Saturday, 6 December 2014


It’s been a while since the last post. There are a number of reasons for this but I think the most significant centre on focus and purpose. As I have written previously it has been quite challenging adjusting to the most recent steps in the Hope and Kindness journey. Judi and I have seemed to have so many different things to do that it has been hard gaining traction on any of them. Fortunately God hasn't lost track of where we are. His hand points us in the right direction. When you feel you’ve been walking round in circles for a while it comes as a great relief when God points and says “Go that way.”

My most recent epiphany has come about as a result of:

  • Watching a lot of old detective series on the Alibi channel (New Tricks and Lewis especially!) 
  • Re-reading a John Maxwell book called “Be All You Can Be: A Challenge To Stretch Your God Given Potential.”
  • Making a tough decision.
  • Receiving some good news immediately after making the tough decision.
I like to feel that I am well informed, knowledgeable and highly competent before acting. I guess a lot of people feel the same. This attitude has helped me on a number of occasions. It has also, unfortunately, often led me to a state of decision paralysis. I don’t have Eureka moments all that often but I had one this evening. In the John Maxwell book I came across one of the most challenging questions I've ever read. John Maxwell asked:

“If you could be anything you wanted to be and do what you wanted to do, what would you be or do?”

It really made me think. After thinking for a while, an important truth dawned on me. One which will, I hope, help me to prepare for next year in Kenya much more effectively.

Life isn't about knowing all the right answers. It’s about asking the right questions.

The Alibi channel might seem like an unlikely source of inspiration, but asking the right questions is what all the best detectives do.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Unsung Heroes and Heroines

Judi and I have just got back from speaking at Riverside Elim Church in Bewdley. Yesterday we returned from spending three days in Wales. I mention this because I am feeling quite overwhelmed by the love and care that we receive from friends who believe in what we are doing in Kenya. They really are the unsung heroes and heroines that keep Hope and Kindness going.

In our talks I have sometimes spoken about the work of a lady called Sarah De Carvalho. I hope she won’t mind me sharing some of the things that she wrote in her book called A Survival Guide for Frontline Living. In the book she writes:

“Despite my unworthiness, the Lord asked me in 1990 to give up my career in television, my comfortable apartment in London, my family and friends, to go to Brazil to rescue children living on filthy streets because they have nowhere else to go.” Sarah De Carvalho is a lady who knows about missionary work!

I read the book some time ago but it’s message has stuck with me over the years, mostly because it rightly acknowledges the massive amount of work and dedication that has to happen behind the scenes to keep missionaries ‘in the field.’ She starts the book with a sad, but inspiring, story.

“Once upon a time there was a small village built at the edge of a very wide and fast flowing river. One day a young boy fell in the river and he started to cry out for help. Everyone in the village ran to the river to see if it was their son who had fallen in. There was panic as the small boy kept disappearing under the rapids. Suddenly a teenage boy, renowned for his swimming prowess, found a long thick cord and tying one end around his waist he threw the other end into the crowd. ‘Grab hold of the cord!’ he cried as he dived bravely into the river after the drowning child. The crowd ran along the bank with bated breath. Eventually the teenager reached the boy and locking him in his arms he called out exhausted, ‘Pull the cord!’

On the riverbank there was chaos as everyone looked at everyone else, repeating the desperate cry of the teenager, ‘Pull the cord, pull the cord!’ Then the appalling truth dawned. No one had grabbed hold of the other end of the cord. Each one had thought that someone else was holding it. And the two boys drowned.

The moral of the story is obvious. As the writer says it is a parable about mission. Fortunately for us the Hope and Kindness rope is being held tightly by many people. Tonight I’d like to thank a few of them for holding the rope for us over the past few days. Thank you Jon and Fiona for Wales. Thank you Annie, Liz, Val and Bernadette for organising tonight in Bewdley and thank you to the man who gave £10 to Val and Liz in Marks & Spencer this morning. Thank you for holding our rope so tight that we won’t drown.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Off to Wales

Tomorrow we will be taking a short trip to Wales to catch our breath and catch up properly with some friends. We are trying to make it a technology free couple of days (though I have a feeling some might find it's way across the border!) If my phone allows I'll try to send a new post but failing that will be back online on Tuesday.

P.S. My stuff defeat has turned out well - the hudl is proving itself an all conquering addition to the technology inventory - it is more than capable of giving the iPad a run for it's money.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Stuff 10 Me 0

I guess it was bound to happen. The hudl won. I caved in and bought one today. It was a classic 'stuff' ambush. After the guarded approach to avoiding direct contact with the product in store I made the fatal mistake of letting my guard down and was overwhelmed by the positive reasons for sealing the deal. Having felt like like something of a failure after parting with my money I must admit that it is a very impressive device. I guess that is the logical response at this point.

That said I have typed up the blog on it tonight and had no problems. I have a developing sense of confidence that I might be on to a good thing. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Words for our journey

Keeping up a blog is a great challenge. Having unsuccessfully applied for a job as a trainee reporter for the Oxford Mail when I was about eighteen or nineteen there is, I think, a frustrated journalist inside me. Knowing how to get the right balance and tone in the posts is the biggest problem. I don’t want to come across as over preachy but really want to avoid the “I’m on the train ..... “ approach as well. I’d like to think that what I write is either encouraging, thought provoking or brings a bit of light relief at different times.

Judi and I are speaking about our work in Kenya in our home church tomorrow morning. It’s a nice opportunity to give a lot of people who support us an update on what we've been up to. Preparing for tomorrow’s talk gave me an opportunity to reflect on the different scriptures that have been a source of strength and inspiration to me over the years since 2000 when Judi and I first committed ourselves to our Christian faith. I’d like to share five of them today. There is a sequence to them which goes with our first going to Kenya in 2002 up to this year. I offer these as an encouragement to anybody who is struggling with their own faith, thinking that something is missing from their day to day life or wondering what the God thing is all about. They've inspired me a lot over the years.

Isaiah 6:6-8 “One of the flaming creatures flew over to me with a burning coal that it had taken from the altar with a pair of metal tongs.  It touched my lips with the hot coal and said, "This has touched your lips. Your sins are forgiven, and you are no longer guilty. After this, I heard the LORD ask, "Is there anyone I can send? Will someone go for us?" "I'll go," I answered. "Send me!"

Ephesians 2:10  “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That's why he sent Christ to make us what we are.

Micah 6:8  “The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands: "See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God."

Jeremiah 29:11  “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”

Joshua 1:9 “I've commanded you to be strong and brave. Don't ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.”

Recognising the wide range of responses that people make to proclamations of faith and scripture I can only say that each one of these verses has been very real for me. Since Judi and I said “We’ll go” and set off for Kenya a plan has unfolded which vastly exceeds what Judi and I are capable of in our own strength. We make a mess of living the way God wants us to all the time but it won’t stop us from trying to.

Dave Allen, an Irish comedian, famously finished off his TV show each episode with the catchphrase “May your God go with you.” Imperfect as I am, I’m glad that God is still in the driving seat and we are making our journey with him.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Me 1 Stuff 0

Following on from yesterday's post, today started with a tough fight against the lure of a new tablet computer. The psychology of our addiction to stuff is very complex. By about 9.30 this morning I had just about convinced myself that it would be a great idea to buy the new Tesco hudl 2. I'm sure many of you will be familiar with the thought process. It doesn't take long to get to the point where your life will be incomplete and infinitely more difficult if you don't buy your current object of desire. The sure sign that you have been completely sucked in and sold on the purchase is the well rehearsed list of benefits that you present to your nearest and dearest before rushing out of the house in a contradictory fit of guilt and anticipation of sealing the deal.

I had to go to the store this morning anyway so, sucked in by the in-store display, I tried out a hudl 2, picked a colour and then ......... something deep in my subconscious stirred and I managed to resist the temptation. It was a crucial moment. I walked out of the store with my shopping and without a new tablet computer.  I think I am now cured. I guess the next trip to Tesco will prove it one way or another.

Judi and I are off to London tonight. The car is laden with stuff from our son Tom's room which we are taking down for him. It's going to live in his place now. As we continue to prepare our own house for renting each car full of stuff that leaves the premises feels like a small victory. I think it's going to be a long campaign!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


I’ve just got back from a trip to our local tip and the Salvation Army charity shop where I have offloaded what seems like a ton of our unwanted stuff. Judi and I (to be honest mostly Judi) are in the throes of clearing out the accumulated stuff in our house in preparation for renting it out while we are in Kenya. It has amazed me how much stuff we have managed to pile up in the house since the last time we blitzed the place twelve years ago when we first went to Kenya.

The problem with the stuff in your house is that it hides everywhere - under beds, in cupboards and corners, sheds and attics. It also seems to reproduce itself. I wouldn't really describe Judi and I as  mass consumers to any great extent so it is alarming to see how much there is still left to clear out. Perhaps the two of us aren't doing enough to stimulate the economy by not buying a lot of stuff. Tony Campolo (an American speaker I referenced in a previous post) talks about societies like the US and UK where we all have a lot of stuff. In a very funny talk he says “Do you understand that it is your patriotic responsibility to buy stuff.” He has a point. Just imagine what would happen to all the people who have jobs making stuff if people weren't buying it.

Difficult as it is I would really like to work on a different way of doing things - i.e. NOT buying stuff. I know that this will be a big challenge. Stuff is enticing. Stuff convinces you that you can’t do without it. I am, at this moment, being seduced by the new Tesco hudl 2 tablet every time I walk into the computer section of our local branch of Tesco. The demonstration models on the display cry out “Buy one of us!”. How could you resist the promotional advertising - “Souped-up and super-sized, the hudl 2 is primed to entertain and has oodles of room for apps and downloads. Its choice of 8 fab colours totally rocks too!” I have, to my shame, taken the guided tour on the Internet advert. It is hard to resist. But I am going to try.

How about a different strap line on patriotic duty. It is our patriotic duty to humanity not to buy any more unnecessary stuff because the planet can’t take it any more. J Matthew Sleet, MD has written a great book called Serve God Save the Planet. The endorsement on the cover says “Serve God Save the Planet is the best single book I've found to help people of faith learn practical ways to fulfill our call to be stewards and caretakers of God’s beautiful creation." I’m grateful to Judi for taking such a tough line on what we chuck out and recycle - painful as it is to bid farewell to cherished old books, videos and cassette tapes. We can’t take our stuff with us, we don't need most of it, its in the way and its got to go!. I think I’ll go out and hug a tree to relieve the pressure.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

On a Mission

It has taken Judi and I a little while to readjust to being back home in the UK. Catching up with our children, Tom and Ellie, has been great and we have enjoyed seeing our other family and friends. It is also a bit strange being missionaries.

Judi and I are now full time missionaries with Elim Missions. This week-end we have been on our first set of "missionary events" since returning home. As well as catching up with our nearest and dearest our time in the UK also involves going out to talk about Hope and Kindness and encourage people to support us. We are just starting to get used to this new role. On Saturday we attended a missions conference in Birmingham and went on from there to Nantwich (in the North West of England) where we spoke about our work in Kenya to the Elim church there.

We had a great time up in Nantwich. It is difficult sharing about ourselves and our work in Kenya in about twenty minutes, but Judi did a great job. She would be the first to say that the thought of talking in public fills her with dread but once she gets going she is very good. We met some very lovely people in the church and were really encouraged by the warmth and hospitality we experienced. Thank you everybody at Nantwich, especially Rachel, Pastor Michelle, Laurie, Richard, Ella and Austin and Rachel's mum, dad and sister Lisa.

While I am in "on the road for Hope and Kindness" mode I'd like to take the opportunity to extend an invitation to anybody who might be thinking about going on a short term mission. I read an article recently that said the term "short term mission" should be banned. It was a provocative headline but the writer went on to make the point that spending a short time "on a mission" abroad is actually a great opportunity to start up a long term relationship with the people you go out and work with. We would agree. We have had a number of repeat visitors and they are always a massive encouragement to our children and staff in Kenya.

I think a lot of people are put off thinking about coming to a place like ours for a short visit because they worry about what they have to offer. "What will I do when I get there?" We would love to have more visitors who have practical skills, IT experience, teaching skills, musical giftings, a heart for dance and drama and everything in between. As Jesus said, the fields are ripe for the harvest but the workers are few.

If you feel a desire to go somewhere new and challenging to make a difference in people's lives check out the Volunteer, Visit Us section on our website ( We would love to hear from you.

Friday, 10 October 2014

It All Adds Up

Every year I have to send off a Gift Aid claim to the UK tax people. It’s a brilliant scheme. The UK government pays Hope and Kindness 25 pence for every pound that we receive from a UK taxpayer. Completing the Gift Aid claim form is a very rewarding task - financially and spiritually. Hope and Kindness would find it very challenging to stay afloat without the generosity of the UK government. Our Gift Aid payment from HMRI has enabled us to buy the land and buildings that we work from in Kenya and in the last couple of years Gift Aid has allowed us to keep up with the ever increasing demands on our budget as we have increased the number of children we help every day (now over 250) and expanded the scope of our work to include providing secondary education. So, a big thank you to Her Majesty’s Government and the far sighted individual who first dreamed up the idea of Gift Aid.

Completing the claim form involves a a relatively straightforward but time consuming workout with some of the minor functions of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Throughout the process I am both humbled by the cumulative financial generosity of our supporters and thoroughly freaked out by the challenge of continuing to keep our work going each month. It is a great faith grower. “On the ground” in Kenya we are frequently faced with difficult choices as we respond to the needs of the children and adults who come into our lives. When you are sat down with a man whose wife has just died who doesn't know how he will be able to care for the newly born baby in his arms there is only way that you can respond. It’s the same with the man who can no longer care for his four children himself and is desperately making arrangements for them to be looked after by relatives who live close enough to our project for the children to be able to come to our school. You can’t say no, however scary the decision is financially.

On my daily keep fit walk/run today I was listening to a talk by a guy called Tony Campolo. (Tony Campolo resources can be found here they are fantastic!) In the talk he said “God in his care and in his love has given to the church the resources to respond to the needs of the world.” Given that God says this himself in the Bible, very frequently, I shouldn't be surprised that we have, for the last twelve years, been able to continue responding to the needs of more and more children, young people and adults from our community in Kenya. Sinner that I am I do, occasionally, become anxious when we say “Yes” to another request or start out on a new project. I know I shouldn't. Every year, as I trawl through the financial records of the previous twelve months to do the Gift Aid claim, I am reminded just how faithful and generous our supporters are. Many of them have been with us since we first started twelve years ago.

Doing the Gift Aid claim keeps me very grounded, makes me very thankful and lifts my faith. So, today, as I finalize this year’s Gift Aid claim and continue plotting and scheming for what we do next year, I would like to say a huge thank to all the people who support us financially and make the miracle of our work in Kenya possible. I wish we could bring all of you to Kenya so that you could see for yourselves the difference you make to so many people’s lives.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Waving and not drowning

Judi and I are back in the UK at the moment after spending most of the year in Kenya. We came back in early September for our son Tom’s graduation from Goldsmiths University (proud parent syndrome sneaking in here!) Since then we have been catching up with the rest of our family and friends and gearing ourselves up for the next nine months in Kenya starting in January 2015.

It’s very strange being back home. Life in Kosele (Kenya) is very straightforward. It’s easy to focus on what needs doing and there is so much going on every day that you don’t get too much time for introspection. Now that we are away from Kenya and preparing ourselves for some fund-raising events I am finding it a challenge managing the balance between what needs to be done immediately here and what needs preparing to take back to Kenya. To overcome this somewhat frustrating imbalance I am (between completing our Gift Aid calculations and worrying about a hundred and one other things) reading a book that my sister recommended to me called "True North". So far it has been a very rewarding read. Not being in the thick of things in Kosele does allow me the luxury of re-charging my batteries physically, emotionally and spiritually (which, when I see it written down does look a bit pretentious but is still true) and really focusing on what is really important.

Jim Wallis, one of my favourite Christian authors, took a three month “book writing sabbatical” to write his book "On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned". Judi and I will have spent four months in the UK before we next go to Kenya. I’m not planning to write a book but I am beginning to recognise the value in spending some time reflecting on what we have done this year and what we need to do in the future.

True North makes this interesting observation. “An enormous vacuum in leadership exists today - in business, politics, government, education, religion and non-profit organizations.” A similar point is made by the South African author of “Why Africa is Poor”. In keeping with an observable shift in working with young people I want to take a leadership course back to Kosele to share with the oldest students in our High School. They will be taking their KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) exam at the end of next year (2015) and I believe that they need to be equipped to both recognise and demonstrate good leadership themselves. I’m working on the material at the moment.

In the spirit of sharing life experiences and becoming a better version of you (closer to the person God means you to be) I’d like to close this post with some really challenging questions from "True North" that I am wrestling with at the moment (hence the title of the blog.) The book says “Your True North is based on what is most important to you.” The following four questions, based on the book, are a great starting point for finding your True North (and thus God’s purpose for your life.)

1.What are your most cherished values?
2.What are you passionate about?
3.What motivates you?
4.What are the sources of satisfaction in your life?

If you are honest about the answers these are really tough questions. I’m hoping that the process involved in finding answers will help me to do our work in Kosele better. If you’re up for the challenge I’d be interested to know if considering these questions helps you at all.