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Honiton Evangelical Congregational Church July

Dear Friends,

 A busy and worthwhile month

It seems strange looking back at last month’s newsletter and finding that in it I am anticipating the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship Conference. Already it is fading into the background but it was very worthwhile. There are some aspects which were simply pleasant as we renew old friendships and make new ones. It was especially good that the Argentine delegates, Armando and Llorena Nass, really enjoyed themselves and increasingly felt at home and enjoyed the fellowship. Argentina is a country with a well-established and well taught church with great potential to take a leading part in our fellowship.

The preaching was very good and it was encouraging to have younger leaders in EFCC, Tom Brand, who is Ministry Director, and Matt Rees, who is the Chairman of the Committee, present and taking part. I am encouraged both for the work of EFCC and also hope they will develop a commitment to WECF. One of the things I have always found a blessing is how people from very different backgrounds and who preach very differently can be used to encourage us and stimulate our own service to the Lord.

On a personal level It was a delight having all our family together – David came to do the children’s work at the conference and endeared himself – the youngest of Tom Brand’s children, Arabella, has been asking after David ever since the conference. Rebecca and Joshua and Daniel came as well. Jonathan and Lesley, Anna and Phoebe made it for a couple of days and Keith and Tracy were present throughout. It is the first time we have all been together since my induction in October 2016,

Strangely I think the greatest blessing of the last few weeks hasn’t been the conference or the week touring North Wales with a group from the conference but my rushed trip to Pastor Hristo Kulichev’s funeral in Sofia, Bulgaria. Pastor Kulichev died aged 88 so in 1985, when he was imprisoned for his faith he was 54. He had been in his teens when the Communists came to power and imprisoned many of the pastors at the time. At that time he and his brother, Dimitar, had resolved to lead lives in which Christ and his authority came first. Pastor Kulichev observed that the Communists, and this is true of all totalitarian states and is increasingly true in the UK, don’t mind what you think provided it doesn’t control your behaviour and loyalties. His faith and commitment were widely admired and acted as an inspiration to the other Christians struggling with life under a hostile government.

Attending his funeral was encouraging because though there is sorrow in a believer’s funeral there is also a shared joy – for them the race is over and they have kept the faith. It was also deeply moving to see a number of pastors, many of whom I know, joining in the service. Sharing what they owed to him and his ministry but also quite clearly pointing us to the God to whom he belonged and who had kept him down the years. It was lovely to meet up with our brother Delchio, whose ministry our church supports, and deeply moving to meet with a friend, Pastor Radoslav Kiriakov,  Radoslav was an officer in the Bulgarian navy on a fast-track to the top when he was converted and called to the ministry. He ministers in Bourgas, a Black Sea resort and shared with me something of his situation. The church is small and elderly and very isolated. His wife, who is in her 40s suffered a stroke a year ago and has been left severely handicapped and unable to speak properly. He is caring for her as well as continuing a difficult ministry. He so much needs our prayers

Yours in the Lord,