You haven’t heard much from me since Edye, Christyn, and Tobyn arrived in England in June. Please forgive me for that. It has been a time of huge change, even though the English culture and way of life has more in common with America than any other country (except Canada, perhaps). I know you all have many, many prayer concerns of your own, but I am asking that you pray for us too, whenever God brings us to mind.
It is awesome to be in England (and Scotland, where we have a mission church as well). We thank God for the many ways in which He has guided and provided for us. It’s not like being here on holiday, though, and we knew it wouldn’t be. Integrating the children into the school system has been a challenge, especially for Christyn. In America she would have begun her sophomore year of high school, comprised of classes planned last spring with her talents in mind. She would have had the entire school year to prepare for taking the PSAT in the fall of her junior year, with the SAT, ACT, and AP exams taken in the senior year: three years to complete her high school education, full of opportunities to choose electives, participate in extracurricular activities, and be involved in community service.
Unfortunately, in the UK Christyn is entering the last year of a two-year preparation for GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams, and she is intimidated by the amount of work they are expecting her to make up in this final year of high school. This has placed tremendous emotional pressure on her, adding to the stress of relocating to a new household, a new country, a new culture (life in London is different than the rest of England), and the turmoil a teenage girl normally faces. All this without the support of friends or even her older siblings – it is almost too much for her to bear. On the bright side, it’s forcing her to evaluate what is really important in her life, and we truly believe this could be carrying her toward that moment when she will cry out to God and receive Jesus as her personal Saviour and the foundation of her life. At present she is overwhelmed with how things are turning out here, thinking God brought all this upon her. We are praying for her, and seeking counseling for her anxiety.
Tobyn is not having much academic difficulty. He is making some acquaintances but has not yet established any close friendships. He and Christyn both note that the prevailing attitudes at school are hardly Christian, and with no same-aged children regularly attending the church we pastor their peer support for the faith is slim. While the internet provides some social interaction and the ability to maintain contact with friends elsewhere, our goal is to involve them in a nearby youth group and/or community outreach program to provide friends that will encourage their walk with the Lord.
We are living in the small home of our deacon and his wife: Tobyn, Edye, and I occupy the loft, which is perhaps 15’x10’, and Christyn has her own bedroom of 9’x6’. We get by with the clothes we brought with us on the flights over, with a few small additions of clothing we’ve purchased or received as gifts. Deacon Andrew and Matea occupy the main bedroom and use the front room as an office, and we all share the 9’x9’ dining area and a small galley kitchen. With the reduced tithes it would take a miracle for this living situation to change before next summer. Though we have already paid for the move of our possessions from Virginia we cannot complete it, as we have no place to move them to; storage costs here are at least 1/3 higher than in America, so it is cheaper to store them there for now. We are still making payments for our costs of relocation, which take up almost half of our stipend. God is teaching us to live very simply.
The church here has long been at war spiritually with the powers of darkness, and in the time between our acceptance of this position (in June 2013) and our arrival that battle increased. Membership in the church declined, as did giving. Now we find that a war for hearts and minds throughout the diocese which has been going on unseen for years has broken out into the open. Two priests and a bishop in Europe have been deposed, and the former Archbishop who retired has abandoned his vows and consecrated one of the deposed priests as a bishop in what will surely become a separate communion. The battlefield is littered with wounded: those who have left the faith, those who have left the ICCEC, and those who remain but are hurting – some with wounds more than a decade old.
Were we wrong to come here? Absolutely not. We were called here for such a time as this. All the provision, challenges, heartbreaks, miracles, and steadfast friends God blessed us with in the past He has used to prepare us for this hour in this place. And we have seen positive changes: in the past weeks three people who had stopped coming to St. Stephen’s have once more become regular attendees. But we cannot do this alone, and we truly value your prayers added to the those of the flock here. Pray as the Lord leads you, when He leads you. Please pray that God would provide all that we need, both spiritually and materially – the four of us here, and our three children and one grandchild remaining in America: Éowyn and Noah, Carys, and Bryn. Rather than tell you what to pray for, I just ask that God’s will be done – because I know His will is best for us; His plan is better than any plan we might come up with. I commend to you the prayer I pray, based on Colossians 1:9-12:
Lord God, fill us with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we may live lives worthy of You and may please You in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might, so that we may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to You, Father, who have qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. We do not pray that You should take us out of the world, but that You should keep us from the evil one.
Thank you for your prayers. We have not stopped praying for you, as we know you have challenges to face and battles to fight as well. Be of good cheer, for Christ has overcome the world. You and we will see His victory played out in our lives and the lives of those around us, so do not lose heart. We thank God for you, and are blessed to call you friends.
Together in His service,
Dana+ and Edye Jackson