As this new year of 2016 begins,
we rejoice with you in all the good gifts God has lavished on us individually and as a church family throughout the last year of 2015, and are looking forward with expectation to the blessings awaiting us all, in what promises to be a landmark year for the Birmingham church. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith….” (2 Thess 1: 3-4 NIV) So true!
“Proclaim among the nations what he has done…” (Ps 9:11b) Update from the churches around the North
It has been a great year in Birmingham and around the UK. For the last several years, Wil and Ronnaug Smith have heroically volunteered as lay leaders for the stable group of about 20 disciples in Glasgow. The church has prayed fervently and campaigned aggressively for full-time staff, and were rewarded with the arrival in July 2015 of Paolo and Cara Ugolini, who are settling in really well with their three children and are more than fulfilling all our great expectations as an addition to the UK staff.
In December, God blessed the Glasgow church with the first woman to be baptised there in several years, a student from India called Jessie, who found the Glasgow church through their website. Amazingly, on the day that Jessie was to do her last Bible study before her baptism, one of the women’s ministers from our fellowship of churches in India, Caroline George, happened to be in Glasgow! Caroline and her daughter had planned to visit Paris together, but due to the terrorist activity in Paris at the time, they were not allowed to enter France on the type of visa that they had. Caroline rang up Cara in Glasgow and asked if they could come and visit, and joined in on Jessy’s Bible study. Amazingly, in a nation of 1 billion people, it turns out that Jessie and Caroline come from the same village in India! It turns out also that Caroline’s son, Joshua, and Jessie, went to the same high school…and have 20 Facebook friends in common! Jessie’s parents are medical missionaries in their village in India but not attending any church at the moment. Caroline was able to arrange for disciples from the nearest church of Christ (about 2 hours away) to plan a visit to their home and hospital.
Ben and Nicola Brady in Edinburgh have made the decision to step down from the full-time ministry in 2016 due to Ben’s continuing health challenges from his congenital brain tumour. The Bradys never fail to inspire us with their faith and zest for life. They baptised their daughter, Ella, into Christ in 2015, and Ben has begun the process of reinventing himself to become a schema therapist (the same branch of psychology that some of us have appreciated in books like “I Choose Us” and “Good Enough Parenting.”, by John and Karen Louis). We have been assisting the church there in their interviewing process for the Bradys’ successors and are confident that God will bless the Edinburgh church this year with a wonderful, qualified couple to continue the work in that great city.
There have been some exciting developments in the last few weeks in the church in Manchester: Bruce and Maggie Miller, who have been the full-time ministers there for the last few years, after much prayerful consideration and discussions with many advisors, have decided to step out of the ministry and move to the Four Rivers region of the London church. We are so proud of the Millers, for their bold step of faith at the age of 50 to give up Bruce’s job of 24 years and focus full-time on serving the church, and for giving themselves heart and soul in every way. We applaud their decision to move to London at this time. While it is undeniably a loss to Manchester, there is no shortage of mature couples in Manchester who have great resources of life experience. It’s wonderful to see these people coming together to serve God and one another and we have no doubt that the future is very bright for sister church in that great city. The new lay leadership team, nominated by the church membership, consists of Archie and Geraldine Kendall, Brian and Gillian Miller, Pete and Sue Anti, and KB and Mumba Kafula. We have been present for two of their initial meetings, and been very encouraged to see the new team coming together and engaging to meet the challenges of shepherding a great church in such a magnificent city. Please be praying for them as they pray and plan to guide the church there into this new chapter in Manchester’s journey.
2015 in Birmingham
We had lots of reasons to celebrate this year, as Eliot (shown with his family in the very first photo in this article), Heena (at right, with her delighted friend, Ella Agerbak, from the London church, looking on), Frances (not shown), Kurtis and Renee (below) were baptised into Christ, and our sister Joy was welcomed back and restored to the fellowship. We rejoiced at the purity and devotion of our brothers and sisters whose first kisses we witnessed as they entered into marriage before God and the church: Senyo and Kim Aidam, Gareth and Rebecca Macaleese, and Rory and Ruthie Dowd. We had an incredible women’s day, Father-Daughter Dance, Mother-Daughter Day Out, Gospel Jam, Gospel Showcase, and Marrieds Dinner-Dance; we had a blast bowling together, playing Nertz together, cleaning up Birmingham City Hospital together, and encouraging residents at several care homes around the city throughout the year. We consistently gave generously to Birmingham Food Banks all year. We learned about spiritual mindfulness from David Bruce and were inspired by guest speakers like Roger Frimpong. Franklin Walters and Scott Green. We welcomed a number of young professionals who moved to Birmingham and, for the first time in over a decade, the church has small groups in every age range, from preteens all the way up to our most mature members. We prayed all night together twice last year, and prayed in the New Year together at the New Year’s retreat at Smallwood Manor. We were blessed to have Stephen Whetzel (from the student ministry in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA) as a volunteer intern for a few weeks in the summer and welcomed back for a weekend most of our Uni alumni, who became Christians during their University years here in Birmingham. Our preteens and teens enjoyed life-changing times at the UK summer camps like never before. We celebrated one another’s birthdays and many different awards (even a PhD!) together, cried at family funerals together. Much to remember, much for which to thank God.
May God lead us confidently forward into this new year, strong in faith, prayer and ever-growing in our love for Him and one another.
Yours wholeheartedly in Christ,
Andy and Tammy Fleming