Two memorable events and the memory of a third

Sep 30, 2014 | Books, INSIGHTS

Launch of the new Iranian Bible in Church House, Westminster

It was a great joy to join over four hundred people, many of them church and mission leaders, in launching the whole Bible in Farsi. A dedicated committee had sat for twenty years turning it into the best Farsi possible. (It is roughly the equivalent of the ESV). May the Lord use it to touch and disciple many people’s lives. Our friend Roland Worton led the worship movingly, with Jo Garcia playing too. It was a great joy to meet up with old friends and to meet new ones. It was so amazing to once again hear the church in Iran described (by Operation World) as possibly the fastest growing church in the world. When you think of the price they are paying for this . . . It was more than fitting that several of those who were have been martyred recently for their faith in Iran were honoured, along with their families.

Two press releases – Iran – the World’s “Fastest-growing Church,” celebrates New Bible Translation.
And – Joy as New Bible for New Iran is Launched.

Back to 1924
The event in Church House was doubly precious for me because, back in 1924, my great uncle, Frank Weston, Bishop of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, received a remarkable send-off back to Africa in this same venue. This is what the Church Times wrote of that event shortly before he went to be with the Lord back in Africa:

There can never have been such scenes before of such a demonstration as when the Bishop of Zanzibar came to say goodbye to his friends in England.

Nearly six hundred people gathered outside the doors, unable to secure a seat. Bishop Gore, the Chair of the Mission, opened the meeting inside, while Frank went outside to speak to those there, before returning to address the main meeting. All the weariness he had been feeling disappeared as soon as he reached the platform.

Never for one moment did he lose hold of his audience, who punctuated his remarks now with cheers, now with laughter, and now with a profound silence which could be felt as he poured out the things God had placed on his heart.

He spoke with freshness and enlightenment on the relationships between Europeans and Africans, pausing to note that his plans to open a training college on the mainland were being hampered by the fact that lions had taken possession of the locality he had obtained! He then made a prayerful and passionate appeal for doctors.

He drew to a close with a call to recognise the oneness of all, black and white, in Christ Jesus:

“You in England cannot really undertake the task of driving the Devil out of Africa unless you are really and truly within the heart of our Lord in the matter of your Mission work. Lift up into the heart of Christ all your thoughts about Missions, all your thoughts and your prayers and your subscriptions.

“See Africa from the heart. Set to work on this great task of fellowship so that together we can return to the simpler and sterner life marked by the Cross of Jesus Christ. Now I wish you all from my heart, goodbye.”

As he closed the meeting Bishop Gore, then the bishop of Oxford, declared:

“I am quite unable to think of anyone one in England who could have done anything like as much as Bishop Frank has done in striking the imagination of the nation. I heartily thank him for what he is doing for us in both England and Africa.

“It is a truly difficult task, but I know no one on the face of the earth who is doing a more effective work in trying to bring about a diocese in which blacks and whites, whether laymen or priests, are learning together how to be One Body, really feeling that their respective natural differences contribute to the welfare and the wisdom of the others, rather than being competitors . . .

“It has been the outstanding problem in the church since the days of St Paul, to get Jew and Gentile, Briton and African or any other strongly distinctive nationality to believe themselves bound to love their neighbour as themselves . . .

“I am reading an interesting history of the first settlements in America. It would be comic if it were not tragic how those venerable Puritans went out with the most pious sentiments about converting the American Indians, but almost immediately broke the last six of the Ten Commandments . . .

“I am very doubtful whether you should introduce politics into religion, but I am quite certain that you ought to introduce religion into politics . . . Bishop Frank is forcing the powers that be to realise at least what the problems are. Now I ask you to stand up and say, “Good bye. God bless you,” and then the Bishop will bless you.”

When everyone had called out their farewells, and the bishop had prayed, Frank made his way outside to where many more were waiting to cheer him. The traffic had to be stopped while everyone reached out to greet him.

He was hugely relieved to make his way back to the clergy house of his old parish church of St Matthews. As his biographer put it, “It was only from his admirers that Frank ever ran away.”

Reunion with my university class

robert in cummerbund (Small)A couple of days before going to London I had a moving reunion with my old Modern Languages class back at Oxford (1974-78). We had always been a close class, but in those pre e-mail days I had not kept up with these people who I had known well and witnessed to much. It was amazing how after a few minutes catch up we were taking on from where we had left off. Life has taken them in many directions (one has been an ambassador for Britain in three countries) but the great joy was that at least one more of the group has become a Christian since then. It was a real joy to catch up with them as well as to stay with friends. I found memories flooding back of all the people I was involved in during three years of intense activity working as an evangelist for an the Anglican church as well as leading student ministries at both the university and what is now Brookes University. It was very special!

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