An unexpected opportunity - David Farrugia
Ever felt restless and a little stuck in a rut? Not seeming to be going anywhere and questioning your reason for being? Wondering if God had any purpose for you any longer?
I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years and during that time God has done some amazing things in my life, bringing me out of a life of fear to a life of hope, miraculous healings and amazing provision. Even being touched by Jesus and experiencing his love for us, the list can go on. But about a year ago I found myself in a restless place, I was relatively happy but felt that there should be more purpose to my life, life was a bit… dull. At the same time I was wondering why many people I knew had received prophetic words spoken over their life by visiting prophets but I had not. Was I not important enough to receive a prophetic word? Did God not have a plan for me?
Then God in his grace decided to answer that question and I found myself in a place where He did just that and I received my first major prophetic word. The message was long and in depth, talking about my past, present and His plan for my future. Though encouraged by this message and His answering my request, at the same time I was a bit disappointed that the word for my future was one of being ‘steadfast’ and ‘lion hearted’; nice words but not very inspiring.
Then in January of this year something happened that turned my peaceful life upside down, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. All at once my safe and steady life came crashing down as the thought of what this might mean invaded my inner peace. What would happen to my wife, my children, my job? Would I have to stop working? How would we pay the bills? Could I cope with being a house husband and caring for my sick wife?
After some very helpful prayer from the church elders and their words of encouragement, my mind cleared and I started to seek God for the truth in what was happening. One of the first things he said was: ‘Live life in the reality of the moment. Stop thinking about what could or might happen but actually stop and see what is happening!’
The second word that God gave was ‘Jesus is walking with you in this journey, he will see you safely through to the end’.
Over the next few months of treatment and sickness there were lots of opportunities to be declaring these words as Tanya went through the process of chemotherapy and the associated after effects: tiredness, emotional ups and downs and physical discomfort. We had also heard lots of horror stories from people that had gone through terrible trials while on chemotherapy, but we felt determined not to live in the expectation of what had happened before but to trust God fully and to continue to praise Him and seek Jesus protection and support during the process. As we did that together our spirits were lifted and we continued to receive renewed hope and joy in our family, being steadfast and lion hearted in declaring Gods truth was the key to accessing God’s grace, and His grace was abundant throughout this period, and quite amazing. From the timely intervention of the doctors, the care of the nurses, support from work colleagues, the love, care and support of our church family and friends, protection from most of the major side effects - all of these came together to demonstrate His grace . The love and support poured out on us has been overwhelming.
Another unexpected bonus of the situation we found ourselves in was being given the opportunity to share God’s goodness and grace testimony with those around us, family, neighbours and work colleagues. Although it wasn’t a secret at work that I was a Christian and part of a vibrant outreaching church community, the subject of God, Jesus and His grace very rarely came up. But now colleagues, some that I knew well and some that I didn’t, wanted to hear how we were getting on and all I felt to do was share the wonderful truth that God was with us and that he was protecting and guiding us through what could have been a very horrible situation.
The Bible speaks a lot about giving thanks to God and seeking Him in good times and bad, and recently He reminded me of the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers (Luke 17: 11 – 19). In the story Jesus heals 10 lepers, but only 1 came back to thank him. Jesus was very pleased with that man and says to Him ‘your faith has saved (healed) you’.
Like the Samaritan in the story I want myself and my family to be the ones that go back to thank Jesus for his love, care and healing, not dwell on the trial we find ourselves in, but focussing on Him and giving Him praise for standing by us in it.
There is opportunity in the trails we find ourselves in when we trust in God and recognise that he has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us. His plan to help us grow in faith and understanding provide the means by which we go from just plodding along to living in the fullness of His grace. The opportunity to not just survive suffering but to prosper in it, in order that we can be a witness to help others to overcome fear. God has reminded me that He is faithful and He does have a plan for me. That everything that has gone on in my life before is relevant and beneficial to what is happening now.
So what have I learnt from this ‘unexpected opportunity’? Just like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit: an unexpected Journey (from which my title is based) I was a set on a journey not by choice but by Gods design, to show that even though I may not be the biggest or the bravest, God can still use me to reclaim things that the enemy seeks to take away. The power to overcome is not by my might alone but is a combination of binding together as family to stand up to the enemy, to trust in the power of the Holy spirit to deliver us from traps of the enemy and allowing Jesus to take us along the journey to a safe and victorious end.
It also showed me that God has a plan for me. He meets me where I am. He gives me what I need when I need it. He knows me personally and works with me through my strengths and weaknesses that he can use to His purpose. As I trust Him I can expect to be given the strength and wisdom to overcome any obstacle. What He places in my heart and mind, however small is still important because together we make it a reality. It is testimony to His great glory and power.
Finally I want to be one of those people that when God delivers goes back to say thank you Jesus! One who rather than turn away from God in time of hardship, instead embraces Jesus and holds his hand as he prepares the way and leads us through the unknown to a safe and victorious end.
Amen and Praise God.
David Farrugia, 21/06/2018
Ann Garrard - In depth
Ann Garrard has been a governor at a school for children with additional needs for over 30 years. Jamie Singleton (JS) found out what motivated her and some of the challenges she has had to overcome in that time.
JS: What first lead you to become a governor and what did you want to achieve?
I was challenged to become a governor by someone in the church who had at that time been recently appointed Head Teacher of a struggling high school. He encouraged the church to become governors of their children’s schools. My son Andrew has learning difficulties. He is the child God has given me and at that time was settled at a special school in Ilford (then called Ethel Davis). It was a natural progression from being involved with the Parents Association to becoming a parent governor. I was fortunate that Andrew’s physical care needs were minimal, I had a good family support network and I had the time needed. My own teaching experience strengthened my experience as a parent. Many parents were not so fortunate and there was a need for parents to have a voice to point out gaps in and influence provision.
JS: About 10 years ago funding for education was severely reduced. This led many local authorities to cut funding for special needs schools and integrate children with additional needs into mainstream school and called this ‘inclusive’ schooling. What did you think of this?
There was, and still is a strong movement for inclusive education. It was my aim originally but it may not be the best for an individual student. Every child deserves to be in an environment where they are valued and thrive. For the most vulnerable students this is within a special school where the whole school community values them and there is the commitment, skill and expertise to meet all their needs. This does not mean students should be isolated and sheltered but that they are supported to be as independent as possible and be part of the community.
A primary school environment is often inclusive and all children thrive but transition to a large secondary school with a very different environment can be very difficult and highlight additional needs of many kinds.
JS: In 2015, the government’s drive to turn all schools into academies was another threat to your school. Why were you anxious and what did you do about it?
The governing body saw the need to be in charge of our own destiny and to retain control of our ethos with the needs of our very vulnerable students being central to everything we do. We, therefore took the decision to explore the possibility of becoming our own Multi Academy Trust and not become part of another Academy. This was the best protection we could give our students, and their families, and our staff that Newbridge - as it is now called - would continue to be an Outstanding School meeting the needs of the students in the same excellent way.
These changes can be very demanding for the leadership and school governors. It was a year long period of research with discussions across Redbridge exploring a range of options. Central government funding cuts meant less and less LA services and support to schools. The application process took another year but we worked our way through and became the ASTRUM Multi Academy Trust on 1st August 2017. The key thing is that there are no significant changes and the students receive the same excellent educational experience from all the committed, dedicated staff who bring a varied range of skills and expertise to their work. The changes are to the governance structure and the opportunities now available for others to draw on our expertise.
JS: The Local Authority identified there was a need for an assessment unit for early years and key stage one. You played a key role in helping the school apply for this role and the school won the tender. Why is this exciting?
The most exciting thing is the recognition of Newbridge as a Centre of Excellence. It also gives us the opportunity to extend our skills, expertise and support to another group of vulnerable children and, of vital importance to me, to their families. As a parent you want the best for your child and when things are “outside the box” you can feel bewildered, you are in unknown territory. This Early Years/Key Stage 1 Assessment Unit will provide the opportunity to see vulnerable children over a period of time and provide early intervention to support every aspect of their development. I know how important it was to me when Andrew first went to school to have the support of many staff who saw his strengths and potential not just the difficulties. Every parent should feel this and that they aren’t in a battle.
JS: In all these things, how have you seen God working?
There are so many examples I can give of the times God has answered prayer and made provision for Andrew - getting a college place and funding for example was a particular highlight. More recently, getting the Assessment Unit was the most recent answer to prayer.
I am thankful for the
- Vision and commitment of the leaders including the lead governor
- Knowledge, support and commitment of Redbridge council officers
- Recognition by the Department for Education of the excellence and range of Newbridge’s connections to the local education community
- Quality of the necessary external support in writing the bid
- Prayer support from LifeLine Church
- Opportunities it will give for the children to be known and valued in a setting where they can thrive
Support for parents and families
JS: Can you explain more about the passion God has given you for children with additional needs?
God gave me Andrew who He has known since Andrew was “knit together” in my womb. It all stems and flows from that. It is not just about Andrew, it is far wider than that. I did not return to mainstream teaching because of the need for flexibility. That said, I have worked for 40 years with vulnerable students unable to attend school for a variety of reasons. To work with these students, just as with a class, you need to build relationships. You learn about their circumstances and environments and you see the reasons for their behaviour. If I can be a stable, consistent person in their lives it will make a difference. If I can be a listening ear to a parent who feels at the end of their tether, if I can signpost to support, which I will do when appropriate, it will make a difference to the family. This is the path God has led me down. It was first into teaching and then all the things that have just grown and sprung up without any great plan of my own.
God has given me this passion, to be an advocate and speak up for the children, and their parents who cannot do it for themselves.
Jamie Singleton with Ann Garrard, 31/05/2018
Fernando Angulo-Diaz in Ukraine
The adventure began on Sunday 8th April when; I left home heading for the hotel to stay overnight and catch an early flight. It was my first trip with LifeLine.
The day we arrived we met with the students Albert works with. They are from different parts of Africa: Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Angola, and more. These young people are likely to be holding key positions in their respective countries in coming days.
We then travelled to Nikopol the roads were rough and in very poor condition, some of the potholes as Albert described, were as big as a car, this made the journey very hard and slow.
On the way, we met Arturo, a Peruvian pastor, working in Zaporozhe. He has a ministry working with foreign students from all around the world; helping and supporting them, leading them to Jesus. Many of the students are from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds. He also told us that there are a good number of Ecuadorian and Peruvian students in Ukraine. Who would imagine that I would be speaking Spanish in Ukraine!
In Nikopol, with Pastor Pavel, we visited the rehab centres; they have 5 of them, for ladies, men, mothers with kids, elderly men and elderly women.
At the centre they have a timetable where they work the land and do Bible studies; they also have a van for hire; the profits from this helps maintain the building.
We met with Pavel’s church leaders and had a very significant time where we shared our hearts and they were impacted by the message presented by John.
One highlight for me was seeing that we are brothers and sisters joined together by the Holy Spirit for His purpose. This is not about expanding the ministry; the most important thing is that God unites our Hearts.
Pavel has a very good close relationship with the Head of the Orthodox Church in Nikopol and Pavel was keen for him to meet John. In this country the Orthodox Church has a lot of influence. The priest is a young man, and we had a very good conversation. Pavel also works with leaders of other churches in Nikopol, building relationships and influencing others as well as God opening doors for him and his ministry.
The church building is in an old cinema, the only one in the city. There is an agreement to show a film from time to time; showing educational and awareness films about the city was the only way to obtain the property.
The whole congregation met with us on Wednesday to hear John’s message. It was a powerful time. The worship time was very powerful. They kindly chose songs that we also sing in English so we were able to join in.
At the very last meeting with the students back in Kiev, John spoke about the commitment that we have as part of the body. There were more students there at this time and they had to translate from English to French and Russian. We had the honour to see how God opened the hearts and minds of these young people.
The expression of love towards us was amazing. The time given by Albert traveling along with us and translating in every situation so patient and caring. As well as Pavel and his wife who were very caring and took good care of us while we were there.
Fernando Angulo-Diaz, 08/05/2018
Tanya Farrugia: Journey of Breakthroughs
Tanya had always struggled with feelings of anxiety and fear. This is the story of her breakthroughs and this is a journey that she is still on....in her own words.
"One underlying fear has always been if I really let go and surrender that something bad will happen. As a result I have tried to control things to protect myself.
For me deciding to do Doulos was about laying down my plans and dreams and surrendering them to God’s plans and dreams - not an easy decision for me because I was effectively saying to God to have His way - whatever happens (‘good’ or ‘bad’). One of my faith goals was to trust God more and not be in control.
Doulos weekend Neil was talking about faith, we all stood up to pray and felt a lump in my face. Mixed feelings of fear and then the words ‘opportunity to trust’. This was a struggle. I was afraid it would be cancer. One of my big fears. I was very anxious about this and distracted during the weekend.
The doctor sent me for a biopsy which was inconclusive and I was referred to have an operation to remove the lump and a lymph gland (effectively a facelift operation). I was fearful and anxious with all the ‘what ifs’. The elders came to pray and asked what do you want us to pray / what is God saying? Interestingly I didn’t ask for healing or for God to take away the lump at that point, I asked that God would help me to trust him, to not be afraid. David and I felt it was a process He wanted me to go through.
SURROUNDED WITH LOVE - BROTHERS AND SISTERS
At this point there was an overwhelming love and support from brothers and sisters, friends saying “we are with you”, committed, people praying, going out of their way to have the boys, (and dog!), coming to the hospital with me, praying (children too), texting, words of encouragement and prophetic words, arranging meals to be cooked and delivered and much more. We as a family felt surrounded. Even some people we didn’t know very well. At one point Peter said “we are getting VIP treatment”.
THE ORIGINAL OPERATION DAY- a few days before Christmas
On the day of the op I was very anxious but at the same time David was with me and I was receiving encouraging texts. I was choosing to stand on words that God was bringing - ‘Perfect love casts out fear’ and that God has a good and perfect plan and that sometimes pain is for a higher purpose (more than just our comfort). Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil”. Also pictures that God would carry me safely through. Lots of prophetic words were really encouraging to read over at this time - I had them all written down over time.
After waiting all day the surgeon called us in and said they can’t do it today - that they would reschedule by post. This felt like a turning point. We just thought ‘God can do anything’ and David and I both felt happy and expectant.
THE ACTUAL OPERATION DAY
Thanking God that we were able to have Christmas with friends which would have been hard after the operation, recovering. It was rescheduled for the day before Joshua’s birthday with an overnight stay. However, a bit nervous but this day was serene and went smoothly and had a different feel. The surgeon had said I would be in pain after the operation even with medication and that my neck would leak when I eat. Thankful that people prayed and I didn’t need the painkillers, that the neck leak only happened a few days and that I didn’t need the neck drain which meant I was sent home early and able to be home for Joshua’s birthday. And no painkillers were needed. Also an amazing sense (as God had promised) of peace and of God with me, close. This really released hope and a sense of that God is trying to say something about not dreading the worst but trusting Him and expecting good things. This is similar to when I had gone to Iraq - I had a big list of fears (real and imagined) on one side and on the other side “trust Me’. The only bit I had needed to listen to was the “trust Me”. Iraq was a choice but this situation with the diagnosis was not a choice. However the same the same thing - A big list of fears versus “TRUST ME”
This opened up a sense of adventure - not just to survive without fear but that God is a good father and He will do amazing things - more than we can ask or imagine when we trust Him. I remember having the thought - “don’t settle here” - what if God healed me now? There was a sense of God wanting to go further - that God had more to do and for me to learn. Someone had suggested that God has a purpose that is higher than our own comfort. Also we had been given words that this it wasn’t just about me but for my family too. God is bigger than my problem.
In difficult moments I have also found it helpful to read over words that had been given to me, and pictures that helped me to visualise trusting Him that God had given me in advance…
Saw consultant who told us it is lymphoma which is a form of cancer. An aggressive form but treatable if found early. Remember looking at doctor, hearing him but also thinking ‘But GOD' What does God say?
Consultant was on Tuesday followed by a whirlwind of appointments, nurse giving me lots of info, a trip to a London hospital to have scans to determine the stage of the cancer. By Friday I was having chemotherapy.
However in the midst of all this there was treasure - David was able to come with me and be supportive and spend time together, have lunch out (!), people kicked into action and we were shown so much love, meals being made, the boys taken care of, picked up from school, so much love and care. Flowers delivered, gifts, prayers. A real commitment from others meant we felt very connected and the boys felt loved and cared for in a new way, not just by us as parents but by our whole community.
Now I am going through the treatment and God has said a few times that He will see me through safely. We are standing on this. We were told of all the possible side effects but we are thankful that these have been minimal, based on the verse that says you can drink poison and it won’t harm you.
The day before the second chemo session we saw the consultant to find out the stage of the lymphoma (we had to wait, he was over an hour late seeing us!). We had been nervous about this and people had been praying for peace whatever the result. He called us in and said the results had not yet come in. Just as he said this the email pooped up on the screen and he told us it was just stage 1A - best result - that the surgeon had done a great job and removed all the lumps and that there was nothing else found in my body or in my bone marrow! He said the chemo course would continue as planned, with a 90% expectation of being cured. This was a great encouragement to us but still the chance to continue trusting God.
One morning, before the first chemo, it struck me that this is a battle and I set up a group of warriors based on a picture a friend had had of an ugly creature in the dessert with me and warriors chasing it and it was running away (it was small). I see this creature as fear and that is what we are battling and it is important that we join together to chase it out and this is for more than just me. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. God wants to leave no stone unturned so that we are free from fear, not hiding as captives to fear. I am thankful for this group of people praying faithfully, hearing God and reminding me of what God has said when I am struggling. Praise and thankfulness is key - A word was brought - as we stand and we praise Him (Jehoshaphat) -God fights our battle.
I wouldn’t have chosen this route but I wouldn’t change it - many times I have felt God closer than ever, more peace and joy than ever. The fear and dread that I was living with when nothing was wrong was much worse than being diagnosed with cancer. I am learning to let go of control and through that have peace because God is who He says He is. And God is opening up connections and conversations with others too.
BACKTRACK IN TIME - before the diagnosis
Before any of this happened God had been preparing me, beneath the fear of illness, cancer, and something bad happening that I needed to step out and trust Him, and through pictures and prophecies from others and my own drawings (Moo D Cow ones above) that He was going to take me through something but see me (and us as a family through) safely from one side to the other. Although I was anxious about this, the words and pictures provided encouragement and still do. For example a picture my mentor gave me as Doulos started was that God would carry me from one point to another by God, safely and that I couldn’t do it on my own."
Click here to see the rest of the images God gave Tanya on this journey.
Tanya Farrugia, 27/03/2018
Sam & The Tiger: Youth Weekend Away
From the 2nd to the 4th of March the Lifeline Youth went on a weekend away to Carroty Wood. During this time we had insightful and inspirational teachings from our wise leaders. We also had fun activities like runouts. This all seems to have been perfect, however the enemy threw an attack in my direction.
On the first night, during a snowball fight, I sprained my shoulder by landing on it badly and had to go to hospital and stay there until early the next morning. However, the support of the family that is my youth group combined with the comfort and security found in the presence of God filled me with peace and optimism.
I felt no bitterness towards my friend who accidentally injured my shoulder and that only really is possible with the supernatural influence of God. I’ve realised, after hearing about it in Church, that this was intended to be a distraction by the enemy, but God enabled me to drown that out with the beautiful prophetic words our leaders brought to each and every one of us.
My prophetic word was a picture of a tiger, desperate to run into what God has next for me, and if I’m totally honest, I’ve struggled in finding what that is.
When my PE teacher asked me what happened to my shoulder, I told him the story. He then asked what else we did on this weekend away, so I told him about how the leaders gave us prophetic words. He then asked what my prophetic word was, so I told him. His response was to ask “So what does God have for you next? Starting a revival at St. Edward’s maybe?” I’ve found it quite exciting that my teacher might be seeing what God has for me and although ‘Starting a revival at St. Edwards’ seems a daunting task, I’d like to see what that entails and I’m hoping I’ll be helped with that by learning more about sharing with others in Church.
Sam Dixon, 21/03/2018
When the Holy Spirit met our young people
Our young people meet together every Friday evening to explore what it means to know and love God. Recently, Mike Stevens joined them for a time of worship and seeking God. Mike is a friend of LifeLine's leader John - together they were part of pioneering a new way of doing church in the 1970s and saw God move powerfully.
When Mike was with the young people the Holy Spirit came and they had an amazing time together.
Here are some snippets about meeting with Holy Spirit that night, some of them for the first time.
Reminded of God's character and what being in His presence feels like.
At first I was disappointed and started crying because I felt that everyone else was being filled with the Spirit apart from me. I walked out to get tissues and someone saw me and said “so I see the Holy Spirit has touched you”. I said “no nothing happened” and then she said “well we can’t have that”! so she prayed for me and the minute she said ‘amen’ I jumped up and said “let’s go praise the Lord”! I’m thanking God for being filled with joy. Also that it was so amazing.
I felt a warmth in my stomach when someone prayed. I am thanking God for sharing the Holy Spirit with me and being with me. But I would like more next time because I think God could do more.
On Friday when I was prayed for I was filled with the Holy Spirit. At first I was feeling disappointed as I didn’t feel anything, but when I was suddenly filled, I felt like God was healing my wounds. I am thankful that God finally filled me.
I got prayed for and started speaking in tongues and got filled with joy. It felt warm and I feel happy. I’m thanking God for filling me and being there for me.
Filled with the Holy Spirit. Spoke in tongues for the first time. Fell over. Got a picture and spoke with God but didn't really know what he said. She says it was scary and shocking but good. While she was on the floor, others around her said she was speaking in tongues.
I normally struggle with sleep but I had a good nights sleep on Friday for the first time that week.
Felt a sense of peace come over her after receiving prayer.
Has been feeling a bit down recently and has had a negative mindset. God gave her joy on Friday and she was filled with laughter. Although life has still been hard she has seen a difference in mindset.
[This youth was absent the day but shared other times when he felt God presence through the spirit]
Boom day away – filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time.
Soul survivor – my father was filled with the joy of the Lord which passed through me, and we passed it on to a lot of people. I felt filled
Clear sound – I felt filled with the spirit and was praying to God. Someone was playing the violin and I looked up, and by the side of him I saw three large angels singing/humming along with him. I felt very close to God.
Church – At church one Sunday we were singing ‘Here I am’ and I was joyfully crying as I was filled with the Spirit and I looked through the window and there were angels circling the church. I was speaking in tongues.
For all of these I am thankful that he has shown his love for me in situations where I wouldn’t expect anything to happen. I am also thankful that he loves me and he has let me know his love for me.