Autumn Weekend at Lübbecke, 29th November - 1st December 2013
'Walking with God – daily'
For most, an AFCU Germany weekend is a pause from the busyness; a time for focus and strengthening, for communion with friends and a time to renew. The children clamber through the halls as if in a home away from home; a familiar gathering place where new friends seem like cousins after a few days together. Swords high, teddies in hand and heads full of the teaching brought to them by dear friends and faithful ministers. Prayer, revelation and the sharing of God’s Grace and Provision is nurturing and faith building for all who hear. Hands lifted high together in praise. Anticipation for what He has prepared to teach us through a visiting speaker.
Once again, I was not disappointed. The weekend’s focus was ‘Walking with God daily’ and for me, I found God used this weekend to give me strength and focus but also a new understanding of my identity in Him. Andy Peck led us in a gentle and thorough teaching reflecting on: Identity, Our Behaviour, Training versus Trying and Equipping. Some of the questions that stood out to me were: How do we see ourselves in relation to God? As a slave, as a friend, as a son?
- John 1: 12 - I am God's Child
- John 15: 15 - I am God’s Friend
- Romans 5: 1 - I have been justified
Would I call others to live the life I am living?
- Romans 8: 1-2
- Romans 8: 28
I am most encouraged in the knowledge that he is walking with us. He is near.
- James 4: 8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to plan and deliver the AFCU Family Weekends. They have become for us, as for many, an oasis; a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found, a watering hole, a spring. I look forward to the next feast!
by Ruth Pyrke
Listen to recordings of the talks given [Here]
Service of Remembrance - 7th November 2013
Each year on the Thursday before Remembrance Sunday at least one member of the Royal Family attends the ceremony at the Field of Remembrance adjacent to Westminster Abbey. For the last two years a service of Prayer and Remembrance has been held immediately afterwards in the nearby St Margaret’s Church which is regularly used for events involving parliamentarians. This year’s service was jointly organised by the Armed Forces’ Christian Union (AFCU), the Chaplaincies of all three Services and the Rector of St Margaret’s, the Rev Andrew Tremlett.
The Rector welcomed the congregation before handing over to the Revd David Osborn RAFR, the chaplain of St Clement Danes, who conducted the service which contained the patriotic hymns traditionally associated with this occasion. It was appropriate that solemn prayers of confession and intercession for peace, members of the Armed Forces and those who suffer were included as well as a Time for Reflection which was accompanied by the Aria from Vivaldi’s Gloria. The congregation’s hearty singing of Richard Bewes’s metrical version of Psalm 46 to the Dambusters’ March provided a Biblical reminder of God’s merciful provision for His people in time of trouble.
The Revd Kevin Bell CF, from the Guards' Chapel, read the wonderful words of Micah 4: 1-5. The Revd David Osborn RAFR, whose address had included impressive statistics of those from all three Services who had paid the supreme sacrifice to preserve the freedom we cherish, led the Act of Remembrance. This was followed by the Revd Jon Backhouse RN, AFCU trustee from HMS Nelson, leading the congregation in an Act of Commitment to serve in the cause of peace and the Portsmouth Military Wives’ Choir singing “Eternal Father, strong to save”. Those who organised this service will have been encouraged by an increased attendance from the previous year. It is hoped that this event, at which a collection was taken in aid of the Poppy Factory, will be repeated next year.
by Brig Ian Dobbie
Ladies' Weekend, Cyprus, 11th - 13th October 2013
'Tried and Trusted'
When I first heard that the Cyprus ladies' weekend was going to take place up Mount Olympus this year, the highest peak of the Troodos mountain range, I was excited… escape! Even though childcare was on offer, my husband reassured me that he could cope looking after our 2 young children for an entire 48 hours on his own, so I was free to go alone – FA-BU-LOUS!
The setting was stunning and we were blessed with gorgeous bright sunshine the entire weekend. Looking out from our conference room at the breathtaking views of the vast mountain range and the treetops below helped to awaken my awareness of God's incredible creation and His presence throughout the weekend. Sitting high above western Cyprus, looking out to the sea in the far distance also brought perspective to the issues of our lives down below.
'Tried and Trusted' was the theme of the weekend and the talks from Liesel and Val, amongst other invaluable teaching, brought to life the biblical characters of Ruth, Naomi, Daniel and David and how they had trusted in God during their individual struggles. To have the space to privately process what our own battles and struggles were and to lay them before the Lord in prayer and to trust Him to deal with them, felt like a burden lifted. We were further encouraged to discover, by following a simple paper exercise, that we all possessed a variety of spiritual gifts that could be used to bring glory to God in our daily lives.
The weekend brought new openings, including the offer of help with a much-needed children's summer holiday club here in Cyprus next year. I would love this to become a reality and was supported by the group of ladies present to get started on this project.
So I left the weekend feeling encouraged, refreshed and full of cake. I had made new friends, developed existing friendships, was full of new ideas and was now ready to make my way back down the mountain.
by Alison Davies
Autumn Weekend 4th - 6th October 2013
'Courageous Faith, Courageous Living'
We were blessed to have Christine Perkin (from St Mark's, Battersea) as our speaker who drew widely from Scripture to explore what courageous faith might look like. Christine also encouraged us to pray for each other after her talks, allowing any Spirit-prompted issues to be brought before the Lord rather than allowing them to fester or be forgotten. Prayer ministry was available throughout the weekend as was a designated “prayer shed” beautifully laid out by Paula Carré for those seeking solitude and to explore different ways of praying.
When we were not enraptured in worship or enthralled by Christine's talks, there was plenty of time for food and time for plenty of tea. With matters of business squared away at the AFCU ABM and the NCF AGM in the morning, Saturday afternoon offered ample opportunity to catch our breath. A guided tour was arranged for those keen to explore the surrounding area: Others found footballs to kick about or simply wandered aimlessly and caught up with family or reflected on what the Lord had been saying to them during the weekend. Those able to find their way back to the main conference room were rewarded with juggling lessons and, later, an astonishing display of illusion and ”magic” from Laurie Brokenshire. The evening was spent hearing updates about various domestic and international events and developments. Prior to the morning Service (led by Rev Paul Collins) we divided into groups: A ladies' group met with Christine whilst the men met with Rhett Parkinson and were convicted about discipleship by a challenging inaugural talk from Nathan Senior (NCF). The Sunday Service was an opportunity to reflect on the weekend, break bread and receive anointing with oil. It was also the chance to catch up with what the junior delegates had discovered about the character of God as well as the Book of Daniel over the weekend.
During the weekend it was felt the Lord was saying: 'You think you are hidden from Me and far away but I know you and I am close to you.' A reflection that, ”just as eagles use the wind currents to fly – so we must fly on God’s wind” was also received. The weekend was our first encounter with AFCU/NCF and we had a wonderful time!
by Adam and Abigail Webber
New Wine, 27th July – 10th August 2013
I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive before my first ‘stag’ on the Military Christian Organisations (MCO) marketplace stand at New Wine. Wearing uniform in public has never been something I have been entirely comfortable with but, in this case, it was really important to show there are Godly men and women serving in the military. And, despite initial concern, my four slots on the stand were one of the highlights of what was an exceptional week.
The AFCU team was there to advertise the military Christian organisations (UK and international) and to encourage people to join the AFCU or to become ‘Upholders’ - prayer partners for serving sailors, soldiers and airmen. We were also there to listen and, if we could, advise and pray. I was amazed at the variety of people who just stopped to talk: servicemen and women, ex - Forces, families of serving people, those who were about to start their military career and the ‘just interested.’ Some needed to understand what their relatives did and others had a heart for prayer for the Forces and wanted to know how to pray more specifically. Understandably some just wished to share experiences and reminisce and others were looking for career advice. Of course the nature of this advice depended upon who was on the stand at the time and was rightly biased toward their own Service, irrespective of what the future sailor, soldier or airman wanted to know!
If success could be measured by the number of AFCU wristbands worn and children covered in ‘cam cream’ at the Showground then we did pretty well. But more encouraging was the number of people who signed up to support us in prayer as Upholders or even full members. What was clear is that most Christians support the Armed Forces, want to be involved and want to help. We are, as military Christians, a critical Godly interface into society and should not forget we speak with credibility and have the same responsibility to proclaim the Gospel as anyone else. The MCO stand was a fantastic opportunity to fulfil that calling. I would commend New Wine to you all. It is a fantastic week for all the family and mine will certainly be back next year. And if, like me, you have avoided doing anything ‘Christian’ in uniform, less Remembrance, take a risk, volunteer for the MCO stand – I guarantee you will enjoy it.
by Andrew Maskell
Link Up Weekend, Sunningdale Park, 14th - 16th June 2013
Following the example of generations of Her Majesty's Armed Forces personnel before me, I found myself in another country on the day before booked leave. So, as standard, I was on the phone to my wife promising that if I got back in time, I would meet her at the AFCU Link-Up Weekend. Needless to say the power of the Mighty Hercules overcame all the nefarious schemes of the MoD and, only a couple of hours late – and after only minimal navigational issues arising from my not having a SatNav – I rocked up and interrupted everyone’s dinner with a rather triumphant entry.
What I immediately realised we would love about the Link-Up Weekend was that none of this really mattered because the vast majority of associates there, being retired military types, had seen and been though all of this before. Although this was my first Link-Up Weekend it became quickly apparent that the relaxed atmosphere, quality teaching programme and awesome kids work ahead of us all fell second to the fact that we were surrounded by people who knew, and cared about, what life is like for those of us still serving.
Having had a busy exercise and operational period, this weekend away with the family served to take more than just the edge off what we all know can be a stressful homecoming (having an en-suite wet room five times the size of the showers in Kandahar also helped). The teaching by David Bracewell on Being Refreshed was excellent and having talks from serving and recently retired members from across HM Armed Forces certainly forced me to be less introspective about life in the RAF Air Transport fleet and look at how I can be praying for others in branches of all three services. More than anything it reminded me just how many people there are praying for us on a daily basis and how important it is to get, and stay, linked in with an Associate Prayer Group.
If you are serving but not yet prayed for by an APG, go to the website or call the office (01252 311221) to find out more.
by Jonny Palmer
Ladies' Amport Weekend , 7th - 9th June 2013
'Equipped to Pray'
”How are you going to fit so much blessing into an article of so few words?!”
My friend’s comment is a challenge as I write. She knows something of the effect this weekend had - and is still having - on me, and on others who were at Amport House; to learn more about how to pray, for themselves and with other people. Prayer Ministry was explained and practised in sessions led by Liesel Parkinson and Sue Piper. The women attending were free to choose where they felt comfiest, either in a beginner or intermediate group.
We were encouraged to get ourselves right before God, and in relation to others, in order to be a clean vessel for His use. The leaders demonstrated how to connect with and listen to people who want prayer for a situation or an area of their life; and our need to be alert to wider issues or underlying roots - drawing on our helper, the Holy Spirit, for guidance, and trusting God to complete His work in the fullness of time.
For many ladies, the seminars and time in company dispelled fears about getting it wrong, and emboldened us with new skills. It was wonderful to see smiles widen and spirits soar as people grew in understanding and felt God at work. Our worship sessions, led by Libby Piper, dovetailed exactly with the teaching and God’s presence among us was very real.
One nugget which impacted several people was a reminder from the life of the Dutch Christian, Corrie Ten Boom, who was imprisoned for helping Jews escape Nazi persecution in the second world war. Corrie’s biography relates her father’s explanation of how; in the same way he would give his daughter her train ticket just before it was time for her to board the train; our Heavenly Father knows exactly when we’re going to need things, and equips us at the right moment.
And – wouldn’t you know – the very next week after learning about prayer ministry, a friend in great distress asked me to pray with her. Here I was with a new-found grasp of (some of) the tools for the job… how could I say no? Containing my initial panic, I did grin inwardly - and even though I’m not super confident or competent, we went on to have a really valuable time of prayer. As I’m learning, if we step out in obedience, God promises to honour that, and He does the rest.
by Julie Knox
Listen to recordings of the talks given [Here]
CVM Gathering, in a field near Swindon! 21st - 23rd June 2013
For a weekend in June 1180 men came together from around the world as part of Christian Vision for Men's 'The Gathering' conference. The British military were well represented with around 40 from the three services camping together.
18 x 24 tents were erected, ensigns proudly raised and our presence most definitely was felt amongst the camp, if only because the mess tent was raptured during the first night. Coming together to meet with our Captain, Brother, Rescuer and Friend, Jesus, was central to the weekend activities. Worship was led by Graham Kendrick and his team and the sound of praise was something else. Who knew that men could sing so loudly and with such passion away from a football terrace? The teaching brought challenge and commitment, with many making decisions to follow Jesus for the first time and some amazing and inspiring testimonies of regular guys doing crazy things for the Kingdom. As well as all the worship, fellowship was a key component to the weekend. Barbeques seemed to be the cooking method of choice, with more meat than would be found in the local abattoir being cooked over the three days. Other opportunities for manly fun were found to include beer, sport, talks, inflatable rodeo, darts, a huge scalextric track, fast cars, comedy, music, pub quizzes, bowling and so much more. ”Tell me more!” I hear you cry. Well no, come and find out yourself. The Gathering 2014 is open for bookings now and AFCU are looking to increase their numbers next year. Don’t miss out on what God’s doing with men who are prepared to go all out for Him. Thanks must go to all those who made it happen with especial mention of JP, whose hard work made a good weekend into an unbeatable one. And remember, like Yorkies, it’s ”Not for Girls”
by Paul Collins
Gorsley Activity Weekend, 24th - 27th May 2013
Arriving at the camp site in the pitch black, with a never-used 2 man tent and no idea how to put it up, the Gorsley camping weekend was getting off to a great start. After an hour’s struggle, my friend Becky and I finally had somewhere to sleep and a chance to look around at our new home for the weekend.
The facilities were top class, everything one could want from a campsite and more; hot showers, hot beverages and a lot of cake. Things were looking up! Having both been members of the AFCU for 4 years, this was shockingly the first time Becky and I had managed to make an event, and so had no idea what to expect. The morning kicked off with some worship, a short preach by the organiser, Mike Forsyth around the subject of ‘I am the bread of life’ followed by some discussions and prayer. This made a great start to a great day.
The day then split off into different activities. Some people used this opportunity to ‘chillax’, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and unusually warm sunny weather. Becky and I, after consuming a large proportion of the cakes the night before, thought a hardcore bike ride would be the best option. So a group of us headed to the local mountain bike trail and took on some exiting but challenging routes. Prayer was most useful at certain points of the ride!
After the day’s activities we all joined back together and had a well deserved BBQ, with just about every meat you could imagine. I quickly consumed any calories I may have burnt off during the bike ride! To finish the night we all joined in with party games and laughed the evening away. The next morning we joined together for a delightful service with Gorsley Baptist. This was the perfect way to end an amazing weekend.
As one of the younger members of the event, who often faces the challenges of being a Christian in the armed forces, I would strongly encourage others in a similar position to not miss out on these opportunities to interact with similar minded people. I hope to see you all there next year.
Spring Weekend at Lübbecke, 26th - 28th April 2013
Arriving at Church House we were all focussed on being refreshed over the weekend. We had Jerry Field as the 'facilitator' and I did not know what to expect. I could not stop myself thinking of the food in Church House; once again, the staff at Church House excelled in providing service to us. The environs of Church House also allowed us to completely rest and get refreshed in the Lord Jesus. However, it was not just the physical nourishment which mattered for attendees, but re-focussing our spiritual compasses. For us to be refreshed, Jerry explained that we need to keep surrendering to the Lord through confession, repentance and forgiveness (Isaiah 30:15).
Jerry also brought in the element of healing of emotional wounds. The emotional wounds we suffer are often ignored, thus we walk with an emotional limp and are always struggling. Or we are walking along spiritually in an uneasy manner. In this position, it will be very hard for us to be refreshed. Therefore, Jerry told us we need to ask for God’s
Spirit to help us with these things so that we:
- Engage with healing with a professional – perhaps a Christian counsellor or go on retreat. God comes to us in different ways; we need to keep all channels open for complete interaction.
- Engage through scripture – a way to start towards spiritual healing / refreshment.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to come and heal us – we need to deal / engage with the emotional pain and move on – we should not let it be baggage or a yoke around our necks. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us not to look at ourselves, but look outwards.
As parents of young children, we were glad this weekend had a children’s programme run by the wonderful Peter and Kathy Bramhall for the young ones and we were greatly impressed by Chris Beaumont and how he handled the young adults. It was a real blessing to them that they could enjoy the weekend in a Christian setting.
There was opportunity for prayer; this led to spiritual refreshment and those who needed prayer received it. God knows what we need before we even mention it to Him in prayer. We came away from the weekend refreshed in the Lord; I now have to find a way of shedding the pounds gained through the bodily food I thoroughly enjoyed feasting on. I intend to keep refreshed in the Lord.
by Theo Komen
Easter Camp, 1st - 7th April 2013
What do cold porridge, fancy dress, shaving foam and awesome worship have in common? Easter Camp!
Laugh harder than you ever have before, look to the sky and thank God for all that He is to you, put a hand on a friend's shoulder and thank them for listening, hug a friend that you haven’t seen for 12 months but have been chatting to on Facebook nearly every week, share your stories, your concerns, your ambitions…..now you’ve got some idea what it’s like to be at Easter Camp. Some say it’s like being with 90 other cousins – there’s a family connection!
Easter Camp 2013 was once again held at Westonbirt School near Tetbury and was another amazing year. For 7 days, 90 youngsters laughed, worshipped, studied, swam, ran, raced and apple bobbed in rice pudding! We studied 1 Peter looking at 'Darkness into Light'. Our Camp Pastor, Stephen Potter, led us brilliantly through challenging studies. He encouraged us to recognise the dark places in our hearts and minds and throw them away to Jesus. Many of the youngsters felt a real healing through this experience. It was a chance to let go of fears and there was a real joy in the room and a release as the campers realised they didn’t have to carry their own anxiety. Seeing the kids praying for each other afterwards was fantastic. Those involved with Easter Camp over the years know only too well the remarkable blessing that it is to the kids (and to the leaders!). They grow so much in their faith, enjoy supporting each other, and look forward to coming back the second they climb in the car to go home.
But we needfirst-timers too. As our hardened Easter Campers grow through the years to become leaders it is important to encourage those at the younger end, who will be starting Secondary School this September. All those between 11 and 18 are welcome. Could this be you next year? Or your child? Or are you between 18 and 25 and would love to help out as a leader? We’d love you to join us next year. The 2014 dates are 15 - 21 April. Put the dates in your diary or write to Peter and Marie Daulby at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll remind you to book in the New Year.
by Pete and Marie Daulby
Officers' Spring Weekend at Denham Grove, 8th - 10th March 2013
'God's Call to be Steadfast'
Having missed last year's event because we were in the process of moving house, we were all the more determined to attend this year's Spring Weekend. As a family we appreciated this opportunity to meet other Christians dealing with the challenges of military life. Our eldest child particularly liked the range of craft, activities and Bible teaching for the older children at what she called “Saturday and Sunday School”! The crèche was also extremely helpful for those of us with young children.
The main element in the weekend’s programme was Rupert Shelley’s series of studies in the First Letter of Peter. Describing the Letter as an apostle’s travel guide for Christians in this world, Rupert explained from the Scriptures what great privileges we have in Christ but said that we must not be surprised by suffering. On the contrary, the Bible is very clear that we should expect suffering and he discussed what our response should be. Rupert challenged us with some areas of our lives in which we should be showing more submission and encouraged us to be steadfast, hoping in Christ for the future.
The weekend also featured an interview with Sir Paul Coleridge, a distinguished High Court judge and also the founder and chairman of the Marriage Foundation. Sir Paul spoke on the topic of ‘Fighting for Marriage’, not only explaining the excellent work of the Marriage Foundation but additionally setting out the evidence for why stable parental marriage is best for children. Another highlight was a talk delivered by Brig Ian Dobbie on the Siege of Malta. As Brig Dobbie’s grandfather, Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie, was the Governor of Malta during the siege, the talk was enriched with personal insights. Not only did Sir William’s leadership contribute enormously to the successful defence of the Island but also his living Christian conviction bore witness to God’s faithfulness in the most demanding of times.
There was widespread appreciation of the modern facilities at Denham Grove, especially the swimming pool, and the food was first-rate. The exceptional Bible teaching and warm fellowship made this a weekend to remember and we certainly hope to return next year.
by Jonathan and Jennifer Greenald
Ladies' Spring Weekends, Amport House, 22nd - 24th February 2013
and Lubbecke, 15th - 17th March
'Come Aside and Rest Awhile'
I arrived at Amport House on 22 February complete with a bag of knitting needles and wool, towels, throws and a CD player. This was to attend the first ‘The Sanctuary’ ladies’ weekend. It was a retreat-style ladies’ weekend focussing on rest and the thirty seven of us attending were encouraged to do as little or as much as we wished. Optional workshops included learning to rest, the importance of laughter, card making, creative design, debt management, knitting, making natural air fresheners and brooches. There were a couple of salsacise workshops, you could have your nails done, pamper yourself with bubble bath and chocolate or even go for a long guided walk in the surrounding countryside. We were also treated to some amazingly decorated homemade cakes.
For the weekend, the chapel was transformed into a prayer room where you could stay for as much time as you needed. The layout encouraged ladies to leave their burdens behind on entering the chapel. There were then a number of stations where you could contemplate different aspects of God, and ladies had the opportunity to receive prayer ministry if they wished.
The weekend did not have a speaker. There were times altogether as a group and then a number of the AFCU ladies ran the workshops, sessions and arranged the prayer room. Saturday evening was given over to exploring going deeper with God through prayer, or the Word, or worship. It was a great opportunity to get to know other members of the AFCU and to be able to take time to do this.
The weekend seemed to go far too quickly and I would like to thank Liesel Parkinson and others at the AFCU for arranging such a good event.
The idea was transported on a slightly smaller scale to Lübbecke 15-17 March by Liesel Parkinson, Sian Campbell-Colquoun and Val Hall. We drove over – we had far too much luggage to take on an aircraft – and the office car was packed so full that we did not have room for Becky Maskell who had also offered to come! There was not quite so much choice offered this time, the main difference being that there were two separate sessions for going deeper with God through prayer and through the Word. It was a wonderful opportunity to rest, relax, learn and have fellowship together, and God once again poured out His blessings on those who came. Thank you Lord!
by Fiona Priest and Val Hall