A great gift idea
When Holy Habits founder Andrew Roberts was preaching in his home church last December, he mentioned that The BRF Book of 365 Bible Reflections would make a great Christmas present if anyone was still stuck for ideas. His friend Andy Haynes (pictured below) was in the congregation and made a mental note.
‘Mum is 90, and she keeps saying, I don’t want anything. I’ve got everything. I don’t want any more biscuits! But,’ says Andy, ‘she still gets given them.’
So when he heard Andrew’s recommendation, he thought of his mum. ‘Some years ago my son gave her a flip calendar with a daily Bible verse, which she’d really enjoyed,’ he says. ‘So I ordered one book for myself and one for mum.’
When they arrived, Andy started flicking through and kept thinking of other family members who might enjoy it.
‘I thought of my son and his wife, and my daughter and her husband and ordered two more copies. But we’re a lucky family, in that my son’s in-laws are Salvation Army and my daughter’s in-laws are believers, too, though they don’t get to church these days due to health issues. In the end I ordered seven copies.’
Kinver Methodist Church
Andy’s background is Baptist, but he’s now in joint membership at Kinver Methodist Church in South Staffordshire, and a Methodist local preacher.
‘Once I was in membership, I was asked to become a steward, so I became a steward. And then I went to a local preachers meeting to discuss what people wanted from visiting local preachers. I got up to say that all we want from local preachers is for them to preach the message of Jesus Christ and bring the gospel message. Two other members of the church happened to be there and not long afterwards they persuaded me to train as a local preacher myself.
‘I was still working full-time in a car showroom at that point, about 2000, and it was hard to find the time for the training. I was often up till 2.00 am finishing essays.’
Andy still works part-time. ‘It didn’t suit me to retire completely,’ he says, ‘I like to be busy.’ The church is now returning to ‘normal’ having adapted well to the challenges of lockdown: ‘The first time I preached at an online service the site went down while we were going out live on YouTube and the whole thing collapsed. Oh, that was stressful!’
The congregation isn’t yet back to where it was but they’ve been getting reasonable numbers, and Andy says they’ve attracted some new people through the online services. ‘A gentleman sent a donation to the church, saying he’d been following us online and wanted to donate, because he found the services so helpful.’
Andy’s dad is 92. Before Covid he was still driving, and always busy visiting people in the Baptist congregation. Sadly, his health deteriorated through the series of lockdowns, while his wife stayed active, carrying on close to normal, running the house, all the way through.
Andy’s mum was delighted with her Christmas present, and soon after Christmas he had a text from his daughter: ‘Thank you so much for this book, Dad,’ she said. ‘I find the Bible overwhelming but this just gives me an understanding and it’s great.’
‘I was thrilled,’ says Andy. ‘She has a disabled son, my eldest grandchild, and life has been very tough for her. He’s eight now, a lovely lad, but he needs a lot of care.
‘We’re very lucky that so many people have been praying for my grandson over the years. People we didn’t even know, people from other churches… it was wonderful. The hospital said he’ll never talk, he’ll never walk, he’ll never feed himself, but he’s able to do so much and he’s a lovely happy lad.
‘Thank you so much for this book. I find the Bible overwhelming but this just gives me an understanding, and it’s great.’
‘But it’s hard for them to go out, because they get so many bad reactions from other people and it’s really upsetting.
‘When my grandson was first diagnosed, we started having a family gathering at my daughter’s on a Saturday night. We’d sing a couple of songs and then we’d have a Bible reading and talk about the passage, and then pray together. My daughter used to say, “This is great, because you’ve brought the church to us.” Sadly, it eventually petered out.
‘But then, when we all had these books at Christmas, one of my sons came up with the idea of a family WhatsApp group, based on the book. It seemed such a good solution to hold us all together, to encourage each other and share our thoughts. So that’s what’s been happening. From 1 January we’ve all been following the daily readings and it’s doing a lot for us as a family. Not everyone posts or comments but everyone is following the conversation, and every time I see my mum I get my phone out and show her what everyone has been saying.
‘It’s really connecting us. I posted one day, “It’s just a blessing to know that when I’m reading this reflection, I know all of you are too, and we’re all on the same page.”‘
Postscript: Andy and his family switched to the Lent section in The BRF Book of 365 Bible Reflections in the run up to Easter, and life was then disrupted when most of them went down with Covid. But as he told us this week, ‘We’re hoping to all be back on the same page very soon!’