I grew up in Northwich, Cheshire. When I was five years old I asked my Dad if he could take me to church one day. He wasn’t a Christian or a churchgoer but took me on his bicycle to the local Methodist Church. After a warm welcome and an engaging sermon, Dad took me the following week and, over the next couple of years, he became a Christian and trained to be a local preacher. I enjoyed going through the various Sunday School groups and when I was 15 at a youth weekend away with my friends, I responded to Jesus’ call from Revelation 3, deciding not to be a lukewarm disciple anymore and to give my life fully to Jesus.
After University I had a year out with the Christian Charity ‘Careforce’ and worked in a rural parish in Warwickshire. There I became a children’s and youth worker, within the church, at the village youth club and leading clubs in primary schools. After enjoying this role immensely, the following year I trained to be a primary school teacher. Although I realised the teaching role was not for me, I realised my passion was for Christian witness to younger generations, especially in a primary school setting.
I moved to Ipswich and worked with Christian Youth Ministries for many years, helping to establish 'Open the Book' teams during that time. I eventually moved on to become Children’s and Families worker at a local Baptist Church and a Governor at a primary school. I’ve led holiday clubs, family events, a Parenting for Faith Course, toddler group, children’s clubs and been involved in sports ministry.
Before and during the Covid lockdown I had been prayer cycling around rural churches to the north of Ipswich and longing to see God do a new thing in and through His church. I held onto a word God gave to me, ‘Wild Harvest’, and also a dream about Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you”.
When I heard about the work of Lightwave, shining God’s light across rural Suffolk, I knew that God was calling me to a new vocation. Now I am the Lightwave Hub leader for ‘Emerge’, working across the Fynn Valley. Incredibly I moved to Playford with my family, one of the places I had been prayer cycling through for years!
As a Lay Leader for Lightwave, I have welcomed the opportunity to be part of the Formational Community for Church Planters, which Bishop Martin, Bishop Mike and Archdeacon Sally Gaze have facilitated. Meeting each month with such a diverse and committed group of leaders when we can pray, be honest about the ups and downs of mission and meet God in new ways (through the Examen and Dwelling in the Word) has enriched my discipleship and given me something fresh to offer my community.
Currently I’m part of an ‘Envoy’ community, a Church Army initiative. This has helped my team and I to grow deeper friendships and to see the way evangelism and discipleship are closely linked. Envoy has inspired us as we release the value God sees in each person we meet, one conversation at a time.
'Emerge' is working alongside established churches in the Fynn Valley (near Ipswich) with people of all ages who are currently outside church. They work with a local charity, ‘Just 42’, to lead a Christian Union group at Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge and Grundisburgh youth club.
We led Sunday worship at Playford Village Hall with a few families joining us. Recent events included a Seed Swap (inspired by a grower’s group in the village) and a Pancake Party. In good weather, we have a ‘Playford Pitstop’ at the Village Hall as part of our Sunday worship, when we serve drinks and snacks and have conversations with walkers and cyclists passing through the Fynn Valley. Last summer we had our first service of ‘Thanksgiving for the gift of a child’ at the village hall. A couple of new people have started attending, who are just being introduced to the Christian faith, one brings his four-year-old daughter and they are asking questions and helping to shape our community and how we disciple others. They are also getting involved and using their gifts, one of them baked a delicious chocolate cake recently and brought it to our Seed Swap.
We have a few mid-week Lightwave groups or mission initiatives. Little Bealings Borrowers is a wildlife after-school group working in Little Bealings churchyard. The group was set up in partnership with East Suffolk Community Partnership and Little Bealings Church. Our strapline is ‘Do something small to be part of something big’. We’re helping children and their families to see that caring for the natural world begins in a small way, on our doorstep, near our home or school. Recently we built a den in the wild area, collected and identified wildflower seeds and did a bioblitz to see the variety of invertebrates living in the churchyard. We also enjoyed making pancakes and peppermint creams in the church before Christmas. One lady said "Thank you to Ben of Little Bealings Borrowers and Sue who provided the materials and taught our children how to basket weave with willow. Whilst my daughter Charlotte made her bird feeder, my sister and I enjoyed a natter over coffee provided by Helen. It was great to see so many dads and grandparents getting stuck in too. I can very much recommend coming along. All families are welcome and all are made welcome".
Each week we reflect on the beauty of nature, God the creator and his creation, and the children have collected Bible verses on wooden discs on a keyring to take home.
We’re so thankful to God to see the difference He is making to families in our communities through the work of Emerge. One parent who came along to the group with her son recently, started to attend our Alpha group in Playford. This opened up the spiritual side to her life which she said she had been missing for many years, since she was a girl. She’s since named our group, ‘Bible Book Club’. This group meets on Friday mornings, we have drinks and cake and a social time, and recently we’ve been using this as a springboard for further discussion. This is followed by a creative time or walk, individual reflection and prayer. One lady said, “I have truly enjoyed our time together in our group - the camaraderie, the peacefulness, the chance to explore my faith.”
We want to see the Fynn Valley become a Valley of Grace as we pray and join in with what God is already doing.