MARCH NEWS - December 1998May you know the Awesome Reality of the Eternal Blessings of Christmas!
We celebrate at Christmas the moment the universe changed! We celebrate the unveiling of the “momentous possibility”. Man - spiritually dead, physically dying and eternally doomed - finds himself offered, against logic, hope and expectation, the opportunity for salvation, restoration and glorification. Wow! Dig it, people!
As St. Augustine said, “Sons of men, how long will you be slow of heart? Will you not now, after life has come down to you, rise up and live!” Preach it, 'Gus baby!
May we all focus on this amazing truth this Christmas, and not get caught up in the “nonsense” that often obscures the incredible, awesome and wonderful reality! Have a really AWESOME Christmas!
A Weak in the Life (or a Leak in the Wife)We thought it might be of interest and illumination if we gave you a typical run-down of a normal week in the life of the March's. Benjamin and Joshua are at school all day; Caleb is at playgroup until lunchtime. So here goes:-
Morning - A frantic time for us! Sharon chooses the songs, gets the OHP's ready (not OAP's!) and leads the worship each week - she IS the worship group! Stephen leads the Children's work (Treasure Seekers). Since we meet in the Youth Centre, everything has to be brought and taken home each week - it's a case of 'carry your own chair out when we're finished'! We have a full car-load to transport there and back!
Afternoon - A great time to relax as a family. Go for a walk in the forest, down to the beach, or watch Football Italia!
Evening - Usually Sharon or Stephen goes to the evening service of our 'mother' church or, if any combined service is organised, Sharon will be playing/organising the worship.
Morning - Stephen attends a 'Pastoral Leaders Meeting' where the leaders from 4 local churches meet to share in prayer and Bible study, to encourage each other, to co-ordinate events, etc. Sharon tries to have a quiet morning at home.
Evening - Stephen usually has a Treasure Seekers Leaders' meeting to plan the next week's programme, develop dramas, pray etc.
Morning - Sharon continues studying for her degree in Theology (she has just completed her second Church History module). Stephen is also studying, reading up on and thinking through a lot of things the Holy Spirit 'flagged up' whilst at college, but there was not the time then to pursue them.
Evening - This is the Housegroup/Alpha evening for church. We either host or attend the housgroup meeting/activity.
Early Morning - Stephen meets with one of our church leaders who is caretaker for the Primary school and goes with him as opens up each classroom. They pray around the school.
Morning - Sharon helps out at the college Playgroup/Crèche in a voluntary capacity (this has been a tremendous opportunity to develop relationships with the non-Christian staff). Stephen tries to use this morning just to 'be' with God, although sometimes the need for study and preparation cuts into this time.
Evening - Stephen plays squash with a friend, a college student who also attends our church.
Morning - We both pray with another lady from our church in our church's prayer triplet programme. We are praying through the electoral roll for the village, each triplet concentrating on their own streets. One older lady has already done this on her own, praying for each house TWELVE TIMES until now! Then Sharon (and occasionally Stephen) takes an assembly at the local Primary school with our Pastor.
Sharon also develops and plans the material for the After-School club that we run. Stephen continues to study/develop material for Sunday mornings.
Evening - We usually have people for a meal a couple of times a week, so this is usually one of the nights.
Morning - Preparation and prayer for the After-School club, and more studying for Sharon.
Afternoon - The whole March family goes to the After-School club. We have 4 other helpers and around 30 children each week.
Evening - We have one of the After-School helpers for a meal (a college student).
Morning - A lazy start to the day!
Afternoon - A family trip swimming, a walk in the forest, or down on the beach.
Evening - Friends for a meal, or perhaps just 'slob out' and watch a video!
So that's the shape of a typical week. We also have preaching/leading the service to prepare for from time to time, plus shopping trips, housework and football over in the park!
Having quite an unstructured week has meant that we have been able to respond to those whom God has brought across our path. We have greatly appreciated being available to those who call on us from time to time for prayer and counsel, and to continue the long process of developing meaningful relationships with others.
Busy Doing Nothing?Having told you about all our 'activity' it's important to remember that 'activity' in and of itself is completely pointless. A relationship with the Father is NOT about keeping busy but about intimate love, expressed in willing obedience to the Father's command. Sharon and I greatly value the fact that, for the first time in our lives, we are able to say that we are only doing the Father's will. In the past we have been very busy people - but we could never say honestly that we had heard God's call into much of what we did. Little surprise then that we saw little fruit!
One of the most powerful things we learnt from 'Experiencing God' was that God doesn't come to bless where we've decided to work, he invites us to work where he's decided to bless! So, if we can't say for sure that we're doing what God's told us to, we're committing ourselves to a wasted life and constant frustration - NOT recommended!
En-courage-d:We have been really encouraged by the faithfulness of a few friends recently - we have experienced the joy of God using some of his infinite variety of methods of provision for us - anonymous gifts through the letterbox, local friends who never let us leave without something to eat or wear ! The generosity of a group of fantastic people in Kilsyth who between them sacrificed tremendous amounts of time as well as money to enable our car to stay roadworthy - to name but a few !
We still pray for daily bread and have seen that prayer answered - as have our children. Joshua is convinced that the frozen chicken we found on our doorstep one (very cold!) day 'fell from heaven'! And who are we to say any different ?!
Thanks for PrayingWe so value the prayers that you pray on our behalf. We are continually grateful for the spiritual strength and support we receive as a result of your prayers. We are very conscious of our need of prayer.
We would specifically ask you to pray for the following;
... and to concludeAs we approach the end of '98, we bless, glorify, honour and praise our most utterly faithful God.
We give thanks to God for the privilege of knowing him and being involved in this great adventure which is 'the Christian life'.
We also give thanks to you, and for you - who have, in many and various ways helped us along the Way.
MARCH NEWS - November 1998“Yo!”, he said in a youthful kind of, I'm nowhere near middle-aged and don't look at me like that I'm thin on the inside, sort of a way!
Where to begin? I haven't a clue. Which is actually a pretty good summary of the life and times of the March's at this present moment!
But now I think about it, I do know where to begin. You must always begin with praise. C.S. Lewis talked of relishing worship because when you're giving praise to God it's about the only time in your life that you can be absolutely certain that you are doing the right thing, 'cause that's what we were made to do!
So praise God for his greatness and goodness. Praise God that everything that is, is because of his powerful word. We might still think rocket science is a pretty neat trick - but that's peanuts to God, he spoke and the universe was made! Awesome! Whatever our understanding of the nature and character of God, it is always TOO SMALL!
Some specific praise points now;
We have survived! This is definitely an important praise point! Without job, grant or housing/unemployment benefits we have still survived. We have seen God's miraculous provision in both gifts of finance and of food. We praise God for his faithfulness to us.
A rental agreement has now been signed with our new landlord and he has agreed to keep the rent at the same level. He has also confirmed his intention to have all the windows/doors replaced and to go ahead with the garage conversion. He has also offered us the use of a 3 piece suite (our own has gone the way of all flesh!) and has even talked about replacing threadbare carpets at some stage!
As a church we have seen 5 people come to faith whilst undergoing an 'Alpha' course that we are running in the village pub! 2 of these, a husband and wife, first came in contact with our church when we offered to pray for their little girl who had leukaemia - she is now in remission.
The Sunday children's ministry is going well. God has led us to teach the children systematic theology (of all things), and we are seeking to do this using a pirate theme! Each Sunday I transform into my alter (altar?) ego, 'Captain Seabass' with his merry crew 'Thick 'Erbert', 'Cook' and 'Harry Halibut'! Through drama, games, prayer and interaction with scripture, we seek to teach the children the truth about God, life, the universe and everything! (We also give them free crisps which helps!)
The Friday after-school club is going well. God has given us almost 30 children and using a 'magazine' format we are introducing them to the radical Christian faith - a relationship with the living God!
Praise God that he worked through my preaching (25th Oct). So far 5 people have asked for copies of my notes! So either God spoke, or they want evidence to charge me with heresy!
Fanks For Feedback!We do thank those who kindly gave us feedback about this news/prayer letter. People were generally very positive and were a real encouragement. Bless ya bigtime!
France Is Still There!We continue to pursue any possible connections God flags across our paths with regard to France. We would particularly ask for your prayer with regard to letters we have been invited to send to two organisations, the 'Baptist Missionary Society' and 'Signpost International'. We have sent each a copy of our 'spiritual CV' to see if our vision and call matches with anything they are seeking to do in France. Please pray that God would clearly direct both us and them..
Bridge ConstructionWe continue to have many opportunities to develop contacts within our village community. Sharon's involvement with the primary school as a governor has now led to her becoming the 'literacy governor', (Lawks! Stone the crows! etc.) Also, school assemblies continue to be well received by staff and pupils alike, and this recently led to our being asked to contribute ideas for a harvest service. The ideas we gave them were used and they have asked about future help with Christmas services. Please continue to pray that God will use us within the school and bring whole families to faith.
Gnasher GnonsenseBen and Joshua have tooth problems at the moment. In spite of the rigorous use of every anti-bacterial, anti-caries, anti-plaque, anti-mary product known to man and in spite of a ruthless regime of sweet control (apparently not applicable to adult females called Sharon!), Joshua's teeth still seem to be disintegrating at a rapid rate of knots. Ben also needs several fillings and also has to go to the orthodontist (which he is not best pleased about). We would appreciate prayer about this situation.
Conference CapersI was invited by our Pastor to 'shadow' him on some of his activities. This led to me being at a meeting where those present were offered free places at two Christian conferences being held in Bournemouth. I attended both of these conferences and God has really used them to both encourage me and to get me into an area of study I hadn't previously touched on. So praise the Lord for 'freebies'!
Benefit SchmenefitOur housing situation now 'regularised' (praise the Lord!), we applied for housing benefit. However, we recently heard that they had assessed us as ineligible for benefit. They had assessed me on the basis of being a student, having a grant and being eligible for a student loan, even though they knew I wasn't a student, didn't have a grant and wasn't eligible for a student loan! Then they cheerfully told me that if I immediately re-applied, I could be re-assessed as I would no longer be considered a student! I think somewhere in there is a parable - but I'm stuffed if I can work it out!
So, now I suppose we will re-apply with our wodge of forms and paperwork. But we've been left wondering if God is trying to tell us something about this? We hope to spend some time seeking God, because we really need to know for certain whether or not God would have me take on paid employment, and if so what, how much etc. If you've heard anything from God please let us know!
Christmas PresenceOur church is continuing to try and reach out to the immediate area around the Youth Centre where we meet. Please pray that God will help us as we go round offering Christmas greetings and a small gift to each home. Please pray that God will give us whole families who will come to faith.
For the first time since leaving Kilsyth we feel it is right for us to stay in Burton at Christmas. Sadly, this will mean that we will not be able to visit family and friends in Kilsyth. This has been hard to come to terms with but we feel that it is what God would have us do.
Much love from
MARCH NEWS - October 1998
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!The very fact of your receiving this letter is a great encouragement to us, in that you have expressed positively (with aforethought and by your own deliberate fault!) your desire to continue to hear our news and to pray for us (we now have a mailing list of 37 people). In our journey into the unknown our most significant need is for faithful people to pray.
So a hearty, “Welcome” to our new format, new style, new (s)letter! Sadly, you will find that the contents are the same old hat as ever!
Out on a Limbo!As we write this, our situation is somewhat 'fluid'. You may remember from our last prayer-letter that a new landlord was purchasing the house we currently rent, in order to allow us to continue to live here. Well, we returned from holiday to find the sale still uncompleted and although there seems to be no problem, our tenancy has now expired which means we're technically squatters! This will no doubt cause further delay in the sale etc. etc. This makes it very difficult for us to make plans regarding the future.
We also remain somewhat unsure as to God's leading regarding employment, etc. The only job I have felt it right to apply for so far has been in a mobile 'phone shop, (of all places!). As yet I have had no response to my CV - so maybe I've got this completely wrong (I'm very gifted in this area!). Please pray that God will clearly guide us to his mechanism for our day to day provision - whatever that may be.
If I could break out of my normal jocular style for a moment - I feel it is important for us to be honest and say that this experience has broken us in a way that we have never been broken before. In the midst of feelings of total helplessness, fears of looking foolish, resentment as fellow students find jobs and discover God's calling for them, the dread of the 'what if God doesn't' scenario ... All these have exposed a prideful spirit within us and a colossal lack of faith. We have been fundamentally shaken by this experience and it has been (and is) deeply unpleasant. Please pray for us that we might receive the grace we desperately need to deal with these issues and become more Christ-like.
It has been rather a lonely time too, since many friends have moved and others are at work during the day. Also, as we visited Scotland in the holidays, it was difficult to realise that three years had passed since we left our home and our home church. We rejoice with the fellowship there that God has brought along a new leader, but for us this is very much the 'end of an era', since we resigned our membership in order to join our local fellowship in Burton. The new pastor will not know us, and there is a sense of sadness as we look back over what was a very stable time for us there, yet we are excited to think of the possibilities that lie ahead for the 'Wee Kirk.'
Future ActivitySomewhat to our surprise we look about to become heavily involved in children's work, as Sharon and I are to 'head up' a new after-school club that the local primary has asked us to start. I am also poised, (somewhat uncomfortably), to take over the Sunday School leadership. Neither of these are things we would necessarily have chosen for ourselves, or have seen ourselves as particularly gifted in. Please pray that the God who calls us will also enable us. Also, in our local church I am leading on Sunday 13th September and preaching on Sunday 25th October. Also, Sharon is involved in the worship every week as she plays keyboard (she is the worship group!) and organises/chooses songs etc. Please pray that God will use us as we seek to serve him.
French ConnectionThrough Irene Paget we have made contact with some Bible Club Ministries missionaries in the South of France. It was very interesting for us to hear about their work. There seem to be quite a lot of resonances with the direction that God seems to be taking us in - after-school clubs, church-based children's work, house church etc. We have no sense of whether this has any implications. But it will certainly be helpful to be able to have the benefit of their experience, if indeed God takes us into similar areas of ministry.
Classified ResultsFor those of you for whom this means anything! My final degree results have been awarded and I received a 2-1 classification. Thus I am now, formally; Mr S. March BEng (Hon's), BA (Hon's), Boys Brigade NCO (Retired) - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!
Task the FamilyOn a family note, Caleb is already back at playschool and Joshua and Benjamin begin new classes on Sept. 7th. We have really appreciated being able to spend so much time together as a family over these holidays. We thank God for the gift of time so rarely available to many in these busy times. It has been difficult for the boys to say goodbye to friends and families from college; some of them are scattered as far away as Chester and London! However we have seen them learn powerful things about God as we have prayed together about crucial issues and they have seen their prayers answered. Our own hearts would not necessarily have chosen the difficult circumstances that they have faced in the past months, but we recognise God loves them far more than we do.
On a specific prayer note, we would value your prayers for them - for Benjamin, that he will be able to keep the lines of communication with us and God open - he thinks a lot and works through fairly deep things in his own quiet way. Sometimes Mum and Dad don't quite get the message and won't leave things alone! Joshua, on the other hand, finds it difficult to be quiet and to concentrate on things for a long time. He is everybody's friend, and doesn't like to be excluded from anything. Caleb is fighting his own corner as 'No. 3' at the moment, and is getting into rather more trouble than he used to! We would ask for his protection as he goes to playschool where there is no Christian influence.
As far as Mum and Dad go, we have spent more time together in the past few months than many couples do in years - with all the blessings and problems this brings! We are recognising just how 'routine-oriented' we are as people, and how we need to be able to rely on God in every situation, whether or not we have planned it into our week! We are conscious that whilst we do not want to waste time, we need to be able to get rid of the guilt we have felt about having days with 'big blanks' in them as far as activities go! We keep working on the 'human beings' not 'human doings' bit, but it is hard!
Stephen particularly has found it tough, whereas Sharon can always find something else to clean! Yet we do sense that this time of waiting and crying out to God will be invaluable to us as His plan for us becomes clearer.
Sharon's studies are progressing, and she has reached the second part of her last Church History module. It is a constant source of spiritual as well as practical help, and all the more so since the financial means to do it has been provided for us by other Christians.
FeedbackWe would greatly appreciate feedback regarding this prayer-letter. Does it give you the information you need to pray for us? Do you think the style/content appropriate? Do we feedback to you enough information about how your prayers are being answered? etc. We would also remind you that we would greatly value your sharing anything that God says to you while you are praying for us.
Many thanks for your prayers on our behalf - may God surprise us all in the way he answers them!
MARCH NEWS - June 1998
Football FocusHello Friends! Well, no doubt you, like our family, are gripped by world cup fever (take 2 paracetamol and go to bed for 4 weeks)! Today I trailed with Ben through Bournemouth shopping centre (in the pouring rain!), as he was desperate to buy a pair of football boots with money he had saved up. Once we finally found a shop that had boots he liked, in the size he needed, in the price range he could afford, I felt like doing a lap of honour! So he's currently walking around the house, somewhat unsteadily, wearing his new boots! I wouldn't mind but he doesn't even play for a football team! I can see myself having to reprise my glory days with the 'Congy' football squad, and teach Ben all my old skills (which shouldn't take long!).
As you can probably tell, we're feeling a bit 'de-mob happy', as 3 years at Moorlands rapidly draws to a close. It's amazing to find ourselves at this point. The over-riding impression of the past 3 years is our experience of the faithfulness of God. We end this time debt-free, not just having survived financially but also having had enough for 'extras', such as buying many of the theological books we feel will be helpful to us in future ministry. We want publicly to bear testimony to the faithfulness of God in this, and also to thank the many of you who have responded sacrificially to God's prompting to support us financially. We would, however, like to thank even more deeply those who have faithfully supported us in prayer - without your prayers we would not have made it through this time.
On the financial side we need to tell you that the 'Moorlands Student Support Fund' account will be closed after I graduate on 4th July '98. Can I ask that all of you who have direct debits set up for this account remember to cancel them! We would also publicly like to thank Lexy, Irene and Sharon's mum, as they have been the administrators of this account. Lexy in particular has especially borne the responsibility for this. We know that there have been many times when she has worried (and prayed!) greatly on our behalf, when things looked 'sticky'! [n.b. Some people have indicated to us that they sense God's prompting them to continue to support us in some way. If this is the case we would ask that you get in touch with us direct.]
With regard to the future we cannot give you any further detailed information. As indicated in our last prayer letter, we feel clearly called to stay in Burton, and to commit ourselves to the church here. We are also firmly convinced that Sharon is called of God to continue her studies with the Open Theological College. For this reason we have decided that we will not be pro-active in seeking employment until God makes his will for that clear, and we are still not sure about the options, i.e. both of us/one of us, full-time/part-time etc. Please pray that God would make absolutely clear what he wants us to do. On the housing front we have had some amazing answers to prayer. Some weeks ago, a friend offered to pay £100 a month towards our rent once we finish college. However, we then heard that our landlord wanted to sell the house we are currently in, leaving us to find other rented property. This was quite worrying as, due to the rampant housing market here, all the rented property is currently being sold. But then our friend came back to see us to let us know that having gone to see a local businessman in order to ask his advice about helping us with a mortgage instead of rent, this man told him that he was looking to buy a property as an investment anyway, so he would just buy a house which we could then rent! It looks like he may even buy this property from our landlord and so we would not even need to move house! Please pray that God's will is made clear in this, and that we would see details finalised soon.
Please pray regarding France, as we continue to hold that as our ultimate goal. Please pray that God might be preparing us for what he wants us to do in France, and that we would be sensitive to any opportunities for developing our language skills, culture appreciation, contacts with French churches/Christians etc. It may surprise you, but having now been 'trained' for ministry, and having a 'piece of paper' which 'proves' my ability, about the only thing I'm confident of is my complete lack of ability! We continue to be humbled by our ignorance of the word of God, by the indistinctness of our resemblance of Jesus and by the inconsistency of our passion for God.
Please Pray that God would continue the training and preparation begun at Moorlands, that we might become radical lovers of God, students of his word and servants of his will. Please pray for guidance about whether I should seek ordination, as from a 'human' perspective, this might open 'doors' in France that would otherwise be closed.
Please pray regarding our involvement in Burton Community Church. The current leaders of the childrens' ministry are all moving away over the summer, and I have a sneaky feeling that God might be saying something. Please pray that God would make clear to all concerned whether he wants me to be involved in this ministry. As we look to a deeper involvement with BCC, it seems necessary to us that we become members of the church. This is both to make ourselves accountable to the church, and also to express our commitment to BCC. Sadly, this will obviously require our resignation from membership of KCC, which we will do formally when we come to Scotland in early August.
On a family note, it was with great delight that we heard this morning of Douglas and Lynda's new arrival! It's great that Sharon and Lynda now have 'matching sets' of 3 sons each - the Kennedys' are nothing if not symmetrical! Two weeks ago Sharon was praying that it might be possible for her to visit when Lynda's baby was born. A few days later, we had a gift specifically for Sharon to come up to see the baby! Of all the many answers to prayer we have experienced recently, this is probably the one that means the most to Sharon! So Sharon will be in Kilsyth this weekend (12th-14th Jun.)
Again, we thank you for your support, bless you for your prayers, and encourage you to go after God, heart and soul, first and foremost!