Fixed Conference 2017

I recently attended what must be one of the most unusual, yet totally inspiring, church conferences that I have ever been to. Bolton, in Greater Manchester, may not be on everyone’s radar as the go-to place for spiritual enrichment, but Barry Woodward and his Proclaim Trust team managed to put on an amazing event which was so refreshingly different from the norm that one could not fail to be affected in some way.

What makes Fixed so different? With a gathering comprising mainly ex-addicts, those who care for addicts, and a good number of current addicts, these folks could really worship! I suspect that knowing exactly what they have been saved from brings out a greater degree of thankfulness than your average Sunday morning church crowd, but even allowing for this, the volume level seemed on a par with any of the local Premier League football grounds, including Old Trafford!

Story followed story of people whose lives had been transformed by encountering the love of Christ, often displayed through the love and dedication of Christians with a real heart for those struggling with addictions. At one point, there were no less than 13 people from the world of addiction on stage, all of whose stories are featured in the new book Fixed Lives. This book was launched on that day.

There were stories from around the country about some amazing work with addicts. Two of these were Ian Rothwell from the Turning Point church in Bournemouth and Joanne from Junction 42 in the North East. Ian and Joanne passionately shared their own experiences with projects in which they are involved to integrate addicts into local communities, giving them a real sense of worth and value.

Barry Woodward then incorporated elements of his own story in a talk that was entitled ‘Fingerprints’. His delivery was polished and would be the envy of many a comic. After Barry spoke, an appeal to others to find the salvation that he had found was met with an unprecedented response from over 70 people from the 500 attendees walking forward to give their lives to Christ.

Optional afternoon seminars were delivered by key individuals who work with people in the addiction community. John Edwards, Paul Lloyd, Gordon Cruden and Alison Fenning brought some excellent teaching. Moreover, Vicky Lloyd delivered a superb message which she called ‘Faultline’.

The day concluded with a roof-lifting workship celebration which was led by Mark Stevens and Anthony Farrell. More personal and inspiring stories were shared by Daz Armstrong, David Taylor-Lewis, Stuart Patterson and others. Then, Jay Fallon brought the final keynote to all those in attendance.

Overall, it was somewhat encouraging to know that even in the most hopeless of cases, there is always hope and there are still people around who care. Really care.

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AFTER THE FALL

This week’s guest blogger is Dr Mark Stibbe  author of Home At Last

As readers of my books will know, in 2012 I had a moral fall which caused a lot of pain to a lot of people, especially those I love. In 2013 I came to my senses and owned what I had done and, like King David, discovered that godly sorrow brings restoration. Shortly after, I began to engage in a two-year process of counselling. About three months in, the Father began to open up a locked trunk in my heart – a trunk full of hurts of abandonment and abuse going back to my ten years at boarding school. Once opened, I began to see how the agony of being left at prep school on my eighth birthday, along with the abuse that followed, had caused me to board up my heart – so much so that I was later unable to show my emotions properly to those I love, nor enjoy joyful intimacy and express healthy empathy.

As I began to unravel all of this with my counsellor, and those to whom I am accountable, the Father gave me supernatural keys to unlock my chains. And not just my chains but other peoples’ too. My latest book, Home at Last, is my attempt not only to tell my story but to offer healing to the thousands who, like me, became disengaged and disintegrated at boarding school, often to the detriment of their marriages and families as adults.

I wrote Home at Last for two reasons: Firstly, because there is a growing awareness in popular culture of the emotional damage done at boarding school. Secondly, because there is no other book or ministry that is specifically dedicated to bringing heaven’s help to those suffering the agony of long-lasting boarding school pain.

My prayer is that it will bring freedom to thousands of people living with a long-term legacy of pain and that it will be used to bring emotional health to those wounded by their boarding school experience.

Dr Mark Stibbe

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The Migrant in the Mirror

This weeks guest blog is by Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill

The migrant crisis is bigger now than ever before, with some sixty million men, women, and children on the move. ‘We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,’ said António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

And I have news for you. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Our world is full of war, poverty, terrorism, corruption, failed states, and ecological disasters, all of which uproot people and send them searching for a better life.

Some people respond to the tragedy with a shrug. Others shed an occasional tear, particularly when confronted with heartbreaking images, like photos showing infants lying facedown in the surf, dead after a long, harrowing water journey. Still others respond with anger or fear, threatening to round up the outsiders and either send them back to where they came from or lock them up and throw away the key.

Today, followers of Jesus find themselves in all three of these emotional camps. I am writing to help Christians understand the challenges our world faces and respond to these challenges in Christ-honoring ways.

Them or Us?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a roof over your head and a reliable income, it’s only natural for you to think of today’s refugees as “those people.”

But let’s take a moment and look in the mirror. What do you see? When I look, I see an immigrant staring back at me.

It’s easy for us to forget that our ancestors probably looked like “those people” when they made their journeys from the old countries to new lands in Europe or the “New World.”

The United States is rightly called ‘a nation of immigrants’ but even card-carrying Europeans like me need to admit that nearly all of us arrived after the last Ice Age!

I am culturally English today, but I’m the product of immigration. My Irish grandparents emigrated from poverty-stricken County Cavan to England in 1899, where there were more opportunities for a young doctor and his wife. They were not the only Johnstones to scatter across the world in those years.

Flowing in my veins is Celtic blood, Dutch blood, Viking blood—and not a drop of English blood so far as I know. My boyhood schoolmates quickly seized on my obviously Irish name, ‘Patrick,’ and teased me mercilessly, even bullying me. To them, I was one of ‘those people.’

The migrants scrambling today to reach our borders are no different.

Immigrants and Refugees

There are so many terms being thrown around. So who’s who, and what’s what?

Immigrant: Someone who has relocated (for whatever reason) to a new country.

Emigrant: Same as above, only viewed from the opposite end—someone who has left for a new country. In 1933 Albert Einstein emigrated from Nazi Germany. He immigrated to the United States.

Internally displaced person (IDP): Someone who has fled their home but is still inside their country’s borders. (IDPs account for two-thirds of today’s 60 million on the move, in fact.)

Refugee: Someone who has left their home country to escape war, natural disaster, or the fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, or political opinion—AND has been registered as such in a receiving country.

Asylum seeker: Someone who appears to be a refugee but hasn’t yet been officially evaluated.

In the years after World War II, Europeans largely welcomed the war’s refugees. The same happened in the U.S. in the years after the Vietnam war. United States accepted more than a million refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

But today, refugees often receive a chillier welcome.

Are Christians Really More Negative About Immigrants?

I can understand why some people fear refugees and want to “throw the bums out.” But I’m surprised when Christians embrace that approach.

This article was excerpted from Serving God in a Migrant Crisis: Ministry to People on the Move by Johnstone and Merrill. Now available from all good bookstores.

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