It is hard to believe that at the start of September 1999, we were just moving to Bristol - sharing a tiny house with Steve Poulard, and the boys starting school the next day. Now we are settled into a wonderful home - still with Steve - and the year has gone by in a flash.
Most of Paul's time over the past year has been taken up with the four Snowball students - in preparation, training, evangelism and other ministry. Of course, not all the time was spent with them. Along with Rob Davis, Paul spent a week on a training course in St. Helens, and they both became qualified Evangelism Explosion trainers. It was an excellent course, with several of the people we visited becoming Christians that week.
Paul spent another week undertaking the formal OAC training in Sketchboard evangelism. It was a good opportunity to prepare and deliver some messages personally, instead of helping other people to do it. And since the course, there have been regular opportunities to use the skills learned.
Since February, we have been doing a regular Open Air meeting each Friday night in the centre of Bristol. One advantage of working regularly in the same place is that you get to recognise some people and build a relationship with them. We have seen God answering prayers for some of these folk, and most weeks we have seen people responding to the message.
Paul has taken part in mission trips to Vienna, Bratislava and, most recently to Alessandria in Italy, where he was one of the main speakers at the Tent Mission. Lots of new experiences to talk about! There is a vast need for effective workers in Italy - it is one thing to know about the need there, but another to experience it first hand in this way.
In April, Europe Now started to employ Paul on a part-time basis: we are not yet bringing in enough support to cover full-time employment. The remaining hours in the week, Paul serves Europe Now in a voluntary capacity.
While a number of people have expressed interest in the Snowball course, none of them were able to start this September. Consequently, there will be a year's break before the next course - 'Snowball 2001'. This gives us time to get the course documentation in shape so that we can apply for formal accreditation. We expect this to take a large amount of Paul's time and energy over the next twelve months.
Paul also expects to continue his involvement with the work of the Crisis Centre in Bristol. It is possible that he will work there 3 days a week as a 'Caretaker' manager to cover staff sickness for the next six months. This would obviously be a big responsibility, but it may be that God kept back the Snowball students so that we would be free to step into this gap as it appeared.
Whether or not Paul takes on this role within the Crisis Centre, he will need to spend time developing relationships with the local churches and their leaders, and working with them to develop effect outreach programmes for churches and the city as a whole. There are a number of opportunities to do this in the near future, so please pray that they will be used well.
It was good to welcome all kinds of people to our 'Open House' in April. If you did not manage to join us then (or even if you did!), you are welcome to come down and visit - give us a ring.
Each of the boys has settled in well at their new schools. Alan joined Year 8 at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple CofE school. He obtained a Gold Certificate in the UK Junior Mathematical Challenge, so is now in the top 6%. Friendships do not come naturally to Alan, so we are pleased that he has found a friend with whom he spent several days over the summer holidays.
Philip has just started Year 6, so the current challenge is to choose a secondary school, with the City Council announcing a major re-structuring just as we do so. He settled well at Sea Mills Junior School, and has a good circle of friends from whom he does not wish to be separated. We will have to think carefully about the right option for him. Philip joined the local Cubs, and is now a Sixer, with an armful of badges.
Ian is now Year 4, also at Sea Mills Junior School. We blame the acquisition of television for his failure to become a bookworm: he is a very capable reader, but it is not his favourite activity. He has a range of friends in all situations, and made the transition from Beavers to Cubs with enthusiasm.
Sue continues to enjoy work at Knightstone Housing Association, although re-structuring has left her slightly unsettled.
We are gradually getting more involved at Highgrove. Sue has taken over some of the local administration, and Paul has just become the local Missions Representative... some things, it seems, just do not change!
...as always, we know that we cannot continue this work without your prayers - for us as a family, for the people we work alongside, and for the people we meet each week who need to know the love of God in their lives. Thank you for your love, your prayers and your financial support. And if you do not directly receive our prayer letter, please contact us at the address above, and join us in reaching the people of Europe with the gospel. Thank you.