People of Hope – Catherine and Teaching in Luton

My name is Catherine Simons. I made a decision to completely follow Jesus 20 years ago. I grew up in Wheathampstead and had the privilege of being bought up with Christian parents. I trained as a primary teacher at St. Mary’s college in Twickenham and had my last two teaching practices in Luton.  

For the last 13 years I have taught in a large primary school (four form entry) in Bury Park. The size of the school is much larger than the average sized school. Many pupils speak English as an Additional Language and are starting to learn English when they go to the nursery. Pupils who receive Pupil Premium (funding from the government) and have Special Educational Needs is above National Average.

I felt strongly called by God to work in the school and live in Bury Park while I worked at the school.  I have taught Reception, Year Two and currently teach Year Three. I am currently a Year Team Achievement Manager and have started leading Art across the school. I have also had the privilege of having many Newly Qualified teachers in my year group and have mentored a couple of these teachers. 

I have always loved children. I had a really tough time at school when I was growing up.  I’m motived to see children reach their full potential, have confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed. I’m passionate about teaching and can’t imagine doing anything else.

I enjoy teaching but it’s definitely challenging and I have to work hard at getting a work/life balance. I have amazingly supportive friends and family who encourage me. 

Over the years, I have had many changes in my job and have had the challenges of aiming to reach National standards and meet the requirements of the new National Curriculum. 

I have strived to work hard, show integrity by being honest and doing my best. 

I enjoy and have the privilege of working with children and staff from different cultural backgrounds. I have had the privilege of developing good friendships in my job with colleagues. 

I have also had the opportunity to use the skills I have developed to teach children in Uganda and Sierra Leone during school holidays on a voluntary basis. It is a privilege to teach underprivileged children and provide them with opportunities to reach their full potential.

 

Written by Catherine Simons

Maundy Thursday and Foot Washing

Refreshing Foot Washing Gifting

 

What is more important?  – filling a gap by serving on the churches programme or fulfilling a God-given gifting?

 

This Easter I was asked what does Maundy Thursday mean and I didn’t have a clue!  I knew that it was remembering when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and that was about it. But what I was being asked was what did the word Maundy mean?  

 

The Revolutionary Command

It comes from the word ‘command’ which relates to what Jesus said to His disciples after he had washed their feet.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34  New Living Translation.’  There is something revolutionary here. Jesus is about to lay His life down as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and His ‘command’ to His disciples is ‘from now on guys you are to love each other in the way I have been loving you’  This is love in a new dimension.

 

I noticed that one colleague was going to bring a bowl, a towel and a jug to a service. They were going to do the whole foot washing business. Should I do that or should I explain the meaning behind this powerful gesture?  One guy had already said, ‘I can’t bear to have my feet touched!’ Jesus was making a point and establishing a precedent and not showing them how to wash one another’s feet. Some of us can breathe sigh of relief!

 

A Thrilling Faith-Grace Adventure

How do I possibly fulfil this new command?  This does not need to be daunting but can be a thrilling adventure. You see, God has given to each of His reborn children a commission and gifting which allows us to fulfil this new command. The commission is to do what Jesus did – ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ (John 20:21)  The gifting is to discover and contribute what the Holy Spirit has given. Jesus gives His disciples a clear instruction and then the means to fulfil it.  ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7). Gifting given which washes feet.   

 

There is not a short supply because God has already given all that is needed. There is just the right amount of grace and faith given to each of us to function comfortably in our gifting. ‘to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ (Ephesians 4:7)  WOW! Grace is on each one of us in proportion to the measure of Christ’s gift to us.  And the right amount of faith too! ‘For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you’ (Romans 12:3)  We already have the right amount of faith and grace we need.

 

Right Gifting which Fully Loves is Fully Refreshing

But how do we find what our true gifting is?  We used to have an expression when our true gifting didn’t fit or wasn’t being expressed correctly.  ‘A round peg in a square hole.’

 

We could be mis-gifting like a round peg in a square hole or we could be right-gifting so that the peg fits comfortably. We could be monopolise-gifting by trying to do everything and control everything or we could be equip-gifting to enable others. We could be lazy-gifting and withholding by sitting on our gift.  We could be burn out gifting or harsh-gifting by going outside grace and faith. Sadly, we could be flesh-gifting so that it is from me, about me, and for me, instead of Spirit-gifting. Ideally, we could be harmony and refreshing-gifting by serving in our gifting with our measure of faith and grace. Now that truly washes feet, giving up status and position to be low in meeting the basic needs of others.  

 

Thank God we are in a community of loving brothers and sisters where we can trial our gifting to discover what our gifting actual is. Area groups are ideal for this so that our mistakes are not so public. But hearts are big enough to absorb our mistakes and pastoral leadership is on hand to guide us so that our gifting can be confirmed. Let’s not put a label on someone because it’s a kind thing to do and makes us feel good. This is a big issue with powerful and crucial implications. We are talking here about God’s own gifts to God’s own people which, when applied, makes the Body of Jesus on earth function as He intended it to. Right gifting which fully loves is fully refreshing.

 

Christ’s Love Realised by Faith and Grace

An obvious question when we hear this command to love is, ‘Am I loving my brothers and sisters the way Jesus does?’  Challenging isn’t it? But the awesome wonder of this is, we have been given the grace and the faith by the Holy Spirit to do it.  Like the disciples I need to remove any obstacles and be full of the Spirit and get on and do it. ‘Lord, let this river of supernatural life and love flow through me.’

 

One simple gesture – One straight command

The take to heart-action-point here is seeing Jesus fulfil the whole of His commission. He loved the whole of humanity with the love shared in the Triune Godhead. He did it practically by meeting the needs of the sick around Him, speaking out for those being judged and condemned and teaching the crowds and training His disciples. The whole of His ministry was captured in one simple gesture, washing feet. Jesus gives us this new commandment and He gives to us a vivid practical example of how to do it. By the power of the Spirit Jesus meets deep rooted needs. He washes away our ingrained sin so that the pure gold of His life and character shines through. He continues to do this through me.   

 

Facilitating Refreshing Foot Washing Gifts

Of course, it’s great that someone fills a gap which could actually lead to discovering a God given gifting. But it is not about doing our bit for the church. We are told that  ‘to each one .. is given..’ (1 Corinthians 12:7 ) It would be a crying shame if parts of our own body could not function. Actually it could be disastrous. Are we contributing our God-given gift so that the local Body of Jesus is healthy and functioning well?  Do we need to sit together and discuss what is hindering us and what will facilitate refreshing foot washing gifting?

 

I ask myself, ‘Are these bible verses we have considered true?’  Yes, they are. Then there is enough grace and faith for me to function within but not outside my God-given gifting. Amen?

 

Written by Robert Lightowler

People of Hope – Gill and taking time out

It strikes me how many things in life we take for granted.

Sunsets. 

Flowers. 

Shelter. 

Getting from A to B. 

Sunshine. 

Rain. 

Friendship. 

Companionship. 

Creation. 

Just to name a few. 

Yet, so often in life we get so busy, rushing from one thing to the next and not taking time to stop and notice the beauty that is around us. The colours of spring as the flowers begin the show their faces and the brightly coloured blossom appears on the trees. 

Too often, we are too busy, or we feel too busy. Maybe it’s filling our time on mobile phones, responding to emails, catching up on social media or watching too much tv to name a few; that we don’t find time to slow down, to stop, to be still and take in all that is around us. Now whilst there’s nothing wrong with doing the above; sometimes they can end up taking over. 

I for one am guilty of wasting too much time on my phone but recently whilst on holiday, I consciously made the decision to just enjoy what was around me, to soak in new views, experiences and the beautiful creation that surrounded me and not feel the need to constantly be taking photos. Don’t get me wrong; I took some pictures but I enjoyed just being present in the moment. 

It reminded me of the importance of self-care, of having time out from the pressures of life and to make time to stop and be. 

So often, I can find myself rushing from one thing to the next, complaining I don’t have enough time in the day but when I stop and look at all I am doing; I realise I do have enough time, I just have to make the choice about how I fuel my time and what I fill it with. 

Do you notice the beauty that surrounds you? Do you stop and take time to notice the flowers? The birds singing? Loved ones smiling over a coffee? The various shades of green that fill the garden? 

If you don’t, I challenge you to look up. To look up and find the time to see all that is in your sight, to find the time to appreciate the every day things so often we no longer notice; and as you do, I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised… for when we look, there is so much beauty to be found. 

For everyday may not be good but when we truly look, there is something good that can be found in everyday.

 

Written by Gill Peck

People of Hope – John and Christian Medical Fellowship

Hi, my name’s John and if you read Big Al’s recent post, well I’m even taller than him! I’ve lived in Luton for 3 years with my wife and 3 kids; we love living here and moved here very deliberately to be part of what God is doing in Luton.

I work locally part time as a paediatrician in the hospital and child development centre, seeing kids with cerebral palsy, ADHD, Autism and children who are in the care system.

Most of my time is as the National Field Director of the Christian Medical Fellowship. We have over 6000 members who are doctors, medical students and nurses and we exist to unite and equip them to live and speak for Jesus in their workplaces. I oversee the team as we equip students and graduates to share their faith and apply it to their work.

 

What does a typical week look like for me then?

Monday – I work a long day on the ward today. The staff work so hard in Luton and are a great team to be a part of.

Tuesday – I meet with my Head of Nursing who has a new staff worker join her team in Norwich. We discuss line management and training needs. Then I lead our office team meeting, including teaching on ‘How to have great meetings’. I see the head of the Christian Academic Network over lunch as we discuss a conference on political correctness(!). In the afternoon I lead a training session on ‘The Body-Mind split’ with some of our year-round programme participants.

Wednesday – I’m off to Lancaster to see if we can set up a new ‘Catalyst Team’ in the Morecambe Bay area. On the way I write an article on ‘Leadership and Power’ for one of our publications – doctors have a lot of power and it is so easily abused. I um and ah for a while deciding what superpower I prefer (I went for flying). I arrive early to Lancaster so do some reading on Artificial Intelligence and the impact on how we see ourselves as humans.

Thursday – the meeting went well last night and there was a takeaway curry too – bonus! On the train home, I sign off the minutes of a meeting on our International work – we have 250 members serving overseas and my work sometimes means visits and teaching in places like Lebanon and Poland. I meet a junior doctor in the afternoon who is keen on joining our team.

Friday – I’m soon speaking at a university lunchtime event on ‘Will saving lives save my soul? so I prepare some of that talk today. We have 25 people starting our Global Track this evening and tomorrow so I finish some last minute practicalities before heading off to join them at All Nations Christian College. The next 24 hours are a great time of learning and equipping for these young medics and nurses as they consider how to serve God cross-culturally.

My main passion is developing leaders who in turn lead others. We so need to see Christians boldly and courageously living out their faith in pressured environments, being salt and light, speaking prophetically into society, loving and serving the most vulnerable.

 

Written by John Greenall

People of Hope – Sue and Azalea

I know God’s heart is towards the poor because I read over and over, from the beginning of the Bible to its end, of God’s care with instruction to provide for all, especially the poor and marginalised. Also during periods in my life when we have had little money to go round God’s presence and provision has been particularly significant. We read that we are made in the image of God. Maybe that is why we get so cross at injustice, discrimination and poverty. We see and hear of shocking atrocities, here on our doorstep and around the world. It was never God’s purpose for human beings to treat each other so badly.

Becoming aware of the reality of hardship and slavery in our modern world led me to volunteering with Azalea. Azalea is a Luton based charity that exists to right some of the injustices locally and internationally. Azalea; ‘Freedom from Sexual Exploitation’. Recovery from the tyranny of homelessness, abuse and exploitation, has become Azalea’s focus.

The vision is huge and so prayer is at our core. We want to be conveyors of God’s love to bring hope, significance, identity and choice. I attend a drop in session each week which begins by praying as a small volunteer team. We pray for each other, acknowledging our own need; we are dependant on God but also each other. Because of the practical love and prayerful support from many churches and groups, when the Drop In doors open we can offer a safe, warm, welcoming space for local women and so much more. Follow the link to the Azalea website below.

Although I am there to listen, befriend, signpost etc, I have comparatively few answers to the challenging problems experienced daily by our women. One thing I have and can share is the message that God cares a great deal for each woman. He longs to be our father, to wash away hurts and pain, to give fulness of life and a sure future with Him. I have led a wonderful little group looking at the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I was involved in a rolling weekly Alpha Course where home make food is enjoyed around the table and God’s truth is unfolded. The whole hearted singing around that table that followed has been the best!

I learn much from the thankful and warmhearted spirit of the women who visit us. At the end of the Drop In we would have shared a little of life together and I will have witnessed again beauty coming out of ashes. Each woman has her own story to tell, her current lifestyle never her choice.

If you would like to become involved please contact Azalea through the website below. Azalea exists because of a huge amount of support.

For more info visit; azalea.org.uk

 

Written by Sue Lightowler

People of Hope – Phyl and Signposts

Writing my first blog feels a little scary! I regularly read inspiring and interesting blogs written by others and if I am honest have never felt the urge to write. Tony asked me if I could write something so here goes. I have recently begun attending Hope Church who in their vision statement describe the church as‘A growing community of people – from different backgrounds, stages of life and experiences, including the vulnerable – who are one family in Christ Jesus’.
And One of the ways this is amplified is:
  • A people who want to reach out to others to bring God’s hope and His love to individuals and society.

As a child born in 60’s into a catholic family, where my father left and divorced my mother, a mother who struggled with mental illness and committed suicide when myself and my siblings were teenagers. Early years poverty, numerous times in children’s homes, my own personal struggles with a life I had little control of. A number of my formative years would have involved ‘labels’ single parent family, poor, vulnerable, rebellious out of control teenager, self harm, I could go on.
However this is not how I remember it. My incredible mother, who had no money filled my life with memories, parks, picnics, boxes of clothes we had the freedom to cut up and make into grand outfits which I would proudly go out in! Neighbours who would look in on me when I was ill and my mother was at work. Friends to ‘Play Out’ with and when the social services put us into care, memories of staff that read bedtime stories and were kind.
Of course there was bad stuff, lots of it-and as for most people along with the good times have been times of trauma which has continued to be the story of my life.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because not for one second has God ever left me, every day, all those years and there have been so many wonderful people throughout those years that have reached out and brought Gods love and hope to me. Even if I didn’t recognise it as that. That is the beauty in getting older, you can look back and remember the people that said the right thing at the right time, gave you a bed for a night, gave you money unconditionally, in short made a difference.
It is because of this love and hope I am who I am today and why I passionately believe in people, all people and that each person can be that love and hope to another person despite circumstances, poverty, addiction or the many deficit defining labels put on or accepted by us.We are all part of Gods wonderful creation, we all have gifts and talents that we can use for ourselves and share with others.
I am privileged to work with people who may have no permanent postcode but freely and generously give their time, commitment, talent and energy for the benefit of a community that belongs to us all.
I have been humbled and privileged to see people with so little happily give away and share all they have.
So in closing God is always there, he knows each and everyone of us we are all amazing, I am  going to search for ‘what is strong not what is wrong’, seek to get to know people, ask what their strengths and passions are and hope to live in a community full of love.
Written by Phyl Rainey
1 2 3 4 5 23