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A Sideways Look

A Sideways LookNobody ever accused Marten Holmes of being too conventional. Yet his photographic exhibition ‘A Sideways Look’ gives Christian tradition a new twist that makes non-Christians raise questions about faith.

Looking back to the time when he came to faith in Jesus as a young person, he found it hard to fit into a church. ‘Everything was so dated, the way people dressed and spoke. Even young people in the church seemed so old. It was all a bit tame.’

Over the years, Marten was able to relate to people who came alongside him in the church. Recently, he again took an unconventional change of direction by looking into religious traditions – and then expressing them in modern terms.

It started when Marten decided to do a foundation course in photography and digital imaging. He chose to do a project using known religious art works, borrowing elements and presenting them in a different way. His chosen works deal primarily with Renaissance art.

In September, the St. Ives Festival Celebration of Music and Art provided the opportunity to showcase Marten Holmes’ exhibition. The Last Supper remains a popular source of interest. Based on Da Vinci’s famous mural, the striking photograph ‘Supper’ comes with an explanatory text. ‘This image has been moved from the Jewish Passover into a Christmas celebration, but has been posed with the disciples ignoring Jesus to reflect how Western society has left Christ out of Christmas.’

Other photographs included both ‘Eve’ and ‘Mary’ using the same model. Alongside a reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Prodigal Son’, Marten Holmes’ text explains the perspective of his photo. ‘I wanted to bring the older brother out of the shadows…Looking through “Western eyes” we fail to see the depth of meaning in Jesus’ words. It is the older son who is the rebellious one as he refuses his father’s love and forgiveness.’

‘A Sideways Look’ attracted hundreds of visitors over a five day period at the festival. A small team spoke with people at the exit and were able to distribute 500 Gospel tracts. Marten notes. ‘People really engaged with us. There was a gentle openness as they usually shared their own views of faith. Sometimes, our conversations delved into deeper meanings of Christianity.’

People who signed the guest book commented on how the excellent photographs were very thought provoking. A former choir boy wrote that it really made him think and feel the need to come back. One visitor from Melbourne, Australia, summed up. ‘The best contemporary Christian arts stuff I’ve bumped into in six weeks of overdosing on churches.’

Yet Marten says his favourite encounter was with a man who came a second day to bring friends who had missed the exhibition. ‘As his friends went off, he turned to talk to me as he wanted to ask questions regarding the photograph “Adam.” It seems they have been discussing the exhibition at length over dinner the previous night and were still pondering it!’

From Religion to Reality

Jenny preaching on the streets‘During childhood, our home was religious,’ recalls Jenny Carroll. ‘Our parents often took us to church. My mother read to us from the Bible. But, somehow, there wasn’t a reality about it.

‘Looking back, I know that one great influence was going to Bible camps. They spoke about the Good News of God, of Jesus. Also, I saw miracles, healings that took place in answer to prayer.

‘Yet I kept trying to know God for myself. I would go to church. Trying to get right with God, I did my best, even giving money to charities. But nothing helped.

‘Then, at age 16, I went to a Bible camp in Cornwall. A lady prayed with me. Incredibly, she prayed things about me that no person could possibly know. I realised that it could only be God speaking through her. And I knew, at once: God is alive; Jesus really died and rose again to life for me. I gave myself completely to God.

Clear calling
‘From that time onward, I totally followed God. Even then I felt called to tell others the Good News of Jesus being alive and wanting to relate to them personally. I believed that preaching about the Lord publicly is what I was meant to do with my life. This conviction was so strong that I worked at jobs just to earn a living but focused on opportunities for Christian witness.’

All of that changed last year when Jenny felt she needed to share her faith with others on a full-time basis. One Bible account really impressed her as she read about Jesus calling His disciples. They were prepared to leave their father, their family business and security behind – and it was all to follow Jesus when He called them.

As she considered this major step of leaving her secular work and income behind, she talked with others. Two Christian leaders prayed with her on different occasions. Yet, they both cited that same Bible account. Jenny knew it was time to begin her calling as an evangelist.

Having previously taken a practical course ‘Streetwise’ with OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners), she became an OAC Trainee Evangelist.

From Africa to Iceland
Jenny in AfriceNow Jenny is completing different modules ranging from theological studies to hands-on experience with OAC Staff Evangelists. ‘Living in Reading, I especially appreciate the need to strategically approach local evangelism,’ she observes. ‘Because OAC works inter-denominationally, it means team members from different churches can relate to people of all ages and ethnicities in their area.’

However, Jenny does not see open air evangelism as strictly a local activity. Her background includes valuable experience with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) in Tanzania. Her talents developed further as she became fluent in Swahili. Leaving in 2010, Jenny felt that she would one day return to Tanzania to live and serve in evangelism there. This summer, her OAC work took her to another part of Africa, Zambia, as part of an evangelism team which saw many people coming to faith.

‘I’m prepared to go anywhere in the world to tell others about Jesus,’ insists Jenny. ‘That’s my work and I really love it!’ Jenny demonstrates that clearly as she will be part of the team joining Franklin Graham for outreach this autumn – in Iceland!

Inclusiveness Within Limits

OAC ConferenceKnown for their innovative approaches, OAC aim to host conferences that challenge as well as inspire. The OAC Evangelists’ Conference from the 4th to the 8th of November at Hebron Hall, Cardiff, welcomes everyone interested in proclamation evangelism. Yet speakers were selected for a provocative reason.

‘We deliberately invited speakers from a spectrum of church expressions so that all of us will be challenged at some point,’ explains National Director Peter Kennelly. ‘I’ve told them not to be “polite” to us because they’re our guests, but to tell it to us like it is in the Bible.’ Inter-denominational, OAC has always been inclusive of diverse churches with the crucial limitation being what the Bible says.

Working together with local churches, Staff Evangelists equip individuals and teams to engage with their community in creative ways. Practical sessions on offer at the conference encompass activities such as evangelism and schoolwork. Director Amy Stock of schoolswork.co.uk heads an online community to train Christians who are passionate about reaching out to young people. At the conference, she will lead opening sessions on youth work.

This year, the Evangelists’ Conference offers a mini-conference ‘The Evangelist and the Church’ on the 6th and 7th of November. People can book for the entire week or just for ‘the conference within the conference’.

Compelling speakers include General Director of Gospel Literature Outreach Stephen McQuoid who grew up in Ethiopia; as a theologian and teacher, he has written numerous books. Author of the men’s best-seller 'Diamond Geezers', Anthony Delaney leads a church meeting in a cinema, club, inner-city estate, a warehouse and even a church building. With a PhD in Physics from Oxford University, Steve Jeffery, Minister of Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Southgate, has speaking engagements in Europe and America and writes books. A former Staff Evangelist with OAC Jamaica, Al Lambert now serves as the Pastor of Potters House Church, Reading, where his ministry extends to evangelism and church planting.

With such a strong line-up, Peter Kennelly notes, ‘If you come to the conference prepare to be taught, encouraged, challenged and a lot more.’

August 2013

Youth and Truth

Jordon on the streetsWild parties have great appeal to young people in their teens. Proven results include an increase in drinking, drugs and escalating violence on our streets. One typical young girl of 16, Gemma (not her actual name), was heavily into partying and fighting. Yet for months, she spent time grilling OAC evangelist Dave Workman about issues like creation versus evolution, and heaven and hell.

Last month, Gemma realised the truth of the good news. She has accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. ‘This really proved to be the key issue for her,’ explains Dave, ‘that Jesus must be Boss, Number 1. Calling Him Lord was her final surrender point.’

Now Gemma enjoys a new found peace in God. Her changed life is characterised by joy as she shares the Gospel with family and friends. In addition to reading the Bible and going to church, she joins others in outreach.

Of course, old habits do not simply disappear. Gemma still battles with her tendencies to fight. Coming from a dysfunctional family, she has taken a stand by attending church. Although initially negative, family members can see a real difference in her.

‘I lead a great team of helpers who give of their time and energies for a youth club,’ explains Dave Workman. ‘Non-Christian teens come along on a Friday evening to socialise, play games like table-tennis, snooker, and football.

‘In the middle of the evening we spend about 15 minutes looking at life issues connected with God. We try to steer youth clear of the drugs, drink and sex scene. Now, a few have become very serious about the Gospel.’

Peer pressure can be especially influential. That is why it is important that Christian teenagers are involved with this ministry. It makes the youth club effective because these teens prove on a daily basis that a biblical perspective can add to the quality of life they enjoy.

In the case of Gemma, as she struggles to overcome her aggressive background, she knows that she can rely on the loving network offered by Christian teenagers. They accept her and encourage her as she grows with the Lord.

‘It is right for a young person to carefully consider the cost of following Jesus,’ explains Dave. ‘One teenager who is now very interested in coming to faith, realises that he would have to leave behind the sex scene. But he can also see that others have made the right choice and experience the fulfilment that he lacks.’

One truth about youth is especially apt for the Workman family as the younger generation enjoys biblical precepts they have known from early childhood. Two of the Christian teenagers involved in this youth work, Jessica and Daniel, are Dave and Vicki Workman’s children. Their older son Jordan thrives on evangelism in settings ranging from Britain to the Middle East.

July 2013

Out On The Streets

Streetwise TrainingWhile most of Britain huddled indoors during the severe weather of early winter, one brave group aimed to get out on the streets. They are participants in ‘Streetwise’, a course which began on the 19th of January and equips them in presenting the good news of Jesus.

Lectures, workshops, creative approaches and practical outreach will help individuals develop their potential. St. John’s Church in Stratford, which proved a strategic base for outreach during the Olympics and Paralympics, is the venue. In order to accommodate those with busy schedules, the course takes place one Saturday a month for six months.

Headed by the OAC Ministries London team of evangelists, ‘Streetwise’ offers the opportunity to develop individual skills and work in teams.

‘A professionally run, interesting, practical and really fun course,’ commented one person who completed ‘Streetwise’ last year. Experienced evangelists offer their professional expertise in subjects ranging from theology to elements of evangelistic preaching. With creative means such as painting to illustrate messages, the course definitely proves interesting. Also, practical experience is gained as participants work with local teams drawn from different churches. Those who take part develop their individual skills as well as experiencing the supportiveness of team work.

When asked to comment on the element of fun, OAC UK National Director Peter Kennelly responded, ‘Laughter aids listening and helps learning. Used correctly, humour can ease tension and open up a person to interact with what we have to say. If our students on the course have fun whilst they are learning to do something that, let’s be honest, is a really nerve-wracking thing like preach on the street then they will be all the better prepared for the task. If our hearers on the street experience us use humour correctly, it will relax them and encourage them to stay with us, listen to the proclamation of the gospel and speak with us afterwards.’

An important aim of the course is that those with leadership potential can return to their local church with sufficient know-how and confidence to form a team. Then, they are enabled to lead it out into their local community using appropriate methods of evangelism. To this end, participating churches often send sponsored candidates to ‘Streetwise’.

January 2013

Journey of a Lifetime

Marten Holmes on his journeyIt wasn’t the journey Marten Holmes originally had in mind. Last autumn, his plan was to ride a bicycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End. But his recurring heart problems put an end to that. ‘I decided that, rather than focusing on what I can’t do – which I had done for the last few years – I would focus on what I can do,’ explains Marten. ‘I decided to buy a motorbike and do the trip with an engine.’ The result was an ambitious ride to visit the four corners of Britain, stopping at the four cardinal points of the compass.

‘I’ve always been up for a challenge and adventure,’ he said. ‘In some ways, my real journey started some 40 years ago. My sense of adventure has taken me to many different countries and brought many varied opportunities – canoeing, climbing and mountain biking to name just a few. It also got me into a fair bit of trouble at times.

‘In my 20’s I started experimenting with drugs, which didn’t fit well as a submariner in the Royal Navy so I decided to quit the Navy whilst I had a choice. That decision would lead to another much bigger decision – and the real journey began. At this time, my parents became Christians and began not only to talk about how Jesus can change your life, but to demonstrate it too. I found it embarrassing and annoying.

‘However, I couldn’t deny the changes in them so I decided, secretly, to investigate further. I started reading the Bible with an open mind and, whilst there were many things I didn’t understand, there was so much more that I did. I understood that God loved me deeply and, whilst all the wrong things I’d done hurt Him and had erected a barrier between us, He’d also done something to remove that barrier.

‘That something was Jesus. He became a man and, by living a perfect life on earth, Jesus was qualified to take the punishment that I deserved. This work happened when He died on the cross and came back to life three days later.

‘When I accepted God’s love and forgiveness, I experienced a fresh start. I began a new journey and a new adventure.

Marten Holmes on his journeyRecently, this ambitious motorbike trip was part of a sabbatical from Marten Holmes’s work as an Evangelist with OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners). Marten also commemorated 20 years as an OAC Evangelist which involves sharing his faith in such diverse situations as New Age festivals and school assemblies. ‘In some ways, the four corners bike ride was a pilgrimage. I was planning to pray about the areas on my travels. Also, I knew there would be opportunities to meet and speak with different people.’

That’s precisely what made this journey so remarkable. Bikers attract the interest of a lot of different people and many want to know what motivates a biker, especially one taking this sort of route. Marten had opportunities to share his perspective with like minded people staying at hostels. Often, they were seeing the country themselves. He was able to distribute close to a hundred copies of ‘My Journey’ which he had written for this trip.

Also, his four corners bike ride blog appeals to a variety of people. It captures the imagination as he describes everything from practical advice such as how to avoid sneezing while wearing a helmet to thought provoking spiritual matters.

For more information, please visit Marten's blog at fourcornersbikeride.wordpress.com

January 2013

Small Churches Unite around the Calendar Year

In the Bridlington area of Yorkshire, small churches are uniting for effective outreach. Throughout the calendar year, there are seasonal evangelism opportunities which require a team of committed people. Yet a few churches who wanted to be effective in reaching others realised that they could not do this with so few participants. Now ‘4 Churches’ brings together a team that is conducting outreach in a variety of ways throughout the year.

‘We work under a wider banner of four small churches uniting in the Gospel,’ explains Evangelist Roger Gray of OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) Yorkshire. ‘Smaller churches face lower numbers attending services and very few people who could conduct outreach. But we unite in the Gospel to ensure a nucleus of team members which makes us more effective.’

This year, the ‘4 Churches’ team participated in Bridlington’s Victorian Market. Held in the Old Town, this market offers a variety of stalls but also an old time theme with opera singers and Morris Dancers in costume adding to the occasion. It was held on a Sunday, the 8th of July. ‘Normally, we would be in church worshipping on a Sunday,’ notes Roger. ‘But we recognised this as an important way to reach the un-churched. Also, of course, it coincided with the Olympics. That meant we had some very good literature to distribute which really caught the interest of visitors.’

Roger Gray using creative object lessonsIn addition to literature distribution, team members were able to engage in one-to one conversations and new contacts were made. OAC is known for innovative evangelism and Roger was able to use creative object lessons such as a ‘three in one’ rope trick as well.

Currently, team members are preparing for the next seasonal opportunity when they form a Christian Carollers group. Each Saturday of the Christmas season, they will sing carols in the town arcade, the Bridlington Promenades. This will include the 15th of December Christmas Town Special. On that day, local theatre group members will be present in costume and other participants will also add to the celebration. But the Christian Carollers will be doing more. They also intend to go carolling in local pubs. It seems that, throughout the year, every opportunity for effective outreach will be pursued with enthusiasm.

October 2012

Olympics Draw International Outreach Team

Everyone knows that the Olympics encompass teams from around the world. When Christians strategically reached out to the crowds attending the Games, they too were able to draw on enthusiastic participants from abroad. The hub, as it became known, centred on the extensive grounds of St. John’s Church Stratford, was used as the base for the Ultimate Gold outreach.

‘The Ultimate Gold Olympic Outreach was a huge team effort and my thanks go out to all involved and for those who prayed as it was a very special time,’ said Evangelist Roger Murphy of Through Faith Missions (TFM). ‘Almost everyone on our teams led people to Christ – a real privilege. We had UK partners and Christian artists from all over the world who were of a high standard and very flexible.’

Partnership brought together St. John’s Church, Through Faith Mission, OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) and a range of some twenty East London churches. This meant there was always something on offer for the constant number of people who used a public footway which runs through the church grounds.

David Knight preaching in the open air‘Our task, at OAC, was to provide a steady stream of preaching throughout the afternoon and evening with messages accompanied by painting on sketch boards,’ explained OAC Evangelist Steve Gurnett. ‘This was interspersed with singing by individuals and groups, various acts using creative object lessons, escapology, acrobats, and dancers. There were many openings to have conversations about the Gospel, as both local people and visitors took the opportunity to sit and relax in the sunshine with the free tea, coffee and cold drinks provided.

‘Other features included children’s activities, puppet shows, the offer of prayer in a prayer tent, taking ‘The God Test’, in which people were asked their views on either the existence of God or His nature, and a faith survey. Young people’s activities were also popular with everything from table tennis to a football cage provided by Youth for Christ. All these different approaches led on to good opportunities to share the Gospel.’

Teams worked incredibly hard as outreach took place daily from noon until 9.00 each evening. Yet all agreed that the results made it worthwhile. During the mission many people were touched by the Gospel and over 160 people chose to follow Christ and another 60 made re-commitments. They are now being followed up. At the same time, OAC London team members are busy preparing to assist St John’s Church during the Paralympics.

September 2012

On The Cutting Edge

John Heywood on the streets‘Typically, we work with many people in the West Midlands who are on the edges of church life or outside it,’ explains OAC Ministries Evangelist John Heywood of Stourbridge. Yet, his teams are on the cutting edge in reaching people of different ethnicities and including the marginalised, the poor and those with special needs.

Using both friendship and preaching, outreach teams go to places of public interest, parks and shopping malls. Complementary gifts are developed so that one person may illustrate a message with painted art work and others play music. Imaginative means characterise OAC evangelism with puppetry and creative object lessons drawing passers-by. When they stop and listen to the brief Gospel message, other team members follow-up with conversation and literature distribution.

John Heywood in the parkOn a warm day, crowds swarm to the local park where a team conducts evangelism. ‘Many stop to watch and to discuss the work and personality of Jesus,’ notes John. ‘One of our first aims is to gain contact with people who would never enter a church. This Sunday pulled a rare congregation! Some stopped to talk and even asked for prayer. Now we’re requesting prayer to develop our strategies in a culturally relevant way.’

It’s not always large teams that conduct effective outreach. In one shopping mall, only a few team members were invited to work on behalf of local churches. Some of them played music which attracted passers-by. An experienced one-to-one worker found that pedestrians who stopped were open to discussion. Many appreciated hearing the Gospel explained so the evangelism team now sees this venue as an important area of ministry.

‘When I was a young person, there were several people, who invested time and energy, spiritually, into my life,’ said John Heywood. ‘Now I want to repeat the process for others.’ His activities include teaching sketchboard painting to OM Lifehope students and those on a more advanced level and mentoring younger friends in coffee shops. He also enjoys conducting seminars and helping churches with practical outreach. John feels it’s important to help develop gifts among people who do not preach and become valued team members. It seems that the West Midlands teams have room for everyone who is dedicated to serve on the cutting edge of effective evangelism.

May 2012

Photos by Zuriel Media

Easter Tell A Tourist

Easter Tell A TouristThis year, for the first time ever, the well-established Tell-a-Tourist outreach took place in London at Easter time. Between 3rd-6th of April a team organized by London City Mission and OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) took to the streets with the aim of effectively communicating the gospel in the public arena.

‘The good thing about staging Tell-a-Tourist at Easter is the focus on the death and resurrection of our Lord.’ noted Stephen Frost of London City Mission. ‘One of the team started conversations with ‘Did you know that Jesus is alive?’ We were able to speak to people from 27 different countries including Romania and Saudi Arabia.’

Comments and questions from the public ranged from, ‘Is Jesus God?’ to ‘All roads lead to God.’

Many people were being prayed for as a result of their conversations. They varied from a man who left the Jesus Army and now lives in a squat to a Hindu man who is open to all religions. Also, there was the encouragement of meeting a Pakistani Christian who suffered persecution for his faith.

‘Easter time in London in 2012 catapults my mind back to Passover time in the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day,’ commented OAC Director Peter Kennelly. ‘Throngs of different people, yet both cities full of people whom Jesus longs to gather to himself…Some weeks after that first Easter, Jesus’ disciples spilt out into the streets proclaiming the news of their risen, ascended Lord. Nearly two millennia after them we, on the Tell-a-Tourist mission team, did the same.’

The team spent most of their time in Piccadilly Circus as there were thousands of visitors around. But there were also opportunities to witness in Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Tower Hill and Oxford Circus.

The team comprised people from 12 different churches and an age range from 16 to 82 years old! Painting both words and pictures to illustrate the gospel message proved effective in holding the attention of people listening. The team also distributed literature in a variety of languages to reach the many different nationalities represented in the city. Team members invite you to join in praying that the powerful message of Jesus will touch the lives of diverse people as it did in Jerusalem almost two millennia ago.

April 2012

Buzz Words that Work!

Buzz ClubSome buzz words appear to be short lived. They drop out of use almost as quickly as they gain popularity. But Christians in Plymouth use buzz words that work to engage with the wider community. At the Buzz Club, a Saturday morning drop-in geared to families, simple words of welcome help engage with people. Just asking, ‘how are you?’ or commenting on their children starts to develop relationships.

‘Building relationships is what the Buzz Club is all about,’ explains founder Anne Brindley, Families Pastor of Mutley Baptist Church where the drop-in takes place. ‘“We’re here for you” is the clear message that draws people.’ Family groups know they can just come and relax. Children play while adults enjoy a ‘cuppa’ and a chat. The small, dedicated team have seen numbers grow in five years to an average of 200.

These numbers reflect a broad spectrum with attendees ranging from professional people to mothers from a rehabilitation centre. Local Evangelist Dawn Getley of OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) relates to such diverse people. She points out that her involvement with Messy Church began through the Buzz Club where she regularly reminds people to come.

Held monthly on a Saturday afternoon, Messy Church also is geared to family groups. Children and adults join in creative activities including crafts and science. Dawn uses themes to coordinate activities. Woodcarving of animals related to a message about Noah and the ark. Making star decorations synchronised with the account of Abraham.

When ‘messy’ activities finish, everyone goes to the church part of the building for singing and a Bible message. Family considerations include child-friendly songs with actions. Getting the meaning across to adults along with the children remains a goal. ‘The story communicates on all levels which is what OAC is good at,’ explains Dawn. She uses puppets as part of her Bible message saying, ‘They have a unique way of reinforcing the story. And it’s the puppet who can ask pertinent questions in an exceedingly fun way!’ Everyone then enjoys a meal together before going home.

Another way Dawn combines fun with outreach is at holiday Bible clubs. During the February half-term she held one at Halcyon Methodist Church, again appealing to family groups in the Plymouth area. The theme centred on running a marathon to win a prize. Throughout the week, activities and teaching all harmonised to compare sports achievement with spiritual life.

Opportunities for hands-on involvement helped children to participate while emphasising the biblical teaching. A huddle corner allowed them to use individual work sheets with colouring and puzzles as well as to exchange ideas. ‘With both adults and children, I always accompany my messages by painting on a sketchboard,’ notes Dawn. ‘It holds the attention of the children yet I can address myself to adults too.’ Using both lettering and illustration proves effective as it seems people get a buzz from both spoken and painted word.

February 2012

Anniversary Couple Celebrates with Honour

The Loring FamilyThe year 2011 marked a special time for Ian and Caralee Loring. They celebrated both their 20th wedding anniversary and 20 years of living in Albania. Then the year culminated with a surprise honour. In December, the Mayor of Korce, where they live, informed Ian that the Town Council had voted unanimously to make him an 'Honoured Citizen of Korce’ (equivalent to being given British ‘Freedom of the City’). ‘I am both touched and honoured,’ was Ian’s reaction. ‘I am thankful to God, and pray that this will give more opportunity to share the effects of a society coming to Christ.’

The beginning of their remarkable journey that led Ian and Caralee to Albania began in the West Country. Before their marriage, both were part of an OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) mission team operating from Bristol. After his theological training, Ian, with Caralee and others, went into communist countries that allowed them to bring supplies to impoverished and suffering people. They also brought the reason for their compassion – the love of God which they shared in words and illustrated by painting on sketch boards.

Coming to Albania almost by accident is the way Caralee recalls what happened in 1991. ‘We were working short term trips into Bulgaria when Albania opened. We were privileged to enter when the country first opened in May 1991, and lead some of the early evangelistic teams into the country. It was so open and had such need that the call was just evident. That year we were engaged, married, and moved to Albania and haven’t looked back! We’ve been so busy. It’s hard to imagine being anywhere else, and the Lord has truly moved mountains and confirmed His call on our lives to be here.’

During the civil war of 1995, the Lorings made the decision to stay in the country. At this distressing time, they undertook the daunting task of feeding the Kosovar refugees at their mission stations in Erseka. Also, they were able to re-establish three schools for local children. Their high profile has resulted in a large and thriving ministry.

Youth Day TripOne of their great success stories affecting different areas of Albania has been training Albanian students for Christian leadership. Over the years, church leaders have been raised up. Having returned to Korce, Ian currently is organising another programme for a training school.

‘Ten years ago when we returned to Korce, one of our greatest desires was to help the church regain it’s credibility in society,’ Ian explains as they work together with a Christian foundation and others. ‘With the work of the Foundation here and the churches’ social projects, the vast number of volunteers ready to serve the town and the poor, the atmosphere has changed. So has the opinion of people who for many years saw the church as irrelevant.’

‘This Christmas the Korce Town Council took the unusual decision to award Ian “Honoured Citizen of Korce”’ comments Korky Davey, West Country Director of OAC. ‘This is in recognition of much needed social action in establishing safe houses for deprived children and orphans, ministry to the elderly, a physical therapy programme, and special education class and work in an orphanage for the handicapped, street children’s work, school, and church centre. All this flowed out of the successful proclamation of the Gospel to a whole community.’

Local residents have noted two firsts. This is the only case known of one foreigner being given this honour in two cities, both Korce and Erseka. Also, it was the first time in five years that the Town Council voted unanimously, encouraging the community to celebrate together with this remarkable family. Yet the Lorings sum up their biblical view, ‘Wealth and honour come from you… Now, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name.’ (1 Chronicles 29:12-13 NIV)

January 2012

Taking To The Streets

Geoff Beckingham on the streets of ManchesterWhat makes a man who serves on local Boards of Governors take to the streets? ‘We go out on the streets to help people who otherwise wouldn’t hear about Jesus,’ comments Geoff Beckingham of Manchester, who serves on two Boards of Governors for schools in the area. He does this outreach in his role as Training Director for OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners).

‘Whenever we go out into a busy shopping area, we get large numbers of people stopping to listen,’ he says. ‘Those who stay to the end are interested and team members are then able to have in-depth conversations, usually about 15-20 conversations every time.

‘These are all people who would never hear unless we go out and tell them. A lot of people have a negative attitude about Christianity. Our brief messages aim to get them to think about Jesus, who He is and the Good News He has for them.’

This week several students from Manchester Grammar School stopped. Often these students have an indifferent or even scoffing attitude. Yet this time, a group of five lads remained attentive throughout the Gospel presentation. Afterward, team members, including a retired teacher, spoke with them. The students all took evangelistic leaflets, and two of them also took Gospels of John.

Geoff’s wife Doreen serves on the outreach team. This week she spoke with an Indian man, who related his story – when he came over from India, he knew no one and had no job. He was very lonely and got to such a low ebb that he decided to commit suicide. He put up a rope in his room to hang himself with but wanted some drink to take with some tablets.

Then he realised the local shop was about to close and so ran out and towards it. On his way, he almost knocked an old lady over. He apologised and she said, ‘That’s alright, but do you know that Jesus loves you?’ That stopped him in his tracks. They spoke and she put him in touch with a couple who could help him. He received Christ but has now moved to Manchester, so wasn’t attending church. Doreen gave him details of a church and a contact person who lives in his area.

Team work is basic to the success of street outreach. Although team members vary in age, work background and denominations, all are involved with local churches as OAC partners together with such churches. OAC professional training equips them to effectively reach those who need to hear about Jesus. Geoff Beckingham has specialised in training others. His effectiveness in communicating with students has led to his position on Boards of Governors. Yet he values the experience he enjoys of going directly into schools to share with the younger generation. ‘It is a great privilege to go into schools and tell the wonderful truths of God. It is great to see the children sit before me so attentively – such a responsibility.

Octboer 2011

Beyond The Riots

In the wake of Britain erupting with deadly violence this summer, everyone looks at possible solutions for the way forward. Resources are being poured into examining the root problems and ensuring future protection. Yet some insist that real issues were dealt with years ago, with most people failing to act on the guidelines provided.

One such insistent group is OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners). Their work is based on the premise that the issue behind community breakdown and destruction is a spiritual void that only the Lord Jesus can fill.

‘Community members and leaders alike give many explanations for the cause of our increasingly violent society. Yet God dealt with all such problems in one simple way: love,’ notes OAC Director Peter Kennelly. ‘It’s the Lord’s overwhelming love for the lost that we proclaim through Christ. That is why our Evangelists’ Conference in November is Passionate Proclamation Evangelism. We are passionate about telling others that the Lord’s guidelines to move beyond hurt and destruction are as relevant today as when the Bible was written.’

OAC Evangelists ConferenceThis conference takes place from Monday the 7th – Friday the 11th of November at Hebron Hall, Cardiff. Yet it encompasses a two day ‘Conference within a Conference’ from Wednesday to Thursday, the 9th – the 10th of November. ‘Love for the Lord and the Lost’ provides a fitting tagline for this stimulating exchange provided by well known leaders in evangelism. Speakers include evangelist and author Roger Carswell, Director of the Forty Three Trust Mark Greenwood, Andy Hawthorne, OBE, Director of the Message Trust, and Revd Jon Turner who heads Saltmine’s community outreach.

All who are interested in proclamation evangelism are welcome to attend, either the entire week or for the two day ‘Conference within a Conference’. Throughout the week, there will be times of sharing ideas for more effective proclamation, specialised areas of outreach such as children’s work and panel discussions. Hands-on advice about techniques will benefit everyone from people who may just be starting their church outreach to professional evangelists.

This conference offers ample times of worship and fellowship. The communal worship will prove a reminder that the Lord’s love for the lost still has power to overcome society’s evil with eternal good.

October 2011

Why Has Britain Lost Its Way?

Tell A TouristIn the light of the widespread violence and devastation spread across England in August, this question is incredibly relevant. However, it was actually posed by a man from Kuwait during the Tell-a-Tourist outreach campaign in London which ran 25-30 July. This man explained that he appreciated the rich heritage of the UK, yet his searching question recognised a moral vacuum present in our society.

This example was just one of many conversations the Tell-a-Tourist team had this summer. Across six days they spent 250 man hours in the capital’s tourist hotspots engaging people with the good news of Jesus Christ. This led the team to Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, the Tower of London, and Covent Garden. Other areas included Hounslow and Ealing, as the team worked alongside local churches there.

Painting on sketchboards accompanied brief evangelistic messages. This approach not only attracts crowds and reinforces the spoken message but is also especially helpful for those for whom English is not their mother tongue. The team met people from 54 countries, had dozens of meaningful conversations and distributed hundreds of gospel tracts over the week.

There were several very encouraging stories that came out of the week. One of the team members had this experience: ‘There was one young woman from Pakistan, who has a Muslim mother but also a sister who came to faith eight years ago, who showed a lot of interest, especially in the Bible. I suggested she go to a local church in the area that Sunday. The following Monday the minister rang me to say that not only had she come to the morning service, but that evening she brought three other ladies whom she’d seen standing outside a church which was not open, and invited them to go with her to the evening service! Please pray for her.’

Tell-a-Tourist is a partnership between London City Mission (LCM) and Open Air Campaigners (OAC). Training is provided by seasoned evangelists. This enables team members to give creative gospel presentations and engage in one-to-one conversations with people of diverse backgrounds.

‘Through Tell-a-Tourist, we can speak to the whole world from the London pavement,’ said Peter Kennelly, OAC Director

August 2011

Comedian Takes Humour Seriously

Mark GreenwoodHaving performed in secular comedy arenas as well as Christian, Mark Greenwood insists he takes comedy seriously. ‘Yes, it’s about laughing at life,’ explains comedian Mark. ‘But it’s also drawing people into the challenges of life and how God can be part of their own life.’

As an OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) Associate Evangelist, his comedy routines were part of ‘Reach the Vale’. This evangelistic campaign from the 2nd to the 10th of July aimed to reach people throughout the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales. OAC helped to organise this far reaching initiative, providing leadership help both during the campaign and with follow-up. It was very much a localised effort as professional evangelists working together with churches engaged with residents in the surrounding communities.

Mark’s participation showed how well he is able to adapt his comedy routine and message according to the type of audience and the venue. One night, he spoke in a pub on the outskirts of Llantwit Major. This event started with a curry dinner and concluded with a live band, with Mark’s comedy routine in the middle.

One of his funny stories is about going through a door and finding something totally unexpected on the other side. He then explains the application that life is full of doors, choices we make, yet we are not quite sure what is on the other side. ‘One choice I never regret is the day I opened the door to God and stepped through in friendship.’ Mark says, ‘It’s about giving people a really good time, making connections and changing perceptions.’ The evening ended with in-depth conversations as people came to enquire and take Gospel literature.

On another evening during the campaign, Mark spoke at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Hall in Barry following a buffet dinner. His theme was ‘Comedy and Christianity’. That night ten people responded to the Gospel invitation.

His entertainment commitments take Mark to comedy clubs, multi-media events, cabarets and charity dinners. But he takes humour so seriously that he lectures about the use of humour at the London School of Theology. Although others label Mark Greenwood as a comedian, he still insists, ‘I see comedy as a vehicle for the Gospel. At heart, I’m an evangelist.’

August 2011

Cornwall Commissioning and Outreach

Marten Holmes using the sketchboardThe renowned Royal Cornwall Show actually begins for many with a commissioning service and prayers. Behind the scenes of this popular event, held from the 6th to the 11th of June this year, was a special service. Local Christians as well as show participants attended it on the evening of the 5th of June. The Bishop of Truro officiated with prayer and music drawing everyone together.

Evangelists Marten Holmes and Alan Offord of OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) appreciated this initial time of commissioning and group worship. They then conducted outreach when the show began.

Marten particularly focussed on storytelling. He explains what telling a Bible story for the benefit of non-Christians means. ‘It’s bringing out a spiritual truth and its application. That theme then runs throughout and it’s weaving it into the story. As I bring the story to a conclusion, I raise the point of how the person in the story responds. Then I consider how we can respond and the personal application of the Bible account for us today.’

With his storytelling, Marten uses a variety of visual aids. He tends to paint words and pictures on a sketchboard as he gives the verbal account. Also, he uses creative object lessons and illusions. With his professional training and experience, he is able to gear the story to the various groups that gather. This may range from young children to entire families and adults.

Team work characterises the show outreach as Marten and Alan both work alongside team members from different churches. They are involved with face painting and balloon sculpting. Alan’s wife Sue and a youth worker with some of the local youth also joined in. Alan uses power wrist bands which are bead wrist bands based on presenting the Gospel message. As he makes them for individuals and tells how they serve as spiritual reminders, these colourful wrist bands prove popular for all ages. While youngsters and parents alike waited their turn, they were among those who listened to the Bible stories.

‘Giving out literature as well as the power wrist bands provides an ongoing witness,’ explains Alan. ‘As a team, we were able to distribute a number of leaflets and New Testaments as well as the Gospel in comic form. Some people say they still don’t believe in God. Then I tell them, “Well, don’t keep the door shut. Just because you haven’t met Him, doesn’t mean that He’s not there.”’

Judging from the family groups reached through these creative means, the outreach commissioned at the Royal Cornwall Show is effectively communicating the Gospel.

June 2011

Stratford Christians Aim For Ultimate Gold

As fans enthusiastically follow sporting events ranging from World Cup Soccer to the Olympics, Stratford Christians are striving to achieve ultimate gold. Evangelist Roger Murphy of Through Faith Missions (TFM) will lead a dynamic mission from the 7th to the 10th of July.

‘Live music, choirs, street entertainment and prayer ministry will all be on offer. That’s because we use creative ways to communicate with people in our area to enable them to come to know Jesus.’ said Roger.

‘The mission involves 18 Stratford churches from a wide denominational range. We benefit from the experience gained in a similar mission last year themed around the World Cup called “The Ultimate Goal”. This year serves a forerunner to the Olympics mission in 2012 as we will be creating many open air events which we propose to repeat next year.’

Steve Gurnett preaching in the open airPresentations with painting will also help attract an audience as Evangelist Steve Gurnett of OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) explains. ‘I give a simple gospel message and paint on a large sketchboard. Painting the key words helps reinforce the message. Then too, the pictures create interest. People gather and listen to spiritual matters and discuss them afterwards.’

The extensive grounds of St. John’s Church Stratford provide the large outdoor venue. Music, escapology and creative object lessons will be used to draw crowds. Some team members will offer light refreshments, others will engage with individuals in one-to-one conversation and distribute literature following gospel messages.

Trained team members from local churches and from all over the UK as well as professional evangelists will make up the outreach teams. In addition to the outdoor events to reach the community, indoor events are scheduled throughout Stratford. Participating churches will be holding smaller activities with members conducting local outreach.

Last year, people filled out more than 200 response cards indicating that they had made a commitment of faith, a re-commitment or received prayer ministry. These results encourage local Christians as they aim for their ultimate goal that others also will know Jesus.

Both TFM and OAC work together with churches throughout the UK, facilitating their outreach to the local community.

June 2011

Presenting Christ By Creative Means

Dave Glover doing gospel magicMusic and drama, puppetry and imaginative object lessons all serve to communicate the Gospel effectively. Some opportunities prove seasonal, others are ongoing. OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) evangelists use creative means that draw crowds in a variety of settings.

‘In Whitby, a Royal Wedding Celebration enabled some of us to take part,’ explains Associate Evangelist Dave Glover. ‘Whether in a Christian or community setting, it is important to use different skills and styles to reach people with the true message of Christ.

‘One exciting development for our Community Church in Newcastle has been involvement with a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) centre. Preaching the Gospel in a creative manner allows me to introduce fun, using imaginative object lessons. These may range from rope tricks to illusion. The programme as a whole appeals to CAP clients and their families in a relaxed setting. As a result, some have started coming to church.’

Jon Bonner playing guitarGetting across the biblical message in a non-threatening way also motivates Associate Evangelist Jon Bonner to use different tools. As a professional actor, he uses his own background in drama as well as music. Leading all age sessions at Spring Harvest, he notes his basic approach for both evangelism and Christian events. ‘To begin with, you ask how you can appeal to both adults and children. It’s important that everything must be very well presented. Children are familiar with good music within a commercial setting. So I write in the styles that they already listen to.

‘But everyone needs to get something out of the presentation. That includes not only music, but also humour which may be witty and geared to adults. A good Gospel message may be very simple yet appeal on different levels to families of three or more generations. It’s a lot of hard work and preparation and you need a good team working together.’

A creative means that enjoys popularity among young and old – as evident in the West End theatre scene of London – is puppetry. Evangelist Dawn Getley of Plymouth uses her ventriloquist skills in both church and outdoor evangelism settings. She notes that sometimes adults have been known to pose spiritual questions aimed at the puppet rather than her.

In particular, she regularly uses her puppetry skills for messy church. Because the audience tends to include non-church goers with a wide age range, she tries to make the message helpful on different levels. A Facebook comment informed her about one very active six year old girl, whom Dawn assumed was not paying attention. She went home and used her own teddy bear puppet to enact the presentation for her grandfather. It seems that creative means enable the Gospel to reach all ages.

May 2011

New Evangelist Spent Years on the Street

OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners) has welcomed a new evangelist who spent years on the streets – professionally as an evangelist. Gareth Owen trained with London City Mission (LCM) during his gap year and went on to work with them. Over the years, he acquired experience in door to door work and open air preaching. More recently, being based at one of the LCM Mission Halls, he has gained experience with children, youth and adults.

Since leaving LCM, Gareth has continued outreach with Christian teams locally and abroad. As he had worked with OAC evangelists in London on a voluntary basis for years, it seemed a natural progression to join the society. Now Gareth has begun a year as an OAC trainee evangelist with a view to becoming a Staff Evangelist.

‘We welcome Gareth to OAC acknowledging his considerable experience with London City Mission and what he can share with us from that,’ said OAC Training Director Geoff Beckingham. ‘However, he recognizes that he has a lot to learn from us about the ministry he is embarking on. Therefore, he will be undergoing the training with tailoring to take account of his experience.’

Like others, he will embark on a programme of various modules ranging from theology to practical subjects like preaching and using creative object lessons. ‘I’m looking forward to the constructive help when my preaching is critiqued,’ notes Gareth. ‘Also, what I like is the opportunity to refresh my skills in taking school assemblies and improving my technique with sketchboard painting. Although I have painted to accompany my Gospel messages in the past, it’s a skill that can be developed more.’

In his home area of East London, Gareth has been involved with school work and evangelism. For ten years, he also participated in Hyde Park outreach. Since 2007, his ministry has taken him to Zambia as part of a mission team each year. ‘I fell in love with the country of Zambia and the people. There is such openness to the Gospel. We go into the villages and work with the church leaders. The teaching is very basic. We try to encourage and equip the leaders.’

Summing up his coming year of training, Gareth said he anticipates learning new methods and moving forward in his ministry.

March 2011

OAC Ministries National Office

P.Bennett O.A.C.
PO Box 1248
Enfield
Middlesex
EN1 9UL
Tel. (+44) (0) 20 8360 5788
E-mail info.gb@oaci.org

Open Air Campaigners (GB) is a registered charity in the United Kingdom no 295432

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