Restoring hope in Ebbw Vale

“I feel we’ve really been blessed,” said John Colney, minister at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church in Ebbw Vale, South Wales. “This was one of the best trainings I’ve been to.”

He was speaking about a Sharing Hope in Crisis seminar which Samaritans Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association put on at his church last year. “I have a conviction that we are in a time of crisis,” he said. “I just wish there were more seminars like this happening, because they would benefit many people.”

John Colney, pastor and missionary in Ebbw Vale
John Colney, pastor and missionary in Ebbw Vale
John grew up in Mizoram in north-east India, and came to the United Kingdom eleven years ago as a missionary. He settled with his family in Ebbw Vale, which like other towns in the Welsh valleys has seen its fortunes plummet since the closure of the steel industry.

“We are top in terms of unemployment and child poverty,” he said. “People have lost hope in this area. There are great emotional and spiritual needs; some 41.1% say that they have no religion. It’s not an easy place.”

One of John’s first initiatives was to get people thinking beyond their own depressed horizons. In partnership with Samaritans Purse, he launched an Operation Christmas Child group to send gifts to needy children overseas.

Through that connection he heard about Sharing Hope in Crisis, and two years ago he attended a seminar in Bristol. “It was wonderful,” he said. “It was presented so simply and is a very worthwhile training.”

“We were on a mission, and I knew we needed training like this in our church to reach poeple in God’s name, and to be a blessing to others. So I spoke to the elders, and they agreed to invite Ian Macleod to come and talk to us about Samaritans Purse.”

“I suggested we should register as a Lighthouse Church, so that we would have more resources in times of crisis. It made sense for us: the church has a long history of supporting the community, from helping people endure the hardships of the Second World War to opening a soup kitchen.”

Mount Pleasant Church
Mount Pleasant Church
Becoming a Lighthouse Church opened the way to the fulfilment of John’s dream to have a Sharing Hope in Crisis seminar in his own church. Nigel Fawcett-Jones, a traffic policeman from Yorkshire who heads up the UK Rapid Response Team, came to lead the day.

“One of the highlights for me was the practical advice,” said John. “We learned what to say, how to comfort. Sometimes we don’t feel confident about sharing hope, but it can be done. Christians who are not theologically trained can be part of this mission.”

People came to this seminar from as far as London, the borders of England, and from other parts of Wales, not to mention those who were local. “I was so grateful that is was not just our church which was benefitting,” said John.

You can find out more about Sharing Hope in Crisis seminars here.