In 2019, after being made redundant, my wife Gudrun and I moved to All Nations Christian College, Hertfordshire, where I completed the BA Biblical and Intercultural Studies course in two years.  I went with the plan and expectation of going to work in East Africa.  My dream was to work with Village Pastors and churches doing community development work. 

I started to explore joining a mission organisation but for various reasons the door to go on overseas mission closed and we were told it would take till Autumn 2022 before we could go overseas.  This meant we needed to find a new plan. I started to explore the possibility of an ‘Internship’ with a church. At the time I had not heard of the organisation ConneXions or Hailsham!  At college a tutor put me in touch with ConneXions.  The Trustees of ConneXions invited us to visit Hailsham Gospel Mission, a small church of loving and sincere people, but all elderly.  On our first visit we both felt that this was not for us… (thanks, but no thanks). Yet, the thought of Hailsham did not let us go…

Photo of an older man and woman and their dog
Martin and Gudrun Brown. Photo: All Nations

Letting go

Our attitude and willingness to go, to change plans and let go of expectations was the first and hardest hurdle.  Could I learn to trust God and accept He would lead us to a small Market-town in the UK and not to the ‘call’ of Northern Uganda!?  Mission does not always mean overseas…it can also mean to our own people … and with the elderly.  What we value is not what God values and sees as precious…

My wife Gudrun strongly felt those elderly people are Gods’ diamonds, who are precious, and need a ‘shepherd’.  I, on the other hand, had to wrestle with my own kudos and pride. Questions like ‘what about going to Uganda?’; ‘could I humble myself and move to Hailsham?’ were at the forefront of my mind.  I felt God’s prompting to consider that we were the answer to their prayers… but also, they were the answer to our prayers!  So, over the summer our view and plans changed 180 degrees and we could say, 'yes this is where God has called us to be'. 

Hurdles along the way

There were three big hurdles for us:

  • finding a house to live in
  • being able to make the move out of college in time for new students to move in  
  • finding other part time jobs to help support us financially.

The promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8 significantly helped us:

'And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.'

After much searching and failing to even get viewings for a house, God miraculously provided a superb house that was beyond our dream and expectations. We were able to move in spot on time. We managed the move and we both started part-time jobs that we could do alongside the church work.

From our plans to God's plans

Having moved to Hailsham, the challenge was how to support the church moving forward?  Initially, I wanted to look at books about church growth and leadership. However, God redirected us to go back to the basics of prayer and fasting – sounds super spiritual but the practice is not easy.  I want to be doing, moving forward, making changes, and making an impression… Yet each time God nudged us back to prayer and fasting!  Reminding us, fasting is not a just nice option but is just as important and key as prayer or giving. As one writer says,  'The eyes of the Lord are still searching the earth today for Ezras and Nehemiahs who will first humble themselves to pray and fast; who cry out for the restoration and renewal of the temple and the city gates.'

I attended the ConneXions conference with the call and challenge to move from the safe and familiar model of being pastoral churches to being missional churches that can reach out to and respond to where people are.  This made me wonder, are my plans and thoughts for our church basically going back to the old comfortable and familiar model of church?  To move away from that sounds trendy, but in reality, is quite threatening, unsafe and messy…. Again, God is challenging me to move from my plans and expectations to be open to what He has… which will no doubt be as different as Hailsham is to Northern Uganda!  Yet I now see God is taking me back to mission training on the job and the reality of having to do it rather not just learning about it from books and tutors.

At the time of writing this, wondering if my ideas and thoughts are unrealistic, I was taken to Psalm 32:8 where the Lord says:

     'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.'

 

 

Martin Brown

Hailsham Gospel Mission

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