Thank you for 20 years

IMG_0351Just before we hit the summer burlington was kind enough to mark our twenty years of ministry within the community.  Ceri and I just wanted to say thank you to all of you for the love that was shown, the prayers that were prayed and the generosity that was expressed to us, and our whole family, as we gave thanks to God for all that he has done among us. We are immensely grateful for the love and friendship of this community and the privilege we share in leading within it.  Thank you very much.

Here is the thanks that I expressed on the day itself.

Thank you to all of you for the journey.

Twenty Years ago Ceri and I were barely out of nappies and were still living on Farley’s rusks and SMA but you entrusted us to lead this community.  Thank you.  It’s been, and continues to be, an immense privilege.

When we have shared new vistas, entered new seasons, and travelled unchartered waters your faithfulness, your love for Jesus and your determination to be a community where God’s kingdom breaks out has been remarkable. Thank you for the excellent teams that you have placed around us, not just now but in so many of years gone by. Without those teams the journey would have been impossible.

We have had the privilege of sharing with you through the best and worst of times.  Some of you have lost loved ones that we all wish were here today.  Others of you have got married, or discovered the joys and agony of parenthood.  Some of you have reach a mountain top higher than your own expectation.  Others have traveled roads of sadness deeper than you had ever imagined.  Thank you for sharing those moments with us, and for letting us into your lives.  We hope that in some small way we have honoured that gift that you have given to us.

Thank you for the times when you have looked passed the role, the job and the responsibility and seen us (Ceri & Simon) as a couple seeking to love Jesus, love each other and raise a family.  Thank you when you recognised that and reached out to us in that.  That has meant so much.

We need also to publicly thank our children for the way that they have served this community from their earliest years.  Whether it’s being the last people hanging about at every church event, including Sundays when they feel like they are dying of malnutrition by the time we get around to lunch!  Whether it’s accepting a home that is full of the unexpected and unpredictable, or the knowledge that planned family time is so quickly and easily compromised with either Ceri or I responding to a need.  Our children have done that with incredible grace, patience and a readiness to serve.  As they have got older they have actively joined the family team of making mission and discipleship happen around them and we are so proud of them.

Lastly, I want to thank Ceri who, from a human perspective has made it all possible.  We are a team and what you see is the result of that team.  She inspires me, challenges me and disciples me more than anyone I know. And me, I hope, her too.  So much of what she does goes unseen as she uses her prophetic gifts, her coaching skills and her passion for God’s kingdom right across our community. So much of what grows around us has been in some measure planted by her.  We owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

In a sense from my vantage point, her’s has been the biggest sacrifice.  In her we’ve seen the greatest act of serving and the laying down of self as she has fought for someone, walked alongside someone or been a catalyst for someone’s next season. Darling I love you so so much.

And the truly final word is this ….

… God has been faithful to every word he has spoken and every promise that he has made.

I wanted be a cool Christian worker.  The last thing I wanted to be was a Baptist Minister.  They were the most boring, uninteresting  people imaginable.  But God had other ideas and usually he has the final word ….

So in the fullness of time I went to a Baptist College who declined my application insisting  that I wasn’t cut out for  ministry at all and I should think about another career.  As ever God had the final word and the last laugh and we did go to college and then we came to Ipswich.  And no-one is more amazed than me at all that has happened.

So as we prepare for more baptisms next week of those who have found Jesus this last year let’s never be in any doubt that that’s what it’s all about.

Thank you.

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