February 2020

'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’ Revelation 21:1-3

I must apologise, it is a while since I have been in touch. A lot has been happening and I am so sorry that I have not had the time to document it. I trust that you are well and I hope to be able to fill in some of the details here.

As many of you will know I have been home twice since my last letter, but I assure that I write this actually in Johannesburg! My trip home in June and July was planned to help me think through options for the future and to get some rest. Unfortunately, with difficult news coming out about my home church, it was a hard time.

But returning to Johannesburg was a joy. We spent some time at church preaching through the Lord’s prayer, Godfrey and I helping to direct the church to dependence on God in prayer. It was a helpful reminder and encouragement to me to again commit myself in dependence to God in prayer. I am thankful that God has helped me to be more prayerful in the last six months. It was a much-needed source of comfort in a difficult time.

Another real encouragement in the last half of the year was working with a few young men at church, helping to equip them to be effective preachers of God’s word. I spent 2019 walking with Mzi, who was our apprentice. We met each week and he really grew in his ability to teach and preach God’s word. He also learned what a good breakfast was. It was such a joy seeing him grow over the year and he went off to train for ordained ministry at George Whitfield College in January. Mzi and another congregation member preached for the first time in November and I had the privilege of working with them to help them. They were both a real encouragement and it was great to be able to help them on an individual level.

At college, we finished off a difficult year with our usual graduation celebration. We had two ceremonies, one in Soweto and one at Auckland Park. As students gave testimonies, it really brought home the importance of the work that JBC does. Men and women had moved from a slight grasp of the gospel to being competent handlers of God’s word. The Soweto graduation was a double celebration as, after a year of very hard work, we heard that morning that we had been accredited as a college. This means we can offer a vocational qualification in ministry which will be recognised by the government. This enables us to serve more students and gives them confidence in the qualification that we offer. Praise God!

The new year has just begun and I’m writing this a week into the new term. Having said goodbye to our old students we have a whole set of new students. So far, they seem engaged and enthusiastic about their studies. One student said to me after my first lecture, ‘When you got up I was sceptical… but you really know something!’ Encouraging to hear.

In May I will have been in Johannesburg for 10 years! It has been the most incredible experience and if you have been following my news you will know that God in his kindness has used me in ways wholly unexpected. I am thankful for every experience I have had, even the difficult ones. They have taught me so much and I can reflect on God’s hand and work over that time.

That said, with Godfrey doing well at Christ Church, and changes in my role, my mind has begun to think about what may be next. After much reflection and considering all that I have learned, I feel that it may be the right time to return to the UK. In particular my experience pastoring a church at Christ Church Hillbrow has made me feel that I would like to pastor a church again, but back in the UK. My trip back to the UK at New Year was primarily to explore these options. Although there was disappointment on a particular possibility, the overall experience was very positive. Please pray for the right timing and the right opportunity to arise. Pray that I wouldn’t be too discouraged by setbacks, but trust that the Lord has a plan in store. Of course, if you have any thoughts, do get in touch.

I often reflect on home. I have had to come terms with that, after 10 years in Johannesburg, I will inevitably leave a bit (a lot) of me here. I suspect that the UK will never quite feel like home again. This feeling is unsettling, but good for me. Whether in Johannesburg or the UK, I won’t be home, not in this transitory life. Home is where the risen Lord is and we are only passing through this life. Please pray that, with the uncertainty of the future, my hope and anchor will be in Christ and hope of an eternal home with him.

As always, thank you for your prayers and support,

Ben

Prayer points

  • Give thanks for a restful time back in the UK.
  • Pray for wisdom for the future.

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