Encounter Camp 2019 Stories

Encounter Camp is for anyone with life controlling issues that need a breakthrough from God which includes men and women of all ages. Each year in July people gather from all around the U.K. for a week of safe, friendly camping. This is the second year we have taken people from Open House Lounge, our drop in cafe that runs at the church here. It is a Christian camp with a difference as there were around 200 people attending, we took 10 people this year. God did amazing things in all of us, for me it was a privilege to pray for each of them and get to know them better and real breakthrough in my own life over the last few years and being on camp this year was a chance to celebrate what God has been doing in me and what he will continue to do. 

One of the guys we took to camp came out of his tent one lunch time and said ‘I have just surrendered my life to God and prayed for him to come into life.’ That afternoon there was a seminar on breaking free and the guy leading had a word of knowledge for this guy and a girl came up next also with a word of knowledge for the same guy. Another guy we took had not been to church before apart from Weddings and Funerals. He came to at least two meetings a day and heard how Jesus had changed peoples life around. He really enjoyed the camp as he felt it was a safe place to be and he felt loved. 

James (my husband) also enjoyed Encounter camp, as he really understood what it meant for God to be our Father, that God is the perfect Father and no earthly Father can stack up to our Father God. James also learnt to do a bit of rapping. David one of the non-Christians we took decided that Jesus was the only way to God and he has been sharing with people how he knows God personally. He was also touched by the way God was working in other people’s life on camp. He was baptised recently and is now living in Telford. He has moved to Telford to continue his recovery from drugs and to learn more about his relationship with God.

Everyone who went to camp moved forward on their journey with God, whether that was learning more about who God is, become a Christian and joining the family of God or having a deep assurance of God’s love. 

Being involved in Open House is exciting, whether it is helping a person smile that day or cooking a meal for someone in need, or seeing somebody gain employment after been out of work for a while. There are some heart-breaking times too, when a person returns to drugs who has been clean for over a month or one of our members passes away. But in all things God is present and he loves each person who comes into Open House.

 

3 ways in which you can be involved:

Pray – prayer changes things, pray for the volunteers and people who come into Open House. We have a whatapp group to pray for Open House text me if you want to be part of it contact Sarah 07868704670.

Visit – Come and meet people, talk to people sit and listen with people, or play pool or some boardgames. Mondays and Wednesdays 10am – 3pm and Saturday mornings 9am – 12pm. Just pop in for a visit.

Volunteer – the more volunteers we have the more impact we can have on people’s life, God doesn’t need to use us but he does because he wants us to be co-workers with Him. Minimum volunteering 2 hours per month. Contact me if you wish to get involved.

 

Written by Sarah Hibbard

dav

Kristina’s Experience of Understanding Islam

Over the last year I have taken part in a course called Understanding Islam.  It has been a privilege to learn and be educated by a great team of diverse speakers both from Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds. Some have been ordinary every day people like myself sharing their faith and life experiences.  We have also heard from and spent time with a local Imam and others in leadership roles.  Our non-Muslim speakers have been a variety of people who have worked closely with Muslim communities both here in the UK and/or overseas and around the world. Each session has been beneficial to me in a unique way and I feel it has equipped me to love and build better relationships with my Muslim neighbours.

Islam means submission to God and a Muslim is the one who submits.  This means to obey and surrender all to God.  Between our Christian faith and Islam we have so many similarities and of course there are some significant differences.  I have been truly fascinated to learn what the Qur’an teaches about Jesus.  The Qur’an refers to Jesus using the terms “the Word of God” (3.45, 4.171) and “the Spirit of God” (4.171). It also describes Him as a sign to all people and a mercy from Us (Q19.21). He is also referred to as “Messiah Jesus son of Mary who will be held in honour in this world and the next” (Q.3:45-46) but we must bare in mind that the Islamic meaning of the word Messiah translates as “messenger” and yet the Hebrew meaning is “anointed”.

This particular quote stood out to me the most and has stayed with me since I first read it because the Qur’an then says that Jesus spoke to them as a baby when Mary first returned home with Him, which was a miracle.

“I am a servant of God.  He has granted me the Scripture; made me a prophet; made me blessed wherever I may be. He commanded me to pray, to give alms as long as I live, to cherish my mother. He did not make me domineering or graceless. Peace was on me the day I was born, and will be on me the day I die and the day I am raised to life again.” (Q19.30-33)

I have most benefitted and enjoyed going back through the history of the last 100 years and learning about the political events that have taken place, which I knew very little about.  I have to say, I was hurt and ashamed to learn how our leaders of the past and the people who have been in the position to make important decisions have represented our country so poorly and deceptively. I truly feel my generation has such a lack of understanding of these catastrophic events that are still effecting and causing so much disunity in our modern lives and world today. Therefore, I really urge you to read and research. A good place to start is Sykes Picot, but be vigilant and always check your source so that what you are reading is not biased or untrue.

As human nature goes we usually fear the unknown and in my experience those who fear people of the Muslim faith have often had very little or no contact at all with them. Brothers and sisters I ask you please do not be fooled by the media and the message that it all too often portrays. Step out in faith, build bridges, break down walls and barriers as you were sent to do and you will find that you share more together with your Muslim neighbours than what sets you apart. For we are all God’s children. I do believe this amazing course will run again and I really encourage you to put yourselves forward for it and find new exciting revelation from God and what He has in store for you.

Written by Kristina Druce

Return to Azerbaijan

I recently returned from a visit to Azerbaijan, a country that is very close to my heart, having lived there for 6 years from 2007 to 2013   

‘Where?’ You might ask.  Azerbaijan is a small former Soviet state which geographically can be found at a crossroads between Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.  Local people face many challenges. Despite wealth pouring in from oil, services are poor and there is high unemployment. But there is a great spirit and recently the nation has been put more clearly on the world map through hosting the Grand Prix, and very recently the Europa Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal.

It is nominally Muslim but many people have never read the Qu’ran or visited a mosque and a relatively small proportion appear to fast at Ramadan.  It is very different from the more conservative culture of the Pakistani Muslims I have come to know and love in Luton.   

The three-week trip involved visiting very special Azerbaijani friends in three different places. My aim was partly to encourage some of the believers through prayer and visiting. To this effect, I spent time in the capital with a family who are making connections with students through English teaching, a young couple who are reaching out to local families in an area in the south of Azerbaijan where there is no known church and then spent a number of days in Ganja – the town where I used to live. I was able to spend time with an amazing couple who have been leading a small fellowship for a number of years through times of significant hardship. They are desperate for people to come alongside them and support them and yet they always have encouragements to share. New families have joined us recently, they told me and they are hoping to re-start the children’s work that I used to lead. 

One of the main purposes of my trip was to connect with my former colleagues.  When I lived in Azerbaijan 6 years ago, I was teaching and training local teachers at a small international school. It was encouraging for me to see how warmly they remember it, how much they appreciated those days when we worked together and how much the teachers felt they had learnt despite the fact that we were targeted many times by local authorities resulting in the school being closed down twice. I met and talked with former students who were now completing high school or at university.  

Perhaps my most encouraging encounter was with a girl (Fatima) whose mum had brought her to a children’s home as a baby, having been rejected by her family.  The mother was found by foreign believers who took her in and eventually she became a cleaner at my former workplace and a regular member of a local fellowship. On one occasion this Christian group was raided by police, Fatima was called by the authorities of the school she attended and told that she would never pass any exams if she choose to associate with Christians.   She is now at university in the capital and a leader with the local student outreach. I spent a lovely afternoon with her listening to all that she was currently involved in and hearing her talk enthusiastically about her future.

I am hoping now to be able to visit this country at least once a year. It is a place where I feel I have something small to give but more than that going back to this beautiful place gives me an insight to some of the wonderful things that God is doing in a very different culture and I always come back greatly encouraged in my spirit.

 

 

Written by Shirley Weston

The Importance of Prayer

posted in: Prayer, Tony Thompson 0

I am increasingly being challenged by God about the importance of prayer. This is something that has been going on for many years, not just a recent thing. When I was preparing to lead a church for the first time, around 25 years ago, I was challenged that my personal prayer life. I realised it was not strong enough to sustain a church. I spent months reading about prayer and seeking to rebuild my prayer life.

The last few years has found God speaking to me again about the importance of prayer, that I should pray more but also about what and how I pray. In a recent sermon, Here is your God, I spoke about God challenging me to look to God more and my problems less. (You can listen to the sermon here http://www.hopechurch.co.uk/sermons-3/?sermon_id=175.)

I have also been drawn to the prayer of the early Christians recorded in Acts 4, which models something similar.

The believers pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

‘“Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one. 

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

I am reminded of the importance of filling my mind with the greatness of God, “Sovereign Lord”, before “considering their threats”. Reminding ourselves of all that God has done, and how relatively insignificant the nations are, how men may plot but God is in control. Catching sight of God changes the content of my prayers.

We too face many threats, this passage encourages us to pray, filling our minds with who God is and what he has done and then bringing those threats to our all-powerful God. The passage also points to our need to be doing this both as individuals and as a church.

Over the Summer can I therefore encourage you to pray, to give some attention to your personal prayer life! We will be republishing a series of blogs on prayer to encourage you in this. In the Autumn we will be announcing new opportunities for us to gather together as a body to pray, I do hope you will make every effort to join us in this.

 

Blogs on Prayer (click to read):

Tony’s Experience of Personal Prayer

The wise man built his house upon the rock

Keep Calm & Pray

New Year, New Adventures, Prayer Required! Part 1

New Year, New Adventures, Prayer Required! Part 2

Written by Tony Thompson

Good News To The Community!

posted in: Hope Church, Luton 0

Good News to the Community (GNTC) is the work we do at Hope Church to reach out and bring hope to those who live in open despair. We see GNTC as a doorway into church for those in our society who may otherwise never walk into a church building. It encompasses the work that we do alongside those in our community and it incorporates areas like Open House and the 4pm service; where we seek to welcome, befriend and share the gospel with those from our local community.

 

The Bible is very clear about God’s heart of compassion and mercy for those in need, for example, Matthew 25:31-46

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

I’d like to leave you with some provocative thoughts from the book ‘The Myth of the Undeserving Poor’ by Natalie Anderson and Martin Charlesworth

“Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. He wasn’t ashamed to associate with people who were in desperate need; in fact, those on the margins of society – shunned beggars, ‘unclean’ lepers, shamed prostitutes and despised tax collectors – seemed to be attracted by him and comfortable around him.  Jesus valued everyone he met, regardless of their status, wealth, health or faith.

He saw beyond reputations and stigma, recognising in every human life the image of God. Jesus called (and still calls) his disciples to do likewise, but how much are Christians shaped by political narratives rather than God’s narrative over a person? Is our behaviour towards particular groups of people influenced more by our culture or by our God?  Are our attitudes shaped by the headlines we read in our newspapers or the verses we read in the Bible?”

 

How can you get involved?

  • Pray for our work through GNTC
  • Volunteer at Open House, Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.
  • Take the time to chat to someone different to you on a Sunday morning

 

Written by Linda Geevanathan

Holiday Club Superheroes Assemble!

posted in: Events, Hope Church, Luton 0

I had the pleasure of being a Holiday Club helper, both in the month leading up to, and on the day of the 29th May. The theme was superhero’s and followed the adventures of Elijah. I was warmly incorporated into the development, collaboration of ideas and creativity were welcomed, and together the plan for the day took shape. The lead up saw lots of creating, constructing, and organising. Nonetheless, this was done in good-spirit and humility by the team, and the weeks flew by in anticipation.

On the day it was all systems go from the 10.30am start. As the doors were opened, masses of parents and children 4-11 years came through to sign in.  The kids were met with a bounty of opening activities: crafting superhero wristbands, playing tug of war, limbo, and other games. Most were enthusiastically kitted out in their favourite superhero costumes, and even some of the adults got in on the fun!

Throughout the morning, children were invited into the world of superhero’s and dimension/time travelling Chair. This was through props, videos, and puppets. Everyone’s favourite puppet villain ‘Red Kev’ made his appearance, as he taunted his new evil plans to be foiled!

We were then treated to a live drama, showcasing the story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, and with interactive effects to bring the story to life. To test what they remembered, the children began an exciting team obstacle course full of foam, running, and answering quiz questions on the story. This was a lot of fun and encouraging to see so many remembering key information. This was followed by story-related crafts, games, and lunch.

The activities continued in the afternoon, with part 2 of the Elijah story and hearing God in the whisper rather than the wind, fire or earthquake. This transitioned into a team maze quiz challenge, and then an array of crafts and games, tailored between 3 age groups. Making T-shirts and going through a swamp obstacle course, using gym equipment, were favourites of the kids; the latter a fun challenge for the adults!

Reflection

Having seen the effort and care is taken by the team to imagine, plan, construct, buy, cook, pray and assemble these activities, it is rewarding to see it come together. It is heart-warming to see multitudes of children enjoying themselves, and for the ethos to be rooted in the principles of God’s great love and power.

It is an amazing blessing and opportunity for many unchurched children, and friends in the Muslim community, to feel comfortable and welcomed at a Bible-based event; whilst having an enjoyable time.

Every member of the team, and those who stand in prayer, are to be commended for their commitment and enthusiasm. It takes a lot of input to allow each holiday club to thrive, however, by the favour of God, this has been provided. Please continue to pray for the work of Holiday Club, and if you would like to be a part, do get in contact – we would love to hear from you!

 

Click here to find out more on our Hope Holiday Club page

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