Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends,
Two stories for you. The first concerns a lady I met in America. We were visiting an amazing ministry set up by a church in Washington DC. It was an extensive program, in an area of exceptionally high unemployment, taking people who were dependent on alcohol and drugs off the street and helping them to build a new life. This, if they wanted, included giving them somewhere to live and a job. It was very successful, full of humility and genuine love and hugely impressive. On my first night there, at supper, I sat with Wendy (name changed). As we talked her story unfolded. For most of her adult life she had been chemically addicted in one form or another and to fund her addictions she had turned to prostitution. Then, at the age of 53 she came to faith in Jesus. As she committed her life to God she was utterly transformed and found herself freed from the habits that had dominated her life. In the joy of her new freedom, however, she had one huge question. “Dear God”, she prayed, “why did I wait till now? I have wasted so many years.” She immediately and clearly was impressed with God’s reply; “Nothing is ever wasted.” God seemed to be saying that he could use everything, no matter how bad it seemed. And here she was now helping other women, empathising in a way that would impossible had she not been trapped as they were now, and helping them to be free of their addictions too through faith in Christ. In offering the very worst of her experience to God, it had transformed it into a beautiful gift to free others.
The second story I heard in The Verne Prison, where we were leading a Bible teaching weekend. The chapel was packed. The gentleman (I can’t remember his name) had been a ‘lifer’ (now released). He told us that he had hated God, he hated the world, he hated others and he hated himself. He painted a pretty dire picture of his life and the crimes he had committed because of his utter contempt for everything and everyone. Through his contact with the prison chaplain he had been challenged about his need of God, and he rejected it point blank. However, one night he was at rock bottom and, in desperation, shouted a prayer at God. “God, if you are real (if you’re there) change me!” With that he went to bed. The next day he woke up utterly transformed. Every trace of the hatred and anger had evaporated and had been replaced with an intense sense of love and warmth. It never left him and he gave his life to following Jesus and knew God as his loving Heavenly Father for the first time in his life.
Again, because of his background, the horror of his past life has been transformed into an amazing gift with which to set others free. Again nothing had been wasted.
I will tell you my story some time. It is nothing like these except in one way. God took – and is still taking - the broken places of my life and, because I let him, is using them to offer the same freedom and healing to others that he has given to me. He can do it for you too. Ask me about it!

Every blessing to you all.
Stephen Ball (Still in recovery at least until the end of September but around for cups of tea, walks, etc.)

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