Posts Tagged ‘people’


Friday Night Theology from Evangelical Alliance arrives promptly in my e-mail inbox every Friday afternoon around 4pm. It is almost always well worth reading – thinking about the topic oneself or with friends. In fact, that’s the whole point of it.

So I want to share some extracts from Chas Bayfield’s thoughts with blog friends this evening…

Since the plane’s disappearance on 8 March, I have found myself becoming quietly (and slightly morbidly) obsessed with the story. But what I’ve been reading and hearing was not news, it was conjecture; assertions from anyone qualified to have an opinion which, for the record, appears to be anyone who has ever flown a plane.

Know-it-alls from the aviation world have bestowed upon us the benefits of their expertise, each one confident enough in their own speculation to have it published in an international news journal.

Add to this the plethora of opinions from bloggers, the Twitteratti, rock stars and our friends and families and you really have quite a smorgasbord of different theories. The plane was hi-jacked by pirates. The pilot was suicidal. A meteorite hit it. Aliens stole it.

In the last 24 hours, there have been enough articles on flight 370 to fill 70 pages of Google. The simple fact that a plane can disappear in this ultra modern hi-tech age has left people baffled and awed. I am encouraged that so many men and women who do not think themselves religious, still have the capacity to be ‘certain of what they do not see’.

Christians see God as an anchor; a safe mooring. Belief in God grounds us and helps us make sense of the world in which we live.

Our mandate today is to pray for the families and friends of those onboard flight MH370. But it is also is to keep God at our shoulder, in our eyeline and close to hand.

I have found the endless theorising frustrating. The dogmatism of “experts” too often self-promoting. Much media coverage intrusive and insensitive. And yet, as Chas says, wanting to know becomes almost obsessive.

I have almost wept with the relatives trying to come to terms with this terribly sad story by hoping beyond hope. I have applauded the efforts of governments and flight crews to search for the haystack and then for the needle. My prayer is the same at that expressed by Chas above: to pray for the families and friends that somehow they will experience God’s peace in closure.

Chas Bayfield is creative director at Noah advertising agency and secretary of Cricklewood Baptist Church

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

An ironic question (see meaning if you’ve never heard this phrase before) which popped into my head this evening as I read the current Evangelical Alliance Friday Night Theology post which focusses on the latest statement by Pope Francis – The Joy of the Gospel.

The admission of the writer David Smyth (public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland) added some poignancy:

Growing up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland I am fascinated by this man and especially hearing him talk of evangelisation and being born anew. Many Protestants here were told from a church pulpit that the Pope was the anti-Christ. Yet this man challenges me deeply both in how I look at him and how I look at others.

David goes on to confess to doing what we all do – whether we admit it or not – we put labels on people!

You see, I label people. Not as the literal anti-Christ so much, but try as I might not to, I do label others who claim to follow Christ: sound, liberal, fundamentalist, happy-clappy. And it’s not just me or confined to the Church. A brief reading of the headlines this week shows some of the labels society places on others: prostitute, druggie, slave, alcoholic. We take someone’s action or aspect of their personhood and use that to define that entire person. We constantly use labels to separate ourselves and to define ‘us’ against ‘them’. In doing so we dehumanise the image of God in others, reducing them down to a word.

I can’t escape the fact that when I look at the way Pope Francis rejects labels and encounters individuals I am reminded of Christ. Jesus looked at people through God’s eyes, literally. He refused to put labels on people, seeing the holy humanity of each person made in the image of God. When we encounter Jesus and become his followers he takes our labels away. This is part of the ‘joy of the gospel’, a new identity in Christ. We are given new life, new relationships with God and others and a new identity beyond our labels.

As I get older, I seem to get wiser… well, sometimes. Or maybe I’m maturing in my  understanding of how God sees people? Anyway, I’m starting to see people differently. People in my church whose gifts I never recognised before. Colleagues in work who have a different perspective on things, but hey, that’s OK! People on the street or on the bus… I wonder about the person behind the front, the facade, the fashion…

And here’s David’s punchline!

So here’s the challenge this weekend. What labels have you put on yourself or on others? Is there someone you need to take out of a pigeonhole? What’s stopping you seeing people through Jesus’s eyes?

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We used to talk about multiple contact relationships in the Wycliffe UK Mobilisation Team.

125-twitter-cartoonWhen people got to the point of deciding to join Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, we often identified multiple contacts on their journey towards this point: meeting a Wycliffe member, a word of mouth recommendation from a friend, a website post, a blog, a God-incidence along the way…

Some years ago the MAP Mission Roadshow to the university Christian Unions in N. Irish universities featured Bible Translation. Together with colleagues from other MAP agencies we visited all the big CUs and some of the little ones as well.

One evening a smaller team visited Greenmount Agricultural College and we did our presentation …

“That was when I first heard about Wycliffe and Bible translation!”

That’s what Andy said when I met him in Derry a week or so ago. Andy is a dairy farmer in Donegal. Andy was at Greenmount Agricultural College when I was there those 5 or 6 years ago. It was when Andy first heard about Wycliffe. Andy encouraged his youth group to use some of our materials in their Bible reading. Every time they used them, they would remember the Bibleless languages of the world.

Andy now wants to help us raise the profile of God’s mission through Wycliffe and Bible translation in his part of the NW of Ireland.

I guess that came from sowing seeds in an agricultural college…

PS Not sure of the relevance of the cartoon… just liked it 🙂

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… or a how a light sprinkle of the white stuff paralyses my home city.

Park as you will

Park as you will

It didn’t last long. And there wasn’t that much of it really. But it was swift and effective in terms of causing traffic chaos on a Friday afternoon in Belfast.

I left the office early, filled up with petrol, visited my local garage to get a flattish tyre checked and a headlamp bulb replaced – and following a slow procession south along the main road out of town, discovered that the snow was sufficient to prevent me driving up our (admittedly rather steep) hill. So I parked the car neatly outside a house down the hill.

My wife was working a 3.1 mile, 10 minute journey from home (according the Google Maps) but it took over 2 hours to drive home – and guess where she parked? Not in our driveway!

Before going to bed, I thought I would take a walk just to checkl that both cars were OK. The snow had stopped falling. It was a beautiful white evening, cold under the street lights. All was well with our cars, but many others had been “parked” much less neatly.

Don’t the photos look weirdly yellow green under the orange street lighting?


Police car checking the parking

Police car checking the parking

Parked not neatly in front of our church

Parked not neatly in front of our church


Any way through?

Any way through?

This morning, the white world had all but disappeared. We went shopping; we went to a brother-in-law’s 60th birthday party – but I’m glad I took the late night walk to capture these weirdly beautiful pictures.

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cityofculture-logoTHE four largest Christian churches are uniting for a special evangelical initiative that will see a copy of Luke’s Gospel delivered to every home in Londonderry during UK City of Culture 2013.

The leaders of the four main Churches will be launching the free gift for all in Foyleside Shopping Centre on Monday, January 21 2013.

Bishop Ken Good (Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe), Monsignor Eamonn Martin (Catholic Diocesan Administrator for Derry diocese), Rev Robert Buick (Moderator of the local Presbytery) and Rev Peter Murray (leader of the Methodist Church in the district) will join together with choirs and perfomers from local schools to launch A Free Gift for All.

A spokesperson for the initiative said: “The christian message is something that crosses divides and is good news for every person. Not only do we want to celebrate this special year in our city we also do so as a recognition of the common christian heritage of our city.”

The project involves the four churches joining together to distribute a special copy of Luke’s Gospel to every household in the city.

This joint initiative is a contribution from the churches to mark the 2013 UK City of Culture in the city. It is also a sign of a common commitment to the good news of the Christian message.

The public launch of A Free Gift for All will see choirs from schools across the community perform at this unique event. Pupils from the different communities, in some instances, will join to walk together to the event. There will also be performance art to mark the event.

Published on Tuesday 15 January 2013  in Londonderry Sentinel

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Irene Walker’s Thanksgiving Service | Hamilton Road Baptist Church, Bangor | Tuesday 18 October 2011

I was asked to give a summary of Irene’s years with Wycliffe: here is an edited version.

We are told that people today will typically have at least four careers. This is contrasted with previous generations who tended to have a job for life and a gold watch presented to them on retirement.

Irene Walker broke the mould.

It has been fascinating to read the four page document that was hand written by Irene and simply entitled My Life Story. As I look through it I count at least four careers and at least two retirements. The first retirement came in 1974.

Irene simply says: “At age 55 I took early retirement and went to Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Both my parents had died and I had no responsibilities so it was easy for me to take this step.”

And so in 1975 Wycliffe had a new short term member with many years experience in primary teaching and secretarial work .

During her first 3¼ years in Papua New Guinea, Irene was part of the support team mixing administrative roles with teaching the children of the translator families. Her role as pay clerk at the Ukarumpa Centre enabled her to get to know many of the nationals who worked there. Irene also visited Wycliffe families in remote village locations and attended several New Testament dedications.

As a short termer she returned home after this first term, but quickly sensed God guiding her to return for a further 3½ years with an assignment in the aviation department looking after the accounts and statistics. If the day job sounds routine, the other activities sound more adventurous.

Colleagues have found some extracts from her prayer letters during that second term in PNG.

December 1980

November 1st was a very special day for the people of villages on the banks of the Sepik river for on that day their own Yessan-Mayo New testament was dedicated!…The previous day some of us had flown out from Ukarumpa and then travelled upriver in two canoes joined by planks of wood, enjoying the beauty of the river, the birds and foliage, and the little villages on the bank.  It was a wonderful experience to rejoice with the people in song and prayer and reading from their own New Testaments.

March 1981

I have acquired a car; bits of it are held together by tape but all vital parts work and it successfully negotiates mud, a flood, a plank bridge and herds of water buffalo between the centre and the aviation department.

November 1983

This will be my last circular from PNG!  I expect to leave here on 29th December, spend some time in Australia and London, and reach home towards the end of January.  I shall be sorry to leave the many friends I have made here but look forward to renewing friendships at home.  Several very dear ones have gone to be with the Lord during my time here; I shall miss them but know there will be a glad reunion in Heaven.

People at home ask me if I am coming back to PNG.  I have no plans to do so.  People here ask, ‘’What are you going to do at home?’’  I usually tell them I intend to put my feet up and have a good long rest.  Just now I feel I need that but I know that in a few months I will be ready for fresh adventure!  I am praying constantly for the Lord’s guidance and recently I have had some indication of His leading.

And in her Life Story Irene wrote: “Again I had visits to translation projects, travelling by plane, heliocopter, speed boat, canoe and motor bike. The most exciting dedication was on the island of Goodenough, where I had previously spent 6 weeks helping the translators and enjoying the beautiful island with its grass-skirted ladies.”

Several Wycliffe colleagues who knew Irene in PNG e-mailed me when they heard that she had passed away.

Irene left a very special legacy in the PNG Branch. Heather Patrick

 I just want to respond to the news of Irene’s death and to say what good and positive memories I have of her. She was a dedicated, enthusiastic and much valued member of the team. Hamish Ralston

 I have known Irene for many years. She’s been a dear, faithful friend. Those of us in the flats often got together for morning tea/coffee on Saturdays. Irene would open presents sent to her and then give them to others as gifts. She’s been a faithful financial and prayer supporter ever since leaving here. I’m going to miss her, but I know she’ll be glad to be able to move around in heaven. Lynn Wood

So having retired at 55 and spent 7 years as a “short termer” with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea, one would have thought that it was time to retire properly. Not at all! Irene’s fresh adventure was another career as part of the N. Ireland based team of Wycliffe UK.

And just like in PNG, Irene had a varied contribution to make. From 1981 to 1989 Irene:

  • Spoke about Wycliffe in various churches and prayer meetings
  • Did office work alongside the then N. Ireland Coordinators Ian and Claire Gray
  • Was secretary and later a member if the Wycliffe N. Ireland Committee
  • Ran the Wycliffe Bangor prayer group
  • Coordinated the Call to Prayer project
  • Spent a few months in Pakistan doing office work and again teaching missionary children

Paul and Linda Farncombe were Wycliffe members in Pakistan when Irene visited:

We and the girls really enjoyed her being in Hyderabad and have fond memories of Aunty Irene.

Paul now works at our centre in England and he passed on some records about Irene’s time with Wycliffe

9  December 1975 – Accepted as Short Term Assistant of Wycliffe Bible Translators  ‘to serve as a bookkeeper in the Papua New Guinea Branch for a period of two years.’

31 March 1989  – Completion of Short Term service

Irene’s “short term service” with Wycliffe Bible Translators lasted almost 14 years!

By the time my wife Ruth and I were joining Wycliffe, Irene had reached 70 and had retired from the Wycliffe N. Ireland office and so we had very little official contact with her. However we remember a kind and generous lady who took a very prayerful interest in us and our two young children as we went off to Ivory Coast to teach in a mission boarding school.

Her interest in Wycliffe children is well illustrated in this message from Kenny and  Andrea Woodrow, Wycliffe N. Ireland members currently in Tanzania:

We have very fond memories of time with Irene. When we first joined she invited us to visit her a few times and she was always interested in what we were doing, praying for us and interacting with [our son] Josh.

Many Wycliffe N. Ireland colleagues would have wished to be here this afternoon to share in giving thanks to God for a colleague, a friend, a prayer supporter, a selfless servant of God who brought her skills, experience and her passion to being part of the worldwide Wycliffe team bringing God’s Word to people in their heart languages.

Perhaps this last e-mail extract from Mary Endersby in Cameroon can act as a summary:

Irene was a real champion; she kept in touch with me steadily over many decades, even when my replies weren’t very forthcoming. It was always an encouragement to receive her letters – so well-written, informative and always carrying traces of that special sense of humour of hers :). And she always reminded me of her prayers, and those of the Bangor prayer group. 

It was a privilege to have known Irene and be blessed by her untiring ministry through her faithful partnership in prayer and correspondence. And I know I wasn’t the only one …!

Towards the end of her Life Story, Irene wrote these words:

“I am very thankful to God for an interesting and varied life.”

What more can I say, but echo Irene’s words and thank God for all the ways in which she served Him in His mission to His world.

John Hamilton 18 October 2011

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John Stott
John Stott in 2006. He has been described as ‘a renaissance man with a reformation theology’. Photograph: Kieran Dodds

Though the name of the Rev John Stott, who has died at the age of 90, rarely appeared in the UK national press, in April 2005 Time Magazine placed him among the world’s top 100 major influencers. A comment piece in the New York Times six months earlier had expressed surprise that he was ignored by the press, since he was a more authentic advocate for evangelical Christianity than more colourful figures such as Jerry Falwell.

Stott, radical in his conservatism, could not be pigeonholed. He was deeply committed to the need for social, economic and political justice and passionately concerned about climate change and ecological ethics. He regarded the Bible as his supreme authority and related its teaching to all areas of knowledge and experience. He insisted that Christians should engage in “double listening” – to the word of God, and to the world around them – and apply their biblical faith to all the pressing issues of contemporary culture. He himself researched, preached and wrote on a wide range of matters – from global debt to global warming, from the duties of the state to medical ethics and euthanasia. This was the kind of evangelicalism he embodied.

Read more in this detailed obituary from The Guardian

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I heard this morning that John Stott died yesterday. A few minutes ago I found his memorial website which is a great source of information about John Stott’s life and details of upcoming memorial services.

John Stott’s successor as International Director of Langham Partnership International, Chris Wright, has written the following message on the website.

Message from Chris Wright

It will not be possible to write the history of the church in the 20th century without reference to John Stott. His remarkable ministry spanned the whole of the second half of the century and even in his eighties he was making an impact on the 21st.

His leadership of the evangelical movement, both in the Anglican Communion and in wider inter-denominational settings, was a major factor in moving it from rather narrow-minded fundamentalism after the Second World War, to the fastest growing part of world Christianity that it is today. The list of movements and institutions he founded, fostered and strengthened can be read in the biographical pages of this website. His books have challenged and nourished millions of Christians into a balanced and thinking biblical faith.His legacy through the global impact of the Langham Partnership International and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity is incalculable. Chris Wright

For the vast majority of people whose lives he influenced profoundly, however, he was simply ‘Uncle John’ – a much loved friend, correspondent, and brother, to whose prayers we will never know how much we owe. Like Moses, he was one of the greatest leaders God has given to his people, and yet at the same time, one of the humblest men on the face of the earth. He was, for all of us who knew him, a walking embodiment of the simple beauty of Jesus, whom he loved above all else.


I remember being at a conference of UCCF Associates Ireland many years ago south of Dublin and during a break, chatting to John about birdwatching. Much more recently while a guest in Belfast  of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, John was taken on a birdwatching trip by two friends of mine John Piper and David Clarke. David now owns an autographed copy of one of John Stott’s perhaps less known books Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons for a LifeLong Bird-Watcher

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I met a man in a chip shop on Sunday evening who told me he hadn’t eaten all day because he couldn’t tear himself away from the TV watching Darren Clarke winning the Open Championship.

Darren Clarke Open Champion 2011

Rory McIlroy US Open Champion 2011

Graeme McDowell US Open Champion 2010

The N. Ireland press and media has understandably been very excited  about the tremendous success of N. Irish golfers in the past year or so! Today’s Belfast Telegraph is just one of these…

The thing is, though, where Ulster golf is concerned at present, we are starting to think that just about anything is possible. That’s how the magnificent efforts of Darren, Rory and G-Mac have made us feel.

In the last six majors, three times the winner has come from our wee country. That’s a 50% success rate. Unbelievable! To put that remarkable achievement in perspective 1.75 million people live in Northern Ireland amongst a world population approaching SEVEN BILLION.

Golf, unlike many sports, is a truly global game, so each time you tee up at the majors you are taking on the best that this planet can offer. Talk about beating the odds.

US Open winner Rory McIlroy got it right when he declared after Darren Clarke’s famous Open victory that Northern Ireland was the golfing capital of the world.

We have Darren, Rory and Graeme McDowell, who claimed the US Open last year, to thank for that. Previously the only Ulster major champion was the late, great Fred Daly, who ruled supreme at The Open in 1947.

Graeme, Rory and Darren have done us proud and I hope they will continue to do so!

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On 26 April 2010, I wrote this:

Of the 110+ posts on this blog, why should Retro-Blog:John in Ndop 7 – A Tale of Five Chiggers seem to attract so much attention?

It was posted in early September 2009, but dates from my trip to Cameroon last February; it does have some elegant photos of feet…

Now in July 2011, Retro-Blog:John in Ndop 7 – A Tale of Five Chiggers is still topping the charts while the posts on the blog are nearing 300.

It can only be the pin-up photo…

chigger n. Any of various small, six-legged larvae of mites of the family Trombiculidae, parasitic on insects, humans, and other vertebrates.

Chigger – enlarged 1,500 times

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