It’s been four decades since global workers with Encompass World Partners first entered the United Kingdom. Since then, several families have served in England by planting churches, training leaders, and leveraging social clubs for the Gospel. In celebration of this fortieth milestone, a few workers reflected on their time in England.
Part two of this series was written by MaryAnn Barlow, Jason and Crystal Horner, and Dave Guiles. MaryAnn reflects on their ministry over the decades, Jason and Crystal discuss how their ministry shifted during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Dave looks to the future of Encompass’s involvement in ministry in the U.K.
Highlights of Ministry in England, by MaryAnn Barlow
During our years in London, we focused on students and young professionals, and eventually refugees.
We did a lot of community outreach in the government housing project where we lived. During these outreaches we met a young lady named Rachel. Rachel was an atheistic activist. Through our collective witness and interactions, eventually Rachel became a believer in Jesus. We have maintained a relationship with her, and we have become godparents for her four children. Rachel is now actively sharing her faith as a believer in Jesus in Biggleswade, England.
We led several Bible discovery small groups. One of the ladies who came a group was Jieun Lee from Korea. She had attended church as a young person but had since lost her way. During group meetings we did a lot of Bible reading. Eventually, Jieun became convicted of her sin and need of a Savior above everything else. We baptized Jieun and she is now an active witness in her community in Bath, England.
We were invited to lead small group Bible studies at Goodenough College. During that time several people became baptized believers. They are now living for Jesus in New Zealand, Australia, Wales, and England!
More recently we have been working in Birmingham. There are two ministries that stand out as being particularly effective culturally. One is Open the Book, a program which allows us to go into the local schools and act out Bible stories. The other is Messy Church. We have seen people come to saving faith in Jesus through these ministries. Holly Hill School has been transformed over the last six years. It is now a place where children from non-Christian families are taught Bible stories and biblical life values, as well as how to pray and worship. It is astonishing to see what God has done.
Perhaps the most significant ministry was David and Becky Schwan’s guitar clubs. Many people learned to find their voice through these clubs. The gentle care and coming alongside of hundreds over the years, showed the musicians that they mattered to God. We would watch people transform from quiet or belligerent to gentle people who could talk about God in a personal way.
Ministry Transitions, by Jason & Crystal Horner
In 2020 some of the ministries in England shifted geared toward medical environments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a call went out to the local community asking for clergy to serve as chaplains amidst the surging number of patients in the ICU and the stretched medical staff. Jason began volunteering as a chaplain at the area’s largest hospital, which has a staff of more than 11,000.
Jason was assigned a ward to visit each week and saw the Lord work in many hearts as he was able to pray with patients, offer Bibles, and be a listening ear. Throughout the peak of the pandemic, much of the Encompass team also worked closely with the Frankley food bank to deliver thousands of meals per week to people who were isolating or otherwise unable to leave their homes. The team got creative throughout the various lockdowns—from offering a socially-distanced holiday club (Vacation Bible School) to sending Easter activity kits to families.
During this time Crystal also shifted her ministry focus by partnering with a charity that helps vulnerable/isolated women and newborns through their perinatal journeys. Most of the clients are victims of domestic abuse, homelessness, human trafficking, wars that forced them to become refugees, or other crises—and they’re simultaneously preparing to bring a baby into the world. The team of Christian doulas receives client referrals from healthcare and social workers and journeys with the women from pregnancy to the “fourth trimester,” including going to the deliveries to be birth partners for them. The team provides baby and maternity supplies, takes clients to appointments, gives them meals and food bank parcels, offers emotional support, helps with the newborns, and links them into their local communities and churches. We have seen God do amazing things in the lives of these precious women, who had lost most of their agency and security in life, as they bravely enter into parenthood.
Future Vision, by Dave Guiles
Reflecting over the past forty years of ministry in the U.K., I am impressed with the patience, faithfulness, and creativity of the missionaries we’ve deployed there. Our teammates willingly invested their lives in taking the Good News of Jesus back into a country that many years ago was the global powerhouse for missions. They were quick to accept that American methods for outreach and church planting were unlikely to produce results, so they prayed, experimented, and stayed focused until they saw lasting fruit. Similar to the U.S., the current spiritual and cultural soil is changing rapidly. Will you join us in asking God to raise up a new wave of patient, faithful, and creative workers? Thanks to the first generation of missionaries, they’ll have a good foundation to build upon. I trust our most fruitful years are still ahead!