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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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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Start with a Smile

This weeks guest blogger is Emily Owen author of her autobiography ‘Still Emily’ which is due for publication on May 11th.

Start with a Smile

I could hear.

Then I couldn’t.

Overnight, I’d lost my hearing.

All of it.

I was deaf (still am).

I joined the 11 million people in the UK who have less than perfect hearing.

When I eventually began to emerge from the shock and depression and scariness of sudden silence, I picked up my ‘surviving hearing loss in a hearing world’ guidebook.

Or I would have done, had such a book existed….

The first time I told an assistant in a shop, “I’m deaf”, she looked terrified.

It was like looking in a mirror: I was terrified, too.

Where did we go after “I’m deaf”?

Neither of us knew.

I knew I could verbally tell her, “I’m deaf,” because I grew up with hearing and speech.

She knew she could hear me say, “I’m deaf,” because, well, she could hear.

What we didn’t know was how to bridge the hearing/deaf divide.

How to meet in the middle.

How to co-exist.

Since that day, I’ve had two choices.

  1. Become a hermit.
  2. Compile a bit of a guidebook of my own.

Tempting though option 1 often is, I went for option 2 (most of the time).

The first entry in my guidebook says, ‘remove the full stop after “I’m deaf.”’

Here are three tips for (hearing) people when they are met with the terror of hearing, “I’m deaf.”

Three tips for removing that full stop.

  1. Remember to relax.

Unless you happen to have a PHD or equivalent in communication, no one expects you to be an expert in dialoguing with deaf people.

We get that you are probably out of your comfort zone when you meet us.

Believe it or not, so are we when we meet you!

We don’t automatically know how to bridge that divide either.

But let’s start with a smile.

  1. Remember that communicating is about getting a message across.

If you and I can work out how you and I can bridge that deaf/hearing divide, that’s enough.

I speak a bit of sign language. My god-daughter doesn’t.

One day, in an effort to get me to understand the thrilling-to-a-three year old tale I kept misunderstanding, she resorted to waving her arms around.

She was trying to copy sign language.

She looked more like an over worked windmill.

But the combination of seeing her lips and seeing the windmill actually helped me.

To my shame, I can’t now recall this story that so obviously rocked her little world.

But I know I understood it at the time.

I’m also pretty sure that not many people use the windmill method.

And that’s ok.

In our own way, message was received and understood.

  1. Remember that we’re all different.

So you met someone last week who was deaf? And they could lipread what you said to them? Well that’s great. But, guess what?

We can’t all lipread.

A bit like just because some people can sing Opera, it doesn’t mean everyone can.

Some of us who can’t hear prefer to lipread, some prefer things written down, some prefer sign language, some prefer typing, some prefer….

Obviously, unless possibly you have the aforementioned PHD, no one expects you to be fluent in sign language but we’re pretty sure you can write things down. Or type them into your phone.

A good way to get started is to write/type, “how do you prefer to communicate?”

*note the question mark, not full stop*

And don’t forget your smile……

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AN ISSUE WITH A BROTHER

Today’s guest blogger is Ennrich Kritzinger who’s book Gender Plus is published today!

Forgiveness creates the way back to love — more so, to unconditional love!

Oh, where could I go with this thing called disappointment that was stuck in my heart? Would it be to the one I blamed for it being there in the first place? Surely not! An offence was taken, maybe not given, and I needed to let it go. I couldn’t and didn’t want to carry it any more by myself. It clouded my view, troubled my heart and yes, even quieted my voice from speaking. It hurt! It hurt like crazy!

So I went to Him, Jesus, who is forgiveness, and asked for His help. My question: how do I set things right with my brother? How can I even face him, speak to him with this thing in my heart, this beam stuck in my eye?

And so He lifted my head and said: ‘Give it to me. It was never yours to carry. Give me all your disappointment, anger, hurt, fear and unforgiveness! I carried it for you. Yes, 2000 years ago: now exchange the beam in your eye for forgiveness at the cross.’ How amazing that God gave Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins on a wooden cross so that we can have wooden beams of unforgiveness removed from our eyes. With his one act of love, it was done! Now I could go back to my brother, with a whole heart again — now you can speak again!

Thank you, Jesus. For you are forgiveness, you are truth, you are love, and you teach how to love unconditionally! You are the way and you teach me the way back to a brother!

Ennrich Kritzinger, author of Gender Plus published February 29 2016.

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First time blogger

I have a confession. Despite being a publisher I am neither a writer nor editor. My journey into publishing was unconventional to say the least. A sports science degree does not normally lead one into the literary world but here I am nevertheless. For over 20 years I worked for someone else. I dutifully turned up for work (almost on time) every day, hardly ever took any time off sick, often worked extra hours and took on anything that was offered to me in the hope that I would become too valuable to lose. And guess what? I was made redundant. For the first time in my life at the age of 53 I was (quite literally) shown the door and put unceremoniously on garden leave (not that I had much of a garden to attend to!).

So what was I to do.

In times like this I normally do three things; pray, reflect and run sometimes all at the same time. In these moments a path was illuminated before me. Not all at once but gradually step by step from flickering candelight to ever ready torchlight my heavenly Dad showed me a way forward just like my earthly Dad did when I was a child.

So here I am a year later. The director, of a publishing company which I wholly own having, with the help of my very able publishing assistant Sarah, published 15 books to date with several more in the pipeline. Are we making a living? Barely, but that’s not the point. For the first time in my life I’m free. Free to make my own decisions but also completely responsible for everything we do. It’s a scary journey  over some pretty rough terrain but so worth it…