Gospel Work And Other Activities
Wesley and Alison Downs
BEGINNINGS IN WYTHENSHAWE
Wythenshawe was a model Manchester overspill council estate that, at one time, was Europe’s largest, until housing associations moved in. The population is 70,574 and it is situated just south of the city of Manchester. Unfortunately the area is no longer the model it was planned to be, and with a lot of social deprivation it has become a hard inner city area marked by drugs and violent crime. Benchill (the area where the Gospel Hall is located) was described as one of the most deprived parts of England in a recent survey, as measured by unemployment and social deprivation.
FRIDAY NIGHT YOUTH OUTREACH This work was started a number of years ago and by the grace of God has reached a good number of young people with the gospel. The format of the meeting is a 7.30 p.m. start with a fifteen- to twentyminute gospel message and then on to a local sports centre for a game of football. We have had as many as forty-plus young people and not so young attend, and attention and behaviour are generally very good. We hand out Bibles at the beginning of the meeting and encourage people to follow the reading. We have felt the help of the Lord during these meetings on many occasions and have been able to build up a good number of contacts over the years, some of whom have attended the gospel meeting. This work really opened our eyes to the many problems that these young people have, including drugs, drink, unemployment, criminal records and immoral living. This outreach has formed the springboard into the work that the Lord has laid on our hearts for this area, working with some of the young people who have shown interest or been saved.
NURTURE OF NEW BELIEVERS There are many challenges for these young people when they first trust the Saviour. The devil does not give them an easy time as they seek to break with their old ways of life and follow the Lord. For those who have become addicted to drugs it is a major challenge to break this habit and so we seek to help where we can in this respect. We see this work very much as the removal of the grave-clothes so that they can be set free to follow Christ. We have come across many problems which need to be addressed from a biblical point of view. Wrong relationships, driving illegally, benefit fraud, smoking and unemployment to mention a few. Some of the young people who have trusted the Saviour have criminal records, some struggle with reading and writing and so getting into work has proved difficult. Employment that has been gained has been shortlived due to a lack of discipline in lifestyle. One of the things that we rejoice over is that the Lord is able to work in the lives of these new believers by the Holy Spirit to bring about the changes that come with following the Saviour. I have a number of individual Bible studies taking place each week where we address first steps in the Christian life. At the same time we believe that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to apply the challenge of these studies to the individuals involved.
COMPUTER COURSE Some may find this a strange activity to be running in connection with that Lord’s work but the preceding information should be kept in mind when thinking about this work. We seek to give practical help to young people to provide them with new skills that will help them get into employment, especially for those who are new believers. That the ‘devil finds work for idle hands’ is very true and therefore correct occupation for the unemployed is important. During the course we always have a Bible time, which provides spiritual food for new believers and the challenge of the gospel for the unsaved. We have been very encouraged by the response to this work, especially from new believers who are out of work and on benefit. Some have discussed ways of using their new skills to start a career. Some may say that colleges provide this type of training, but we have found that the extra contact that this course has provided has opened up opportunities for spiritual feeding and gospel outreach which otherwise would have been lost. We thank the Lord that we have seen those who have attended the course coming to the gospel meetings and one couple professing faith in Christ.
DROP-IN CENTRE This is new work that we have started, initially running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Monday and a Wednesday. We use a room at the back of the Hall which has a separate entrance. We serve tea, coffee and refreshments, and provide an opportunity for people to come for a chat but also provide spiritual and practical help as required. The hall is well positioned, being on the route to the local shopping centre and has many passers-by. We see this work as bridge building with our neighbours, with the aim of sharing the gospel and encouraging attendance to the gospel meeting on a Sunday. Our vision would be for the growth of this work so that we would be available five days a week and that it would become a place that people would be free to turn to for love, care and the only solution to their problems, our precious Lord. The centre will also provide an important refuge for new believers to come, to get away from the often hostile and sinful environment of their homes.
MUMS AND TODDLERS This work has now been run for a number of years by some of the sisters and mostly has provided help and encouragement to new believers. Whilst there are only a few who attend, the number is growing slowly, and recently we have had unsaved mums coming along, one of whom has also come to the gospel meeting. I am now able to attend each week to help with the lifts and also to be available in the background for security reasons. We hope to advertise this work to encourage more of our neighbours to attend.
Mitchell and Ruth Cargill have for many years been used by God in many of the former communist bloc countries and beyond, and now report on the work of God in some of these countries.
The visit to Yugoslavia was one of great encouragement both to us and to the saints we fellowshipped with. Having been under great pressure from both without and within they have seen the hand of the Lord adding to the assemblies. During the week in the country we visited all but one of the assemblies and found a good interest in the truth and a desire to preach the gospel to those outside of Christ.
Another short visit to Hungary brought us to the conclusion of our discussions regarding the printing of And God Said in the Hungarian language with publication expected soon. Copies will be sent to Romania, where there are a large number of Hungarian-speaking people, and also to Slovakia, and Northern Serbia where there are minorities.
On our way to Moldova, we visited two assemblies in Romania where, in one, we found the enemy to be very active, but there were some able to stand for truth. We were involved in the initial establishing of this small company, and helped very considerably in the building of the Hall so that the testimony could be publicly expressed, and we now pray for the fifteen believers we found struggling to maintain the position. After some discussions, a mature family from a larger assembly who felt the call of the Lord have offered to go there and seek to build up these saints, and take the gospel out to the people on the streets of this small town. A number of obstacles have to be removed before they can begin the work there this spring.
Further discussions took place to establish the printing and publications work. An ‘Association’ has now been formed – Omniascriptum – which will act as an umbrella for all the publishing work. The magazine Christian Echo continues to be well received, and circulation increases. The number of pages has been increased giving more space to teaching articles. Presently we are waiting for the reprints of New Testament Church Principles and also And God Said. The translation of Day by Day in the Old Testament is in progress, and publication is expected during the summer. Directory of the New Testament Churches is being translated for serialisation in the magazine.
Conditions generally in the small republic of Moldova continue to be very depressed, economically, making it perhaps the poorest country in Eastern Europe today. Many people do have a large garden or access to a field where they can provide most of the food for their families but are without money to buy the clothing necessary for their families. Some brothers go to Moscow to find some kind of work that will give them just enough money to buy clothing for their families. In Moscow they live in very poor ‘hostel type’ accommodation and can, after four months, bring back home just about 400 dollars. That is about £2 sterling for every day they have worked – 7 days a week. Some of these poor unfortunate people are robbed on the train as they travel back home, by the ‘mafia types’ and gangsters, who prey on such poor individuals.
We can rejoice at the way the Lord has blessed His work in Moldova. Since the first assembly was established in 1996 the work has grown, and there are now ten assemblies functioning. In several of these assemblies believers come from other nearby villages and three are now actively seeking the opportunity to establish a testimony in their own villages. We provided the funds necessary to buy a house in one such village, bringing the number of villages where we have helped to a total of eight. Pray for our Romanian brethren involved in this work, and especially for those whose commitment and dedication to this service for the Lord has been quite exceptional.
We were especially encouraged in the village where we were present at the opening of the new hall (previously a Fire Station!). The opening was marked by a baptism, when four sisters and three brothers, mostly younger people, gave witness and testimony to their faith in Christ, bringing the number in fellowship to sixteen. The hall was full with more than forty unbelievers and many children present who saw the good witness and the gospel faithfully preached.
We were able to supply all the literature both in Russian (which is understood by many in Moldova) and also in Romanian, which is the national language, to all the assemblies. Our magazine Christian Echo is greatly appreciated and is being spread amongst other believers. This literature is given without charge to the assemblies in Moldova because many are without resources and the few who do earn have a very low level of income.
We flew on to Lensk, to be warmly received by the believers there. Some women had been saved, baptized and added to the company, and were happy in the Lord, bringing the total numbers to the mid-thirties, plus a few unbelievers attending the meetings. A profitable time was spent looking at the teaching of 1st Thessalonians. The young men continue to grow spiritually but need our prayers as there are problems to be resolved with some sisters, saved from homes and lives that are under the domination of the evil one. Life in Siberia is lived in conditions not subject to the influence of Christianity and when souls are saved there are many problems to face and resolve. Pray for those who take a lead in the preaching and teaching of this little flock in Lensk.
Flight rescheduling gave us an extra two days in Kyzil-Tuva that were profitably used. The company in Kyzil continues to grow numerically, especially with the Tuvan people who see the change in the lives of those families and friends who have repented and seek to discover the ‘secret’ for themselves. Some of the young people recently saved are burning with the desire to take the gospel to their own people. Many of the Tuvans coming to Christ are unable to fully understand Russian, so the young Tuvan believers in their late teens and early twenties are seeking to help these new converts, by preaching to them in the Tuvan language on one evening each week. Others are going out to villages, tracting and preaching the gospel. One sister brought her brother, who was a Tuvan roaming shepherd, to hear the gospel and he was saved. His family forced him out of his community and he had to come to the city to live with his sister, but as he matures spiritually he wants to go back to his community to spread the good news of the gospel.
Anyone wishing further information on this work can make contact by email at email@example.com or telephone 01909- 478095.
David Weir was commended by the assembly in Whitbury to the work of the Lord in Romania. He hopes in the will of the Lord to return to the UK in May and stay through to August, with his wife Julia and their children. He sends this report on the work in Romania.
Despite various satanic attempts to sew discord in Brasov, the assembly has been united and strengthened in recent times. We do need your prayers for the continued preservation of the assembly. It was disappointing to have a young couple leave the assembly towards the end of last year, due to no longer having an interest in spiritual things. In consecutive teaching I continue in the epistle of James. Please pray that the Lord will use the teaching of His word to the true upbringing of the saints individually, and to the development of the assembly corporately.
In September 5000 Seed Sowers packs were distributed in an area of the city, with the help of some of the saints from the Ploiesti assembly. Around a dozen reply cards were received and followed up, but so far none of the people contacted has come to any meetings. Please pray for a woman who wrote and asked for the address of the assembly meeting place after having received the Ultimate Questions booklet and a gospel calendar for 2003. A more recent contact is a young man who was recently released from prison and is showing an interest in spiritual things. He was also contacted through a Seed Sowers pack and we would ask you to pray for him. It has been encouraging to see the exercise of Florin, a local brother, in following the various contacts that are made.
The assembly in Ploiesti is going on well, and continues to be active in the gospel. The wife of a brother in the assembly has just been saved and baptized. The lady who professed salvation last summer is going on well and has been inquiring about baptism. She attends the gatherings of the little assembly in Plopeni near Ploiesti. Also in Plopeni a nineteen-year-old girl has been saved, baptized and added to the assembly. The change in her life has been marked and she has showed desires to really honour the Lord in her life.
Please continue to pray for brother Daniel Enea from Ploiesti. Daniel and I labour together often as we travel to various places that will be mentioned in this report. The Lord has united us in one mind, heart and sprit in service and we have enjoyed precious times of fellowship as well as being conscious of the Lord’s enabling us as we preach His word. However, we have also been the subject of personal attacks on several occasions. This makes us conscious not only of the devil’s opposition to our partnership in service, but also of our total dependence on the Lord for grace to sustain. It truly is a spiritual battle, but the victory is the Lord’s. His victory becomes our reality in practical experience as we abide in Him in an attitude of dependence upon Him. His strength is truly perfected in our weakness. Please do pray for us.
The most encouraging feature of brother Daniel’s and my visits to the saints in this area has been the continuing visits to the nearby gypsy village of Rotunda. There are a small number of believers here who are keen to understand more Scriptures. Two have recently been baptized and others are showing an interest in taking the same step. There are no assemblies established, but the saints do gather willingly when there are visiting brothers. Two local brothers go every Saturday and often spend a lot of time seeking to answer the many questions asked from the Scriptures. Please pray for the developing and establishing of the work here and also in other localities in the area we have been visiting for several years, such as Curtea de Arges, Corbeni, Pitesti and Râmnicu Valceâ.
Brother Daniel and I had spent a special week of teaching and gospel meetings in Cahul in the Republic of Moldova at the end of October. The subject taken up in teaching was ‘The Will of God’. In the gospel, unsaved were present every evening except one. We have visited since and it is good to see that there are still many open doors for the gospel in Cahul. The little company in Rosu has been struggling in recent times and we really feel they will need help in order to be strengthened in continuing testimony in the village. The work in these two localities needs your prayers as do Gabi and Misa, who are fully involved in the work and upon whose shoulders falls the main burden.
Creation Outreach Thame is a town of 10,000 souls and lies about twenty miles from Bicester and Wallingford in England. There is no assembly testimony there but Bicester and Wallingford assemblies united to rent the Thame Town Hall and arranged creation/evolution meetings with Ian Campbell as the invited speaker. Some newspapers ran articles, leaflets were distributed and a large banner was draped across the front of the very prominent Town Hall building.
Around about eighty people attended nightly filling the Town Hall and Ian’s PowerPoint presentation on creation/ evolution was very effective. Many good contacts were made including one Muslim family who attended every night. A couple from Northern Ireland who were once in the assemblies also attended and others from the towns ‘churches’ came, as well as some students and a couple of ‘new agers’. On each of the three nights some twenty to thirty unsaved adults came from the town and heard a clear message presented by Ian.
Charlton Road, Birmingham is now part way through a ‘Christianity Explored’ course, run by one of the members of the assembly. This has provided an opportunity to promote discussion with people, some of whom attend other services in the hall. The attendance at these discussions has been most encouraging. Stephen and Jean Gillham have just completed a week of children’s meetings. Stephen was also able to go into schools each day taking assemblies and lessons resulting in a large number of children learning the gospel.
WALES The small assembly at Tycroes was extremely encouraged after commencing a ‘Friends and Neighbours Hour’ on a Tuesday afternoon. The monthly event, which launched in March, was really encouraging as fifteen gathered to hear a ten-minute gospel message, a short time of singing and a time to chat over a cup of tea. All who attended seemed to enjoy it, with many promising to attend next month.
The small assembly of Maesybont was most encouraged upon the conversion of a man from the area, previously linked to Jehovah Witnesses.
The Pre-paid Card ministry commenced about six years ago, and goes from strength to strength with over 700 replies requesting Bibles, New Testaments, Gospel literature and Emmaus Courses. Two more assemblies have joined the scheme in Deri and Tredegar and this effort led to a lady trusting the Lord.
Mr. Peter Phillips conducted gospel meetings in Trimsaran. It was a powerful time of gospel preaching with a real sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit each evening. The meetings were well attended with a number of unsaved attending each evening. There had been much prayer for these meetings, not only in the local assembly but also by other assembles in England and N. Ireland.
On the very first evening a young nineteen-year-old, the daughter of the local GP made a public confessions of her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and midway through the meeting a lady took Christ as her personal Saviour. Then, on the very last evening of the campaign, an elderly couple took Christ as their Saviour. During the campaign two young lads who had been saved before expressed their desire to be baptized, as well as the young lady mentioned before. It was a joy to see them baptized when a large number attended to witness their obedience to the Lord, as well as member of their families, some of whom were unsaved.
ENGLAND Newsham Park Chapel, Liverpool, conducted a Holiday Club during the schools’ half-term break. John Skingley lead the outreach and thirty to forty children came each morning. Some of the mothers of the children attended the outreach and helped the children to learn the memory verse each day. Everyone enjoyed the week and a Family Service was held on the Sunday to give out prizes that the children had gained during the week.
A mid-week children’s meeting has commenced and there has been an increase in Sunday School numbers. In addition to the children’s work there was door-to-door visitation on two afternoons each month. Each house was visited with Christian literature and invitations were given to the services held at Newsham.
John Skingley reports that at the end of January regular visits were made around the junior schools in Shrewsbury. As always they were very well received. Three new head teachers have been appointed since we were last in the schools and are glad to report that they are as keen for us to continue with our visits as their predecessors were.
The new schools at Bloxwich are proving to give excellent opportunities and I have already had the responsibility of taking Ofsted inspection assemblies in two of them, as well as taking Ofsted assembly in Bromborough at the start of term. The school visits in Warrington and Southport continue to go well. Again there have been new head teachers at two of the regular schools, and they are only too happy for us to continue our visits.
We have also had some well-attended ministry meetings in Huyton, Coventry, Skelmanthorpe and locally, and the Leicester camp reunion was very well attended. York Street Gospel Hall was full to capacity with youngsters from last summer’s camps and it was good to see so many of them again. We value your continued prayers as we prepare for this summer’s camp with them at the end of July.
An encouraging report was received from Kenneth Jones, Minehead.
For the past year I have been occupied with Bible course work in Brazil. Last June my 27th Bible course was printed in Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro. The next course is being printed this month. The courses are being used in Sunday Schools and Bible classes as well as correspondence courses. One important aspect of the work is the distribution of courses among prisoners in Brazil. For the year ending last June 37% of courses distributed from Carangola were sent to prisoners in prisons all over Brazil. There is quite a big correspondence between prisoners and helpers at the office of the Bible School in Carangola, some telling of conversion and appreciation of the teaching. The Bible School also prints its courses for other schools. A Bible School in Rio de Janeiro uses our courses and has 16,000 students, of whom 3,200 are doing the courses at the present time. Of these 1,400 are prisoners and some have shown that they are really converted.
Our Literature Fund is helping to finance the printing of our courses in Romania. They have printed and widely distributed twenty of our courses and are now printing four more, all in the Romanian language. In Romania the distribution of our correspondence courses started in August 1998 and now more than 7,000 are doing the courses and more and more assemblies are using them for consecutive Bible studies. Normally they print 25,000 Carangola courses a year. Over a hundred people in the Ukraine are doing the courses as well as many in Soviet Moldavia, where they speak Russian and Romanian. An internet site has been set up to advertise the courses and has reached people in Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and Moscow. Further information can be obtained by calling 01643 703319.