Just over 29 years ago, on the first Sunday in February 1965, a little family of six gathered in their sparsely furnished front room and praised God together on their first Lord’s Day in their new country.
The words of the hymn that they had sung with all the well-wishers at Darlington station, a few days before, echoed in their ears: ‘Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and his love’.
Twenty-nine years on, and three members of the same family, along with a wife and three children, met in North Cyprus to praise God on the first Sunday in February.
This time it was in the wonderfully well-appointed building that God has provided and the worship was joined by some 180 others, from three continents and at least eight nations (some of the regulars, from three different countries, were away due to university holidays).
As well as listening to the Spirit-empowered preaching of Pastor Si Hook from Crowborough, they heard the moving testimony of a Nigerian young lady who has been part of the church for the past five-and-a-half years.
This service was followed by the Turkish-speaking service led by Phil Benstead. He with his family were rejoicing in God’s goodness over the 20 years, to the day, since they arrived in Turkey.
Our few Turks were there: Aliye, with her husband and boys, and Sennur, who, the previous day, had her testimony and photo printed in one of the national papers.
What can we say to all this, but ‘This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?
Publicity and prayer
The previous day, the opening ceremony went ahead with a fine blend of Cypriot custom for openings and an introduction of Christian worship to those present.
With a message from the speaker of Parliament read out, and the ceremonial ribbon being cut by the local equivalents of ‘Chair of the parish council’ of two local councils, as well as our name outside the building for the first time, it felt like an announcement to the people of the country that there is now a Christian church in their midst.
What is more, because the press had been invited, their reports are telling the readers that this Christian worship is for Turkish-speakers, as well as foreigners.
For those of you who have been with us in prayer for all or part of these past 29 years, we can only thank you for the part you have played. Our God, who has seen fit to allow us to be part of his work, has ordained the prayers of his people as an indispensable part of that work.
As you have prayed in the past, please continue even more fervently now! The warfare will not ease until the day of Christ’s return, so we must all be watchful and prayerful.
One of the themes that was repeated over the weekend, in the many greetings from friends and in the messages from God’s Word, is our role as ‘light’ in this community.
Please pray for that light to shine forth unmarred by the many flaws in the light-bearers.
Pray too for some of the visitors who were in God’s house for the first time. It would be truly wonderful if the seed planted then should bring forth fruit to last for eternity!
Andrew and Daphne Swanson