Carnalea 19-21st February 2016
The leaders of Carnalea Methodist Church invited a Lay Witness team to conduct a weekend mission in February 2016.
Tom Wilson and Phill Clarke led the team.
Tom Wilson and Phill Clarke led the team.
Weekend Reports and Photos
Tom Wilson, Joint Team Leader, writes
“My most encouraging moments: were becoming aware of the extent of the preparation done by the Carnalea organising group and the response of the congregation on Sunday morning to what God had done over the weekend.”
Elizabeth Porter, a member of the congregation, writes
Oh what a morning, gloriously bright! How God moved…
Sunday morning we knew straight away God was moving in the congregation. We had already heard lots of testimony of how God had moved as He brought members of the church together with Team members who had gone through similar challenging events in their lives. What a blessing this had been. The church was packed and there was a great sense of expectation. The praise was powerful!
Amy was the first to give her testimony, as 8 others in the Team had done on the two evenings. She talked about her life and the challenging experiences she had had and asked: Why do we always put up walls to stop God getting too close? She shared about how we need to set aside time and refresh ourselves in His presence each morning. She testified that God was always there at the centre of her life and she had become stronger since she made a conscious decision to follow Him. We only achieve perfect peace in His presence. God has asked us to follow Him one step at a time.
Grace shared about how she had struggled being a ‘Preacher’s Kid’ and found it hard to find her purpose in life. With 3 young children she had problems in her marriage and developed an eating disorder and really struggled with what she saw when she looked in a mirror. However, she kept going and putting up a good front until one day a friend told her: Grace, your mask is slipping! Verses from Isaiah 43 convinced her that God saw her as precious and honoured in His sight. That she was His child! She has rebuilt her life and career with God beside her and His continual reassurance that He loves her with an everlasting love.
Tom then told his own story of grief and sorrow and how he had finally been able to talk to his ex-wife after the death of their son, just as God reconciled us to himself with the death of His Son. Tom asked the very challenging question: How much of your life have you reconciled to God?
He then challenged the whole congregation, led by the Spirit:
“If you have heard something this weekend that has challenged or encouraged you, treat it as a Spiritual seed that needs to be nurtured and developed. As a token of your willingness to do this, come forward and take a sunflower seed to plant and nurture. Let the growing flower be a reminder of your act today.”
I was in one of the front pews, just behind the Team. They all went forward and collected a seed and I followed, wondering, “What if not many people come forward?” As I turned to return to my seat I saw most of the congregation on their feet and making their way to the front! What a wonderful sight! Some stayed for prayer at the altar rail and we all went home rejoicing!!
Cheryl Bruce, a Team member writes:
Until just over a year ago my experiences of the Lay Witness movement were limited to anecdotal stories; stories of times when a Lay Witness team had been in my own church and the experiences of a number of friends who had been on teams in more recent times. However, last year I was approached and invited to be part of a team that was being formed to go to Carnalea in February. My first reaction was simply, "Me? What good would I be at that?" However, while I tried desperately to think of reasons why I shouldn't be on the team, I was confronted over and over with a sense that God knew best and that although I was uncomfortable I would not be doing this alone.
Before the weekend I met with my fellow team members on 3 occasions, each of these was an opportunity to get to know the people who would be sharing in the weekend. They came from a variety of backgrounds with a wealth of life experiences but each shared a desire to see God glorified in what would take place. As we met each time we shared in worship and prayer for the weekend ahead and I found these times to be helpful in preparing for what was to take place. Our team leaders were very experienced and had participated in a number of lay witness weekends before which was helpful to a newbie like me. They shared with us the format that the weekend would take and prepared us for all that might happen at each stage. We also met with the local co-ordinator who helped us to understand more about the life of the church we would be visiting.
When the weekend arrived in February I was nervous about what would take place. I was doing something that was unknown and that was taking me out of my comfort zone but there was also a sense of anticipation and expectation that God would show up.
The people of Carnalea were very welcoming and friendly and as we met over dinner on Friday evening I began to feel more at ease. The meal was a great opportunity to establish a rapport with those we were dining with and to get a ‘feel’ for the congregation. Afterward, we shared in a time of worship and a number of team members shared their stories of what God has been doing in their lives. Each story was challenging to hear and although individually different it was clear that there were common strands and themes as each fitted together. I had been carrying a worry that my story would be uninspiring and would have nothing to say to the people who gathered. But as I listened I realised that God would use what I offered and draw to the forefront what He wanted others to hear.
The Saturday coffee morning was a chance to meet in groups, to share in a short meditation and be challenged together both as members of the church and team. By Saturday evening my nerves had returned again as I was to share that night. In truth taking this step meant being vulnerable and uncomfortable. Reflecting on my personal experiences is generally something that I try to avoid but considering how God has been working in, and shaping, my life turned out to be a positive personal challenge.
The final role of the team took place on Sunday morning when we joined with the congregation for morning worship and when there was a tremendous response from them. It was a privilege to be allowed to be part of this weekend in the life of Carnalea and to pray with those who wanted to hear more from God.