Praying For Schools Really Works

After posting my last blog regarding praying for our local secondary school, I received a message from an old school friend which I think is a real encouragement to be praying for the school. I’ve reproduced the edited highlights here, with his permission and with the names disguised for privacy reasons.

“Hi Paul! 

…the thing that spurred me on to get in touch was reading about your initiative for praying for your local school – what a great idea! I don’t know if you were aware of this, but there was a similar group that met to pray for our school about 10 years ago (when we were young whipper-snappers!). 

I used to go along to these meetings, along with a couple of other people, and I can remember that we once had a brainwave to pray for members of staff there, so I mentioned Miss P, my form tutor at the time in year 10/11. (If you can’t remember her, she was the R.E. teacher with blonde hair). At the time, she wasn’t a christian (AH asked her if she was once, to which she replied “Er…. no, definitely not!”), and we decided to pray that God would work in her life, and that she might hear the gospel and be saved. We did this a few times, and then to be honest, I think we kind of forgot about it…

Recently, I’ve had the privilege of going back into our school to speak in the CU, and guess what? Miss P  tells me that she became a christian just after we left the sixth form!!! Isn’t God good?!!

Another thing I remember is a guy in the year above us called L coming along to the CU. At the time, I think he came along because it was a good place to meet people and have a bit of fun, although again, he wouldn’t have called himself a christian. Again, he was one of the guys we prayed for at those meetings, and again, God faithfully answered our prayers – he heard the gospel at uni and was saved as a student!

Can I just encourage you with these two examples to pray expectantly for your school? You may not see answers to prayer immediately (although God is God, and He can do what He likes, so He may surprise you!), but be assured that He is powerful, and that prayer works!

By the way, your high school CU is in good company; our CU got banned from eating food in classrooms in 2003 immediately after an evangelistic meeting with free donuts!!! (Sounds familiar!) Similarly, it caused attendance to plummet, and again, it was very much an issue that we prayed about as a CU, and as part of that prayer meeting. I think in the end, after much prayer, we wrote a letter to Mr G explaining our predicament, and asking for exemption for the CU to be able to eat in classrooms. At first, this was fiercely refused by the powers that be, although about a week later, I was called to a meeting with Mr L and Mr G, where they said that they’d had a change of heart, and would give us permission to eat in classrooms! Bearing in mind the resistance that we’d previously faced, I still believe that was a clear example of God’s hand at work, and a real life (albeit mini!) miracle! 

So yeah, one thing I learned at our school is that God really is faithful and that he does answer prayer! (A much more useful lesson than Maths with Mrs W, in my opinion! :P) Do press on with praying for your school, even if there are only a few of you (there were 3 – 5 people at our one), and see what God does!

God Bless

Andrew”

What a great encouragement for us to hear as we start to think about praying for our local school. I hope that encouragement like this will lead us to come to prayer expectantly and trusting that God will open doors for the gospel.

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Praying For Our Local Secondary School

One area of my work that I’ve never really felt like I’ve been able to get on top of, is working in our local secondary school. I feel like the school has become a bit of burden to me, not in the sense that I dislike working there, but in the sense that it feels like we’ve made very few in roads there and have constantly been knocked back.

In some ways, we’re incredibly lucky as a church to have as much involvement in the school as we do. The school is very open to using us and other churches to give assemblies and to come in to speak in religious education lessons. These are undoubtedly great opportunities but they’re also very hit and run, with no real chance to build any momentum. Having done a number of lessons there, I’ve seen first hand the spiritual darkness that seems to engulf so many of the young people, something I previously blogged about here.

There are very few lights shining in the school right now.

There was a very small Christian Union when I arrived but it eventually fizzled out and died. We managed to reboot it in late 2011 and we saw a great number of non-Christians coming along, mainly due to the enticement of free doughnuts and juice, but whatever their motivations, they were still being exposed to the gospel. However, it wasn’t long until the school banned us from bringing food in with us and number soon dropped again until we were left with only 1 or 2 people attending. The reasons given were mixed but I guessed that there was likely some anti-Christian feeling further up the chain of command which had put pay to our work. After a promising start, it felt like all the doors had suddenly been shut. With such a large amount of unreached young people right on our doorstep and having seen the vastness of the spiritual poverty there, I’m left feeling pretty dejected about the situation there as well as feeling alone in my efforts & desire to see any real change. But with all this in mind, I’ve come up with a solution.

We’re going to pray for young people in that school.

And I mean we’re going to pray for them regularly. And when I say ‘we’, I mean the church. If we want to see God make a difference in the lives of those young people, we have to be prepared to pray for them more than twice a year at First Priority. That’s why I’m starting a weekly prayer meeting for the school, where members of the church family who feel the same way I do will come together to pray for that school.

Only prayer will open doors in the school

I don’t know what we’re going to pray for, I don’t know how long the meeting will last or even where or when it will take place, and I don’t have any plans regarding what this will lead to. All I know is that if we pray for that school, and I mean really pray and are faithful in it, God will open those doors. I don’t know how, but He will. He’s the only one who can.

That’s why if you’re a member of my church and you’re reading this, I want you to come and pray with me. Like I said, I don’t even have a venue or a date yet, although I know it would most likely have to be a daytime thing. But if you want to get behind this as a church then get in touch with me. Comment on this post and tell me when a convenient meeting time would be for you, or message me back on Facebook which I’m hoping you’ve been directed here from. Once I have some people on board we’ll start praying and let God do the rest.

Please don’t let apathy stop you from getting involved in this. As Leo Buscaglia said:

“I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.”

If we really loved these people, we’d pray for them. Apathy only shows our lack of any real love for these young people. So let’s step up our game as a church and get behind this.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

A Different Kind Of Youth Work

At 8pm on Saturday 21st January 2012, it began.

Having waited not entirely patiently for nine months, Becca finally went into labour. I say went into labour, although to be honest, at that stage it was really just the odd contraction every 20 or so minutes. It was exciting but also frustrating as it was still impossible to say how long the labour would last. We would soon find that the answer to that question was “a very long time.”

After very little for sleep for Becca on Saturday night, Sunday morning arrived but things didn’t appear to be any further along. Even by Sunday evening, when we actually dropped into Crowborough Birthing Centre, we were told that the labour was still at a painstakingly early stage and so we had to go home.

Monday daytime wasn’t much better (although on a positive note I did get to play a lot of Zelda to pass the time) but the contractions steadily grew closer together and more powerful. At 6pm on Monday, Becca was officially admitted at the birthing centre. Finally, it seemed that we could get this show on the road.

A room at Crowborough Birthing Centre

Crowborough Birthing Centre is an amazing place to have a baby. It in no way feels like a hospital and is just so cosy and lovely. And as we were the only people there that night, the care we received from the midwives Daphne & Becky, was top notch and I can’t sing their praises enough. They popped in regularly to check how Becca was getting on and offered to make us drinks, run baths etc. It was just phenomenal.

We sat and watched a bit of a Friends DVD to pass the time, although Becca was understandably a little distracted and now claims to remember nothing of it at all. After a bath and a further check up at around 10pm, the midwives told us that we would have to make a decision about what to do next. The baby was back to back and just wasn’t moving into the right position. As Crowborough doesn’t have any medical back up, the midwives suggested that we consider being transferred to Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells in order that Becca could have an epidural and drugs to speed up the process. We were gutted to make the decision to leave Crowborough as the care had been so good there, but Becca was clearly in a lot of pain and a transfer seemed the best option. After a brief discussion about what we’d do, I went and told the midwives they should call for an ambulance to take Becca to Pembury.

Whilst all this was going on, I was keeping people updated on Facebook as to what was happening. The support we received from friends and members of the church family was amazing. It was incredibly reassuring to know that so many people were praying for Becca all the way through her labour and anytime some new information arose, I was immediately putting it on Facebook as I knew people would be using it to pray, and as things stood, we needed all the help we could get.

The ambulance seemed to take an age to arrive and when it finally did, it was one of those paramedic cars. The midwives said there was no way Becca was going to be able to get to Pembury in that so they called for an actual ambulance, which we later found out had to come from Brighton, a good 45 minutes drive away. So we had an inordinately long wait for this ambulance, during which Becca was becoming more and more uncomfortable.

About ten minutes before the ambulance arrived, Becca said that she felt like she needed to push. After a quick check by the midwives, they were amazed that the baby had moved into exactly the right position and so we were back to Plan A, a Crowborough birth. All that prayer really paid off.

The midwives got Becca to jump onto a birthing stool. At this point I realised that this baby was actually going to arrive. I knew she was in their and had been for nine months. I’d felt her kick and move around. But until Becca was told to get on that stool, I don’t think I’d actually realised we were going to have a real life baby. And that was the most singularly terrifying moment of my life to date.

Over the next 35 or so minutes, Becca was an absolute pushing machine. Even the midwives were impressed. It was such a bizarre experience. Becca was on a birthing stool, I was sitting behind her whilst a midwife was lying on the floor on account of her dodgy knee. Amidst the pushing, one cracking moment came when Becca declared that her hair was a mess. The midwives said she probably had bigger things to be worrying about at that point.

Melody Joy Feesey

Then finally, at 00:27am on Tuesday 24th January 2012, Melody Joy Feesey was born, weighing 6lb 5oz. And she is beautiful. Admittedly when she first came out I thought she looked like a cross between a little old man and E.T. and there was definitely a split second where I thought she was a boy due to the unfortunate placement of her umbilical cord. But she was, and is, most definitely a girl.

I got to cut the chord before we were furnished with cups of tea along with a ridiculous amount of toast and marmalade. It was brilliant and the midwives really looked after the three of us. Daphne and Becky saw us through the night and Hilary was brilliant for us the next day.

And so with my new found daddy-dom, a different type of youth work has begun. This is one child who I can’t  give back at the end of the evening. For all my thoughts on Christian parenting and what it should look like, the time has come for me to actually put them into practice. It’s a little bit scary but also very exciting.

Focus on the Good

Every month, our church has a prayer meeting in order to pray for the life of the church, as well as those it supports in missionary roles and things like that. A few weeks ago I was asked if I could lead a short section on the youth work for the evening meeting (there’s a lunchtime and an evening session). I have to admit my heart sank. I go to the lunchtime meeting as it always follows on from our staff meetings and so I don’t normally go in the evening. In all honesty, it’s a horrifically boring meeting and so the thought of having to endure it twice filled me with dread.

However, the whole thing was actually a really good experience. I decided to put together a powerpoint and a handout which detailed four areas of my work, each with two categories of things to pray about: things to give thanks for and things to be praying for. The process of thinking through these areas was really encouraging and allowed me to see how many good things are actually going on within our youth work. Then to get together with the rest of the church and pray that over with them was great. It was really encouraging to hear people praying out freely and not holding back and it was just really clear that people were behind the work that was going on.

So if you work in any kind of Christian ministry, I really recommend sitting down and making a simple list of things to give thanks for, even if you’re not about to lead a prayer meeting.  In the every day grind of life, it’s easy to end up focusing on the problems and the things that need prayer and so it’s easy for the good stuff to get overlooked. When you sit down and try and think of the encouragements I reckon you’ll be hugely surprised by how much there is to give thanks for. Give it a try!

On a slightly different note, the change to working on a Saturday continues to be encouraging. I met with one of our teenagers for breakfast today and it was good to be able to get to know him a bit better away from the church and to shine some light on other areas of his life. It also threw up a few areas where there are clearly misunderstandings in terms of his grasp of Christianity and so it was good to be able to try and address some of those. When I’ve arranged a meeting with someone I’m always praying for the courage and boldness to ask them about their faith. It’s easy to feel like you’d be intruding and so back away from asking the hard questions, but I’ve found that 9 times out of 10 people are happy to chat about their faith and sometimes I think they’re almost hoping you’ll bring it up as there’s something on their mind.

So there’s a lot of good to focus on at the moment and that’s encouraging.

And the award for biggest overuse of the word “encouragement” in a blog goes to me!