Setting up

So we’ve been here in Carlisle for just over two weeks now and we’re almost all settled in. We are so very thankful for the gifts that people have given us towards setting up a new home together. Every time I cut up vegetables I am thankful for sharp knives and nice (colour coded!) chopping boards. We love the concept of being able to store things in places other than our bedroom for once! One important part of setting up a home happened just last night – we finally got our new book-cases. Ruth had lots of fun putting out all her books on display, and I must say they look great. And don’t worry, I’ve set up the TV and Wii so we’re all set there!

But we’ve had little time to sit at home and play with our toys because we are already hard at work at OM. With the TeenStreet conference in Germany happening this month, Ruth has been planning a whole kid’s program and I have been training in the use of some pretty crazy sophisticated equipment. It is going to be a hectic two weeks so please pray for us as we go on this adventure together.

We’re married!

Yes, Ruth and I finally tied the knot on the 9th of June 2012 at Northchurch Baptist Church, Berkhamsted, England. We had a magnificent day that (save for a slight delay) turned out just the way we planned. The sun even made an appearance in the afternoon and there was an especially beautiful sunset to end the day. You can see lots of photos of the big day on our facebook pages.

We had a lovely relaxing honeymoon in tropical north Queensland, Australia before heading to Australia for a whole second wedding and reception! It was lovely to celebrate again with the people who are special to me, and who had already met Ruth and encouraged us on our journey together. It was also a time for last goodbyes as we flew back to the UK two days later!

We’ve been very busy setting up our new home in Carlisle, UK and we will have some photos for you to see soon. We’ve also started work already as volunteers for Operation Mobilisation – Ruth is working with families in the mission field and I am working with a multimedia ministry called OMNIvision. Between our day jobs, setting up a home, getting over jetlag and getting used to each other – we’re quite drained – so please pray for energy and grace for one another.

Counting the days

June 9th 1:30pm BST / 10:30pm EST

It’s only 9 days now until Ruth and I tie the knot here in Berkhamsted, England. We’re both super excited and thankful we can count the days on our fingers now. Everything seems to be coming together quite well for us as far as wedding planning and preparing for the future.

We will be broadcasting the wedding live over the internet from our church streaming channel:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/northchurch-baptist-broadcast
Note that this is not going to be a television worthy production, but you will be able to see and hear all the essentials if you want to stay up till 10:30pm EST. You can see another wedding has been recorded as ours will be to get an idea of the quality of coverage – though our ceremony will be quite different!

Ruth and I have been going through The Marriage Preparation Course by the makers of Alpha with our pastor and would happily recommend the course to new couples. http://relationshipcentral.org/marriage-preparation-course

Our first couple of months in Carlisle seem to be shaping up as well. We have both been selected to be involved in TeenStreet - a huge Christian event challenging teenagers to live for Christ – in July and we have both been recruited for the Go conference – where new missionaries come to be equipped before going out into the world. I will be doing audio visual and Ruth will be looking after kids and consulting with families entering the mission field.

We can hardly wait for our new life to begin. We are seeing God’s provision for us every day in having enough money to buy food and bus tickets, to the big things like wedding rings and houses. Ruth’s monthly support income is almost at 100% – we are just seeking God for another £100 – £200. She is also looking for part time teaching work to give us enough to live on. If she is unable to find enough work, my monthly support will need to increase by up to $600 per month to give us spending money for things like groceries and public transport. Please continue to pray that the rest of the figures add up and we can begin serving God without being a burden to the organisation we go with.

Ground work

Having spent another week in Carlisle – this time on my own – what do I have to show for it? I have been working on a project which will allow people to easily give monthly to the ship Logos Hope. There are many people out there – some Christians and some not – who would like to make regular contributions, and the technology needs to catch up. Over the week I have made enough progress for other people to take on the job of testing and implementing it. It feels good to have achieved something in the time that I’ve spent there. Others really appreciated the work I did.

I also had the chance to visit another church in Carlisle, which I really enjoyed. Carlisle Christian Fellowship is a small church that grew up out of house churches. They are fairly modern and charismatic and I’ve seen at least one thing in the news sheet about a kindness evangelism outreach this month. I had the pleasure of going to a men’s dinner at the church and connecting with some of the blokes there. I’m still not sure if this will be where Ruth and I settle, but it’s nice to experience fellowship with believers in a totally different place.

Ruth and I have also been looking at houses, and we think we may have found one close to the city center with all the furniture included. It’s a two bedroom terraced house – very typical English home. Whatever we decide on, OM will take care of all the rental agreements, which is very helpful for us.

 

Men’s Conference

“It’s such a relief that you could come to help out today Chris, you were a big help” a member of the OMNIvision crew remarked as he dropped me home late Saturday night. I was just thankful to God for the opportunity to be a part of the event.

Last Wednesday I left my lovely fiancee in Berkhamsted and caught a train to Carlisle to work on a software project for OM ships. I had wanted to spend some more time in Carlisle connecting and getting accustomed to the area, and OM had kindly paid my way up here for a week and a half. On Friday morning in devotions, a member of OMNIvision approached me and asked me if I’d like to go to Manchester with them for the weekend Northern Men’s Conference. I agreed without delay and was whisked off to the bus as soon as I could tell people where I was going.

One crew member had fallen ill and I was needed to help with setup, packdown and camera. I had operated a camera many times before on the ship, but this was a step up from that. Bigger cameras, more professional crew, and an audience that expect quality.

The Northern Men’s Conference was a one day Christian conference with keynote speaker Dr David Cook from Australia encouraging men from all around Northern England how to be the man God designed them to be. As I operated the camera, it struck me that he was saying some key stuff that mattered to me at this point in my life. I am moving from being a single man under my parents to being a husband and head of the household. Whilst I won’t repeat his talks, I especially like that he said God designed us in his image – to work as He does, to rest as He does and to Love as he does. This and many other truths washed over me as I operated the camera – I felt doubly blessed hearing this instruction and doing what I love doing.

The Audio/Visual side of things ran very smoothly and everyone was thankful that I could come along and fill in for the other camera operator. I am looking forward to the big events like Teen Street that I’ll be involved with this summer. I thank God for the surprise adventure, the blessing of growing relationships with the crew and the instruction I received on being a man of God.

Connecting

Following our week in Carlisle nailing down the details of our future, this week has been spent connecting (or re-connecting in Ruth’s case) with the community of Ruth’s Home Church, Northchurch Baptist. I’ve been staying with two lovely families that live near Ruth. It’s been great to get to know them better by living in their homes and sharing a little in their lives. Ruth and I have been doing our best to share with others what God has called us to do in Carlisle. (you can read it here: Chris|Ruth) A big part of this has been participating in home groups. We’ve also had penty of time to spend on wedding planning – which as you could imagine, turns out to be quite a bit of work when you want to stick to a budget!

We are both really excited about continnuing work with OM, and sometimes I feel like I’d like to be there right now serving God with my skills and giftings – but He is encouraging me each day that building my relationship with Ruth and connecting with people in her life – laying down a good foundation for the future is the best use of my time right now.

This Wednesday I’m headed to Carlisle for 1.5 weeks to work on an urgent project, then I’m back here in Berkhamsted until the wedding on June 9th. We’ll disappear until our Australian blessing and reception on June 26th, and after that we’ll return to Carlisle to set up home and start work on July 2nd.

We’ve been really encouraged so far by generous gifts and pledges of financial support. it’s still early days as far as Ruth’s levels are concerned. I’m still resting at 70%. We can’t help but testify that God has suppplied all of our needs up to this point and we Trust he will continue to surprise us in the future.

A week in Carlisle

Ruth and I recently spent the week in the northern border city of Carlisle nestled at the foothills of the Scottish highlands. Though it was a little colder up there we had a lovely time and we feel like we have a little more assurance of the future. We visited the OM International Coordinating Team (ICT) office and met some of the team who work there. ICT’s purpose is to come alongside missionaries at all levels and in all countries and provide the support and organisation that they need to do the work God has given them to do. Whilst the roles here feel a little bit corporate, the focus and outworking is in equipping, praying for and ministering to missionaries around the world.

Ruth spent some time with those she will be working with and the person that she will be replacing. She was able to get a good handle on what the job involves and get her hands on some resources that she can get familiar with in the coming months. The team seem very keen to have her working there as soon as we can – which will absolutely be after our wedding and honeymoon in June!

I spent some time with the team who run IT (Information Technology) on Logos Hope. They are putting together a donation system for the ships ministry that I am helping to construct. This is something I’ll be working on in the coming weeks alongside wedding plans and support raising. I also got to visit OMNIvision again and connect with the crew there. I will be based at OMNIvision (which is in a separate studio a few miles from ICT). I got to see the events that are coming up this summer and I’m very excited about the possibilities.

We were delighted to spend time with the Ingham family who let me stay with them for the week and often had Ruth and I around for dinner. It was very encouraging to be welcomed so warmly, especially when we don’t really know anyone in Carlisle. We were able to see a house that we could possibly move into in July, but there are no guarantees. We like the house so we are praying it will work out – if not they will find us another place.

It’s all very daunting moving to the UK, moving away from Ruth’s hometown, getting married and changing jobs – but we keep bringing it back to God and He keeps reassuring us we are doing the right thing. We are continually encouraged by the way that our lives seem to have been building towards this place and time – that God has been working behind the scenes in our lives in the good times and the bad to prepare us for ministry.

My desk at OMNIvision

My desk at OMNIvision

My calling to work with kids in mission

At my desk

Having spent a significant portion of my childhood as an MK (missionary kid) I developed a strong awareness and interest in mission work which stayed with me into adulthood, although I never had any plans or ideas where this would take me. By the age of 5 I’d chosen my career path and this finally came true in 2004 when I qualified as a primary school teacher. These two passions have always been present in my life to varying degrees. Throughout university and my years teaching in the UK I went on several short term mission trips and was involved with the mission team at my church.

In 2008 I finally felt the time to serve longer term in mission was approaching. For me it was an obvious and easy decision to teach MK’s as this combined my own experiences, passion for mission and love of teaching. Eventually I ended up on Logos Hope, as a teacher in the school onboard. Amongst the 400 crew onboard there are usually about 40 children, aged from 0 – 16. The school usually has about 8 teachers who provide an education for these children during their time onboard.

Having taught in the school on Logos Hope for 2 years I returned to the UK in October 2011, again wondering how all my passions and experiences could be combined. Through a series of thoughts and conversations God has led me to take on the role of ‘Family and Educational Support Advisor’ with OM.

Part of this role is to ensure that families and children on the mission field are well cared for, receiving the support and advice that they need to raise their family, make educational choices and deal with the unique challenges they face. This means providing resources, support and advice at all stages of their journey: as the plan and prepare for the mission field, during their time overseas and as they re-enter their home country. Having been an MK myself I can understand some of both the positive and negative impacts that can occur and I hope to be able to help maximise the former and minimise the latter.

Another part of the role is recruiting and supporting teachers, especially for the ship school. Recruitment is something totally new for me but having been a teacher onboard the ship I have some understanding of how to support them effectively. This includes being available to answer questions, providing resources and ensuring they are kept up to date with the curriculum.

Successfully fulfilling this role will require a lot of networking; researching about MKs, attending conferences and liaising with OM offices around the world. One person described the need for someone to be a ‘children’s advocate’ and I guess in many ways that is what I am hoping for – that I will be able to speak up on behalf of the children involved in mission and ensure that their needs are remembered by all involved.
All of this will be a part time role. In many ways stepping out of the classroom and into an office is a daunting prospect but I feel that my experiences all add up to help me face this new challenge. And to make sure I don’t go completely insane through a lack of interaction with children I hope to be able to teach part time. This will have the added benefit of enabling me to keep up with the changes to the curriculum.  At the moment I have no idea what this teaching job may actually look like but am trusting that God has something lined up for me and will reveal it at the right time.

Time to go

Well the day is finally here. Tonight at 6:45pm I’m hopping on a plane that takes me to the other side of the world. I’m heading to the UK where I will first meet up with my fiancee Ruth and stay with friends of hers while I get over jetlag. Then we’re off to Carlisle to connect with the missions organization we feel led to be a part of. We will have lots of meetings and get to see the house where we will live when we get married (I’ll be staying somewhere else for now). Then we are headed back down to Berkhamsted where Ruth is living to help raise awareness and funding there – whilst making wedding plans. Likely we will make more visits up to Carlisle before we marry but plans are just forming now. In June we will get married, honeymoon and return to Australia for a second ceremony before returning to the UK to start with OM officially on July 2nd.

What are we actually doing? If you’re not familiar with our plans to join OMNIvision and OM Education then please read this post about OMNivision:
Young family: OMNIvision
Ruth will be volunteering as the educational adviser for OM international including the ship ministry – supporting and resourcing the ship’s school, advising parents entering the mission field and recruiting teachers. She will also probably teach part time in some way to keep up with the education system in the UK.

Over the last week I’ve had lots of good times with friends from all different walks of life and with my family. I’ve had to say goodbye to the people I know and love, but I know it is worthwhile to follow the path that God has set before me and before Ruth also. We are both stepping out in faith that God will provide for our need while we respond to his call. I have had my share of doubts over the last few months regarding finances – but God has never let me down yet! Through a number of recent contributions, I now have nearly 70% of my half of our expenses pledged by generous people, and if Ruth is able to find part time work as she plans (definitely pray for this!) then I have almost exactly half right now. See how God is faithful? Yet He rarely provides it well in advance – He provides it at just the right time. The very good news is that for the short term our organisation will help us to make up any shortfall, but we still need our income to increase. Ruth is just in the beginnings of her support raising and we would appreciate your prayers for us in that.

We are delighted to go into this field of ministry with the prayers and best wishes of so many people who I consider friends or family. Regardless of if you give or if you even share our beliefs, we are glad to share with you what God is doing in us and through us as we follow this path.

Love & Blessings,
Ruth & Chris

Independence: What does the bible say?

Independence seems like the ultimate confirmation of being a ‘real man’ or for that matter a ‘real woman’. Something inside us wants to prove that we can make it on our own, to pay our own way, to not need anybody. Perhaps that’s why some people move out of home when they turn 18 (or sometimes younger!) Perhaps we were taught from early on that being independent from our parents and those around us should be our goal. Birds will push their young chicks out of the nest so that they will learn to fly – if they didn’t push them, the little birds would never try something that strange. Maybe you’ve also been pushed out of the nest.

But more and more I’m starting to see how this mindset develops into a lonely and isolated existence. Going it alone – either as a single person or as a family unit – has some romantic notions and promises to never be a burden on anyone, but it can’t be healthy. God designed us to live in relationship with each other, to be a community. Listen to this verse from 1 Corinthians 12:

14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. […]  20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” […]  26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

I love that part ‘If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it’. It’s not that I want to bring everyone down all the time – but have you ever suffered something in silence? Have you ever pretended that everything was OK, because you were afraid you would be rejected or be a burden – or you weren’t even sure what you were afraid of? As Christians we are supposed to be the body of Christ, and there are no independent parts in that body. Each part needs every other part in order to function, and God has designed us to work together in unity and harmony.

I have been wrestling with God today over finances. He has repeatedly reminded me to trust him to provide for me, but there’s that part of me that keeps rising up and saying “I want to do this in my strength. I want to provide for my own needs and in the future for my wife.” But that’s not how God is leading Ruth and I to live. He is asking us to be fully dependent on Him, and on our fellow Christians for all our needs. Even though things don’t look promising now, He knows our needs and He will provide for us. We have to let go of that part of us that wants to be independent.

I also think about Romans 12:10 – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Was that only talking about honoring the pastor above yourselves? No. It applies to everyone in the church. To often, the person sitting next to me in Church is suffering emotionally or financially or in their health, but I’m not at all interested in listening, praying for and helping them. My prayer is that I am more sensitive to the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ – and have the guts to ask them how things are really going for them.