Hi once again wonderful friends!!
We hope you are doing well and that you had a restful and enjoyable Easter! We’ve had an incredibly busy few months with our amazingly wonderful team and after our easter break we are gearing up for our involvement at Spring Weekend working with some of our eastward Youth for Christ centres and another busy summer to follow! So we thought we’d take the opportunity to share with you some of the exciting highlights of all that God has been doing in our lives on our recent tours. We also have some very significant prayer requests which we will share at the end of this letter along with our dates for upcoming events.
Kicking off with Conference is a brilliant way to start the new year as Youth For Christ staff, trustees and volunteers from all over the country gather in Manchester to celebrate, learn, worship, pray and grow together. The Sense, with the addition of Wes, our keyboard player from last year, were able to support Josh Rouse leading worship in the evening programme whilst Dan Murphy from Life Central Church in Halesowen did a great job acoustically in the mornings where Simon Ponsonby was inspirational in his Bible teaching. Joy and I had been invited to lead a seminar on Investing in Marriage which was a new one for us. We felt so humbled to be asked to do this and it was more than a little bit scary but we received lots of encouraging comments and had the opportunity to pray for one of the delegates at the end.
Once again we had a brilliant response from pupils during the week, many of whom remembered us from last year. This time we were able to do a Thursday evening concert in the school which saw around 100 young people turn out for a great night and a real hush as the gospel message was shared. Being in school the next day allowed those who had responded to come and speak to us, one lad proudly wearing the ‘4 points’ gospel bracelet he had been given. A girl also came to different members of the team to share how touched she had been by our message this week, moving from a place of doubt to belief in God and a desire to know more. We encouraged her that we were in the area for another week so she may have opportunity to hear us again.
From Conference we headed to Radcliffe/Bury for Livit Camp Reunion at The Bridge Methodist followed by a week in Bury Church School. It had been a few years since our last visit there so it was great to be back and the new Head of RE was extremely positive about our input. There were a few special moments involving conversations with individuals, as the team stepped out in faith and enabled God to use them. One girl came up off the back of Millie bravely sharing in a lesson about the passing away of her Grandma. Emotionally raw from losing her own Gran in the last few days, this young lady was able to sit and chat with Millie who was able to offer empathy and encouragement and gave the opportunity for staff to come alongside the girl too.
Lucy also chatted to a young lad one lunchtime who said his family were atheists. She boldly asked asked the boy what it would take him to believe in God. He replied, “…not to see or hear God but to somehow feel Him.” Lucy suggested that he go home and pray honestly to God and was thrilled to hear from him the next day that, sitting on his bed praying that evening he had felt God sat right next to him in his room! She was able to encourage him to find out more so please do pray that this ‘feeling’ would become a real knowledge of God for this lad and a real witness to his family! Our concert at Metro Christian Centre (our guitarist Josh’s home church, where his Mum is the youth leader) was a great event and it was amazing to see so many kids come and hear the good news of Jesus. Again, please do pray for the church there and the power of their work and witness in the community.
Our next port of call was Haverhill in Suffolk to work alongside Sarah Glasswell from Youth For Christ in Castle Manor Academy. Another brilliant week with great lessons and conversations. Lucy discovered that one young girl was having constant gruesome nightmares about her family being killed and was able to relate similar concerns whilst living with her own family in the Middle East. On Thursday evening this girl came to our concert and Lucy had the chance to pray with her about her nightmares. The next day the girl came up to Lucy to say that last night was the first time for ages that she had slept peacefully through the night! Our singer Becky also very powerfully communicated her testimony at the concert which impacted a number of youngsters in the audience that night. Please pray for Sarah as she follows up on all we did that week.
After a week at home for training and rehearsal we headed to Bromsgrove for a weekend with the young musicians at the Baptist Church. It was great fun to work with with players of varying levels of ability on instruments as diverse as clarinet, sax, violin, cello, flute, acoustic guitar, electric bass and drums. To see their confidence grow and to get them all playing together was incredible and very special as we led worship together on the Sunday morning where people commented not only on the young people’s musicianship but also the sense of worship that ensued.
Sunday evening we travelled to Abingdon in Oxfordshire to start our week in Fitzharry’s School with Desire, an amazing network of youth workers who had us last year but in a different school in the town. This visit was equally as successful and The Sense connected with lots of musicians in the school who performed for us at lunchtimes. Similarly Stance had loads of opportunities in dance workshops and saw pupils really coming out of their shells in their ‘dance battle’ part of the lessons! The head of the school was particularly welcoming and appreciated our input into the lives of his pupils. Our final event at the nearby church hall (a tastefully converted barn) saw many youngsters turn up (last year had been heavy snow so not as many came) and the reaction was very encouraging as around 30 youngsters raised their hand to receive response packs after the Gospel message at the end.
After a few days rest were off again to one of our very supportive churches in Billericay where coincidentally we were working with their young musicians for the weekend and leading the Sunday morning service. This group were smaller but no less enthusiastic and we were able to help them to develop in their arrangement and delivery of a song, encouraging them to reflect their heart and passion as worshippers as they are often given the responsibility of leading the whole church in worship. It was lovely to catch up with friends in Essex and especially nice to see our old boss from Viz-A-Viz Ministries Den Pethers as well as others from our Viz days! Speaking on Sunday morning was such a privilege and there was a real sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit as we led worship on this very special occasion.
Next up we were in a youth hostel in Ross-on-Wye our annual Mid-Year Out Retreat with the rest of the Year Out volunteers and leadership team. A very scenic part of the country and the warmest week ever in February combined to make a very special time of worship, teaching, prayer and reflection for everyone. We did the most minimal set up in the smallest meeting room ever which gave a very up-close and personal feel but a lot of time was spent outside enjoying God’s creation.
Here the volunteers begin to think about their next steps and where God may be guiding them in September and beyond. It can be a great time of searching and uncertainty but also of listening to God and seeking after Him. Please pray for each one as they move forward in the next few months. In amongst all the wonderful atmosphere as we were celebrating with a special meal for all 35 cooked by us as leaders, the week actually ended in real sadness for Amber who received the news that her Grandma passed away after a time of illness. Please do pray for the family as they come to terms with this and for Amber who returned home briefly however it’s times like this that make you feel a long way from home.
The long drive back up to Inverness was once again punctuated with an overnight stop in the borders then it was on to see our friends at Culduthel Christian Centre who were again hosting the team on behalf of Highlands and Islands Youth For Christ. Our visit to Inverness Royal Academy last year had been very successful so it was great to be back and even the early morning carrying of equipment up multiple flights of stairs couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of our amazing team! Double and triple classes came up to the amphitheatre lesson after lesson and pupils came back time and again at lunchtime and break times to see the team. One little ‘gang’ of younger lads would love taking it in turns play a rhythm on the drums while the others chanted along. Other individuals or groups would sing or play for everyone before The Sense and Stance had a chance to perform and on the last day Alistair, the minister from CCC came in and was impressed to see how engaged the students were.
This week Stance were coping as a 3 piece as Amber was back home in Belgium for her Grandmas funeral and we were all missing her. After such a busy timetable we were all shattered especially by the time we moved all the equipment over to the nearby church for the final concert. Lucy and Joy were both feeling particularly unwell and Becky was losing her voice but everyone was sustained enough to put on a good ‘show’, helped by the sight of many excited and enthusiastic young people.
Josh did a brilliant job sharing the gospel message for the first time at the end of a schools week and lots of youngsters were interested to find out more. CCC has a strong youth group so we’re praying for the follow up there, for the Christian young people as they continue to share their faith and for the opportunity to go back again next year. After packing up the gig we did a late night pick-up of Amber from Inverness train station (she’d had a particularly long and arduous multi-staged journey) and all hit our beds in need of rest and energy for the week ahead a little further up the coast!
After a Saturday afternoon drive and settling into our lovely hosts in Rosemarkie, Sunday morning found us sharing about the work of YFC in a couple of local church services. Then it was a walk on the beach, literally outside one host home, before another early night. Our previous visit to Fortrose Academy was two years ago and we remembered very restricted access to lessons as their hall was used for many community sports and leisure activities during the day.
However the new head, who knew us from his previous school in Inverness, had cleared all daytime bookings so that we could use the hall throughout the week! We did have to negotiate the evening bookings so as not to move all our equipment every day but that worked ok in the end. The other challenge we had was from some senior staff who had looked at the YFC website and been concerned about the references to “intentional evangelism.” Having personally seen us in action, the head had managed to reassure his staff that we wouldn’t overstep the mark but also quickly sent an email to every parent/guardian so that pupils knew we were in the school for educational purposes. This reminded us of the fine line there is between us getting into a school or not and of the responsibility we have to use the opportunities we do have wisely and with sensitivity.
During the week one student reacted emotionally to Becky’s personal testimony in class and another found our talk of life and death issues a bit ‘close to home.’ The only contact from a parent to the head about removing their child from our lesson came a day too late, by which time the pupil had us in their class and was so positive about it on returning home that the parent said they were happy for their son to be involved as it was ‘not what they imagined.’
Another memorable moment came after we had the whole sixth form for an hour and directly afterwards one inquisitive older lad came boldly into the hall during a free lesson and for the next hour stood in the middle of the whole team and asked question after question about faith in God. He had a Catholic girlfriend and was clearly searching for some answers so do pray that he continues on his journey to Jesus.
Again, many youngsters came to the concert and a couple of girls even came from Inverness after one of them persuaded her dad to give them a lift having been to the gig last week! We gave a special edition Bible to her and a few others who were particularly interested to know more. Please pray that God speaks into these individuals lives by His Spirit, through His word and His people. What a privilege it is to serve God in this way!
After a short rest and recovery time The Sense had the amazing opportunity to spend a short time in the recording studio at Amblecote Christian Centre, utilising the immense talents of Chris Smith & Nic Burrows who helped us get the best sounds for our new song Even If. We did some initial keyboard and guitar recording at our new home studio but then moved across to ACC to get the best drum and vocal sound we could. The result should be available to hear soon! Meanwhile Stance were spending hours, working incredibly hard on their new dance routine Masterpiece which looks immense(ly difficult!), follows a similar theme to the new Sense song and should be ready soon too!
Having been initially booked for Spring Harvest Christian Conference in Harrogate we finally ended up, through various circumstances, going to Spring Harvest Minehead at Butlins as a whole team for Week 1, then splitting up, Stance staying at Minehead for Week 2 and The Sense travelling to Skegness for the week there!
At Minehead we were all working with the 8-11yr age group, The Sense as band for worship leader Josh Bishop while Stance were doing the dance routines, leading a workshop etc. It was a hugely enjoyable to work closely for the first time with the amazing Jo Squires & Tom Spicer from Youth For Christ and their dedicated team who specialise in this age group. To see them in action is truly amazing, not only dramatic to behold, but also to be involved is a real eye opening experience.
Our level of interaction and responsibility for these youngsters was high right throughout each morning til lunchtime and in the evening programme as well. We each cared for a “small” group (I had 17) from registration to collection by parents and every kind of activity in between both indoors and outside. How honouring to be their ‘safe place’ and a part of their journey with Jesus for such a focussed time and to see many respond to the teaching and the gospel message.
After the the final morning programme The Sense packed up and waved goodbye to Stance (who had a whole new 400 kids to welcome that afternoon!) while we headed back home for one night, then at Becky’s folks near Spalding for one night before arriving at Butlins Skegness for a similar week but leading worship this time for the 12-14’s age group called Distinctive. Working for the first time with ex-YFC worker Mark Watson and his brilliant team we had a dark, dingy, dirty, sticky-floored dance bar to transform into an attractive youth venue for 250 teenagers.
Again, we all had small groups of 10-15 to look out for but there was no registration to worry about and they went off for their own mid-session break every morning. Additionally, Joy was in charge of the Art Workshops every day which brought her creative side to the fore once again and many youngsters enjoyed painting and sculpting whilst others did sports, circus skills, The Sense drumming workshop or a choice of seminars.
The theme for all these Spring Harvest weeks was Prayer under the title UNLIMITED – #WhenWePray and on one morning it was a real blessing to hear some of these young people pray out loud, especially for persecuted Christians around the world and they also raised money for one particular project in Syria. We were also thrilled to see 85 respond by giving their lives to Jesus for the first time while others made recommitments to following Him. Leading worship for the joint celebration with both youth programmes was a real highlight with Pete Greig and Phil Tongwell from 24/7 prayer sharing their passion and heart for this generation. Meanwhile in Minehead Stance, among other things, had also got involved in dancing for The Big Start in the adult venue and can be glimpsed on the new promotional video!
These weeks can take their toll physically, Franky being generally unwell through the week but Becky being really sick on the last night meant that she was sadly unable to be with us on the last morning. Josh stepped up vocally for The Sense but it was weird to be without Becky and even though we couldn’t do the songs that had been popular during the week, there was a real sense of praise and worship as we finished our time together with these amazing young people, many of whom had visibly changed during the week.
We dropped Becky at home on the way back and also met at the motorway services with Josh’s family so he could go away with them. With our team getting smaller and seemingly more fragile Joy and I also began to feel unwell as we drove home and ended up flat out for a couple of days ‘recovering’ from an exhausting but rewarding few months away.
It’s been an incredibly busy and fruitful time but now, after a few days of rest we are ready and raring to go. The final term of the year is shaping up with a different rhythm as schools are busy with exams and so most of our work will be weekend events, festivals and training weeks, interspersed with interviews for next year’s team. We would really value your prayers as we attempt to recruit a number of musicians and dancers to start in September, not an easy job as there are many gap year opportunities and relatively few people looking to take a year out. Every year the Lord surprises us with his amazing provision and we look to Him to draw those in who he is calling to be on team, but your prayers will certainly be much appreciated.
We are so grateful for your friendship and prayers.
All our love til next time!!
We would like to invite you to a special fundraiser on 16th May at Edgbaston Cricket ground, see below for details:
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