Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
'the word of God is not bound', 2 Tim. 2. 9.
The above words were written from prison, in the context of the apostle's experience of the limitations brought by suffering. Physically and mentally he, no doubt, felt much hemmed in. Yet he was sure that nothing could halt the movements of the word of God in its progress. In a prayer letter received recently, it was good to read that a new landmark had been reached in a progress that began with the invention of moveable type over 500 years ago. The number of languages and dialects which now have at least one book of the bible has topped 1900. At present a mere 300 languages have a full bible. The Bible Societies point out that with the world's languages estimated at more than 6000, there is still a long way to go. Says Edward Jaminson in his letter, 'Let us, who have the word of God in our own particular language or languages, use every means available to sow the seed in ground prepared by the Spirit.'
These words have meaning. We are greatly privileged in our land, to have unrestricted liberty to read and to share the word with others. Yet how sadly neglected the bible is today. So many of us who are believers are regularly careless in assimilating the truth of the word. How can we preach and teach that which we do not know? The apostle from his prison cell, could derive comfort from the conviction that the possibilities of freedom, latent in the word, were boundless. Through the Holy Spirit's power, it could move on in unrestricted progress. May we be so committed to the word that we shall see this in our evangelism. And let us pray that in every tongue, the world's people shall eventually hear and possess the word of the living God.
The Belfast Easter Conference was again held in the Assembly buildings when a large number of believers were present. There was a sense of the Lord's presence in the gatherings, with devotional and practical ministry to touch the hearts of the saints. Visiting speakers were. Jack Hunter, F. Stallan and Bert Gamble, and it was a delight to heart. Ernest Wilson on a visit from the U.S.A. Reports of the Lord's work at home and abroad were given, and the gospel was preached with power by Tom Bentley. Again, a feature of the conference was the large number of young people present and the reverence at each session which was so becoming of the presence of the Lord.
At Laganvilie (formerly Ormeau) Hall, the saints were greatly encouraged by large numbers attending the first spell of gospel meetings to be held in the hall, and these were conducted by Tom Meekin. A lady in her eighties was saved and has since been going round her neighbours to tell them the good news. The believers at Windsor were also encouraged by large numbers when Sam Jennings was the speaker during a four week spell of gospel meetings. At Crosskeys, Co. Antrim, good numbers, including quite a number of young people, gathered to hear E. Fairfield and J. Hawthorne preach. At Buckna, S. McBride saw blessing in some being saved, and at Ballydare, meetings began in an encouraging way, with the hall filled each night to hear A. McShane and D. Gilliland preach the word. At Ballyduff, A. Aiken and L. Mullan saw good numbers come in from the estate each night.
The assembly at Dromore, Co. Down, have seen the hand of God in a marvellous way in meetings conducted by W. J. Nesbitt and his son Andrew, who is in secular employment. They have preached for 16 weeks and between 20-30 souls have been saved, ages 13-71! The hall has been packed nightly, with extra seating in the foyer and anteroom. Meetings at Comber have finished. The response was poor, but E, Wishart visited most of the homes in the area with tracts. Believers at Plantation assembly, Lisburn, saw a good interest and some blessings in meetings conducted by N. Turkington and S. Ferguson. At Drumenagh, Co. Londonderry, J. Lennox and j. Brown saw one man profess salvation during an eight week spell of meetings. Tom McNeil] saw a few from the locality at meetings conducted at Killykergan in a portable hall. Good numbers attended and there was blessing in meetings at Eden, near Carrickfergus with J. Allen.
Across the border, in Donegal, at Convoy, S. Patterson and G. Stewart
had seven weeks' meetings in a believers home, and although the numbers were small, some showed an interest in salvation.
The 44th. Annual St. Patrick's Day Conference was held at Bandon Grammar School, Bandon. The speakers this year were Jim Allen, Belfast, and Jim Burnett, Scotland. The meetings covered three days and the attendance was good with an average of about 200. The two bible readings were held on Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, and there was good participation and profit from the study of the word. The ministry throughout was timely and stimulating, reports were given on different aspects of the Lord's work, and the gospel meetings were well attended with some unsaved present. A good interest was shown among the children at the children's meetings. Altogether it was good to see a good representation of believers from near and far and there was an experience of the Lord's blessing.
We have some interesting items of news from J. Anderson, Ayr. For well over 40 years, a 'Bible Class' has been in operation in Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow. The present leader, Gordon Maxton, has been associated with the work for 38 years, having benefited greatly from serving under other men of God in the work- When Mr. Hopkins was called home, Ian Gilfillan accepted the invitation to share in the work and has proved himself to be a true fellow labourer, making a valuable contribution to the class. For many years there was an average attendance of about 70 each week and even during the past 15 years, this has climbed as high as 120. But sadly, over the past few years, numbers have drastically declined due to a great increase in recreational facilities on Sunday afternoons. To some extent as a result of the troubles which have been well publicised by the media, numbers fell to an alarmingly low level, and on some occasions the team arrived to find that there were no men for the Bible Class. After an approach to the Governor, a meeting was arranged between the Bible Class team and himself, assistants and the chaplain. While he is not able to coerce men to attend he offered to open the establishment to the team for week-night visitation so that personal contacts might he made and the men invited to attend the class. This proved to be a helpful factor and although numbers are comparatively small, there is a real sense of interest. Recently there were 6 Nigerians, contacted during the week, who attended the Class during their stay in prison.
Three instances of blessing as the result of this work are mentioned. One man was saved, not as a result directly, but on a Thursday night while sitting in his cell, he came across a text from Psalm 51, quoted in a novel he was reading, 'Against thee, thee only have I sinned'. The Spirit of God used this to make him call upon the Lord for salvation. Since his release, his wife and two daughters have accepted the Saviour. He has a vital testimony in visiting other prisons. Again a man met the team outside the prison and said that 15 years earlier he had gone back to his cell and 'given his life to Jesus'. He and his wife are now active in the Lord's work. A lady 'phoned to say that during the previous week her husband had conducted the funeral of a man who had been in their assembly for a number of years, but she wanted it to be known that it was in the Bible Class at the prison that the first seeds of the gospel had been sown. These instances and the reports of such a work of evangelism as this, surely give a reminder that the Lord's word does not return to Him void.
Two brethren from the Galston assembly held three weeks' meetings in Ebenezer Hall, Patna. They worked hard with their friends and there was reasonable support. A small number of mature people showed an interest in the message. The Glenburn assembly in Prestwick had the joy of seeing two married women, a mother and daughter, profess conversion. This preceded two weeks' of children's meetings conducted by Robert Revie who had the joy of seeing two young folk from good backgrounds accept the Saviour. Last year a woman in middle life, from Forth, Lanark, was saved and baptized. Later on her daughter-in-law followed her example. A few weeks ago the son was saved and is about to be baptized. Other members of the family attend the gospel meetings. Jack Hay had three weeks' gospel meetings in Shotts, Lanarks. Good numbers of unsaved attended, including some brought along from Whitburn by one of the brethren.
Not many days have passed without the little town of Lockerbie being mentioned in the media over the past few months. One sister in the small assembly had her home so badly damaged that she had to be temporarily re-housed. Her house was in the same street as Ebenezer Hall. Various assemblies have communicated with the Lockerbie brethren in the weeks that followed and they have distributed some £6000 to over 70 people in the town in the wake of the disaster. Every recipient was presented with either a Bible or New Testament. The little hall was made available to the community and at an early stage people with need took refuge in it during the afternoon and were served with coffee. Out of this a time of singing developed and the Hall was placed firmly on the map. These coffee fellowships continue on Thursday afternoons. Needless to say, the whole community has been drawn closer together by this tragedy.
North West England
News from Gerald Bourne, Manchester. The Swinton assembly in Manchester celebrated their 50 years of testimony in April with a well attended conference. Many who had links with the assembly in past years travelled long distances to join in the thanksgiving. W. Craig, Paisley and D. West, Leicester, gave profitable and challenging ministry. Believers at Swinton were uplifted and stimulated a result of the meetings. The Greater Manchester Missionary Conference, held in Cheetham Gospel Hall proved to be a profitable occasion. D. Towse, Zambia, and C. Hope, St. Kitts, gave up-lo-date accounts of the Lord's work in these parts. Howard Barnes, Bromborough, followed the reports with suitable ministry.
The series of ministry meetings held in Manchester City, which were held on Saturday evenings in various halls provided sound Bible teaching for Christians during the winter months. It has been good to feel the concern of brethren responsible in the different assemblies to make this provision to meet spiritual needs today. There has been encouragement in gospel testimony in some assemblies with one or two at meetings trusting the Saviour. Prayer preparation is well under way for tent work at Gorton and Golbourne during the summer months. The Manchester village work will, d.v., be touching some of the inner city areas this year. Many needs to be met-much burden for prayer.
North East England
Items of news from Derek Taylor concerning the Lord's work in the area. During the winter months, Young People's Fellowship meetings were held each month in Tyneside and much blessing was seen. These were varied in their nature. In November '88, two young lads were counselled by the speaker and assured of their salvation. At special films shown on prophecy, 'A Thief in the Night' and 'A Distant Thunder' in January, many were challenged. In February a challenging message on baptism was given and the Holy Spirit endorsed the word and eight young people returned to their local churches and requested baptism. Numbers at the meetings were good throughout.
A joyous time was experienced at Wallsend when three children from one family and a lady who had been saved for 40 years, confessed the Lord in baptism. The hall was filled to capacity for the occasion and the Lord's presence was fell. The lady and the oldest child have requested fellowship. At Pallion, Sunderland, the assembly had the joy of baptizing one of their young people, a teenage lad who had grown up in the Sunday School. His family have no connection with the assembly. A week-end for young believers was held at Bassenfell Manor Christian Centre, near Keswick. The burden of the week-end was for young Christians with an interest in witnessing. John Skingley of Shrewsbury was the speaker and about 40 attended, mainly from the North East. An encouraging and profitable time was enjoyed by all.
Up to date news from Ivor Powell of the work of the Lord at the Grange Estate, Daventry. The monthly family services continue, with numbers at about 75 to 80. Nearly half of this number are unsaved or uncommitted folk and there is ample scope for evangelism. Three villages have been visited with tracts in recent months, Kilsby, Ashby St. Ledgers and Crick. The last is a large village and making contact will take two to three weeks to finish. There are scores of villages in the county and it is purposed to continue getting good gospel tracts into these needy places and making contact where and when possible. With the summer months corning it will be possible to hold open-air meetings, especially on Saturday afternoons. Our brother comments on a visit made eastwards, to Broomfield Chapel, Chelmsford. The way in which the believers listened and yielded to the ministry of God's word was heartening. God, by His Spirit, moved powerfully in the meetings on the Monday evening. 'Revival always begins with God's people', he says, 'the lost, those without Christ, need regeneration'.
The believers at Crowle, Worcs., had a four weeks gospel campaign with Joe Baxter, Livingston. Good numbers gathered and the support of local assemblies in the area was appreciated. There were very few who came in from the village but door to door visitation proved rewarding and a good number of contacts were made which will be followed up. There was good listening in the open air and help was given by David Raggett, Ludlow and Stephen Pugh, Shrewsbury. Prayer is needed for a local farmer who came in, and it was felt that he was very moved under the powerful message given. Believers have been very uplifted and encouraged.
A week's evangelistic outreach was held with Frank Lonney, Cardiff, at Finstall, Worcs. The numbers attending were small but visitation of the area gave good contacts. The gospel was preached in power and the believers were encouraged.
Children's meetings held with S. Mountstevens at Ship Lane Gospel Hall, Kly, brought good response and numbers increased almost daily. Many were brought in from Southey village and there were indications as visiting of the homes carried on, that the Lord would have the tent pitched there in the summer, o.v. A site would be available on the premises of a believer. Good contacts were made at Ely and Southery, and prayer is that eventually souls will be saved as contacts made are followed up.
News of activities from Stephen Gillham, West Moors. It was an encouragement to have about 100 children attend the Annual Camp Reunion and to know that a young lady trusted Christ afterwards. The Postal Sunday School Prizegiving was well attended with about 70 present and it was encouraging to meet children who were regularly doing Bible Study lessons. Two young men have been baptized who were at Senior Camp last year and both expressed thanks for help received at Camp. Two others who were also at the same Camp are to be baptised. The Summer House Party weekend, the first for some years, saw 28 at Swanage with a group of 13-15 year-olds. It proved to be a wonderful time with them. Nearly 50 schools were visited last term and at Easter especially, there was a very warm reception and a wonderful opportunity to present to children the clear meaning of Easter. The Easter Holiday Bible Clubs went extremely well, and over 80 children came one morning to Turbary Chapel, Tricketts Cross Holiday Bible Club. This was a very encouraging time for the work there. At Charminster Chapel, Bournemouth, numbers were much smaller but a very happy week was experienced and a most encouraging family service concluded their Holiday Bible Club.
From the Cardiff area Don Roberts sends some interesting items of news. There was concern to promote the Cardiff based Bible Exhibition, and a special Saturday evening meeting was held in the area with the aim of recruiting more help for its forthcoming installation in the new Cardiff Central Library for three weeks in June. This demands much prayer and preparation. At Cadoxton, Barry, there was encouragement when two sisters were baptized. The small assembly at Abertridwr was much encouraged when three sisters were baptised and received into fellowship. At Tavistock Street, Cardiff the idea was conceived to hold an early Easter service during mid-week, so as to reach people before they went on holiday. About 30 attended, about half of these were unsaved.
There were a number of conferences in the Cardiff district during the Easter period. At Ebenezer, Ivor Harris ministered and at Glanyllyn, Jim Burnett and David Richards gave help. At the Heath, Jim Burnett and David West ministered and at Caerphilly, Henry Bell and Glyn Davies ministered the word. At Blackwood, John Riddle and Reg Carnal shared the conference and at Bridgend, George Waugh and Malcolm Horlock ministered. There was good attendance throughout and it is cause tor much thankfulness to the Lord, that the word was so faithfully ministered.
The Annual Cardiff Ministry Conference was held at Ebenezer. The hall was full and the balcony had to be opened. Ministry was shared by Derek Bingham and John Spiers-the subject being Peter's Epistles. There were a good number of young people present.
A Holiday Bible Club was held each morning of Easter week at Ebenezer. Children and parents came and the numbers averaged about 40. The small assembly at Thornhill Gospel Hall, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Although in a lonely place, on the top of a hill, it was from this place that the work at Caerphilly began. The gospel campaign at Nantgarw was conducted by Norman Mellish and David Richards and as far as is known one young man was saved. At a missionary weekend in Newport, reports were given by missionaries from Zambia, St. Kitts and Italy, and the ministry from D. J. Williams, Tonypandy. The Cardiff Christian Rallies continue to go well with numbers around 90 each time, mostly young people. Subjects considered, included courtship, marriage and the Christian home.
From W. Beale comes news of conferences over Easter in West Wales. At Llanclh, ministry was given by Dr. Howard Barnes and D. J. Williams, and at Port Talbot by J. Burnett and G. Waugh. The ministry at Treboath was shared by J. Steel and G. Probert. Harold Tickner conducted a series of meetings at Armine Road, Gospel Hall, Fforestfach on the second coming of the Lord, and much interest was aroused. At Castleton Chapel, Mumbles, the ministry was shared by E. Donald and A. Shearman and good numbers attended. The South Wales Mobile Unit joined with workers at Maesteg and enjoyed open-air witness and tract distribution.
Devon and Cornwall
Various items are to hand from John Powell in Plymouth. At Wolseley Gospel Hall, Plymouth, a get-together for Postal Sunday School teachers was arranged and about 25 gathered, including prayer partners and representatives from Teignmouth, Truro and Saltash. The meeting was chaired by Peter Smith and the secretaries from Plymouth and Cornwall groups gave accounts of the progress of the work in their areas. Interspersed with times of prayer and general discussion, the meetings proved to be well worthwhile and a 'faith' tea rounded off the afternoon.
At West Hill Gospel Hall, Plymouth, Maurice Newman of Paignton gave gospel messages on the four Sunday evenings leading up to Easter weekend. Many houses in the area were visited, but sadly there was no response to the invitations given. However there were always Sunday School children attending each meeting and there was prayer that their hearts were receptive to the faithful preaching of the gospel.
At Saltash Gospel Hall, Cornwall, S. Mountstevens held children's and adult meetings for ten days. Saltash was well canvassed with invitations and the children's meetings were fairly well attended, but in the main the adults were missing.