Apr 16, 2016 | Ray, VISITING THE NATIONS

It is hard to realise we left the UK for South Africa on the 27th January.  As you know Sue was in considerable pain at the time with her slipped disc and whilst it is no way yet healed up, she is progressing and we hope soon she’ll be back to normal.  Thank you for your prayers during this time.


At the time of writing, we are in Clarens in the Free State getting ready for our Regions Beyond Master Builders conference, delegates are arriving already from different parts of the globe.


Our time in South Africa has been busy but full of encouragements.  Gary & Nicky Welsh from Urban Voice Church, Somerset West have been in India for nearly 2 months now so we stayed in their beautiful home for our first month.  Gary had asked me to bring teaching on the person and gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I soaked myself in the New Testament Scriptures and felt God gave me fresh understanding and even revelation.  Most Christians long for the more supernatural gifts but I felt God direct me first to the gifts of encouragement, mercy and generosity as a key to unlocking the other gifts.  As I looked afresh at Jesus and his ministry, it seemed to me he so personified these 3 gifts as a lifestyle which led him to heal, deliver and even raise the dead.  Being in Urban Voice for one month and doing several quite intense sessions of teaching led to our last evening together where both Sue and I spoke on our own experiences of and relationship with the Holy Spirit.  At the conclusion, we prayed for a large number of our friends for a special impartation.  It was like Toronto all over again!  I do believe this has been a fruitful time for Urban Voice and I do thank God for his goodness.


Sheldon Kidwell who heads up the team in the Bay Church, Muizenberg, took over the senior leadership role from his father Jeff about 3 years ago.  Jeff planted the church with his wife Viv around 22 years ago and some of the present elders of the church had been with Jeff since the plant out.  Sheldon has been raising up a new younger team and I was able to serve him and his team go through this transitional time.  I spent quality time with all his elders at a personal level and this culminated with a wonderful Sunday morning meeting where his two longest standing elders Tim and Pete shared with the church that they were laying this ministry down to be available to be fathers in the church.  It was a very emotional time but one of celebration and thanksgiving for those who had given so much in terms of themselves, their gifts and valuable time.  It was great to see so much harmony and faith for moving on to the next phase of the Bay’s life.


The Bay Church’s mercy ministry known as the Sozo Foundation has now moved into a new building.  They have many miraculous stories of God’s provision which fills you with faith and gratitude to God.  Anton and Elana Cuyler who head up the Sozo Foundation will be staying with us the 12/13 April and we hope to a have a meeting at Hope Church Bromley where they will share about their work, it’s a meeting not to miss if you can make it.  Do get in touch with Sue and I if you want more details or check out their website – www.thesozofoundation.org.za for general info.  It’s a story that’s unbelievable if God had not been its author!


I mentioned Jeff and Viv Kidwell.  Many of you will already know Viv is facing a serious medical condition and much prayer is being made to God for his healing power to be released.  Jeff and Viv are facing what is a very difficult time with such courage and grace.  Sue and I had the privilege of visiting their church plant in Durbanville, a suburb of Cape Town where they meet at the beautiful race course there.   It reminded me of the Plumpton race course where we started our Newfrontiers bible weeks so many years ago.  About 50 are now gathering and the atmosphere was wonderful, a very relaxed family at worship.  Jeff led on his guitar (jury’s still out on that one??!!?) and I preached.  What a privilege!  Do uphold Jeff and Viv in your prayers.


Jeff took Sue and I to a township just outside of Muizenberg known as Lavender Hill.  I’m old enough to remember Alex Guiness in the Lavender Hill Mob film and it was a bit like that.  A mid week gathering of about 30 worshippers, hungry for God and both Sue and I spoke.  Jeff told us that this area is notorious for its gun battles between rival gangs, mainly dealing in drugs.  Jeff told the story of how he was preaching there once and was pushed to the ground as gun fire was heard, the meeting continued after the gun fire had ceased.  What bought it into reality was when we learnt that the worship leader’s grown up son was killed by a stray bullet some 18 months ago.  Brings home the dangers our friends live with here in South Africa to which most of us are immune.


Steve Oliver joined us for a few days in Cape Town and we gathered all the leaders that could make it for a morning of fellowship and envisioning.  We have 6 churches in the Cape Town area and it is wonderful to see the growing friendship among them.  One of them is the church plant from Urban Voice to Gordon’s Bay about 7 miles away on the coast.  Wesley Van Graan leads it and we were so impressed when we visited one Sunday morning.  Another great atmosphere and we loved the way Wes spoke to his congregation as a father would to his children.  He spoke on how the Holy Spirit has equipped us to demonstrate and share our faith with those who thus far do not know Jesus.  Right up our street so it was not difficult for Sue and I to visit two of their home groups coming together on the following Thursday pm.  More than 30 were packed into the living room of one of the member’s home as we shared again on the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit to witness at a time when so many are losing their passion for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and settling for a pseudo institutional charismatic church (if you can have such a thing!).  It is great here in South Africa to meet so many Christians who are hungry for genuine Holy Spirit driven faith and a desire to bring the gospel to their neighbours.


So after a week with the Muizenberg Bay Church we started a relaxed 1200 mile drive to Clarens on the 29th February.  We stopped for 3 nights at the old Whaling Station guest house on the Retief Goosen beautiful golf estate.  It’s our ‘veg out’ stop over usually with some golf but not much this time as Sue’s back is not ready for that yet but I played 2 balls, one for her and one for me and then Sue chipped and putted her ball when it reached the green, a little frustrating for her but it was fun.


Driving on to Clarens we crossed a mountain pass with no made up roads.  Good weather took any risk out of the journey through beautiful countryside, ravines, valleys, waterfalls as well as the sighting of much wild life, even saw a couple of snakes soaking up the sun on the stony surface.


And so to Clarens and meeting up with 20 young church leaders from around the world.  I had put a conference together hosted by Steve & Heather on their farm in the Maluti mountains about 10 miles outside Clarens.  The conference was entitled “If only I’d Known” basically covering the things the leadership manuals don’t talk about.  I asked my very longstanding friend and colleague John Colwell to join me.  My approach was very biographical with bags of stories and lots of case histories to study.  John opened up to us theology and some doctrines he had come to a greater understanding of over his many years both in church leadership and academia.  It was intense, most days starting at 7am and not ending until 9pm but what amazed John and I was how hungry and willing these young leaders were.  They squeezed as much as they could out of us.  What a privilege to have such in our ranks in Regions Beyond.  God was so evidently present with us.  To start each day we had memorable early mornings together for worship and prayer with a message from John, a great way to prepare for a day of study and dedication.  Braai’s sometimes around an open brazier to keep us warm from the night’s chill at the end of the day were unforgettable.  Gareth Wales from Biggin Hill worked so hard attending to all our needs which included getting John, Sue and me eggs and bacon for breakfast every day as well as getting in stocks of food for the whole group etc and leading us in worship.  He and Steve & Heather gave themselves to us so we could enjoy and teach these 20 hungry for God young leaders.


So Master Builders is about to begin.  At the conclusion of that, we head for Mtubatuba to join Lawrence & Esther Hurter and the church for one week before setting out for our return to the UK on the 6th April.

Once again, thanks for your interest in us and our travels but most of all for your support in prayer.

Your friends

Ray & Sue