Leaving a Regions Beyond gathering is always a bit problematic. Trying to do mass-hugs with 30 people whilst all simultaneously leaving a building, it gets tricky. 

One thing we all had in common though – we were stuffed FULL of teaching. And curry! Over the previous few days we heard ‘outstanding’ teaching as Steve would say, about each of our values.

We say things like “thanks for the prophetic word”… “I’ll email you”… “let me know how you get on with that building project”… “I’ll be praying”… “sorry about the snoring”… and on and on it goes. Then the person you’ve already hugged is hugging the person you haven’t hugged yet but me being British, I can’t be rude so I have to hover and look busy for a bit (or give a second hug to the one I’ve already hugged)! You get the picture.
This is how our RB gathering 2017 ended. Some were going on to the Glorious Church conference in Mumbai and others were heading home to Dubai, South Africa or the UK. One thing we all had in common though – we were stuffed FULL of teaching. And curry!
Over the previous few days we heard ‘outstanding’ teaching as Steve would say, about each of our values. Some of the values sparked lively debate in our discussion groups, such as Ali Scott’s provocation on being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Others left us warm on the inside and completely loved-up, such as Topsy sharing her testimony about how she had learnt to ‘be there for one another’s success’ having had her own successes championed back in the beginning of the Dihlabeng church in Clarens. Franco moved us as he spoke on caring for the poor, whilst Paul Barrett presented cartoons and graphs which somehow conveyed a brilliant way of organising church leadership – amazing! One value taught by Donna Bloomfield – being ‘devoted to mission’ provoked no discussion at all but rather an awed silence and spontaneous prayer together. “Seek first his kingdom and Jesus will build his church.” What a task we have and what a time to be alive.

We heard amazing stories as we munched through our popadoms at mealtimes, and through a few interviews each day. Our people are quietly doing heroic things, and I felt a renewed determination to pray for them and stay connected. Some situations are really lonely, or dangerous or just plain enormous!!

As the days passed, our timetable went from ‘right, try and be back at this time’ through phases of ‘Ok we’re running a bit late now’ until we were at ‘look, the timetable’s completely wrecked and nobody is even sure what day it is’. And as we worked our way through the 11 topics we felt a growing sense of appreciation and wonder at all that God has given us. It became a bit of a joke that each separate value was THE most important one, because they’re all important and they’re all wonderful. (Were they more like ‘distinctives’? Were they to be considered a ‘creed’? Were they ‘flavours’?…) We concluded that they were not a list to present to newcomers, but a description of what newcomers will find when they join us. It’s pretty cool to think that there are friends we haven’t met yet, who will come to discover these treasures one day in the future, and we will be family together in Regions Beyond.

 So there was a lot wrapped up in those goodbye hugs – maybe they are the most important thing!? Like the values – they’re not prescriptive, but they neatly sum up who we are.
Pam Nichols

Pam Nichols

Pam Nichols  is a writer, and she loves to take photos and generally observe life. She draws inspiration from her family, her faith and https://fivegofurther.wordpress.com/her new surroundings in South Africa. She has recently moved with her family to church plant in Bloemfontein from Worthing UK.  You can follow her on her blog fivegofurther.