Barrenness & Fruitfulness

May 18, 2016

Dear Friends, April and May are strange months for us, as our team is away on outreach.

Speaking in parables, we have ‘planted the seeds’, ‘launched the space shuttle’, ‘created the baby’, and now? Now, we wait and pray hard that our efforts will be fruitful. After three years of leading the Revival and Reformation DTS and six years of full-time ministry (the whole of our married lives!) we find ourselves stopping and asking whether it has been worth it. So we’ve been seeking His face, and He has been meeting with us in our times of Bible study and prayer. We pray he will lift your spirits as we share the journey He has been taking us on, from discouragement and weariness to hope and even elation.

‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’ (John 15:8)

‘Yes!’ is the cry of our hearts. We have wanted nothing less than ‘night and day prayer in Cambridge, overflowing in mission to the ends of the earth’! We have caught hold of the vision of not just planting one house of prayer, but of ‘multiplying discipleship’, of disciple who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples… –We don’t just want some fruit, we have wanted much fruit. ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.’ (Ecc 11:1) We have ‘cast the bread’ and ‘scattered the seed’ indiscriminately, just as the farmer does in the parable in Mark 4.

We have been out doing evangelism at least a hundred times on the streets of Cambridge, and have given our time and energy to train twenty-two young missionary leaders (that’s just our three R&R DTSes) to imitate Christ, as we ourselves seek to do. Through our efforts, literally thousands of people have heard the good news of Jesus! We’ve hosted house-church for two and a half years almost non-stop; that’s more than a hundred meals, Bible-studies, hours of people encountering the life-changing power of the Word and of Christian fellowship. We have given away six albums for free download, and shared our hearts vulnerably on our blogs, hoping to impact unseen internet-users across the world.

‘And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children… She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.’ (1 Sam. 1:2b, 10)

‘What strikes you from this passage?’ I asked Peter as we were reading 1 Samuel the other day, and his answer surprised me: ‘I really relate to Hannah’s feeling of barrenness.’ Even more surprising was my answer, considering how heavily pregnant I am: ‘Me too.’ It is hard sometimes to quantify or even see our fruit, and yet we feel ‘poured out like a drink offering’ (Phil. 2:17). Peter puts it, ‘Maybe it’s good when you get to the point where you feel like you have nothing left, because that must mean you’ve given everything!’

‘He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows: he knows not how.’ (Mark 4:27)

‘He sleeps’ –so there is a time for the farmer to rest, step back, allow things to take their course. Meanwhile, ‘the seed grows: he knows not how’ - there is a necessary powerlessness; he cannot make the seed grow. ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) It is humbling to come face to face with our own dependence – ultimately, it is the LORD who brings about the harvest.

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. (Isaiah 54:1)

There was a moment of silence after we shared our sense of barrenness. I picked up my guitar and started singing a line Peter had written from his meditations on Job: A new dawn is coming We’re standing at the break of day Though I die, I will live I declare in Jesus’ name. We sang it over and over, at first softly and almost tearfully, but by the end, loudly and with joy. Then we stopped, and Peter grinned and said, ‘Yes. God is good.’

We have seen the first tender seedlings springing up. We hear exciting reports from our team in Greece that one of the young Muslim men they shared the gospel with and baptised has now baptised two of his friends–and a few days later another message tells us to ‘make that four’. Multiplication!

Another of our past DTS trainees (one who found evangelism a real struggle when she was here) reports with great joy that she has been out sharing the gospel with people on the streets of New York and saw a Jamaican girl accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour! Another who did a DTS with us and then spent two years with us in Cambridge, has just written from Mexico, where she is now doing a School of Biblical Studies in Mexico, encouraging our Cambridge team in the faith and telling us of her plans to go long-term to Bolivia. Yes, the seeds are growing. Yes, the harvest will be plentiful. Yes, the Lord is faithful.

With much love, Peter, Taryn, Isaac and the Bump