Africa UnderYour Skin!

It has been said that a visit to Africa is ‘dangerous’ because Africa gets ‘under your skin’, and once you have been there you can never forget the people and the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, and you always have a hankering to return. That’s certainly been true for us. And this year we have been particularly reminded over and over again of the five years when we lived and worked there, and about the many visits we have made since.

Early in the year we had a phone call from one of my fellow elders at Nairobi Baptist Church, Mutua Mahaini to say he was coming to Glasgow with his wife. We had not met for 25 years, so what a great evening we had together!

More recently a friend  sent us a copy of an old prayer card we had issued when we worked as Tearfund’s East Africa Manager(s) out of Nairobi. A neighbour had brought it to her asking ‘do you know this couple’?  Well that brought many memories flooding back!

This summer in Church we enjoyed the company of our young friend Richard from Moshi in Tanzania. He lives in view of the famous Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. He had been studying and training at Tilsley College in Motherwell, but is now back home in Moshi, helping Lucy-Luu in the management of the children’s centre. This is where my son Allan and his wife Jacqui lived and worked for many years. We sponsor a young teenager there and it was good to read her school report telling how well she is doing in her new school. It’s a real blessing to be able to help in this small way. If you would like to sponsor a child at the centre let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction, it’s hugely worthwhile.  Our grandson Jonathan and his wife and family were working at the centre for the month of July, (Johnny’s a joiner and Lynsey his wife a teacher) and they did a power of work and brought back news of many folks we have known over the years.

We’ve also heard recently from friends and ex Tearfund colleagues in Kenya and Sudan telling us of their continued work in a variety of fields. One of them was a woman captured by rebels in Sudan back in the eighties, and marched for days and miles through the bush, before being released across the Ugandan border. We well remember welcoming her to the Tearfund guesthouse in Nairobi, to live with us before returning home, and eventually back to Sudan with her husband. Africa under your skin, indeed!

One great item of news from Africa this week is regarding the nomadic Rendille tribe who live with their camels, and other livestock in Kenya’s northern desert. At that time they were completely illiterate. Just last weekend they celebrated receiving the New Testament in their own language, thanks to the sacrificial work of a few dedicated Christians and their support team. I remember being at a men’s literacy class where the men all had feathers in their hair and were being taught in the use of a pencil. Rendille now have their own schools and some have already graduated from University whilst others are studying there. What an amazing transformation! As Tearfund’s representative in East Africa I worked with this people group, and was there just after Tearfund re stocked their camels following one of their frequent droughts. Tearfund also drilled wells, provided water tanks and provided emergency food on more than one occasion.

Visiting the Rendille was always an adventure, as getting there was a two / three days drive from Nairobi, part of which was through bandit country. The alternative was to fly with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) in one of their small Cessna aircraft, and that was always what we did. Flying north from Nairobi, it was interesting to watch the change in landscape – from maize growing to lush fruit farms, and then skipping around the slopes of snow capped Mount Kenya onto the brown plains as you approached the Matthew Range of mountains and then over the mountains to the desert. Now you can see here and there the Rendille settlements scattered across the landscape, before dropping down to a dusty and bumpy airstrip at Korr, but not before making a low pass  over the airstrip to chase animals off before landing.

What would the Mission Community and Relief and Development workers do without MAF? I do not know! They are a literal lifeline to so many of those working in the world’s remotest and dangerous places. Working with hundreds of different NGO’s and flying those in need from all religions and none.

And that brings me to the last bit of news for now – MAF is coming to our church on Saturday 1 September! (see advert above) And yes! They are bringing a full size Cessna and their new flight simulator so you can try landing on a jungle airstrip or sit in the cockpit, and you can watch some of their amazing flying videos, whilst enjoying a cup of tea /coffee in the café. You are most welcome, admission is free, so come and support this amazing Christian Airline, I am sure you will be amazed and blessed.

You may even get Africa under your skin!

 

Three good news items from Scotland, you probably didn’t pick-up in your TV News Bulletins!

  1. Last week the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in partnership with about 200 churches in Scotland conducted an evangelistic campaign at Falkirk Stadium. The preacher was Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson.  BGEA reported that 9533 people attended and 700 people responded to the invitation to make a commitment of their life to Jesus Christ. The‘multi-day’ event, which featured a KidzFest, saw around 200 children make a similar response.

Lee Searle, director of ministry for the BGEA in the United Kingdom, told Premier Radio that the event shows that there is “still a passion for mass evangelism in the U.K.”.

As one who sang in the 1955 Billy Graham choir at the Kelvin Hall, (and who took part in the recent BBC documentary on Billy Graham, ‘Six Weeks to Save the World’) I’m still amazed at the number of people I meet who gave their life to Jesus Christ on that occasion, or at Billy Graham’s later crusade in 1991, or who know someone who did.

Within the last couple of weeks I recorded the story of one man’s life that was changed forever by attending the 1991 Billy Graham Celtic Park event. You can watch his short story here. https://youtu.be/0tQLqc_6aiM

2. On Sunday 24 June I attended the ‘Praise Gathering’event in Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall – it was a complete sell out with 3000+ attending. The Choir was made up of Christians from about 170 different churches, and the singing and music were uplifting and inspirational. A junior choir was introduced to the programme for the first time, and it was amazing to hear the children singing their hearts out as they swayed to the music and joined in praise to God.

3. At a different long term level, but also very exciting, was the good news at our Church service on Sunday morning that the FIEC* in partnership with local Christians, had, or were about to, establish four new churches in Scotland! So whilst some of what was once the ’main stream’ churches are still experiencing decline, it’s been encouraging this past week to hear that God is still at work building His Kingdom here in Scotland.

If none of this excites you, it may be that you have not yet come to know personally the risen Lord Jesus Christ. But it is never too late – Jesus invites you to come to Him, so that your sin and guilt can be dealt with, forgiven and forgotten, on the basis of His death on your behalf. Today you can receive a new life and assurance of eternal life, and start to know life in all its fullness. Want to know more? Write for a free booklet, or to be put in touch with a local church. – matthewmuriel@aol.com

 

 

*Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches

https://www.christianpost.com/news/hundreds-come-to-christ-at-scotland-crusade-hosted-by-billy-grahams-grandson-225237/

The Joys of a Garden

The weather here in Glasgow from  early May to early June was exceptionally sunny and even warm at times! We sat outside many mornings having our breakfast under our Gazebo, praising the Lord and wondered how long this would last. The flowers and plants flourished and our hanging baskets were looking as good as I had ever seen them.

My eldest sister Mary celebrated her 90thbirthday at the beginning of June and we had a lovely garden party for her in the sunshine.

Everything changed last Thursday, when storm ‘Hector’ arrived with winds gusting at 70+mph.  The weather forecast had warned us it was coming, so we had the Gazebo firmly tied down. However, whilst the plants and hanging baskets took a beating, they survived, unfortunately our flimsy gazebo did not! Muriel and I were in fact out in our slippers and housecoats at 06.30 and just managed to hold on to it, as all of a sudden it blew off the deck and threatened to disappear over the hedge! Now that would have been a sight, especially if we were still holding on! 🙂

This last week we decided to replace our dilapidated garden shed, and we are thankful to our son Cameron for building us a new deck and assembling the new shed. This month Muriel and I also did some work clearing one area of the garden, putting down weed prevention cloth and stone chips, and sitting some pot plants on top. All this to reduce the garden maintenance now that we are both octogenarians!!

So things are now mostly back in order, the tomatoes seem not too bad in the greenhouse, and the weather has reverted to a typical Scottish summer. We are enjoying the long summer days, and feel comfortable outside with a jumper or anorak!

I trust wherever you are you can find time to enjoy the joys and pleasures of a garden.

A Visit to Andalusia

This month we made our first trip to this southern part of Spain, staying for a week at the ‘Coso Viejo’ hotel, in the small inland town of Antequera. It was a great choice and became our base for our ‘sight-seeing’ tours by coach to the surrounding area. Antequera itself is a most attractive and picturesque little town and we were very happy spending a couple of days exploring its many attractions.

Our guide told us that the first three months of this year had been unusually wet, so we gained from that, by the profusion of wild flowers, and lush green fields that could be seen everywhere we travelled.

Visits to the magnificent La Alhambra in Granada, the huge mosque turned cathedral in Cordoba, and the Royal Alcazar in Seville demonstrated something of the artistic and architectural beauty and skills of past generations, but they were busy places! In contrast, we also enjoyed the quietness of the National Park, the castle grounds, and winding back streets and viewing the never-ending olive tree plantations in and around Antequera.

There were a huge number of churches in the town of Antequera, mostly Catholic churches, but also a good number of Evangelical Churches as well. During our visit the Catholic Church was celebrating a special ‘pilgrimage’ weekend, and it was interesting to see the large crowds of people of all ages that this attracted, both in Granada and in Antequera.

A few other things we noticed as we travelled: there was almost no litter to be seen; the roads were in superb condition; the pavements were a work of art; and public toilets well maintained. Well-done Andalusia!

If you are past the beach type holiday, we would certainly recommend a visit to Andalusia.

If you are interested you can see a video of our trip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YocmaIQqrN0&t=1s

April – where has this month gone!

 

A lot has happened since my last posting towards the end of March, but April has been a good and exciting month in many respects.

During the Easter Weekend at the end of March I became an Octogenarian, and was kindly feted by many cards and gifts, not to mention two birthday parties and birthday cakes! I am most appreciative of all the love and kindness so many have shown. It surely is a blessing to have such a family and friends. It has not been possible to say a personal thanks to everyone, so please accept from me this big THANK YOU!

So what is it like to be 80?  Well by God’s Grace both Muriel my wife, and I, keep well, apart from the usual aches and pains that come from such activities as gardening, so we are thankful for each day and are still busily engaged in many endeavours. We like to remind ourselves of biblical characters like Moses and Caleb who started their main endeavours for God at our age! 🙂

This month I made a serious attempt to get the garden knocked into shape, in spite of the rather treacherous weather. The lawn treated with ‘feed and weed’, followed later with a first cut. The greenhouse planted up with all kinds of seedlings, the vegetable bed weeded, and one of the borders tidied. And today the new fence was given its first coat of paint by our son Cameron. This year I’m using more expensive tomato seeds in an endeavour to beat the blight problems the plants suffered last year.

It was a great pleasure to have James McKerlie as my guest on the ‘Extraordinary Stories from Ordinary People’ video series. James is such an enthusiast, and is a man with a given record of service to others. If you would like to see his video you can click the link shown here – https://youtu.be/BDDGz_Ep2nE

This month I also enjoyed reading Philip Yancey’s book ‘Rumors of another world: What on Earth are we missing’. which was certainly very thought provoking. I’ll try and do a book review later.

April started and finished with two great Christian events here in Glasgow. The special services at Greenview Church over Easter were just that – SPECIAL! http://www.greenviewchurch.co.uk

And then last weekend Christian Men Together had the annual ‘Commission Event’ in the Southside of Glasgow. More than 300 men attended to hear Professor John Lennox of Oxford University speak on the subject of ‘Creation’, and renowned speaker and pastor Jeremy McQuoid from Aberdeen on the subject of ‘The Cross’. It was a powerful combination of subjects, which I found moved me in my soul as I reflected on the awe inspiring material we covered. Not to mention the pleasure of hearing 300+ men in Scotland singing God’s praise.

As I write this I’m aware that for many people around the world this month has been heart breaking and horrendous. I think particularly of the conflicts in the Middle East and watch with dismay as world powers and dubious world leaders vie for supremacy in the region. Sad to say, it’s difficult to know who to believe any more. Our thoughts and prayers are with ordinary people who have died and others who were maimed, and many who fled their homes and suffered endless loss and bereavement, as each side in the conflict boasts their support for them. I pray that God may help all who reach out to them with love and compassion.

Well April has gone, and already we are into the first days of May. I trust that the month will be a blessing to you and your family. Some other exciting things happened this month, so watch out for the next update!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you believe in the ‘Spiritual’? Do you Pray?

 

 

These questions were mentioned as I met with a group of friends last week to discuss a Bible passage we had been reading.

Have you ever had a vision, a spiritual experience or an encounter with God, which left you shaken or standing in awe? Many people would speak of having such an experience at some point in their life, and it’s not too unusual to hear people talk this way when confronted by one of the wonders of God’s creation. The Psalmist David for example, speaks like this in Psalm 8:1-4

My friend David and I meet regularly for a coffee and to discuss the Bible narrative. One day recently we were looking at the creation story, and were ‘blown away’ by some of the mind stretching statistics of our universe. Here’s just one example: If you travelled at the speed of light (186,000 mps} around the globe at the equator you could go around 7+ times in 1 second! You could be at the moon in 2 seconds, at Mars in 4 minutes, and Pluto in five hours, but Mars and Pluto are only planets in our solar system. To reach the nearest star would take 4.3 years! Our star, the Sun, is just one of a billion stars in our galaxy called the Milky Way, and it is estimated that to travel from one side of our galaxy to the other at the speed of light would take 100,000 YEARS – WOW! And astronomers tell us there are billions of galaxies! Surely the Bible makes one of the greatest understatements ever, when speaking of God it says ‘He made the stars also’.

Later that day I started reading a book by R C Sproul, entitled ‘The Holiness of God’, and in the first chapter he speaks of an experience he had as a University student. One day he reluctantly attended a lecture about the Christian philosopher Aurelius Augustine (commonly known as Saint Augustine). The lecture that day centred on Augustine’s views of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and how it was done? Augustine taught that God created the world out of nothing. Sproul couldn’t get his head around the idea that before creation there was nothing. I smiled as I read how the idea gave him a headache! He says, ‘Have you ever tried to think about nothing? Where can we find it? Obviously nowhere. Why? Because it is nothing, and nothing does not exist. It can’t exist, because if it did, then it would be something and not nothing…. so thinking about nothing is impossible.’ (Now you know why Sproul got a headache.)

So in the beginning there was nothing, except for GOD, and suddenly by His command there was a universe. (the ‘’Big Bang’?) This was God’s first dazzling act of creation. Today of course, some will tell us that the world was created by chance from nothing, now that is hugely different from saying, that God created it from nothing, as Saint Augustine asserted!

Sproul who at this time was a young follower of Jesus Christ, says that his experience in the classroom that day was life changing as suddenly he had a passion to know better this Father God, in His majesty, power and holiness, the God who created the Universe from nothing. He recounts how later that night just as he was about to fall asleep he felt a strange and urgent summons to get up, a summons he could not ignore, and within minutes he was up and dressed and walking across a snowy campus on a clear frosty night, where he entered the darkened chapel alone, lit only by the moon shining through the chapel windows. When he reached the carpeted chancel steps he sank to his knees in an attitude of prayer to meet the source of the summons that had disturbed his rest. There in the quietness with some fear and trembling he met with an awesome God, and then he speaks of a wave of unspeakable peace bringing rest and repose to his troubled spirit. That moment he says was life transforming.

This morning at Church, as we approach Easter, we sang a hymn, which I always find touches my heart. The words are these:

His hands were pierced,

The hands that made

The mountain range and everglade;

That washed the stains of sin away

And changed earth’s darkness into day.

His feet were pierced,

The feet that trod

The furthest shining star of God;

And left their imprint deep and clear

On ev’ry winding pathway here.

His heart was pierced,

The heart that burned

To comfort every heart that yearned,

And from it came a cleansing flood,

The river of redeeming blood.

His hands and feet

And heart, all three

Were pierced for me on Calvary,

And here and now to him I bring

My hands, feet, heart, an offering

The Bible says concerning Jesus, God’s Son, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

 Yes, it is possible to know this awesome transcendent God personally, and Christians all have different stories to tell. The common factor in them all however is this encounter, which they have had with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

For another of my friends, Iain, his encounter with God was sparked by something quite different, not the wonders of creation, but a painting!  You can hear and see him telling his story here, just click on the link.

How Quickly Life can Change!

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The cold wintry weather this week brought life, as most people know it, to a sudden standstill in most parts of the UK. News bulletins continually reported transport systems grinding to a halt, school closures, hospital appointments cancelled, cars and lorries stuck fast, bread and milk in short supply, plus ‘101’ other stories of folks in difficulties. Most of us have known of friends, or experienced ourselves, some trying times this week. It has been well nicknamed ‘the beast from the east’.

It’s a reminder of how quickly life can change. All the things that seem so settled, so important quickly come to a stop and we start asking what am I to do now? One friend on Facebook said, ‘the snow, and being at home was great for a day, but now I need to get out, I want to get on with life’. It reminded me of the day I walked into my office many years ago with plans for the day, when I received a phone call from my CEO, to say he was sorry, but I was being made redundant! So after 20 years of service to this company, I found myself at home before 10am scarcely believing what had happened, and asking, what now? Others I guess have experienced similar or worse trauma when told by their doctor of some serious medical diagnosis or on hearing or experiencing some other of life’s difficult situations.

It’s then you start reflecting on the big questions of life, and asking what are the really important things I should be concentrating on? I was touched this week reading the story of South African doctor Alastair McAlpine who works with terminally ill children http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42909326 He summed up the children’s responses to the questions of life and death with this message gleaned from the children – Be kind. Eat ice cream. Read more books. Spend time with your family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them.

 Yes, sometimes our dreams come crashing to a halt. My Bible reading this week was from the book of Acts. I’ve been reading there about this man Paul, who had a remarkable conversion experience to Christianity, and how God sent him on some dangerous and exhilarating journeys around the then known world. He was told he would also take the news about Jesus to Rome, when all of a sudden all his plans seemed to come to a grinding halt. and he finds himself imprisoned for two years by the Roman Governor Felix at Caesarea! For me the amazing part of the story was that Paul never lost his faith in God or doubted God’s promises to him, and we should not either. Even in prison Paul takes the opportunity to explain the good news about Jesus to the Roman Governor, telling him that Jesus was the Son of God and had come to bring forgiveness and eternal life to all who would believe in Him. The Bible says that Felix on hearing the good news about Jesus said to Paul – Go your way, when I have a more convenient time I will call for you!* It would seem from history that ‘the more convenient time’ never came about.

As an older man I can look back on life and recall a good number of occasions when life came to an unexpected stop, or due to other happenings, completely and suddenly changed direction. I’m so glad that like Paul I too had a conversion experience (not quite so dramatic!) and came to know and trust in Jesus. He has guided and directed throughout life just at the Bible promised* and my faith in Him is steadfast. I’m certain he will take me to my final destination at the end of the day.

In the busyness and uncertainty of life, could I ask, when would be a convenient time for you to consider giving your life to Jesus? I remember reading a wee leaflet some time ago asking this same question. It depicted the various stages of life under these captions ‘Too Young’, ‘Too busy’, ‘Too Old’ and then Too late!’

Time perhaps to stop, and consider this life and death question, for none of us are promised tomorrow, and the Bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’.*

If I can help, then email me matthewmuriel@aol.com

*Bible references – Proverbs 3.5-5, Acts 24.25, 2 Corinthians 6.2.