Sunday, 3 September 2017

A Word for Ballynahinch Methodist Church

This morning, our local church expressed their thanks for our ministry amongst them over the last five years. It's a bit of a weird transition - I've been on compassionate leave since Christmas, and the lovely Ruth Craig has been the minister since July, but we still live in Ballynahinch and consider the Methodist Church our church family. After a thoughtful and generous presentation to us, I shared a few words of thanks, an update on Timothy, and encouragement for the future with those gathered. Here are the notes:

Thank you for your support of our family in recent months - phone calls, notes and cards, food, visits, prayer, and financially supporting us. Thanks to Ruth for her flexibility during this coming year, that allowed us to stay in the manse while Timothy continues to recover. 

Timothy is here today, in good form, ready to go back to school tomorrow, just four months after his bone marrow transplant. It's still early days yet, so please keep on praying for protection for him. He still needs to be careful of catching infections over the next year - a raised temperature in June led to a fortnight in hospital. But we are hopeful and trusting God for complete healing. God has been good to us, we have known his presence in the difficult times. 

On Remembrance Sunday in November I led worship here and then at the War Memorial. Chatting with the Presbyterian minister who was also present, I shared that we were due to receive our fourth child near the end of the month - a big change to family dynamics and a return to having a baby in the house after a five year gap. One week later, the baby was already five days old, and we had a child with cancer. It wasn't the way we had anticipated ending our ministry here, but it quickly became very obvious that I couldn't continue in the role as your minister beyond Christmas. 

While our time was cut short, I still count it a privilege to have been your minister. We have walked together through a number of traumatic illnesses and deaths, but also some great moments of happiness through wedding days and new lives. It was a joy to bring several of you into membership of the church and subsequent leadership roles. Together we encountered Serendipity and Narnia, Inspire and Messy Church, prayer rooms, communion and candlelit carols. On your behalf I engaged with schools, hospitals, police and social services, other churches and our Methodist Church in Ireland family. We encouraged the work of The Edge, The Hub, food bank and Christians Against Poverty. I drove 25,000 miles, prepared over 200 services of worship and chaired countless committee meetings as together we cared for one another, worshipped God and reached out to others in God's name.

Had we been here in June, I would have preached a series of sermons on 2 Corinthians 13:11 as my final encouragement to you... Instead you get a couple of minutes... 

St Paul writes, "Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter [ministry] with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you." 

Do you want God to be with you? Then... 
# Be joyful - choose joy - 'restore onto me the joy of your salvation' - joy starts with being a thankful person.
# Grow to maturity - be a lifelong disciple, one who can reach and make other disciples. You know you're maturing if you are producing the fruit of the Spirit. Please join a fellowship band to ensure you keep on growing.
# Encourage each other - talk TO one another, not about one another. This town needs the Church to model unity and healing relationships. Build each other up in the gifts that each of you have. 

In particular, love your minister - I have prayed with Ruth, that she might receive a double portion of whatever good things God could do through me.

Finally, remember these words from Ephesians 3:
In Christ and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Monday, 28 August 2017

A Caravanner's Prayer

We replaced our caravan this summer, and while there are times when I miss hotel holidays in the sun - remember when you used to bring a pile of books to read by the pool, and children were the amusing distractions belonging to other people? - I am very grateful to have this way of living together away from home for a few weeks.

I started scribbling this prayer a few weeks ago, and with a bit of editing share it with you now...

Thank you God for this caravan.
Protect our family when we're in it; protect us when we're towing it.
May it be
a place of meaningful moments, restful peace and deep sleep;a base for adventures to begin and fun days to end;a space for prayer and singing about you God, and a host for holy conversations.
Allow our devices to fail but our hearts to soar, the great outdoors to be our playground, raindrops on the roof our lullaby.
Lord, may our time in this caravan instill in us a sense of longlasting security, freedom, generosity, imagination and courage to live for you as a family on mission at home and away.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Myelodysplasia Thank Yous

Earlier today I posted thirty-five tweets, telling our family's story of the last seven months and saying thanks to lots of people. But not everyone is on Twitter, so here they are for your delectation in one post, thirty-five chunks of 140 characters or less (unless I've changed the Twitter handle to an organisation's real name).

We are home after 7 weeks living in Bristol for our eldest's bone marrow transplant at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. Here's the story in 35 tweets of thanks! 1/

So many people have helped us: naming them risks forgetting some - you know who you are. This is an attempt at publicly saying Thank You! 2/

Our GP team spotted something was wrong in November, which led to initial hospital admission. GP support has been practical and kind. 3/
The Children's Haematology and Oncology team at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children cared for us well, broke bad news to us compassionately that first weekend [and are still looking after us well]. 4/
Ultimately he was diagnosed with a one/two-in-a-million condition with bleak prognosis unless he received a bone marrow transplant in Bristol. 5/
(not enough kids in Northern Ireland require treatment to sustain a bone marrow transplant unit in Belfast) 6/

And then the wait began, looking for the right donor match, and for the threat of a chicken pox episode to subside. 7/
Frequent clinic appointments and dressing changes became our 'new normal' through winter with support from South Eastern HSC community nurses. 8/
Meanwhile our son's haemoglobin levels kept dropping. He wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for blood donors - like you? 9/

The search for a bone marrow donor ultimately led to a young German who matched perfectly: 57mls of life! 10/
Our son would have life-threatening leukaemia today if it wasn't for that bone marrow donor. Find out more by searching for the Anthony Nolan Trust /11

We left home in early April, and went to Bristol via Oxford for a procedure through the Future Fertility Trust at John Radcliffe Hospital /12
Our home was "Sam's House" - we don't know what we would have done without this CLIC Sargent facility and the community within. /13

The Bristol University architecture and spaces, especially Royal Fort Gardens, were an oasis for clearing the mind and a godsend for kids burning off energy! /14

Boys #2 and #3 enjoyed 'hospital school' in the Hospital for patients' siblings every day - a growing & fun experience with great teachers! /15

Entire Oncology/BMT team (Ward 34 and Day Beds) at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children gave outstanding care to our family... /16
...I love it when "multidisciplinary teams" work (and these are just the ones with whom we had contact): administrators, anaesthetists,...  /17
...chaplains, consultants, dieticians, doctors, hotel services assistants, nurses and nursing assistants, pharmacists, physios,...  /18 specialists, surgeons, teachers, and more - together they gave truly competent and compassionate care. /19

Treatment far from home means we have shared highs and lows with staff and other patients' parents who we might never see again. Thank you. /20
To our family and friends, feeling even more helpless than we do, thank you for simply being present. So encouraged by you. /21
Your emails, cards, gifts, messages, food, cheques, pet-care, prophecies and physical presence have been the grace of God in action. /22

We're particularly thankful for the practical + loving support we've received from our Methodist Church family, in Ballynahinch and beyond. /23
Our church leaders @ Ballynahinch Methodist kindly made arrangements for my extended absence + have faithfully led our people in prayer. /24
We're staying in Ballynahinch this year but I stop being the Methodist minister next week; so pleased to welcome Ruth Craig in my stead. /25

The boys' school has been so understanding & caring for our three pupils during the trauma of diagnosis and through their long absence. /26
The whole school and Ballynahinch Baptist Church raised funds for us that helped with travel and other costs related to treatment - thank you! /27

People have been so kind and thoughtful across this island, across denominations, across the globe. Body of Christ is a beautiful thing. /28

Here's my hero ringing the bell to mark end of treatment He's gone through so much so far. God is good. /29

We're really glad to have the continuing help of Macmillan, CLIC Sargent, NI Cancer Fund for Children, and more. /30

MegaMorph was outside Bristol Children's Hospital for 2 days. We were there for two months. But now we're home! /31

What's next? Our son could take months to fully recover, and simple illnesses can still be dangerous to him. But healing will come! /32
Forgive us if we avoid you if you're sniffling! Please keep praying for his protection, complete restoration and God's glory in the story. /33
And pray right now (if you don't mind :) for his recovery from an undiagnosed infection that's hospitalised him this week. /34

Through it all, hundreds of people have been praying for our son and family. Thank you. God's peace, hope, love and joy are real. /35