Quizzical?

Activity number 43 is complete. The long promised quiz sheet is ready for you to get hold of! Something to test your brain cells on. Over 60 questions on the 60’s and all things 60. A picture round too. All yours for a donation to 60@60. You know you want to! Do contact me and I will email you a copy. It would be great to get the total over the £4 000 barrier (two thirds of the target). I’m currently about £120 short of this.

Changing the topic, imagine what it’s like to be watched all the time. This is the experience of many Believers from a Muslim background. This is especially the case at the current time with Ramadan having started over the last week. To not be fasting is to mark you out. To put you under suspicion. To bring more than quizzical looks.

I should make clear what Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, said that for Christians ISLAM should stand for I sincerely love all Muslims. However in many countries there is an honour and shame culture, and for someone to leave Islam is to bring shame to the family and community. It can be a dangerous time for many. Do remember them.

Do have a good weekend and enjoy the lovely weather. Thanks for all your interest.

Making progress…

This week is the seventh anniversary of the kidnapping of the Chibok girls from a school in Northern Nigeria 🇳🇬 Over 100 of the girls are still missing and it’s not known if they are still alive or have been married off to jihadi fighters. It remains a terribly difficult time for their parents. Kidnapping (and killing) of children and adults still remains a major issue in Northern Nigeria. Do remember them.

I have managed to finally start typing up the 60’s quiz which should be finished and ready for circulation at the weekend. So get ready to start buying your quiz sheets!

Well, looking ahead to 2nd and 3rd July is #well out of my comfort zone! I have booked myself to go on a white water rafting experience at the Olympic course. Scary! But even more scary is booking to go on England’s newest, highest and longest zip wire. 720 metres long and 100m high. I don’t like heights but it’s worth doing if it raises money for persecuted Christians.

I will leave it at that for now. May you enjoy the coming of Spring. Thanks for your support.

A life well lived…

The passing away of Prince Philip this week, though not a total surprise, stirred some unexpected emotions. He had always been there as part of the national landscape. But it was very interesting to discover all the things I didn’t know. Someone called it a life well lived. So, what is a life “well-lived”?

Service is definitely part of it, particularly when born of love and care. Serving others is hard work. Some service is in public but much of it is hidden. Unseen by all but a few and God. You will think of many true servants. I remember meeting people like Pastor Douglas in Iraq working hard to create a family community for displaced refugees in Iraq despite his own traumas; of a lady visiting remote villages in Vietnam to bring teaching and hope at substantial personal risk. Lifes well-lived.

My OS maps have arrived; the one on the left shows part of the Pilgrims Way in Kent; the other includes the route to the top of Cleeve Hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds. Part of the preparations for events next month. I have also been preparing more questions around the 60 theme for the quiz which I hope to type up this week. It has taken a long time but hopefully I am making progress.

Below are a couple of photos I took while on a practice walk today. It’s lovely to see Spring. And also a picture of my daughter’s old piggyback that sits on the shelf next to my work desk. A reminder that every little action (and amount) accumulates to make a big difference..

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A brief update

Not a lot to report and update you on in this blog. I have been making a few preparations for the next activities (e.g., buying maps for the Pilgrims Way and a trip to climb the highest hill in the Cotswolds) but that’s about it.

Sometimes life is a bit of a plod and the results of the activity doesn’t appear obvious even though you seem busy. Like seeds beneath the ground in the darkness, something is happening but we don’t see it. I have been a bit tired and discouraged lately, struggling somewhat with self-doubt but the key is to keep going. Got my first donation in what seemed ages today which was an encouragement.

For persecuted Christians life can often be hidden. Like a permanent Easter Saturday, caught in the middle, waiting for the hope to come. Sometimes the ordinary “squeeze” of everyday life, the continuous drip of rejection can be as draining as a upfront attack. They need hope; to be remembered as part of something much bigger. But God remains faithful. I pray that you would be encouraged today and be an encouragement to others.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Easter Sunday

Today is a very special day for Christians throughout the world. On a Friday that seemed anything but good it all seemed over but then on Sunday morning 🌄 there was an empty tomb. A desolate but then thrilled woman talking to someone more than the gardener. A bunch of frightened men hiding from the authorities transformed by seeing the risen Christ.

Easter. Tragedy into triumph. Love conquering all. Forgiveness and hope. 11 of the 12 disciples would later die for this belief. And many Christians around the world take a huge risk of rejection, suffering and even death because they believe in the one who conquered death.

Thanks for your support for your worldwide family. You help bring light into dark places with your donations.

I am now two thirds of my way through the 60@60 challenge. 41 of the 60 challenges done; 64% of money raised though only one donation in the last few weeks. But God knows…My latest activities were making Indian Gulab Jumun (the last Lent food challenge) and visiting a windmill.

May you have a special Easter and know the hope of the resurrected Christ.

And finally, a lockdown version of an old song whose chorus sums up what so many persecuted Christians ✝️ experience.

Easter build-up

As I write this it’s the Wednesday before Easter and I have finished work until Tuesday which is nice. But am I ready for Easter? It is so easy to lose the important in the midst of the ordinary.

A couple of things that I have kept going constantly over the months are the Bible box and the gift box. I often find it interesting how reluctant people are to take something that is free. But this week things have moved-a couple of bibles one day and the gift box 🎁 has completely emptied which has never happened before. It struck me how reluctant we often are to accept something that is free. We suspect either there is a hidden cost or we don’t think that we deserve it. Easter is a reminder that we get something very special free but there was a great cost behind it.

There will be more cooking and planning of other activities this weekend. Meanwhile, I mentioned in the last blog that Easter is often a dangerous time for persecuted Christians. It is two years since the Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 Church bombings while last weekend a suicide bomber attacked a church in Indonesia 🇮🇩. Easter is a difficult time for many….do remember them.

Having said all that I hope you have a very Happy Easter. Thanks for your support and interest.

Palm Sunday

This is an old palm 🌴 cross I have on my shelf but I thought as today is Palm Sunday I would include it. The crowds hailed Jesus that day but had turned against him a week later. How much do our expectations influence how we respond to situations (and to Jesus)? And how often do persecuted Christians fall from grace when they reveal who they are…

Saturday evening at 8:30 was Earth Hour. 60 minutes every year where lights on some of the world greatest buildings are switched off (and in homes too) to highlight the impacts of climate change. Just lighting my home with candles for an hour reminded me of two things 1) It is the poorest in our world, many of whom are persecuted Christians, who suffer most from the effects of climate change 2) Persecuted Christians are light bringers into some very dark places and to people who sometimes want to snuff the light out.

As part of “Cooking with them” I baked Nigerian Cinnamon Buns this week. I followed a recipe by Veronica who is a cook at a trauma counselling centre and who herself has seen her village burned down twice by militants. It is not easy to be a Christian in Northern Nigeria… your donations bring help to those who so need it in that area.

May the runup to Easter be a special one for you. And do remember our persecuted family at this time; Easter is often a time of heightened tensions.

Reflection…

This week we had the National Day of Reflection to remember the first anniversary of the declaration of the first covid lockdown. A reflection on what has occurred and how it has impacted us and others. A chance to pause from our busyness and take a deeper look…

Remembrance and reflection is so important to the human condition. We need to remind ourselves of what has happened and influenced our lives and reflect on its significance. In the old testament Joshua was told to assemble a pile of stones after the people of Israel crossed the Jordan as a remembrance of what God did. A memorial to recall the past but also a reminder that the same God who was active previously was with them in the present. I have my own pile of stones as a reminder of my visit to Holy Island last year…

Reflection and remembrance isn’t just a recollection of the past and it’s importance. It’s about now too and influencing the present. 60@60 is very much about remembering those currently making a stand for their faith and the implications this brings for them. Then it’s reflecting on what this teaches me but more importantly what can I do to help stand alongside and being support. True remembrance and reflection honours the people impacted and where it can, brings change. Let’s not forget them.

Preparation…

Yesterday I ate chocolate 🍫 and it tasted so good. After 7 days and eight nights of one bowl of soup and bread per day it was a real treat to savour orange juice in the morning again; to literally “break fast”. It makes me think of the many simple pleasures we take for granted. The partial fast wasn’t easy but was worthwhile.

Lent is historically a time of preparation for Easter. We are also reminded that Jesus spent 40 “hidden days” in the wilderness then had to go through temptation before He started his ministry.

Virtually all things worthwhile in life require preparation and waiting. This is often “hidden”. This is at odds with our “instant generation” but frequently there is a price to be paid, for anything from a career to a relationship. A self-denial to be gone through; a training to be undergone. For many persecuted Christians however being hidden is a permanent part of life.

I was reminded today that a grain of seed has to “die” before it can bear fruit. Fourteen days ago I had a small dry hollyhock seed; a few weeks ago my daffodils were hidden underground. But from the ground there blossoms life.

21st of March is the Spring equinox and in Persian speaking countries, Nowuz, the celebration of new life. Iranians in particular meet together to celebrate this. For those who have a Christian faith it is a chance to share the hope they have, sometimes at great risk. But if something is important it’s worth sharing, right? This clip is a couple of years old but I think it’s still worth sharing as there are still others like Maryam in jail…Thanks again for your interest and support.

OMAD

OMAD…or One Meal a Day to you and me, is apparently a recognised and popular form of weight loss programme. It is not without its dangers though, as without careful management it can create health issues.

In contrast approximately 700 million people in the world go hungry every day, not because they want to diet but because they can’t afford food. They have no choices about healthy diet. Covid added around 100 million more to this figure. Hundreds of millions live below the International poverty line figure of $1.90 per day. This is just wrong and should stir our hearts to action.

North Korea 🇰🇵 is one of the countries with extreme poverty and lack of food but it affects much of Africa and South East Asia. I remember meeting two farmers and a pastor in Vietnam 🇻🇳 and they were obviously desperately poor, trying to eke a living from small plots of land after being driven from their village for their faith.

I am now five days into my one meal a day of soup and bread. Butternut squash soup made with leftovers is delicious. Having said that you feel full for the afternoon but by the evening and for the next morning you physically the hunger pangs. I have kept the same work and running 🏃‍♂️ routine to relate to North Koreans but it does slow the metabolism and make you lethargic. Living this way permanently would be draining at the least, especially if you have to do manual work and have poor living conditions. It’s only by accident of birth that we are blessed to live in the west.

Open Doors makes such a difference around the world. Food and medicine is somehow smuggled into North Korea. I remember meeting refugee families in Iraq who were so grateful for the food parcels they were receiving. The pastor from central Asia who was visibly pleased to receive a cow to supplement his income. It makes such a difference. Your gifts via my justgiving page helps to transform lives.

v https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

Thank you for being change makers. This is the difference Open Doors supporters are making in Syria 🇸🇾 after 10 years of civil war.