December 2010 Glyn and Emma Moreton update
Moreton update December 2010
Happy Christmas everyone! It’s Christmas eve today – we have very excited children here!!!
It seems like a year since we wrote the last update (well it is a year actually!) How time flies!. We have passed our 1 year anniversary of being back in the UK – wow! It was on the 7th December that we arrived in the UK last year and it seems impossible that it is just one year! We feel like we have been here for far longer and feel very settled. So much has happened that Tunisia seems like a distant memory from another life. Though the lessons we have learned, and rich experiences of our times overseas have been critical in preparation for being here.
When we first arrived back it was freezing and snowing! And this winter has also brought a fair amount of snow – many people said to us last year “never normally snows like this” well, second year on – we don’t believe you! We had a fair wait until we could move into our house. The 6 weeks it took we stayed with friends in Ashburnham Place and then on moving to Eastbourne we stayed with a lady from the church – she was so lovely and generous (it is not easy having kids running all over your house!.) We were desperate to unpack all our stuff and start the settling in process. When you have lived overseas there is something called “re entry shock” (or “reverse culture shock”). This is when you return to your home culture after being away for a period of time. We certainly grappled with this!
There was a lot of time needed to register with doctors, set up accounts and direct debits and get kids registered for school, buy school uniforms, get onto the benefits and tax system, get the house set up, get to know the area, and lots more we have forgotten at this point! Looking back all this seems a bit of a blur! One very difficult experience was Sam becoming seriously ill and having 6 days in hospital with a strain of swine flu and suspected meningitis. This was a terrifying time. So it was a busy, intense first couple of months!
So we now leap into the present and look back on the early weeks with amazement! We are so grateful for our home, our neighbourhood, friends, the kids being so happy and settled in school, and generally a real sense of being “settled”. Sam has been infected by the “JD Bug” (scooter) fad and loves tearing around the streets. Carys loves anything arty and will happily spend hours using up all our computer paper. She ranges from pretty horses with curly eye lashes to people getting their heads bitten off by tigers. So she is er… Creative!
And the church – Old Town Community Church, what a phenomenal place. It is difficult to describe quite how the journey has unfolded with this extraordinary group of people. And how they have opened their hearts and arms to us. After all we were coming here for the most part as an “unknown family” and yet we were instantly embraced and welcomed in.
Over this past year we have had the privilege of working alongside Joe and Susie Marriott (the former pastors), and they have slowly taught us about the functions of OTCC and shown us the ropes. This is a place built not on fixed traditions and routines, but spontaneous compassion, adventure, prayer, love, acceptance, and good practice. The driving force is the Holy Spirit! We are in an exciting (privileged) position of being recognised and valued as a church by the authorities (Social services, the children’s services and local agencies). This means we often get the opportunity to work in partnership with them.
One of the things that has stood out to us about the church is the incredible diversity of people we welcome in. We aren’t a huge number of people (between 60 – 80), but alongside the more “settled” folks and families, we are a safe place for vulnerable people (including a number of lone parents in tough situations, folks with mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependency, people with criminal / occult / traumatic back grounds, and rough sleepers.
The majority of people involved in OTCC live on the estate where we are based, and a large number of these folks haven’t come from a “church background”. This means they come in “fresh”, unhindered by ideas and fixed habits of how you “should” behave in church! (This can be refreshing, or a challenge for those who have come from an established church background as OTCC Doesn’t exactly ” fit” a more typical idea of church!) There is something different about OTCC – We believe it is rooted in people being loved and accepted as they are, and not simply being expected to modify behaviour to fit in. (Real value is placed on being real, open, and belonging – if someone is having a hard time it is ok to share it! If someone is angry, hurting, or recovering – which can be messy! – they are accepted as they are). We recognise that each person is on a journey and will be at different stages and from different experiences. The idea is that we love, “be there” and journey with each other. We desire to work in partnership with the Holy Spirit, moving towards wholeness and Christ-like-ness!
Previously many may have said they were “a Christian” if asked, in the same way someone might say they are “British”, which is just a name rather than something which deeply impacts how they live their life. Coming from unchurched backgrounds means there is a real freedom for people to participate and engage. There isn’t that inherited perception of how one think’s one “should behave” in church! Therefore it isn’t unusual for a lot of interaction during our meetings with people shouting out questions / asking for clarifications or wanting to share a story that relates to something in a talk! We think this is why God seems to make himself known in wonderful ways to the folks here – being spiritually hungry, open, and ready to hear and respond is a sure way to encounter the Living God!.
We have had encouraging events the last year with a number of healings: one man had a huge protrusion (big word!) on his stomach which was prayed for and it instantly and visibly disappeared! We had another lady visitor who had depended for years on a wheelchair and crutches to get around and she was healed during a communion service and has now abandoned her crutches and is seen walking about the community here which raises many questions! Another lady was healed of severe liver problems and a gentleman had restored hearing. How great God is!
Also healings in relationships – reconciliation’s! One person hadn’t seen their dad for 22 years after a complete breakdown of relationship. They are now reunited and back in touch. And a lady who lives on our estate would have told people her dad was dead – he wasn’t he lived just a few doors down. They are now rebuilding their relationship and this is the first Christmas in 6 or so years that the dad is with his grandchildren for Christmas. And finally (there are many more but this will get long and boring!)
One person had suffered terrible depression and drug dependency. Normally every November they would take to their bed and not emerge until the Spring (literally!). It is lovely to see them this year joining in all the Christmas activities – serving people, laughing, carol singing and looking like they have light beaming from their face! This is all down to Jesus and his restoring power. The folks here are listening to the teachings of the bible and experiencing transformation.
So on the 26th December we fully take over the running of the church. Marting Relf (chairman of “Eastbourne churches together” commissions us). This is an exciting and daunting time for us with more than a few “gulps!”. However, the miraculous way we got here, the connections, the mind – blowing provision of a house and more than we could have asked or imagined .. All these things reassure us that God wants us here and He will be sufficient where we feel lacking!!!
This isn’t to say it is all easy! We have already wept many times, felt overwhelmed (much of the time!), experienced exhaustion, weariness, and recognise we need to work on boundaries for our house or we would be constantly full of people and crises. We have to work hard to get quality time and space as a family and make a real point of having personal time with God. After all – without Him, and without a solid healthy family base, all this is futile! It is for Him and through Him.
Over the past year we have (typically) got ourselves stuck in to quite a few things. We are responsible for the running of the weekly drop -in called “By the Way”. Which is run at the Old Town Community centre and attracts a very diverse group! We hold a bi-weekly meal and for many it is “church” for them. We also run a women’s group called “Dove” which is an intensive “restoration course”. And a men’s discipleship group, prayer groups, community service (in it’s true form!) and all sorts of social outreach.
So in summary, what a year! What will this new year bring? Haven’t got a clue but if the first year is anything to go by – best buckle up the seat belts and hold on to the Way the Truth and the Life.
So we sincerely wish you all a very happy Christmas and pray that each of us will experience Immanuel “GOD WITH US” in wonderful ways. Have a peaceful and blessed New Year. Thank you for taking the time to trawl through this Looooong letter.
Emma, Glyn, Sam & Carys