Schools Bible Exhibition 2018

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Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

This month our church took over 600 children from Garnteg, Cwmffrdoer and Victoria Village Primary school(s) on a journey through the Bible.

The exhibition (provided by the Open Air Mission) comprised of 18 boards that included pictures, infographics and bite size narrative for the children to follow*.

The first board told the story of creation, the second the Garden of Eden and so on.

The children could see how wonderful the world was when God first made it. There was no death, no pain, no sickness, what a wonderful place to be.

God then made Adam and Eve and gave them all that they could possibly have wanted. With just one rule to follow, “do not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Genesis 2:17).

This rule gave Adam and Eve freedom, they now had a choice, to love God or disobey Him.

As we all know the devil entered into the garden as a serpent and convinced Adam and Eve to break this rule and partake in the forbidden fruit.

The children were then invited to share some of their school rules and the punishments they would receive if they break them. (Times have changed).

The children could all see from this simple exercise that (just like in school) God gives us rules for our own benefit and safety. They could also see that God has every right to punish people for breaking His rules (which is what the Bible calls sin).

Adam and Eve sinned, they broke God’s rule. For the first time they knew that they were naked. They felt ashamed at what they had done and were banished from the garden to live in this cold, hard, fallen world.

But in love, we are told that God covered their shame and comforted them with animal skin.

The children could see right at the start of the exhibition (and the Bible) that rejecting or ignoring God’s life giving rules, logically leads to death. God loved Adam and Eve and did not want them to die, so innocent blood was shed, so that Adam and Eve’s shame could be covered.

This theme pointed all of the children forward to the promised Messiah who would fix the problem of sin in the same way by His death.

The display moved on to Noah, then the Tower of Babel, we looked at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel, God’s family whom the promised Messiah would come into the world). The Exhibition took us then to Joseph and his journey to Egypt, the Story of Moses, the Ten Commandments, the Passover and Exodus. Always reaffirming the point that God (who made us) gave us rules to live by so that we could be happy but (just like today) the people in the Bible constantly rejected God and broke His rules (sin) and that such action requires punishment, just like when you break the school rules.

The children could see for themselves that for the guilty to be reunited with our loving God, innocent blood had to be shed, so that God can also remain just in His punishment, whilst at the same time remaining merciful to those who He love who did the wrong.

The exhibition progressed onto Elijah, the Judges, then King Saul and David, the Babylonian captivity, Daniel and the prophets, before ending with Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, explaining again the significance that for the guilty (us) to be reunited with God by grace, innocent blood has to be shed to make atonement for our wrongs, so that God can remain just whilst at the same time being merciful to us.

The display ended with a clear lesson.

Christian’s believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one who God sent to deal with the problem of sin (that alienates humanity from our loving Father in Heaven).

Jesus did not break a single rule, He was totally innocent, yet on the Cross He took the just punishment for the sins of all people who love Him. (1 Peter 2:24).

A truth that we asked each of the children to consider.

Volunteers from the church dressed up as characters and spoke through their story (in first person) at different stages throughout the exhibition. The children then had the opportunity to interact one to one with the “heroes of faith” that brought the teaching alive.

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The exhibition gave clear Biblical themes throughout to help the children come to their own conclusions.

The Christian world view was presented to them fairly and in the greatest of love without putting any pressure on them that could damage the witness in the future.

The exhibition takes just one hour out of the school day and is interactive (so the children stay focused throughout). Head teacher Garnteg Primary School Susan Roche said: “The whole week last week was great as it gave the children something different. It combined very important aspects of the curriculum like RE, history and the humanities and brought it together in an interactive way which made it very meaningful.

We can thank God that many children still know the key events of the Bible today; from the fall to Passover, David and Goliath to the birth of Christ, but the exhibition illustrates superbly how all of these historic events fit together as one big story of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

 

 

At the end of the exhibition the children filled out a quiz, which volunteers from the church marked. The following week the Mayor, local councillor and the press joined us to present prizes to the children.

Each child was rewarded with an information pack that includes games, treats and information about the church.

We hope that such outreach will inform the children and their families of the many services that we provide for the community and that through this outreach the elect would come to church, hear the gospel and know a changed life that will glorify God.

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Read the Article online here

 A huge big thank you to the wonderful volunteers at the church who gave up significant time and resources for this to happen and to the OPEN AIR MISSION for their support.

*Narrative by JP Earnest (Field Operations Manager) Open Air Mission

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Well Done Giles

Let me start by stating clearly that I follow King Jesus. I am not a proponent of “church and state,” neither is the below piece intended to show any favouritism or indeed affiliation toward any political party. With that now said… let us begin!

It was over a year ago now that I was asked by Councillor Giles Davies to join Rev. Martin Freeman as his chaplain during his tenure as Mayor of Torfaen. I was flattered and put it to prayer.

I agreed and by God’s Grace the year has been a real blessing. Giles has given me the opportunity to meet and engage with people in the community that I might otherwise not have had the chance to.

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The role began at Giles’ induction (May 2015) where I was brought in before the Council to accept the commission and pray for the new Mayor, a daunting task that ended with a rather serial applause from the council – I get myself into some crazy situations!

A few weeks later I received a call from Giles, inviting me to join him at the Blaenavon World Heritage Carnival. This was simply to show support (in his guise as Mayor) and for a walk around the shops for a meet and greet. I dressed accordingly (jeans and a short sleeved shirt). To my surprise, I ended up leading the parade down the high street alongside the Mayor and our MP. As I walked past the many faces in the crowds lining the road I was told to wave and smile, I felt so out of place in my casuals and could not hide my embarrassment, repeating Isaiah 61:10 in my head as I walked. To my horror, later that week, a picture of us all appeared in the Free Press, front page! It was a privilege to be part of such an occasion.

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Another duty of the Mayor is to go to parliament and it was a pleasure to accompany Giles. I had a great day walking the halls where many a hero such as Oliver Cromwell, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Nye Bevan once walked. I was humbled to sit in the viewing area to witness our democracy in action (you can read more about the day here – A day in Parliament). To the “enjoyment” of the Mayor and Mayoress, the car journey to and from London was filled with theological debate with my Methodist brother Rev. Martin Freemen.

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Together we have judged painting competitions in Pontypool Park, shares a cream tea in the museum, enjoyed garden parties, fireworks at the Golf club where Giles arranged for Folly Tower to be lit Purple (in support of Pancreatic Cancer UK), we have supported and been part of local concerts, memorial services, school plays, fundraisers, memorial services and pub quizzes. I have had a chance to meet and work alongside Churches and Ministers from across the county, something I longed to do.

All of this was just the tip of the Iceberg of the Mayor’s role. Between the Ministry and secular employment I simply could not accompany Giles to everything, my entire year’s service could be compressed to just one of his active weeks, he truly embraced his opportunity to be the first among equals of Torfaen.

The year has not been easy for Giles. He has been one of the faces of a council faced with great austerity; we have both campaigned vehemently to save our local Victoria Village School and Brynteg Nursery (that has not been easy and put him in an awkward situation at times).

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Giles has had to balance his work as Councillor for Abersychan as well as Mayor (alongside the “day job”). This left little time for his family, including his wonderful daughter, who has supported him all the way. I am surprised Giles has not burned himself out with the workload and I have prayed that God would uphold him. A prayer answered.

Whatever you’re political or personal view of the man, I can say he worked hard for our county and I am pleased to call him friend.

Giles brought the office of Mayor into the 21st century, being the first in history to have a twitter account desiring to be both transparent and approachable through all communication channels; he worked with the greatest sincerity aiming to achieve the impossible task of pleasing everybody.

Giles took his duty seriously (with his heart on his sleeve) and whilst out on engagement would always seek to support local businesses, purchasing goods (from his own pocket) to buy anything from cheese platter’s to commissioning paintings from local artists. He worked with a humble spirit and saw his position as a privilege and raised thousands of pounds for his chosen charities; Alzheimer’s, Llanerch Disaster Memorial fund, British Heart Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer UK.

Folly Tower World Pancreatic Cancer Day

Giles has regularly supported the outreach at Noddfa, attending special events in a personal capacity and in his guise as Mayor, for that I am grateful. The last function he attended at the church as Mayor was the Queen’s birthday party where he and Gwyneira shared my vision to bring the local churches together and show our unity in Jesus.

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Giles would be the first to admit that his efforts were could not have been achieved without his team, I did not have the pleasure of meeting them all, but would like to thank them all especially Hywel (chief advisor, security, chauffer, guardian of the chain, comedian and all round legend) and the wonderful and hardworking Chris Slade.

Sadly I could not attend the handover as I have just returned home from a family holiday, but delighted to hear that the baton of “Chaplain to the Mayor” has now been past onto another Evangelical Rev Johnny Raine at Pontrhydryrun Church.

I will continue to pray for Giles and all the other Councillors, as well as our new Mayoress Veronica Crick, may the Lord bless you in your service.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3

Purple Lights of Hope

We are very blessed in Abersychan to have such a committed and active Councillor as Giles Davies. He does so much for our community and his drive to make a difference to the area has not deteriorated since he took office as the Mayor of Torfaen earlier this year. Giles continually seeks to support all those in the area to the best of his ability, he is always out serving the community and I thank God for him.

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Giles Davies Mayor of Torfaen and Pastor John FunnellSo, when I get a phone call from Giles, asking to support, I jump at the chance (and we all should)! I do not do this simply as assistant Chaplain to the Mayor, neither as a friend, but in gratitude for his efforts to improve the lives of all of us in the community. Giles has sacrificed a lot of his time and resources supporting his charities this year, and has worked incredibly hard to raise awareness for “World Pancreatic Cancer Day” (13th November 2015). I was humbled and excited to be part of the proceedings.

The charity event started at Pontypool Golf club where we met to see the Folly Tower lit up purple, it could be seen for miles. (I believe this is the first time it has been lit up since the millennium).

Folly Tower World Pancreatic Cancer Day

The lighting of the Tower was launched in spectacular fashion with the best firework display I have seen this year (courtesy of Pendragon Fireworks).

We then moved on to St Cradoc’s Church, Trevethin, for the “Purple Lights of Hope Service” given by Canon Brian Pippen. Prayers were said, candles lit to symbolise ongoing prayer for those suffering with Pancreatic Cancer and a well chosen reading from Romans 8:18-26.

The reading from Paul’s letter talks about present suffering in a fallen world and the hope of Glory to come in Christ Jesus that will far outweigh our current pain and suffering.

Then we enjoyed an evening of fantastic entertainment.

Howard Jackson sang from his heart (full of welsh pride), a mixture of traditional gospel songs and some classics to. Marvelous!

Howard Jackson

Howard Jackson

Mandy Jones, spoke on her experiences with Pancreatic Cancer, losing her husband just six days after diagnoses. She bravely shared some horrifying statistics and gave an insight into the human tragedy. I will be praying for Mandy and her family as they continue to grieve their loss (John 3:16). Mandy heads up the charity in Torfaen. “Supporting the Fighters Admiring Survivors and Honouring the Taken and Never Give up Hope.”

Mandy Jones

Mandy Jones

We also had a scene from “AdHoc” dramatic group from their upcoming Christmas Carol show and a poem from Alex Wharton.

Alex Wharton.

Alex Wharton.

The star of the show had to be Laura Sidney. You do not expect to see such a talent at a local church in a small Valley town. Seriously world class. I closed my eyes as she sang and was carried away, a taste of heaven and something that she must pursue!

Laura Sidney

Laura Sidney

The night ended with refreshments and fellowship, a great chance to meet many in the community and support a worthy cause.

I ask everyone to please give what you can to the cause – here is the just giving page for Torfaen

A big thanks to Giles, Mandy and all who supported.

Save our School

A letter in response to Cabinet Meeting 06 OCTOBER 2015

Please sign our petition to keep our local school open

SCHOOL REORGANISATION PROPOSALS ARISING FROM THE 21st CENTURY

2.3 To consider whether to proceed with the closure of Victoria Primary and Abersychan Brynteg Nursery Schools at the end of the 2016/2017 academic session, and if so, approve the commencement of formal consultation.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

To whom,

I had the privilege of moving to Abersychan (Torfaen) 18 months ago to take up the voluntary position of Pastor at Noddfa Baptist Evangelical Church. My wife, four young children and I have been warmly welcomed into the community.

Owing to our relocation our eldest two children had to move schools, and are now in their second year(s) at Victoria Village Primary School. I am pleased to say that since their time at the school they have both grown academically as well as socially. The school provides a magnificent environment to learn and live. The teachers and staff have been wonderfully supportive during the move and my children have made many friends. I attend the school regularly to give assemblies and have welcomed invites to concerts and end of year performances as both a Father and in the guise of local Minister.

I have the utmost respect for all the staff, teachers, governors and pupils at Victoria Village Primary School. It is a school that echoes the values of our community that I am proud to serve and love as their local Minister (and now as School Governor).

With that said you can begin to understand how mortified I am about the plans to close such a pillar of our community and I wish to voice my objection.

Our church is independent and thus self funding, so my role as a Minister is voluntary. This does mean that I have to work to support my family in addition to the Ministry. My secular vocation is one of a Department Director for a business headquartered in Wales with offices in the USA, so I am not naive to book balancing and managing P&L. I have had to make many tough decisions in my career that have affected people’s lives, so my sympathies do go out to you all as you face this consultation. Yet I also understand that your roll in government is not to run a business but to serve the needs of the community. A community that will be lost if these schools are closed! We are dealing with many people’s lives here, a fact I doubt you need reminding of.

These schools are the last bastions of community in an already beleaguered district. They bring hundreds of people through our village that would suffer economically without such passing trade. Children can currently walk to school rather than commute by car, which (if the schools were to close) would no doubt add to further congestion in our already saturated road networks. The locality of the school’s allow for many parents in the area the ability to work, thus provide for their families and give back into the community. A greater commute could affect working hours and thus their income. Removing such a popular school from the area would also impact business investment; I for one would not relocate to an area that would not be able to provide suitable facilities for the families of those I would choose to hire.

As I bring this heartfelt plea to an end. I want to stress again the wider social impact that closing these most beloved institutions will cause. I want to reaffirm that to the parents, families and all those that love our community; this is not just a cost cutting exercise. Your decision is one that will define the future of our village, our county and our country. The principle of removing local amenities from Welsh towns and villages such as ours will undermine the very fabric of what makes them special places to live.

Your decision to close these schools could turn our little loving village into a barren ghost town of commuters, leaving early for the bigger cities. People will lose self worth as they daily migrate to be lost in a metropolis, and they would care little for the strangers around them when they return home.

I repeat, your decision to close these schools will turn a local, loving community into another cold and alien commuter town. I have witnessed such a transition myself. Once loved neighbours will become alien, families will grow insular and children’s freedom restricted to their garden fences, the high street desolate and a hotbed for crime. This principle of closing local amenities is disgusting and eating away at the foundation of our countries soul. Without community, you lose respect and accountability for your local environment and people.

However, what saddens me the most, is that many within our community are already disillusioned, especially those who have recently had to move their children into Victoria Village School because of previous closures. Many in our community feel that the decision is already made and that they are powerless to do anything.

What a sad state we have fallen into, if many of the people you serve feel that they do not have a voice, or do not believe it will make any difference.

I hope that we can work together to prove them wrong and begin to fight against this trend of closure in our Valley and restore our communities, starting with the end of this ridiculous notion to close Victoria Village Primary and Abersychan Brynteg Nursery Schools.

We are on our knees in prayer that it is God’s will that the school will remain open and will fight to support it.

Pastor John Funnell

Noddfa Baptist Evangelical Church

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10

Please sign our petition to keep our local school open

Save our School

A year in the Valley

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

In June 2014 my family and I moved to Noddfa Baptist Church to serve the Lord in Pastoral Ministry. This move was made in partnership with ReformissionWales and Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Newport, under the mentoring of Rev Bernard Lewis.

Like so many churches in the Eastern Valley, Noddfa was without a minister. It had a predominately elderly, but very committed, congregation that had become increasingly disengaged from the wider community. Noddfa was struggling to survive with just 15 regularly attending the Sunday morning Service, a handful of children at the Monday night Club and a Mothers and Toddlers’ group on a Tuesday. We took on the challenge knowing it was a Nehemiah work that was needed.

Noddfa 2014

Noddfa 2014

Making contact with people in the community

Noddfa evangelismInitially I distributed a personal letter to all the immediate homes in the area. This letter introduced myself and our family, explained why we have moved to Abersychan, and included my contact details if people wanted to get in touch with me. This had a huge impact as many thought the church was, in fact, closed. It gave me a great opportunity to speak to many people as I went door to door and began to understand that the darkness was not due to “atheism”, as I had first assumed, but to “nominalism”.

This was a game-changer. I understood then that as a church we had to re-engage with a mission field amongst those who, sadly, think they are Christians but who do not feel they need to worship God and receive his Word in fellowship with his people.

I was encouraged that many people still had affection for Noddfa and would be sad to see it close. They had a loose assimilation to chapel tradition that we could use to our advantage. But the general opinion was “the world has moved on and I have other things to do on a Sunday morning.”

We started by holding reunions for former Sunday school attendees who are still living in the area and have now grown up and have families of their own. They were well received. We enjoyed Fish and Chip Suppers and a Summer BBQ. Old pictures and fond memories were shared, stories told and, more importantly, local people left those meetings knowing that Noddfa is still here and continues to run activities for their children.

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Through these meetings and speaking with the families that attend the weekly clubs, it became clear that, despite having a desire to attend and be affiliated with Noddfa, Sunday morning has become a struggle for many in our community because of work or sporting commitments. This is the world we live in today and we must be pragmatic in these situations just as the early Christians were in Acts. So we planned to run another Sunday Service at a time that suited people living in a secular society, so people will no longer have an excuse. This ‘family friendly’ service is called “Look Up”. This great name was coined by an 84 year old church member and allowed us to put a big sign on the road that guides the eye to “Look Up” the hill to see Noddfa Chapel. The “Look Up” service includes Bible readings, hymns and a 20 minute message, followed by fellowship with refreshments and a seasonal activity.

Initially we thought we might get a few families from the youth ministries, some who came along to the reunion and supporting families from Emmanuel. To our amazement the service now welcomes, on average, more than 60 people from the local community, many of whom have never experienced church or heard the Gospel. This peaked on Firework night 2014 with more than 120 people attending. They heard the Gospel proclaimed as well as “looking up” to see some fireworks after the service.

Capturing all of this activity and putting it on Facebook has also been a great opportunity for people in the community to discover what actually goes on inside the chapel walls and to see pictures of their friends and family being involved.

Victoria Village School

Victoria Village School

By simply living in the area we reach out to the community at every opportunity and encourage the congregation to do the same. We have had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people and have made some great friends. We make an effort to buy locally whenever possible. This allows us to get to know the shopkeepers and speak to those in the queue. It also helps when it comes to putting posters in the shop window! As funds allow we try to eat out at local cafes and restaurants once a month. Our oldest boys attend the local school and are involved in the local music group, football team and boxing club. The Lord has opened doors in the local schools for me to take assemblies and to visit the local care homes. My wife, Harriet, is a member of the slimming club (not that she needs it) and attends other pre-school playgroups in the area with our younger children, she is also involved in a local choir. We try to attend most community activities; charity nights; pub quizzes etc and are constantly building bridges, knocking down walls and simply being accessible to people so they know where to go when the Lord puts that desire in their hearts.

Throughout 2015 opportunities continue to develop and I was appointed assistant Chaplain to the Mayor of Torfaen, a dear friend Giles Davies (who I have got to know well over the last 12 months). Giles is unique in that his office has not come out of ambition or pride but as a consequence of the genuine love he has for the area and I thank God for raising Giles up in the community during this early stage of my Ministry. Working in this capacity of Chaplain to the Mayor has opened many other doors into the community for me to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

We praise God for the way He is blessing the work. From June 2014-15 attendance at the traditional Sunday services have doubled, requiring us to start a Sunday School to cater for the children during the service. The Monday Club has five times more children attending and the Mother and Toddlers’ group has also seen significant growth.

By God’s Grace on July 19th we are baptizing three people who have come to know the Lord through this evangelism.

Noddfa June 2015

Noddfa 2015

Noddfa 2015

Please continue to pray for us

The last 12 months have been amazing, the Lord has worked beyond our wildest expectations, but the church at Noddfa is still in a desperate situation. I have to support myself financially in secular work, the core membership of the church remains small and elderly, and although the numbers have been a great encouragement, it is all superficial if we do not see souls being saved.

This is our burden for the people in our community and we ask that you continue to pray for the work, so that we can continue to do everything possible with what God has given us. Please pray that God will do the impossible, as only He can, and revive this land once more bringing many people to saving faith in Jesus.

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest,” Isaiah 62:6