Archive for June, 2018

Honouring the Hutchinsons!

When we became missionaries the biggest sacrifice was leaving our friends and family; I wept so much in the lead up to us leaving as we said goodbye to those we love so much.  At the time I never considered how difficult other goodbyes would be.

This past week has been a time to honor and celebrate an incredible special family, who have been not only friends but family to us from the very beginning of our time in Cambodia.  On Saturday night Elim was honoured to host a celebration of friendship and community for the Hutchinson family who are returning to their passport country of New Zealand today.  Colleen has been a missionary in Cambodia for 21 years, its where she met her husband Adam and where they have raised their amazing teenagers, Sophie & Sam (15) and Tobey (13).

Not a family wanting to be in the limelight or seeking attention but it was necessary for all those who love them to honor and celebrate and say goodbye. It was a beautiful, relaxed evening where friends and colleagues could spend time with the Hutchinsons over a delicious meal.  Special thanks go to Angie and Melissa who organised the event; the room was beautifully decorated, the Kiwi Photo Booth was brilliant and everyone had the opportunity to leave a message for the Hutchinsons in a book which I know they will treasure.  Tobey wowed us all with her piano recital, a few people shared special memories of their time over the years with the Hutchinson family, their Cambodian community gathered around them and prayed that as they leave the country that has been their home for so many years that they will know God’s strength and peace as they transition back into their passport country.  There have already been so many answers to their prayers and we are excited for what God will do in and through these 5 amazing people in New Zealand!

This week’s blog is an opportunity for us to reflect and thank God for bringing the Hutchinsons and the Allens together at the very beginning of our journey to Cambodia.

The Hutchinsons welcomed us into their home and lives; and were our ‘go to’ on many occasions.  Colleen with her nursing background was the first person we would call when either of us were sick, and team members and staff also benefited from her medical expertise.  She would joke that all the consultations were recorded in a little black book which we would pay her with coffees when she retired!  Over the last 4 years Colleen became the nurse for Be Free, volunteering her time every Wednesday morning to teach the girls about health and caring for their children.  I know this was a highlight of the week for Colleen, and the girls thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from Colleen’s teaching.  On Wednesday we had a little party to honor Colleen and each of the girls thanked her for all the help and advice that she gave.  Colleen thanked the girls for trusting her when they were scared with the advice Colleen gave them.

All new babies (and we have had so many new babies recently) and the new Mums were given a check up by Colleen, the most recent was Baby Eli on Monday.  It was lovely to visit Nita, our Early Learning Centre manager, at home and both Mum and baby are doing really well.  Eli was such a good baby during his examination and was then rewarded with cuddles.  It was an emotional and bittersweet moment as this is the last baby born under Colleen’s watch.  Elim are so grateful for all the medical advice, love and support demonstrated by Colleen as many times over the years she would get a phone call asking if she was at home and could carry out a consultation.

Adam in his role in Prison Fellowship Cambodia gave both David and I an opportunity to volunteer during our first year on the mission field.  David carried out visits to 2 foreign prisoners, building friendships with them, taking in care packages and just being someone to share with.  I was given the opportunity to teach some English in the youth prison, and also carry out some admin work in the PFC office.  We are so thankful to Adam for entrusting us with these ministries and for always being there when we needed sound wisdom and advice.  Both Adam and Colleen shared from their own experiences of living and serving in South East Asia, checking our self care and making sure we would look after our body, soul and mind!  Adam and David would have many conversations with regard to running an NGO, and David has learnt so much from Adam’s leadership skills over the years.  Adam and Colleen would always be honest, full of integrity and we love and respect them both so much.

Adam and Colleen have raised 3 incredible young people who we have been so blessed to be a part of their lives.   Leaving our nieces and nephews was the hardest thing we had to do and God gave us Sophie, Sam and Tobey.  To watch them grow, not only in height but in character over the last 7 years has been an absolute delight to David and me.  We have always enjoyed their company, they are the most polite and well mannered young people and such a credit to their parents.  We have been thrilled over the years to attend their ballet recitals and have been the proud auntie and uncle cheering them on. Last Sunday was a highlight for me as we took Sophie, Sam and Tobey out in the tuk tuk to retreat a memory from 7 years ago.  If we were standing in the photograph they would be giants next to me but it was a photo of us sitting on the wall at the riverside.  Thank you Sophie, Sam and Tobey for bringing so much joy, fun and laughter into our lives; and thank you so much Adam and Colleen for allowing us to be such a big part of your childrens’ lives.  It was such a treat to have you all stay with us for the past few days and although we are sad that the Hutchinsons are no longer in Cambodia the beauty of friendship is you pick up where you left off and you are stuck with us whether you like it or not!  As Tennyson said, ‘it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’

We are so thankful for the relationships we have built over the years with churches in New Zealand, from teams and pastors coming to Cambodia; and we are delighted that part of our tinerary next February and March speaking in churches around New Zealand will give us an opportunity to renew friendship with the Hutchinson family in their part of the world.  God built us for relationship and we look forward to the reunion we will have with Adam, Colleen, Sophie, Sam and Tobey!

Please keep them in your prayers that they will find the perfect home (with a guest room), for Sophie, Sam and Tobey as they attend a new school after being homeschooled for all their education to date and that they will all have amazing friends to do life with!  We serve an incredible God and we know He will continue to be Faithful in every area for the Hutchinson family!

Back in our Heartland!

It’s been about 8 weeks since we last wrote our blog entry and we have had the most amazing time back in the UK. I could write 10 blogs on our time there, it was so much fun, filled with God appointments, refreshing and recharging through great teaching at the Leaders summit at Harrogate. Moments spent with family, friends old and new reminiscing and dreaming, we truly had the full experience and what made it even more special was we got to introduce the most amazing wonderful Pastor Chamnap to so many of you, and nobody was disappointed.

I must quickly say some thanks before I highlight a few special times we had.  We want to thank Julie Cook and Paul Hudson for helping us get Chamnap to the UK, to Brian and Rachel Henry, your kindness, generosity and going the extra twenty miles and more was truly awesome; thank you doesn’t do justice. Dave and Debbie Winnington and my Aunty Avril and Uncle Cecil thank you so much for the cars you lent us to make getting about so much more easy. Also a massive thanks to our hosts over the six weeks Richard and Georgina Vernon and Lakeside Elim, Iain and Rachel Hesketh along with Dot and Deji our wonderful hosts at Sellyoak Elim, to Gary and Sonya Beattie and all our family at Bangor Elim, to other churches that invited us to share about Cambodia – Lisburn, Lurgan, South Belfast, Coastlands and Cullybacky Elim. As always a big thank you to our family and friends who loved us, spoiled us and were there to encourage and support us. Our final thanks goes to our wonderful friends Phil and Ruth Mckee this world is a much better place because of the two of you and your massive hearts, you constantly have our backs and yes it’s true we just turn up and become part of your family, God bless you for everything you pour into us and others.

I’m just quickly going to share some significant events that happened in our trip which started and ended in Peterborough.  While in Peterborough we got the opportunity and total privilege to be part of the first service in Wellsprings Elim’s new building. It is hard to believe that this church hadn’t had a building for 17 years and we were part of that momentous occasion. We are so excited by what God is doing through Pastor Brian and Rachel, they have persevered and I believe they are about to see God do amazing things because of their faithfulness.

For years I have watched my wife grow in confidence and I believe someone who has a calling to speak out for those who Jesus so desperately loves, the abused, the broken, the mistreated and I have been trying to get her to step out of her comfort zone. So when she spoke to the Lakeside ladies they like Chamnap and me were totally blown away as she took us on a journey. A journey full of brokenness but also a journey of hope, of redemptive power and healing and a journey of forgiveness centred on the cross. My Esther is outstanding, she is awesome in my eyes and I believe in God’s eyes too.  Lakeside I believe was significant for Esther and is going to be the start of many many more speaking engagements.

We did a lot of Cambodia work related events on our trip but we also enjoyed a bit of leisure time and we got to use it so well. Esther loves having nice coffee, chats and crocheting all the C’s. We the boys did some great things depending on who you are, we visited Old Trafford for Chamnap to take a tour of the Manchester United stadium, we were able to go to Wembley and watch Spurs beat Newcastle 1-0. I got to play some golf and had my 3rd hole in one in Peterborough, Chamnap and I also got to go out with the famous Skipper John fishing where Chamnap pulled in 21 fish and I caught 17. Esther did go to Crumlin Road jail with Ruth McKee and from what I hear were very fortunate to be allowed out again at the end!

We had special times with our parents along with our sisters and brothers and the weins, (nieces an nephews) as we always called them. It was hard to see my Mum and Dad having to go through the whole cancer, chemo journey, please pray for my Mum for strength and as smooth treatment as is possible and that she will have no more infections, also for my Dad for strength and my sister Kellie that God will be all over her, helping blessing and bringing a peace to her. Another special time was when we went to visit Dave and Dee in Kilkenny to meet our handsome nephew Elliot and gorgeous niece Sadie. They are just adorable, it was such a special time to meet them and get the chance to spend time with Dave, Dee and of course Boggin’s. Please also pray for little Elliot, he needs our prayers that his little body will be blessed with full health and strength, that his eyesight will be strong and for strength for mum and dad who are absolutely amazing.

At the end of our trip I got the amazing privilege to be ordained as a Pastor after three years of overseas study. I love God, my wife and Elim along with my dogs, Spurs, my friends and family in the Uk and Cambodia. We had such a lovely day celebrating and I want to thank all those that came to be part of it, you being there meant so much. I made my thank you speech at the time but I just want again to thank Pastor Bill and Maureen Crawford for all the love they poured into us, Pastor Gary and Sonya Beattie for the never ending support and love, and finally Pastor Paul and Greta Hudson; we are going to miss you so much as our boss but are so thankful you are our friend first and foremost; we are praying for you as you enter into your new role. Thank you again Brian and Rachel Henry and Ruth McKee for making our weekend in Birmingham memorable.

So there you go just a little taster and a few highlights of which there were too many to mention.  As we arrived home Nita was there awaiting the return of her love and champion in Chamnap, his three girls and half of Elim were also at the airport and the celebrations began on our return. Little did we know that 36 hours later little Eli, Chamnap and Nita’s little boy would be born, at a healthy weight of 7lbs 2oz. Both Mum and baby are doing well and Dad is absolutely besotted.

I leave you with one massive thank you to every single one of you whom we met up with, talked too, prayed with and to those who generously gave, we love you all. Please keep praying for us as a couple, for our wee dogs to have good health, for Chamnap and Nita and his family especially little Eli, and all the work we do at Elim, we love you all!

In closing we want to wish Esther’s Mum June a wonderful birthday today, enjoy the celebrations and know you’re in our thoughts and prayers; you are loved much!