Yesterday I returned to a place I think of as my training ground. It was the 9th anniversary of my first ever invitation to speak, at Newport Christian Fellowship in Shropshire. Back in 2001 I spoke for the first time on my chosen subject, ‘Out of the Heart’; Martin also spoke for 10 minutes – on his work on B cell leukaemia! Mark said afterwards he thought I was supposed to go back regularly and “practise preaching” on them! And so they became my willing guinea pigs and I have lost count of the times I have been there. We consider it another church family; I would not have been able to do so many of the things I have done since without their encouragement and support. Thank you, NCF! You are my Nazareth place where I have grown up and honed my skills – yet always found faith and been treated with honour as a prophet. You have always been incredibly generous and invested so much in me; you are some of our best friends. It is probably the only place I could have felt so safe speaking about our journey of suffering with Sam.
Yet I also have a Bethlehem place on the west side of the country, about 50 miles due south of Newport. It is a place of springs of water, and has been a place of breakthrough and breakout for me: Malvern in Worcestershire. I travelled there first as part of a ‘sowing seeds’ team in 2001 and for the first time climbed the bare hill. I was released to lead worship as part of the prayer times as well as on the first evening and in subsequent years to co-lead the team, speak at evening meetings and co-write the reports: release after release. In fact Steve Lowton and I were privileged to go with teams to pray with the church in Malvern for 3 years in a row and see encouragement rise as they began to hear and work with the word of the Lord for them. Malvern water, so pure it does not contain anything, exported from this quiet place in middle England to the gateways of the world, is such a sign of what the Lord wants to do with hidden lives laid down for Him. It has been a place of great battle and sacrifice for the followers of Jesus, yet of hope and breakthrough too. It’s a place of family calling for unity and reconciliation across the generations, standing as it does between England and Wales. Many times we have stood on the top of those 9 miles of hills and called for the wild fire to rise, the springs to break forth and the angels to come to our aid; many times too we have prayed over Birmingham, the heart of the nation and called in the connections across the land. Thank you to Angie and Harmony and to so many others too numerous to mention who gave themselves willingly over those years of prayer.
Investing yourself somewhere brings heart connection, relationships that count. I have been more than rewarded for my investment as I went over to ‘help my brothers’ for those 3 years and numerous other times afterwards; I have been ‘the redhead in Malvern’. It has been a place of birth and growth for me – in responsibility, ministry and service, revelation and authority, heart to heart friendship and intimacy with Jesus. Bethlehem means ‘house of bread’; it is the City of David where the sweet psalmist of Israel was born and angels sing “Glory to God in the highest!” as the Son of Man is born in secret – a place for the Word and the Spirit, a model place. Keep going saints in Malvern! Through the tracks of your tears and prophetic lives given to the community as mothers and fathers you are living the prayer. It’s only September, but I wish you a very happy Christmas!
Perhaps you too need some new birthing or breakout, some training in the way you should go? I am sure there are places and people carrying grace to help us all on our journeys, connections that come at the right time, straight from heaven, places where we find love, security and release. As we give our lives away we find them; as we serve in hidden places, secret places, we find the springboard to the public place. Come on, little places of England and humble people of the kingdom! Grace and release to you today.