RAY & SUE LOWE – NEWS – FINAL UPDATE FROM OUR NORTH AMERICA TRIP
It’s just gone midday on Tuesday 25th October. We are now back at home base in Missoula, Montana staying in our friend Kay Valentine’s beautiful home. She is on vacation so Sue and I will enjoy her home on our own until we leave for the UK next Monday. Rain is scheduled today but as you see from the photo no sign of it yet, just morning mists moving up the valley with snow capped mountains in the background.
We have been on the road for 3 weeks visiting 3 of our Regions Beyond churches enjoying breathtaking views as we have travelled hundreds of miles sometimes over mountain passes twice the height of Snowdon, England’s highest mountain. We’ve travelled these roads many times but never fail to enjoy the beauty and majesty of this part of God’s creation. He knows how to paint panoramic views! We often see wildlife roaming the hills as well as in the gardens adjoining Kay’s home.
Trevor & Rachel Payne (already home in the UK) preceded us to both Helena and Spokane and rather than us overlapping in any way, it just seemed that they had prepared the ground for our input.
We didn’t plan it that way but that’s how it turned out. We really do believe God directs our ways by his Holy Spirit.
Helena is the capital town of Montana and it grew up in the mid 1850’s as gold, silver and other precious materials were discovered. Sue and I first visited Mount Helena Community Church at the turn of the 21st century. It was led at that time by our good friends Bryan and Margaret Asay but now is led by J R Quigley and his leadership team. Sue and I had 6 days staying in the home of JR and his wife Janny and their 3 children ranging from 13 years to 7 years. A lively family! Janny is a nurse working 12 hour shifts and JR has his own air conditioning business as well as giving several days to church affairs.
We’ve travelled these roads many times but never fail to enjoy the beauty and majesty of this part of God’s creation. He knows how to paint panoramic views!
In terms of teaching ministry, I spent 2 sessions over a weekend on the person and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Mount Helena Community church had been birthed out of the charismatic movement but had somehow lost touch with what it meant to make room especially in their meetings for the Holy Spirit to edify the church with spiritual gifts.
Historically over 2000 years the church has often neglected this person and wonderful gifts so on the Friday evening, I presented an historical survey of how God, the Holy Spirit, keeps breaking in through renewal, revivals and outpourings. This was well received and I followed on Sunday morning with teaching on how we can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings especially as we go about our ordinary daily lives. I illustrated by means of my own personal encounters. At the close of my message, a young woman came to the front of the meeting and told us God had given her a message in tongues. She explained what this meant and then spoke in this unknown language. JR then asked for the interpretation which was given by 3 different people. Afterwards a lady, a Latin teacher, shared how part of the tongue was Latin and how it tied in with the interpretations. JR then brought some explanation as various members of the congregation had never experienced this before and some were quite disturbed as this was going against their cessationist stance. Only later did I learn that nobody had exercised this gift in a public meeting for 20 years. A morning of breakthrough for the church and a window of opportunity to again press into the Holy Spirit and his wonderful gifts.
A few years previously, Ted Gates and his wife Jeannine moved from Helena to another town Bozeman some 97 miles south to begin a new work and ultimately a church plant. Joined by others from Mount Helena Church, they began to gather together on Thursday evenings to meet very informally over a meal with prayer, fellowship and teaching.
Their vision was to reach unchurched people. Sue and I visited them last year. Bozeman is a booming community and is the fastest growing city in that part of the USA. Construction is going on at a rapid rate. Again a beautiful place to live, those who have made financial success are moving to the city bringing enterprise and wealth to it. Within the next few years, this city is expected to double in size. We spent a week with this delightful young group of people, mainly young marrieds with young families. It’s not been easy reaching their neighbours, friends and workmates but they are making progress. Bryan and Margaret Asay (Jeannine’s mum and dad) have also moved to Bozeman so they have the benefit of their wisdom and experience.
We arrived in Bozeman in the snow and the church rented for us a beautiful brand new house for the 7 days we were there. We were the first short term tenants and the realtor (estate agent) told us property was so expensive; our 2 double bedroomed, en suite in each, large kitchen, dining, lounge area, as well as an enormous garage, would cost to buy $240,000 (where we live in the UK you wouldn’t get a dog kennel for that price!) No wonder property is booming, also a great place to plant a young vibrant church.
Ministry-wise I did 2 evenings looking at Acts 19 and Paul’s strategy and principals for bringing into being a Spirit filled church which in 2½ years made a huge impact on one of the most notorious cities in the Roman world. We concluded our evening with much faith filled prayer and Sue and I look forward to hearing of their progress. Personally I love this sort of situation because I can look back over nearly 40 years of ministry and recall many situations just like the Bozeman group that I got involved with at the outset and today are thriving churches and which in turn have planted other churches.
We headed back to Missoula for the weekend of the 15/16 October as I was preaching at The Lion’s Den Church led by Dave Meek and his dad Jon Meek senior. Jon, as many of you know, has been seriously ill but we thank God for many answered prayers which have bought Jon through this difficult time. Dave, his son, now heads up the team. What a church! Packed to the gunnels, the worship band filled with very lively rocky guitars, drums and Dave’s mum Miriam on the keyboards; a great sound and also some wonderful Christ centred hymns sensitively selected as we went from exuberant praise to adoration and worship. We so enjoy this church.
Many have testimonies of salvation from backgrounds of drug and other addictions as well as having served prison sentences. Some visit from the local penitentiary who are given special passes to attend the Sunday morning service.
By request, I preached on “Excelling in the grace of giving” and shared many stories of God’s humorous faithfulness over many years and I believe we deposited something that will bear good fruit. We both look forward to many more times of enjoying fellowship with our friends at The Lion’s Den.
We were in Missoula for only 1½ days to say goodbye to Trevor & Rachel as they flew home on the Monday, the same day as we left for a week in Spokane and the church plant out from Missoula led by Jon Meek junior and Donald Easterbrook,
formerly part of the Newfrontiers church in Coeur d’Alene some 30 miles away. And a great week it was. We stayed with our dear friends Tracy & Jani Batterton and their 19 year old son Colter who just happens to be my golf partner but more about the golf later.
Church planting is no picnic and it is necessary for Jon and his wife Becca to both earn livings, raise a family and put long hours into church. It has been tough and not without its frustrations and disappointments but we found them full of faith. Donald’s wife Jen has had a horrid year as she has suffered from a debilitating and painful form of Lupus. This has been tough on them and their family but thankfully Jen is beginning to respond to treatment although there is still some way to go. They’re
a great couple who could have given up but haven’t and are pressing on. Do pray for them.
For Tracy and Jani this was their last weekend at Grace Church and we prayed for them at the end of the service as they were sent out to join 2 young men and their wives who had moved from Oregon to start a new church in Spokane. I had the privilege of meeting the 2 young men, both in their 20’s and both named Matt.
Matt, pictured here, was a lawyer in the military but is now taxi driving so he has time to pastor in the church and Matt (in the photo with his wife Jenna, Sue and I) works in the local university with undergrads who are undertaking Masters courses or moving into teaching. They have a new church mainly of students and are gathering around 70 on Sundays at 5pm as well as small mid week groups. Colter (pictured with me at golf) first met the 2 Matts and started to attend their church. Tracy, known to many of you as he headed up the engineering team that went to South Africa to renovate the Tavern in the Town as well as trips to the Philippines, was introduced to the Matts and felt that God had joined him to those 2 young couples. The Battertons will be missed by Grace Church but we anticipate the opportunity to partner with them in the work of Regions Beyond in different nations. Already the 2 Matts and their church are much in prayer for the various projects
Regions Beyond has around the nations. For Sue and I this is a very exciting to be involved with not one plant in Spokane but two. Please pray for these two churches.
On Sunday I preached at Grace Church again on cultivating a sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. A lovely family feel as Jon Meek led us in worship. In the evening Sue and I spent a supper time with their leadership core team and encouraged them to keep pressing on, believing that they are in Spokane, Washington State, to make an impact for Jesus.Now, we did get some golf time, God is good to me especially when it comes to golf. Colter, a college student, works 3 mornings a week at a country club with a fabulous course.
Before going to college Colter gets up at 4.30am to go to the club, raking bunkers, cutting the greens and soon he’ll be clearing the paths and roadway of snow. For this he has free golf and can take his friends at a much reduced green fee (still quite high though) so Colter and I took on his father and his friend Steve. (Photos below of Colter & Ray at golf and Tracy with Ray & Sue, you can see why we call him our friendly giant! And Colter is following in his father’s footsteps!)
A great match on a lovely course. Guess who won on the final hole, you got it in one, Colter and I and so ended a fabulous week with all our friends at Grace Church and our new friends the 2 Matts and their families.
On our way back to Missoula, we met up for breakfast with our friend Dave Hoit and his wife Mel who lead the Newfrontiers church in Coeur d’Alene which is part of the churches led by John Lanferman. Great breakfast sharing what is happening in God’s Kingdom.
Now we have one more week here in Missoula. Some meetings, some preaching and on Thursday, maybe some golf. We’re ready now for home. We will return full of faith for what is happening here in the Northwest USA. Who would have thought that a happy pagan (me) who walked into the wrong meeting and heard somebody speaking about intimacy with Jesus some 54 years ago would be travelling this beautiful part of the world with his lovely wife of 52 years marriage sharing our experiences of the faithfulness of God!
Ray & Sue