Once more we come to the season of unbelievable love and humility – that the Creator of the universe willingly relinquished his divine status in order to live like one of us, and to die in our place so that we might have the privilege of becoming sons and daughters of God. No wonder the song goes: O come, let us adore him!
As we look back over 2016 we long that everyone should respond to this great love.
With our long links to All Nations Christian College we are delighted at the appointment of Andy Dipper to be the new Principal.
Andy and Emma have had wide experience in Nepal, various African countries and Afghanistan, followed by leading 3 international charities for persecuted or marginalised Christians. The college is humming with a sense of vision and expectation, and with their warm and wide personal relationships we trust the college profile will rise. Standing out as a key residential college for Biblical and Cross-cultural studies, a wide variety of courses are on offer from Explore (5 days) and En Route (10 weeks) to Bachelors and Masters degrees.
Martin and I (Elizabeth) are still privileged to play a small part in the college. Every December he teaches on the Islamics course, and each term we both contribute one morning on En Route. We also often help with the summer Refresh for Mission.
I am kept fairly busy in our village Parish church, leading services or preaching most months and running our Tuesday Home Group Bible Study. All the requests for ‘christening’ come to me. Martin also preaches occasionally and leads a monthly Men’s Breakfast. At St Andrew’s we offer a Welcome and Thanksgiving service to all the families, and then those who would like to go on to Baptism are given careful preparation beforehand. As a lay minister I have been a PCC member for many years, and we are much exercised as to how to attract people to a little village church when we have lively evangelical churches in the local towns. For the Queen’s Birthday we had a large screen and linked with the service in St Paul’s Cathedral on the Friday and then helped to run a Street Party on the Sunday afternoon.
In April we had the joy of visiting Graham and Jenny McCall in the Isle of Man. They are wonderful hosts and showed us all round the island. What a beautiful place with its wide views and hidden coves! Of course they kept Martin busy with a variety of meetings and I was privileged to preach in their village church. Their other delightful guests were Rodney and Helen Green who were visiting in Rodney’s capacity as the Prior (Chairman) of the Grand Order of St John. This is an order of chivalry dating back to the 11th century and covers the St John ambulance and the St John of Jerusalem eye hospital in Jerusalem. We have since visited them in Leicester where I spoke to Helen’s women’s fellowship and Martin preached in their church.
We had a surprise invitation for the May Bank holiday – two 80-year olds being invited to speak to a group of youngsters on a camp site. Thankfully they spoiled us by giving us a room in the farm house! It was the vision of our host’s son who wanted to invite his youth group to camp on the farm and hold Christian meetings. Since then they have met each year with growing numbers, so we were nearly 100 campers. The Lord was good and enabled us to relate well with them.
In June Martin had a fascinating visit to Albania for the first ever Missions conference in that land. The grip of Communism had been so terrible that there were no known Christians there when Enver Hoxha was overthrown. Praise God today there are 10,000 Evangelical Christians and the church is rapidly growing. The Missions conference was attended by 250 enthusiastic delegates. Martin was also privileged to teach at the Theological College which had 25-30 students. As they all have jobs they meet every evening for one week each month.
It was a joy to be invited to speak at the Chinese Overseas Christian Mission staff conference and meet their dedicated and capable team of some 70 workers. They are seeing many Chinese in this country as well as in Europe reached for the gospel. It always warms our hearts to be among Chinese Christians.
An unexpected invitation to YWAM Sweden meant we were able to visit their centre and have the pleasure of linking up with former ANCC students. They have a large campus and are praying about offering hospitality to refugees. The bureaucracy involved is incredible but they are working through it all. This was followed by the delight of staying with our friends from former days when we used to visit Orebro every year. Like us, they have all retired and what a joy it was to meet them again and see their lovely homes by three beautiful Swedish lakes.
September found us back in Norway again, first of all at Fjellhaug Bible school and then moving on to Porsgrunn to spend the weekend with our special friends Per and Nora Gimse. Nora speaks perfect Chinese and she and her Dad have very kindly arranged our visits to China and translated for us. Per’s amazing patience shines out every year we visit – he has had motor neurone disease for well over 20 years – but his quiet trust in God speaks to all who meet him. Then we had 3 days at Grimstad Bible College situated on a beautiful fjord. And finally we flew to the historic city of Trondheim to teach at the new mission training school there. There is no need to translate our lectures because the students all have excellent English. It was encouraging to be asked to minister to these young folk, many of them deeply dedicated to the Lord and with their future ahead of them. We also led seminars for the Trondheim churches and preached in one dynamic and large Lutheran church.
With only a few overseas visits this year there has been plenty of time to relax, and enjoy our home and garden and many friends. We have a small support group formed from former All Nations tutors which meets roughly every 6 weeks for discussion and prayer. These are some of our closest friends.
Every Thursday morning anyone from our church who is free is invited to drop in for a coffee at the local garden centre. This is a good time to catch up with news and share more deeply with each other.
Martin has been very much enjoying doing a careful study again of John’s Gospel. He is now sharing some of his thoughts in blogs which are posted on our website (martingoldsmith.wordpress.com) and on Facebook. We are so encouraged to see an amazing response from many people all over the world – quite a new form of ministry for old people like us! We have not produced any new books this year, but are still encouraged by feedback of blessing from our books.
We shall be spending Christmas again in Chichester where our whole family gathers: Andrew and Marboih with their 3 lovely daughters, Rachel, Annabel and Ellie, Margaret and Roger with Chloe and James who are in their twenties, and Ruth and Greg with their delightful teenagers Mali and Jemba. Andrew works in the city as company secretary in the very professional world of trading in coal. He is just back from a business trip which took him to Australia, Singapore and Japan. Margaret still heads up Life Centre, a Christian charity supporting survivors of domestic violence and rape. Her responsibilities expand at an alarming rate and she has just had a rather nasty operation on her hip. Ruth continues her ministry as theological advisor to A Rocha, Christians caring for God’s wonderful creation.
The Eco Church movement which she spearheaded is spreading all over the country. Now they are setting up Eco Dioceses.
Having been urged by our youngsters to consider the future, the Lord led us to a very suitable bungalow in Chichester which we have just bought. Presently we rent it out to 3 girls from Margaret and Roger’s church, and we trust it will be available for lodgers for many years. But when the time comes for us to need it we shall have a home to move to, very close to Margaret and Ruth. We praise the Lord that this has all worked out well, and we are very thankful to Roger for keeping an eye on it for us. Meanwhile we continue in our comfortable family home near All Nations and appreciate the continued privilege of a speaking ministry around Britain and overseas.
With warm greetings to you all,
Elizabeth and Martin