youth group, with roughly 15 of us attending Foremarke 3 each year. As such, I had always believed the Bible to be true and known Jesus had died for me, however, I never fully understood it until I went to Foremarke 3. It was here during that first week, that my eyes were truly opened to God’s majesty and saving grace and I fully understood what it meant to call myself a Christian.

The aim as a leadership team, and especially for me personally, is to replicate this same understanding amongst all of the members. To ignite the same fire and passion for Jesus as I felt that very first time. In recent years, more non-Christians have attended, which is a real blessing for witnessing, but not without its challenges. Each year, a number of people profess faith in Christ for the very first time. Whilst a great joy in itself, it is fulfilling to see often years of persistent, patient, gospel-centred teaching at work and producing fruit.

I owe a great deal to Foremarke 3. Never did I realise the impact it would have upon my faith and life in general (the following year I met my future wife!). Our hope and prayer is always that those non-Christians who attend would ultimately come to know and trust in Christ, and for those that already do to gain a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love. Physically exhausting, I always leave feeling spiritually refreshed.

As with all mission, constant prayer is essential. Please do be praying for us: for physical strength during a very busy and exhausting week; for spiritual strength to continue to preach God’s word faithfully; for new fruit through this work, that more would come to put their ultimate faith and trust in Him who saves.

Summer Mission: Pursue Kenya

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Imagine a county where almost half of the population is under 14 years of age and half the population live below the poverty line. Imagine if 1 in 5 of these children have no formal education and 80% have no secondary school education. This seems so far from what we can imagine here, but it is the reality for the people of Kakamega in Western Kenya.

This summer we (Vicky and Rachel) will have the privilege of visiting Kakamega in order to volunteer with Pursue, a charity that provides funding and support to facilitate projects in rural communities in Kakamega county. It is a Christian charity that seeks to live out God's call to love our brothers and sisters in need. We cannot wait to go and support this ministry and use the gifts that God has given us.

Our trip will involve running a range of education training sessions for teachers from rural schools across the region and physio training for staff from the local school for disabled children. We will also be doing home visits to help support the parents of disabled children and equipping schools with more teaching and learning resources. 

To help raise funds for the training courses and to purchase resources, we have planned two fundraising events that we would love you to come to. 

The first one is a Women's Clothes Swap on Saturday 15th June (flyer here). It is the perfect way to get a brand new wardrobe for the summer whilst raising money for a good cause.

Secondly, come and test your taste buds with a Wine and Cheese Tasting evening on Saturday 6th July (flyer here).  Recruit a table of 6-8 friends and enjoy an evening of drinking fine wine from around the world, listening to great music, and eating the best cheese that Beeches has to offer! Tickets are £20 each and need to be purchased before the event. 

All proceeds will go to funding the training courses we will deliver, providing food and transport for the Kenyan staff who attend, and buying resources and toys to take out with us.

Most importantly we would also really value your prayers as we prepare for the trip.

Bishops, Mission and Missionary Bishops

This past Sunday we thought about the leadership God’s people need in order to be faithful to the mission God has given us. In particular we considered how the Anglican (though not exclusively Anglican) model of oversight by a Bishop can be an important part of such leadership.

The background to this is the visit later this year of our new Bishop Andy Lines, who was appointed by GAFCON as a ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ last year. We are looking forward to having him preach God’s word for us and get to know CCW a little better. 

In the mean time, for those who want to see and know a little bit more, the first 24 minutes of this video is an interview with Andy:


Vicky Howard in Ethiopia

It was just over a year ago that I stood at the front of church and was commissioned to go as a missionary to serve God in Ethiopia. I vividly remember how nervous and uncertain I felt as I looked out over all of the smiling faces of people in the congregation. Was I mad to leave my home, job, family, friends, and safety to go and work in a developing country that was surrounded by war torn countries and was itself going through political instability?! But I felt certain of God’s call for me to go and serve Him and felt so encouraged by my church family to go and fulfil Jesus’ call to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:10). So, with one giant leap of faith I got onto the plane to Ethiopia. 

I went to Ethiopia to volunteer as a teacher at Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa. Bingham Academy is an International Christian School whose aim is “to provide quality Christian education within a multicultural community, developing students of integrity who can change the world for God’s glory.” The school was originally set up 70 years ago to provide education for the children of missionaries in order to help them continue their work in Ethiopia. Before the school was established, missionaries had to leave their children back in the UK/USA/Canada for 5 years or more at a time. Can you imagine?! The school has now grown immensely and provides education not only for missionaries’ children, but for the children of diplomats, aid workers, and Ethiopians also. It was amazing when I asked each student that I taught what their parents did. In my A Level class alone, my students’ parents’ jobs included being a vet for poor farmers, doing Bible translation for remote tribes, running a set of schools for orphans in rural areas, being head spokesperson for the African Union, and being a famous preacher who was leading a revival in the south of Ethiopia. It was such a privilege to be able to support the work of each of these parents through educating their children. The school also had its own mission field as many families and staff were not Christians so we had the wonderful opportunity or sharing the gospel every day at the school also. 

Living in a developing country certainly had many challenges. Just simple tasks like shopping, food preparation and washing clothes took a lot more time and effort. I never got used to having to bleach my fruit and vegetables for 20 minutes, before washing them in drinking water that I had to collect from the school water fountain across the yard! It certainly made me realise what a convenience culture we have here and how much just having “choice” is a sign of affluence. I still feel overwhelmed now when I walk into a supermarket in the UK! And don’t even get me started on the unreliability of the phone and internet! Sometimes we had to go without internet for days, even weeks, and regularly had power cuts and no running water. These are all things that we take so for granted in this country and should be more grateful to God for. 

It is also very challenging to be surrounded by so much poverty all the time. As soon as I stepped out of the school gates, I was met with shoe shine boys, beggars, children in rags, and disabled people dragging themselves along the floor. It really did break your heart to see the conditions that many people lived in and the immense struggle that just living day to day can be. Addis is very overcrowded and there is not enough work available but still thousands of people flock from the famine-ridden countryside to the capital in pursuit of a better life, and are sadly often left disappointed. There was one horrific incident whilst I was there where the main landfill site collapsed, burying alive hundreds of people who lived and scavenged on it. The stories that came from Bingham’s parents providing aid at the site were devastating. Sometimes the only way that I could cope was to become numb to the poverty and suffering that I saw and it was sad how quickly it just became normal to see. But God’s heart is for the poor and I saw so much wonderful work being done to provide aid for the people of Ethiopia. I was often humbled by the amazing faith and joy that the Ethiopians had; they found happiness in the smallest things and worshipped God with such passion. My favourite days were Wednesdays when I helped run an outreach project after school, Yetesfa Birhan, for poor girls from the local area. Just seeing their smiles as we fed and played with them, and being able to tell them that God loved them was so special. 

Ultimately, my time in Ethiopia has helped to strengthen my faith. There were certainly times this year when my faith was tested. I did not always trust that God would answer our prayers or I just tried to do things in my own strength. But time and time again, God provided for us and protected us and answered so many prayers. When I looked back at the prayer requests I sent to church in the UK, I realised that every single one was answered! I also witnessed and worked with other Christians with such incredible faith in God’s power and purposes who really encouraged me, and I saw God at work across Ethiopia. God has done amazing things for me this year and for Bingham. I am so glad that I took this leap of faith and stepped out of my comfort zone to serve God abroad. I would strongly encourage others to do so as well and to see how our God is the God of all nations.