On the way…

Well, the first stage of Pilgrims Way 2 is underway and I’m now in Wrotham Green having covered 10 miles in total though only about six on the route. The church door in Kemsing was reputedly hammered on by Pilgrims staffs while the church in Wrotham was lovely.

Chris, who I am walking with was having terrible knee problems before we started but Jo, who gave us a lift to our start point, prayed just before we left Otford at the start of the walk and since then he has been so much better (and my feet are doing well)

We had a few torrential showers and some impressive skies. My Cape covers the rucksack as well as me but probably isn’t the most fetching! I may post a picture tomorrow…

It’s a long day tomorrow-15 miles plus- so we’ll see how things go. Prayer always appreciated as is your interest. It is always a privilege to do these things when so many around the world can’t.

To be a pilgrim

Four years ago this week I was in Lebanon 🇱🇧 with a wonderful group from different countries to see what was happening in Lebanon and hear from Syrians (the hills you can see in the distance on the photo are in Syria 🇸🇾). The church we visited had an amazing programme for helping refugees (the other photo is of a volunteer dental team and the church did so much more). All this largely to people of a different faith and nationality (most Lebanese hate Syrians for historic reasons.) We met people in terrible conditions and with heart-breaking stories but saw hope being brought. Do remember and pray for both countries-the situation in Lebanon in particular has got much worse since I was there.

Back then I ran my first and only marathon to support the work of Open Doors partners. This week it’s Pilgrims Way Part 2; it will be 55 miles (plus) from Otford near Sevenoaks to Canterbury. This time I won’t be alone but I could be wetter by the look of the forecast! Do remember Chris from Gloucestershire (who’s 10 years older than me so I have no excuses!) and myself as we push ourselves. Both of us have small health issues at present. Hopefully we can raise more money for Open Doors partners to help those in great need in places around the world where life is very challenging.

4 years ago, the day after the run, we sat on a small rock 🪨in the Med and sang the song “Oceans” by Hiilsong. It reminds me that we must push ourselves out of our comfort zones to make a difference. But, when that’s following the call of Jesus, he enables us to do that.

I will post regular updates this week but a reminder of justgiving address. https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060 Thanks.

Mental Health Week…

How are you feeling? Many of us have found Covid hard. I have to admit that while it hasn’t affected me too badly I’m not always great with handling my emotions. Sometimes they blindside me; other times my response comes from a clear stress factor. I can struggle to manage feelings of anger, fear or depression sometimes. In the past I have sought help for this and if this strikes a note with you I would encourage you to do so too. It’s still a journey for me. But, however we deal with it, mental health is important to us as individuals and to our relationships and we need to be open with our struggles.

This is relevant to us in the UK but equally or even more so for many persecuted Christians around the world. Mental stresses can take many forms. It can be the child in Egypt that is rejected and bullied its peers because of their parents faith. The woman in Nigeria who has been raped and seen her husband shot in front of her. The man in a prison camp in North Korea who faces torture. Or the family in Central Asia driven from their home because their faith is considered to bring shame to the community.

Open Doors recognises that though physical and spiritual support is essential for persecuted Christians it would not be sufficient in itself, though each contribute to overall wellbeing. It therefore does much to support the mental health of persecuted Christians. This includes linking isolated believers together; funding a trauma recovery centre in Nigeria; running art therapy courses for Syrian children and funding “safe houses” in the “stans”. This children’s video brings out some of the pressures that bring mental health challenges.

So, any contribution you make really helps improve mental health around the world!

in terms of activities I have largely been concentrating on finalising the arrangements for the walk next week. I did another recipe tonight too-up to 49. Thanks for your support.

Plodding on…

It’s only a week to Phase 2 of the Pilgrims Way and I have been practicing again this weekend. Managed about 8.5 miles yesterday, partly on the beach. Managed to slightly sprain my thigh jumping off a breakwater but will recover!

Had an article in the local paper on Friday about 60@60 and will try to see what else I can do to publicise the fundraising. If you can share about 60@60 that would be great too. It’s not so much about me but rather whether I can raise awareness of what Open Doors are doing and of individuals around the world that are suffering. The activities I am doing are fundamentally all about helping persecuted christians and raising funds to support them. It’s important for me to remember that in the middle of all the actvity…

In the big picture, then, people like Taher is what it’s all about. Supporting them and helping them to make a difference in very difficult places. Thanks as ever for your help in achieving this…

Milestones..

Milestones in project management are points along the path; a place to take stock (hope you don’t mind the deliberate photo pun!). If you aren’t hitting your Milestones you have to consider remedial action…

Today as I write I am exactly three quarters of the way through 60@60. I have completed 44 actions with a couple more in process and a few planned so will hopefully hit the target.

The financial target is £6000 and I’m at just under £4 100 so a few hundred pounds below the milestone. Some who took the quiz have yet to contribute. Looking at remedial action I will shortly have a slot in the Southend Echo so we will see what happens!

It’s a privilege to be doing this and to have your involvement too. Thanks for your support. But fundamentally it’s all about supporting those who really need our help, for Christians who are suffering (and who in turn reach out to their neighbours). Just today I heard of 24 pastors in one small part of India who had died from Covid…

Below is a video that reminds us of why I am doing this.

Growth…

It’s Spring and everything is coming into bud despite the cold Spring. I discovered today that what I thought were foxgloves were the courgettes and they are really growing. All from a tiny seed. It struck me how things in life often start from small beginnings..

There are many stories of real suffering around the world. But there are also stories of growth. There were very few believers from a non-traditional background in Iran in 1979 when the current regime came into power. And despite the heavy persecution the house church movement has grown to hundreds of thousands. Growth can occur in even the most difficult circumstances.

For those in Iran being part of something bigger is important. Many persecuted Christians are alone or feel alone. Isolated. Battered. Forgotten at times. But part of 60@60 is all about ensuring that they are not forgotten. That they are supported and belong. Part of the wall.

60@60 activities continue. I have been doing more recipes and “good deeds”. Monday I am going to be reading all the 60’s in the Bible. That will be a challenge and will be recorded!

Thanks for your support. It makes a real difference to people’s lifes…

On your shelf?

John Wycliffe was one of the first to translate it into English and was severely censured; William Tyndale, was burnt at the stake by Henry VIII for printing the first modern version. In North Korea today owning one will get you placed in a concentration camp or even executed. Yet it sits on many of our shelves, unread. The Bible. You can consider it irrelevant, great literature it or seditious. But it is still a book that can change lives.

A couple of challenges I’m doing/have coming up involve the Bible. I’m trying to memorise Isaiah 60 (22 verses) and am up to verse 14. I now have great admiration for actors learning their lines or the Hebrew scholar who memorised all 150 psalms! The other challenge will be to read out all the chapters and verses in the Bible with 60 in them and record them. I shall need lots of water to sip!

Open Doors started in the mid 1950’s with Brother Andrew being asked by local believers to bring Bibles to Christians behind the Iron curtain. Around the world there are still many people who are desperate to get hold of the scriptures even if there is a risk to owning them. As the Bible itself says it is spiritual food and when you’re hungry….. Smuggling Bibles still happens today because that’s what people ask for though sometimes it happens through SD cards that can go into mobile phones.

Thanks as ever for your support.

What about leadership…?

Over the last few weeks there have been moments in and out of work when I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Am I up to the task? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?Can I keep the pace? Do you ever feel like that? But it’s only when we totally give up that we are beaten.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

This week I had a message from a former colleague. Another chap we worked with, who is a few weeks younger than me, is retiring. Meanwhile, a former planning assistant in our team has just been appointed as Policy Manager at a large unitary Council. She is in her mid 30’s; a born leader and will do a great job. Both have made me think of how to do the best I can, as a 60 year old, with the level of energy and abilities I still have.

Outside work I have been thinking about a role that has responsibilities and what that means. Looking at what Jesus said about leadership has really struck me; that it’s not about feeling important because of a position or lording it over people but serving them and enabling them to be the best that they can be.

Why so much about leadership and abilities? Because in so many places in the world church leaders are uneducated, can’t get proper training and are desperately poor because the people they serve are. Or in other places they are seen as community leaders and bear huge responsibility. And pastors are often targetted by governments and terrorists on the principle that remove the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.

In Iraq I met a priest who had been shot in the legs and then kidnapped. In Vietnam, a pastor with little education or money, working his land while trying to care for many desperately needy people. A minister in Syria who had a great ministry but lived with death threats. A leader from Central Asia who had been arrested on false pretences. Others whose children are attacked just because of their parents role. Real stories of real people. The list goes on. Those who are using their abilities the best they can and for whom leadership comes at a cost but they do it because they care.

Pastor Abdalla in Syria has seen many of his congregation flee and fighting damage his church but he has stayed. He has a vision to make a difference, to bring hope. Your gifts help him and others make a real difference in some hard situations. Will you help make a difference? Thank you.

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/AdrianSmith6060

What do we value..?

The pictures of the Queen mourning alone last week at Prince Philip’s funeral spoke poignantly. For all she has, the Palaces and the position, she can’t replace the one she loved. She is left with grief, memories and a deep sustaining faith.

Or consider the proposed European Super League. Money replacing identity and soul. Fans alienated and trust damaged.

This week a 62 year old Egyptian man, Nabil Habashi Salami, was executed by ISIS. He had paid with his life for helping fund his local church. His family are in hiding because of death threats. He valued his faith; his executioners did not.

What we value and how we live by those values is often thrown into deep relief. What are your values, my values and are we willing to take a stand. For many persecuted Christians this is an everyday choice.

On 60@60 a few people have taken up the quiz (though a gentle reminder to those who have not donated yet). It’s still available to you all if you are keen on testing your knowledge of everything 60. I was a bit discouraged to get one contribution in the first few days but thrilled to get a generous gift yesterday. So, the total is now over £4 000 or 67% of the target. Another milestone and thank you so much.

Thanks as ever for your support and help to those who often have what they value stripped away.

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.