Eleven days and ten nights in Ynysybwl, Wales made up the journey we both labored over and celebrated at the end of July into the early days of August. Each of the six member team of disciples from Lake Wales would wholeheartedly agree that celebration far outweighed our labors. In fact we came back to the USA with the feeling that we would definitely be missing our ‘mission family’ once we became entrenched again in the business of daily living. Let me clarify this for me in particular…I definitely missed my family back home, but as George Fields would say “it was a good miss”. What made it good was the fact that we touched the lives of dozens of folks in the valley village of Ynysybwl while sharing the gospel story and the love of Jesus at every turn. We were shown downright unbelievable hospitality by the same good folks in return.
Our church has had at least one mission team on the ground in Ynysybwl each year since 2005. As long as that stretch of time seems, many of those years resulted in baby steps taken as far as creating relationships with both youth and adults in the village. The mission committee made the decision in the fall of 2011 to make a concerted effort to send short term mission teams to Wales several times a year for the next three years (through 2014) with the goal of placing a full-time missionary on the ground in Ynysybwl. Of course we are only instruments of the Lord in this endeavor, but this year it seemed we made huge strides in His plans for both us and the youth and adults in the Bwl.
The theme of team preparation meetings leading up to our trek was to share the gospel with boldness every chance we got. Our models were the apostles Peter and John who repeatedly told the gospel story to those who insisted on jailing and beating them. Now we didn’t expect to get beaten or jailed but we did make every effort to disciple those around us throughout our time there. What we found was that even though we spoke (boldly I believe) of Jesus and eternal salvation by way of testimonies, Bible stories, sermons and just hanging out—they kept coming back for more all week. Over the years we have come to expect the younger kids to be star-struck by us Americans – bless their hearts –however for those in high school we never knew if anything spiritual was stirring in their hearts.
During our week in Wales the Holy Spirit was nudging many…young, old, Welsh and Americans alike. Most noticeable were three or four teenage boys who showed keen interest in our messages; three teenage girls who attended all of our coffee shops and church services (unheard of in previous years); and three team USA members who have inquired into returning to Ynysybwl for extended stays in the near future. I would say we might expect a rather large next step in this Welsh mission field by the end of 2014.
As I wrapped up my fourth journey to the old coal country of the valleys of south Wales, I couldn’t help but notice that the feelings of doubt for the future of Christianity there that I had experienced in previous years was being replaced with a tremendous infusion of hope. Hope for the youth who are now noticeably pondering what it is that makes us keep coming back and sharing our faith; hope for the generation of grandparents that are seeing glimpses of something good in these kids supplanting the overwhelming image that they are mostly nuisances in the village; and the hope that has so captured the hearts of some from our “village’ of Lake Wales that they are now considering longer term trips back to keep the momentum going. The Lord is definitely shaking things up in this partnership of two little towns separated by an ocean. Pray that our next big step will follow the Lord’s sovereign lead back to revival.
If you’d like to read more about the 2013 Mission trip to Ynysybwl, visit Missions>World Missions>Wales on our website.