Ministry during Lockdown

As we enter the next phase of our national lockdown we would  like to share some of the insights and good practice which is emerging amongst the sixty or so church leaders now meeting with us regularly in small Zoom groups.
3d keyWe hope that a day will come when everybody will have been vaccinated and the pandemic is a thing of the past; perhaps in a year’s time, perhaps longer. It now seems that it may become possible to reopen our churches to some extent before then, but it is clear that the day when ‘normal service’ can be resumed is still a long way off. In the meantime Christian ministry will not change in its essence, but methodologically it is required to be very different: we are all acquiring new skills. And the new avenues we are exploring now are likely to influence what comes after that, in ways that are hard to imagine, but which might bring long
lasting and radical change to our models of ministry.

Caring for one another: keeping in touch

Since the restrictions began, the obvious and most familiar tool for many of us has been the telephone. Some people love it, others pick it up only reluctantly. But people need pastors, and a simple phone call remains the easiest way to keep in touch with individuals. We have made a list of the people we wish to support, and ring them regularly – usually once a month.
Those of us who are doing this find that the conversation is most fruitful if it is structured. So I might start by listening and sharing; how is life for my sister, my home group member, my friend? I want to listen with empathy, but also share honestly how life is for me. I then move on to talk about ministry: who are my friends concerned about, trying to help, praying for? I ask ‘Who is on your heart? Who are you giving your support to?’. We all need encouragement and advice; we all need to share what we are doing with someone who is interested. The third and final part of the conversation moves on to spiritual matters. ‘Are you managing to connect with God?’. I listen, share, make suggestions, and we pray together. I am also writing a series of short spiritual exercises – let us know if you would like to receive these regularly.

Meeting together, virtually

internet-1028794-webWe need to form groups of about 6 people who will meet together over the internet, probably once a month; Zoom is proving to be the most popular platform. EQUIP members are running groups for enquirers, for children, for adult Christians, or for leaders. We have formed eleven Zoom groups for the 60 members of EQUIP, and in the groups we discuss the same three subjects as the phone calls: personal concerns, ministry to others, and spiritual life. Meetings go better if prepared in advance, so we send out suggestions for ways to prepare for the Zoom meetings by email. In this way we are seeking to follow the discipleship model of Jesus: people grow best when they travel together in groups.

Finding new ways of being church

Finally, we need to find ways of keeping our church communities alive, measured through the presence of love, joy, power and thirsting for righteousness.
  1. Regular worship. Many of our churches are having virtual gatherings in place of Sunday services. But there is an obvious danger – that we end up offering something which only goes in one direction. Within EQUIP we are focussing on developing online church so that it flows both ways, and becomes both participatory and interactive. Some churches are sending out services on Facebook or YouTube and following them immediately with Zoom meetings for discussion and prayer, using Zoom’s facility for dividing people into groups. Some are creating group pages through Workplace or Facebook, which allow invited members to join and make posts (which can be moderated if necessary). This gives everyone a chance to communicate with fellow church members, sharing their news, needs and opportunities.
  2. Serving the community. We are called to be salt and light in our communities, and each church needs to find new ways of reaching out to the local community. YouTube seems to be the easiest way of doing this. A church might hold a weekly event, advertised through Facebook. The event can be mostly pre-recorded, and include several items which together make up an hour or less. Items can include a talk, a testimony, a high quality musical item, a children’s talk, and information about how people can get involved in what the church is doing for the local community. The main aims of these events should be to provide take-home wisdom, and to share the gospel and its relevance to people’s needs today – which means trying to avoid religious language and practices!
  3. Prayer support. It remains important for everyone who has an active ministry to others to be able to recruit prayer support, with the aim of keeping in step with God’s word and seeking God’s help. Prayer can be done through phone calls or whatsapp groups, or via Zoom.
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It’s all a bit of a learning curve, but all of these paths are being followed by one or more of our EQUIP members. Some have already reported significant results – most commonly an unexpected increase in the number of people attending church in this new virtual world. We are hoping that before long all 60 of them will have made significant progress. I think we are all finding, as this situation goes on, that we are seeing new possibilities for ministry, not just in the short term but also in the medium and even long term. Who knows, perhaps this
unexpected pandemic will force us to make changes we
should have made long ago…
If you are a church leader and would like to join with us, please do get in touch.

Additional resources

There are many resources springing up online, but one of the most thought-provoking is ‘Everyone Welcome Online’,  a research report by Bob Jackson and George Fisher on the new scenery of online church, and the implications for the future.
Roger Morgan
Posted 13th May 2020

Ministry in difficult times

As we continue to seek the Lord here at home, we want to encourage you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Africa as they face the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading through their communities. People in many African countries are now being required to remain at home, and to refrain from gathering together in churches and church groups; and the reality is that many cannot remain at home unless they are also prepared to starve at home. Bishops and Rooted in Jesus coordinators have shared with us that people are suffering from fear and confusion, lacking information, finding it hard to get food, falling prey to conspiracy theories and false stories of cures, and worried for the future. But they tell us too that they are remaining steadfast in prayer, and encourage us to do the same. Please, one person wrote from Tanzania, whenever you pray don’t forget that we pray for you too.

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A moving and encouraging report from Uganda

Many of us are seeking as ever to place our trust in the Lord, to thank him for our blessings, and to minister to others in whatever way we can. People seem open to talking about God, people tell us from around the country; and we are finding ourselves having some surprising conversations here in Somerset too, as we set out to buy our food or take our daily walk.
We have just published a moving and encouraging report from Uganda on our blog. It’s from a pastor named John, called to plant a new church in a remote area with no Christian tradition, sharing his challenges, his blessings and his prayers for us all as in our own ways we face the new coronvirus situation. Whatever difficulties we face, John faces more – and he does all this with very few resources. Read what he says here.

Moving forward together

Here at the Mathetes Trust we are working together on new books and translations for Rooted in Jesus. We are about to publish the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual in Swahili, thanks to Gaspar and Abel in Tanzania who have translated it. Rooted in Jesus Junior is being translated into French, and we have started to work on Rooted in Jesus Book 5, which will be a transitional book which aims to help those who have completed the course continue to grow in their faith together as they minister to others. Translations into other languages are ongoing. Perhaps the Lord is enabling us to dig new foundations for the future.
So let us continue to remain rooted and grounded in the love of Christ. And let us be encouraged by John, who reminds us: “There are big missions and little missions. There are missions that require our skills and expertise and missions that require only a smile and a kind word.” The little ones, we can all do.
Posted 17th April 2020 by Alison Morgan

Staying at Home

‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,’ Solomon famously wrote in Ecclesiastes. Well, we are living in a very particular season – having spent all our lives listening to the voices which tell us that it is important to keep busy, suddenly we are all being told not to be so busy after all. What to do?

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Two centuries ago the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson offered this guidance:  “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”  We would like to suggest some things which you may like to do with it – in particular, some books that you may like to read. Having spent most of her life engrossed in a book, Alison Morgan has chosen five – a topical one offering a Christian perspective on the coronavirus, a theological one on the life of Jesus, a cheeringly pastoral one on birdwatching in times of crisis, one which suggests twelve modern women writers you may not have discovered yet, and one which is, well, just very funny.

 

TOPICAL

Where is God in a Coronavirus World, by John Lennox

The Good Book Company 2020
LennoxWe are living through a unique, era-defining period. Many of our old certainties have gone, whatever our view of the world and whatever our beliefs. Whether you are a Christian or not, the coronavirus pandemic is perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it?
Katy Morgan is an editor with The Good Book Company, and tells us that just this week they have published a short book by John Lennox – the first Christian response to the current pandemic. John is an Oxford mathematics professor and well known writer on topics to do with science and faith. He writes in an easily accessible, conversational style:
‘It is quite surreal. Here I am, in my mid-seventies, sitting at home with my wife, watching a government health minister on television informing us that we may have to remain confined to our home in self-isolation for up to four months in order to try to avoid the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world. It is hard to grasp that this pandemic has the potential to be the worst ever, and that all our current estimates of its impact are likely to fall far short of the reality. Its scale and scope sound like something out of a dystopian movie. And yet it is really happening…’
To find out more or to order a copy (now just £1.50!) visit www.thegoodbook.co.uk/where-is-god-in-a-coronavirus-world

PASTORAL

Waiting for the Albino Dunnock: How Birds Can Change Your Life, by Rosamond Richardson

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2017
RichardsonThe poet RS Thomas said, while waiting to catch a glimpse of a rare albino dunnock, that ‘Waiting for birds is like waiting for God, but I don’t think I’d wait three hours for God.’ When Rosamond Richardson’s life went wrong, she found unexpected solace in birds. In this peaceful, meditative book she shares how she learned how to just sit and watch, making peace with the world, with herself and with God.
At the end of a year she wrote: ‘My year with birds had come full circle. New worlds had opened up to me, I’d learned more than I could ever have imagined about birds as physical and metaphysical beings, their ways and their history and their beauty. The mirror they held up helped me see my own life in new ways, teaching me as much about myself as about them. Waiting for birds and watching birds, I’d picked myself up and realised how interconnected and part of a continuum we all are, and of how beautiful and mysterious life is in its micro-detail and macro-immensity. I came to understand what it means to be human in relationship to nature, how wildness is embedded in the human psyche, and how the consolation of beauty is central to our mental and emotional wellbeing.’ She called it ‘ornitheology.’
I’ve always birdwatched, and birds are an integral part of my faith – indeed, I have one sitting here on my shoulder as I write. If this is a joy you have yet to discover, perhaps now is the time, with Rosamond as your guide.

 

THEOLOGICAL

The Stature of Waiting, by WH Vanstone

Dartman, Longman & Todd, new edition 2004
VanstoneVanstone’s classic work looks at the life of Jesus and suggests that it has two distinct phases, active and passive. We live in a world which values the active life, he says; and yet we have much to learn from Jesus, whose passivity in the second half of his short life was as powerful as his activity in the first.
Now is a time for waiting if ever there was one, and Vanstone helps us to understand the value of waiting. By waiting we become aware of our needs, and of powers and qualities in the world which otherwise would go unrecognised. Christian waiting it is a corrective to the public presupposition that human dignity is bound up with human activity, with initiating and creating and achieving and earning. We are creators with God, but also we must learn to wait with God. It’s a book for our times, I think!
For a summary click here.

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL

Twelve Great Spiritual Writers, by Liz Hoare

SPCK 2020
HoareLiz Hoare is Tutor for Spiritual Formation and Dean for Women at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. If you are looking for something new to read, her recent book may tempt you. Each chapter profiles the work of one woman whose writings have touched Liz’s heart, illuminated her mind and sharpened her spiritual vision – novelists, poets, preachers, philosophers and theologians. Each, she suggests,  contributes something special to our understanding of the spiritual life today.
The writers profiled are Sarah Clarkson, Annie Dillard, Margaret Guenther, Ann Lamott, Ann Lewin, Margaret Magdalen, Kathleen Norris, Alison Morgan, Mary Oliver, Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Brown Taylor and Benedicta Ward.

 

HUMOROUS

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

Faber & Faber 2008
BennettThis delighted me when I first read it. The ‘Uncommon Reader’ is of course the Queen, who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library visiting Buckingham Palace. She becomes addicted to reading – ‘Now where’s my book?’ is the leitmotif of the novel. We journey with her through a cornucopia of writers, and watch her values change as she reads – her reading is subversive. She becomes less inclined to accept the advice of those who have been used to giving it, and begins to question the status quo. We emerge full of respect for a Queen who we suspect has very little time for reading, and chuckling to ourselves at the thought of a world turned upside down. Which, of course, it is. The book is very, very funny – and as we know, laughter is good for the bones (Proverbs 17.22).
For more ideas visit Alison’s website, where you will find a synopsis of over 150 books you might like to try!
Posted 8th April 2020

 

 

A World Turned Upside Down

We would like to take this opportunity to let you know what we are doing to ensure that we remain faithful to our calling at this time of unexpected challenge. For us, as no doubt for you, life has changed radically. We are just over a week into making adjustments, and here is our first report.
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World Turned Upside Down, 17th century woodcut

EQUIP

EQUIP is a ministry which aims to support church leaders in the UK. It has meant a lot of travelling, and of course this has had to stop for the time being. We need a new way of working, and so in the last week we have set up 11 new groups which will meet via video conferencing using Zoom. The 11 groups will also be in touch with each other through a new closed Facebook page.
Roger has now had a lengthy conversation with each of the EQUIP members he works with (just over 50). We are greatly encouraged by their resourcefulness. Two have set up a hub – a place that is continuously manned and in touch with increasing numbers of people in their community, including many who do not normally attend church. One of our churches is in touch with lots of children who now receive messages and materials which will provide them with spiritual input. Lots of our churches are developing pastoral teams who will maintain contact with all their church members by phone and by email. Some churches have successfully involved their whole congregations in a virtual morning service. One of our members is sending out a regular ‘thought for the day’. We hope to share these ideas so that they can be used more widely.

ROOTED IN JESUS

Rooted in Jesus is our discipleship programme for Africa. We are grateful that the three teams due to travel to Ethiopia and Kenya (providentially early in the year!) were able to complete their missions; feedback is good, with groups growing in these dioceses. Unusually, all the rest of our conferences are scheduled for the autumn. We were expecting to travel to six dioceses with both the adult and the Junior programmes; planning is ongoing, with postponement perhaps the most likely outcome.
In the meantime we have been taking the opportunity to focus on the ongoing work of translation. We have received the Rooted in Jesus Junior Team Manual in Swahili, and a new version of Rooted in Jesus in Masai which will be printed in Arusha for use with the 300 new churches planted in the last few years by the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro. Translations are ongoing into various other languages too, both of the later books for dioceses already using the course, and into new languages for those looking ahead. We cannot tell what the impact of Covid-19 will be in Africa. Many African countries do not have well-resourced health services, but on the other hand the population is much younger than in the West, so may prove to have greater resilience. We hope and pray so.

PUBLICATIONS AND RESOURCES

The third strand of our work is the production of books and resource materials. Alison is now able to spend more time writing her book on the Psalms, which has a working title World Turned Upside Down (since before the coronavirus!!). She hopes to finish it by the end of the year.
Roger is designing a series of spiritual exercises. If you would like to receive these regularly please do let us know, and we will either mail them out or post them online, depending on the demand. It will be vital for all of us to remain spiritually buoyant as we cope with this virus.
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It seems likely that this situation will go on for some time. We are confident that God will use this time to change the church, strengthening it and equipping it to face the future once the virus has gone. In the meantime we remain trustful in our faith and steadfast in our prayers, ready to support and care for others. Every crisis, as we know, brings with it an opportunity.
Posted 1st April 2020

Rooted in Jesus goes to Ethiopia

A Rooted in Jesus team has recently returned from Ethiopia, where we were delighted to be invited to provide the first Rooted in Jesus training for the forthcoming Diocese of Gambella in the new Anglican Province of Alexandria. Team leader Bishop Martin Breytenbach reports:
“It was a privilege and joy to bring Rooted in Jesus to Ethiopia for the first time. The local and visiting teams agreed that the conference went really well, and that God can use Rooted in Jesus to establish firm foundations and deep roots for disciple-making in the Anglican Church there. The team was excited and encouraged by the real thirst for the Word of God; and the participants’ desire to engage with God and grow as disciples. It was very clear to us that Rooted in Jesus is able to meet a great need, and has given them tools for ministry and disciple-making that they were eager to receive.”

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To read the full report please do visit the Rooted in Jesus blog. To find out more about Rooted in Jesus visit our webpage here.
Posted 17th March 2020

Putting down roots in Kenya

Rooted in Jesus has had a busy start to the year, with three conferences already under our belts.
Kitale 02.20 RTM (14)
In January a team headed by Richard Morgan visited the Diocese of Kitale. 137 clergy and lay readers attended the four day conference, with Bishop Emmanuel present throughout, and leading by example as he identified those he would invite to his own group.
Team member Benjamin Kibara from the Diocese of Butere gave an inspiring report on the progress of the 712 groups now flourishing across his own diocese – growth has been rapid and sustained in Butere, not least thanks to the hard work of Benjamin himself, with the ongoing support of team leader Ben Beecroft.
In February a team from Trinity Cheltenham travelled to Narok to lead a Rooted in Jesus conference for the clergy and lay leaders of the Diocese of Kericho. Bishop Ernest was delighted that the entire clergy team attended, each bringing a key lay leader with them. Team leader Tim Grew reports that there was a high level of enthusiasm and acceptance of the Rooted in Jesus vision, approach and material.
To find out more do visit our blog report here. We continue to post regular news items on the RinJ website and on our Facebook page, so do catch up with those too.

 

Children and the Church

Roger Morgan writes:
For many years Alison and I led the ministry at Holy Trinity Leicester. Our congregation had people of all ages, but more young than old, including many children. It still does. Since then we have served as consultants and visiting speakers for churches all over the country. We soon noticed that most churches, certainly most Anglican churches, have far more older members than young ones. This is obviously alarming; and it’s now generally recognised that unless something is done most Anglican churches will sooner or later close their doors.
This unhappy picture is confirmed in a recent General Synod report by Jimmy Dale & David Male. They show that out of every 650 children under 16 in the UK, only one is to be found in an Anglican church on a Sunday. Things are getting steadily worse; numbers of children have declined by 20% in the last 5 years alone. However, Jimmy and David also report that nearly 5% of Anglican churches still have 25 or more children on Sundays. With my old statistician’s hat on this means they have what I call a critical mass – and it means that, for these churches at least, decline is not inevitable.
This takes me back to the research project which I began in 2012, when I set out to identify churches which are growing not older but younger, hoping to learn from them what their secret is. I found such churches in cities, towns and villages. The result was a book which I called Growing Younger – it attempts to set out a number of clear steps by which any church can turn things around if they want to, and if they have the necessary courage, faith and determination.

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We remain passionate about the need to reach and disciple the next generation – not just here but also through our ministry in Africa with the Rooted in Jesus Junior programme. If we do not reach our children, it is hard to see how our faith will be made available to future generations.
If you have a story to tell which might help others, if your church leadership group would value a conversation about your own children’s work, or if you feel you would like to get involved with Rooted in Jesus Junior, we would be glad to hear from you! Otherwise, we would value your prayers as we seek to play our part in the national desire to turn things round.
To find out more visit our Ministry to Families page.
To find out more about Rooted in Jesus Junior visit the Rooted in Jesus website here.
To contact us click here.

Rooted in Jesus Junior 3

Posted 22nd February 2020

Rooted in Jesus Annual Report 2019

We are pleased to announce that we have just published the latest Annual Report for Rooted in Jesus.
2019 has been a hugely encouraging year. Conferences have been held by us and our partners in 8 countries, bringing the total number of people now trained to lead groups to just under 16,000. Translation of the books into the appropriate local languages is an ongoing task, and this year we have produced booklets in a further 5 languages. In the course of the year we have received reports from nearly 40 dioceses.
We are grateful to all those who have given up their time to go on teams, and to our dedicated group of intercessors who pray for each conference as it happens. We are thankful for the generosity of those who have supported Rooted in Jesus financially this year. And  of course above all to our hosts, who invite us to share in their ministry – for their trust, for their hospitality, and for the privilege of partnership in the gospel.
If you would like to read the full report it can be downloaded here. Or visit our blog site for a summary here.
Posted 20th January 2020 by Revd Dr Alison Morgan

 

Making disciples in the local church

For many people the new year is a time for reflecting on what has gone, and looking ahead, and that is true for us too. We’d like to start by bringing you up to speed with EQUIP, the name we use for our work with church leaders. Fifty leaders now meet three times a year in five centres: Chester, Hungerford, Bristol, Derby and Canterbury. At each meeting Roger and John Benson, who lead the groups, aim to share insights from their long years of experience in parish ministry.
The most recent round of meetings covered the subject of making disciples, which we believe should be a focus of all ministry. As Roger and John look back we can think of many people now following Jesus with enthusiasm – people who were not doing that when we first met them. We want our EQUIP group members to have the same experience.
We believe that a church leader who hopes to make disciples must first and foremost be a hard-working pastor, a shepherd of the sheep who knows each one intimately. This is not easy! We know that in every church there are some who do not have it in their hearts to become disciples, some who are not open to learning new things, some who are unreliable, some who simply lack the time. So in our meetings we have been talking together about whether (and how) to challenge such people. We also recognise that some church members have such hard lives that our focus must be entirely on helping them to trust God through difficult times. But we also know that in any church, in any place, there are some who will be able to devote many years to wholehearted discipleship. It is our task and our privilege to find these people and help them fulfil their potential.
Church leaders who wish to make disciples must be able to manage their time well. This means dedicating many hours to working one-on-one with many individuals. It also means that administration, important though it is, must very largely be delegated. We discussed these things in our sessions.
Disciples can only be made in churches that teach the Bible well both on Sundays and in mid-week groups. And disciples can only be made in churches which pray, which make converts, and which have an effective ministry of healing. If a church has these things, it is easy to provide all kinds of opportunities for young Christians to grow into confident disciples; if not, then it becomes hard to help people make progress, however keen they are. All this is easy to envisage but hard to make happen; making it happen depends chiefly on reliance on the Holy Spirit but also on the willingness of church leaders to structure their churches appropriately. We took a lot of time in our sessions to talk about how to do this.
This round of teaching in EQUIP groups is now being followed up by more than 50 one-on-one visits to our EQUIP group members; we too are aiming to be hard working pastors! Each person, each church leader we serve, is unique. We will be listening to each one, praying with each one, and helping each one to make plans. And in a few places we will also be contributing to their local ministry, perhaps by preaching, perhaps by giving evangelistic talks, perhaps by taking teams with us to support evangelism, healing, or prayer.
Ian reflected on his time with EQUIP as follows:

“I have been a member of Equip now for several years. You have helped me enormously to focus on the things that matter most, the things that work and don’t work and how best to go about the Christian ministry in a church. You have inspired us by your preaching and teaching. You have occasionally disturbed my comfort and comforted me when I might otherwise have been disturbed! And always with great clarity. I take away with me your approach to preparing and preaching sermons, running home groups that grow, the importance of mentoring, how to take the spiritual temperature of a church, how to run church services, how to be a healthy church that makes disciples and many other tools that have served me well  – and I hope will continue to do so as I move in to retirement.”

EQUIP is led by Roger Morgan and John Benson. To find out more visit our EQUIP page, or contact us by email or phone.

 
 
 










Posted 6th January 2020

 

Incarnation and Redemption in the Diocese of Kondoa

It has been a great privilege this year to share in the good news of Jesus with so many people, both in the UK and in Africa. We are grateful to all who have partnered and prayed with us, and offer our best wishes for a trustful and joyful Christmas.

The Birth of Jesus - Luke 2:1-20
Birth of Jesus with Shepherds – MAFA project

We have seen the Lord working in many places – but would like to invite you to pray for just one of them as we celebrate the coming of Christ: the Diocese of Kondoa.
Kondoa sits on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley in central Tanzania, and it held its first Rooted in Jesus conference last month. It’s an unremarkable place, set in an ordinary rural community whose people support themselves predominantly by subsistence farming. But it faces particular challenges. People have worshipped in traditional ways here for thousands of years – Kondoa is home to some of the oldest rock paintings in the world. And more recently, Kondoa was a staging post on the slave route to the east coast. Today 90% of its 600,000 people are are Muslim. Many have never heard the gospel.
But the Lord has been working in Kondoa. Bishop Given Gaula has been called to serve the diocese as its leader, and he has some remarkable stories to tell. The number of Christians is growing, churches are being planted, and 126 people have just been trained to lead the first Rooted in Jesus groups.

Kondoa Nov 2019 (62cr) (2)

We’ve posted a full report on https://rootedinjesus.blog/. So before you settle down to celebrate the Lord’s coming with your family, why not take the time to ponder on what he is doing among our brothers and sisters in this remote rural district in the heart of Africa – starting with a very special act of incarnation and redemption.
Posted 17th December 2019 by Alison Morgan