Just got back from a 'Church Leaders' Day' at Redcliffe Bible College, where our own Hannah Coggins is studying, in preparation for long term overseas mission in Africa.
Hannah was at the front entrance to greet me when I arrived and take me for coffee (the obligatory day opener for all Christian conferences of any kind). After a bear hug from Dr Haroon (who spoke at Woodgreen on Sunday evening) we joined the 60 or so other students for student devotions, a time of singing and Bible teaching. Hugh Kemp (who spoke at Woodgreen on Sunday morning) led the devotions, asking the question: 'How can we know God's will?'. It was a really helpful summary of the Bible's teaching on guidance and it was immediately clear that Redcliffe is a learning environment that is pastoral as well as academic.
Hannah in entrance of Redcliffe College - impressive staircase!
After devotions, I went with Hannah to her 'Community Group'. This is Redcliffe's version of our Growth Groups. The group of 9 students and staff gathered in the flat of a swiss student and her husband, Nina and Ben, who plied us with more coffee... and swiss chocolate! Hannah has clearly landed on her feet with this group! The students take it in turns to lead these times, which involve some time in the Bible, and sharing and praying for one another. The degree students are about to embark on their 6-week post-Easter placements, so it was great to hear about what they are planning.
Hannah's Community Group
Next was lunch in the dining room. We arrived a little late, which was fun because Hannah was on the rota to give thanks for the meal, so they hadn't been able to start without us!
Hannah giving thanks for lunch!
During lunch it was good to catch up with Mike Frith, who ran our 'Serving as Senders' mission training day last year at Woodgreen. Mike and his wife are based at Redcliffe and run a website called OSCAR - a one-stop-shop for all things related to overseas mission. It's a wonderful resource which is well worth a look at. Want to know how best to support a missionary? Want up to date news on what is happening around the world? Want to know what opportunities there are for long or short term mission? Considering overseas mission and want help about where to start? Follow this link!
After more coffee (!) I and the other church leaders met Rob Hayes, the Principal of Redcliffe College, who gave us a presentation on 'The Redcliffe Experience' and answered questions.
Hannah and I then had the chance to sit down together and talk about how things are going. For me, this was the best bit of the day. Yes, it was great to meet some of the extraordinary young people who are preparing to serve God around the world. Yes, it was good to be able to visualise the experience Hannah is having. Yes, it was great to build on the growing relationship between Woodgreen and Redcliffe. But being able to support Hannah and pastor her through this exciting time is such a privilege! Her clarity and maturity throughout this process has been both humbling and inspiring.
We spent some time talking and praying about her final interiew next week with AIM (Africa Inland Misson). AIM place great importance on involving the sending church, which is one of the reasons Hannah was drawn to them as a missonary organisation. I have been involved in the application process from the start, meeting with the regional representative Steve Lancaster in the early stages. As part of this partnership I have been invited to sit on the final interview panel. It will be great to be there to support Hannah. Please pray for her as she has to give a 15 minute presentation, as well as answer questions. Pray that she will give a good account of her call and that the interview panel will see both her gifting and genuine heart for missionary children.
As I left Hannah at the end of the day, I was reminded of one of the things Hugh Kemp said during his morning devotions. As he concluded his talk on guidance and discerning God's will, he displayed a picture of Gloucester harbour, full of docked ships. However overlaid were these words:
A ship in harbour is safe.(But that's not what ships are made for)
It was a timely reminder of what Bible colleges like Redcliffe - and churches like Woodgreen - are called to do.
We are safe harbours - but our job is to 'prepare God's people for works of service' (Eph 4:12). As Christians we must resist the temptation all around us to pursue lives of safety, shelter and security. This is worldliness, pure and simple. Instead we are called by our Captain, Jesus, to 'Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.' (Mark 16:15).
This is the call Hannah is obeying. She is currently in the harbour, but soon she will be plotting a course for the open seas. We should be both challenged by her example and committed to supporting her as she prepares to set sail.
If you want to receive Hannah's prayer letters - please email me.
Redcliffe College: www.redcliffe.org/