Last weekend Fiona and I returned to Oxford for a weekend at St. Aldates. On the Saturday we taught a day on Healing Through Forgiveness, but on the Sunday morning I had been asked by the Rector, Charlie Cleverly, to speak on giving, as this was the occasion of the Church’s Annual Gift Day for the work of the church.
This I was delighted to do, for St Aldates isn’t just a large and very dynamic Anglican Church in Oxford, it is the very church to which I went when I was an undergraduate studying chemistry at Christ Church, just across the road from St.Aldates.
On my first day at Oxford I found a stack of welcome literature in my pigeon-hole, from all sorts of organisations who seemed keen to get my attention. But the one which really caught my attention was the sermon programme from St. Aldates, telling me who was preaching, and on what subject, throughout my first term.
I still have that brochure, which had been carefully prepared by the St. Aldates team (Keith de Berry was the Rector in those days) to attract new students to St. Aldates on their first weekend away from home. I kept the brochure because those Sunday morning services became an important part of my life, and even today I thank God for the impact they had on me, at what could have been a very vulnerable time.
Many students came to personal faith in Jesus through the ministry of St. Aldates and many others, such as me, were strengthened in their faith and encouraged to believe God for His leading and direction on their lives and careers. The church fellowship back in 1962 made an investment of their time and their money in me and I have no doubt that I owe a personal debt of gratitude to them for the resultant blessing there has been on my life and, indeed, the whole work of Ellel Ministries.
So, I opened my sermon on giving last Sunday, by telling them of the rather shy young student who crossed the road to St. Aldates on his first Sunday morning in Oxford and found an anchor for his University life in the fellowship of the church. 49 years have passed since that first Sunday – the investment they made in me, and many others, is still producing a return, and because this sort of investment gets multiplied as the years and the generations go by, the return on the investment will keep on accumulating until Jesus comes again! It wasn’t difficult for me to encourage the people of St. Aldates to give towards such a brilliant investment!
Investing in the lives of the young is never a waste of money. You may not see much of a return on your investment in the short term, but in the long-term who knows what God will do with the lives of those who are so impacted by God that they decide to make obedience to Him their ultimate purpose in life.
As I looked at the students in St. Aldates last Sunday morning, I found myself wondering if any of them would come back to St. Aldates in 49 years time to tell that generation of what God had done in and through their lives! Then at the end of the service, a young American student came up to me and said just that – I’ll come back in 49 years and tell my story! I doubt if I’ll be there to listen, but I’ll be looking out for him in Heaven!
On last year’s visit to St. Aldates Fiona prayed with a lady who had been unable to conceive a child for quite a number of years. The Lord showed Fiona just what to pray for – it was so special to be able to meet this lady and her husband again this year, and see that she is now well advanced in her first pregnancy! What a joy and privilege it is to serve such an awesome God!
Also this week I was blessed to be able to teach a session to the new NETS students at Ellel Pierrepont. Through the course God helps them deal with their past, equips them in the present and prepares them for their future. What a privilege, also, it is to invest in each one of them, from twenty different nations, and make just a small contribution to their journey towards God’s destiny for their lives!