Eastern Valley Commandos Launch

Last Thursday evening, around 100 people from all over South Wales gathered at Highfields Church Cardiff for the public launch of the Eastern wing of the Church Planting initiative Valley Commandos.

Highfields leaders Pete Evans and Phil Jenkins opened the evening in prayer and shared how delighted the church was to be supporting Dai Hankey and to be part of the gospel centered Valley Commandos project across the South Wales Valleys. Phil declared his conviction that ‘church planting is the God ordained way to disciple the nations’. He also gave a warm welcome to guests from SaRang Community Church in South Korea, who are helping support the project in prayer and other ways.

Dai then shared about his current involvement in church planting in the valleys and their vision to reach the valley with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are 1.3 million people in the Valleys and we must long for them all to know Christ.

Finally Jonathan Stephen explained the role of the Valley Commandos Project Team, which consists of Phil, Dai, Steve Levy (Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Swansea) and representatives based at WEST. Valley Commandos wanted to gain a comprehensive understanding of existing gospel work in the valleys and to cooperate with and support existing causes wherever possible. Great sensitivity would always be exercised when new plants were considered necessary. As a theological college, WEST could not itself plant churches – but it could act as a channel for human and financial  resources, a base of operations and a training centre for churches engaged in the work.

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( Picture shows Dai Hankey explaining his work in the Eastern Valley)

From the Rising of the Sun

This blog post is written by Wales Evangelical School of Theology Chief Operating Office Joel Morris regarding his work at WEST and Valley Commandos:

” I had been living in Korea for a little over a year having gone there in the first place due to my wife being Korean and in order for me to have space to finish writing my engineering doctorate thesis.  After submitting, I was soon in a postdoctoral position at Seoul National University in the Nuclear Engineering department. I remember while working in Seoul attending a speech given by a British CEO all about the shifting of economic power from the West to the East. During my life in Seoul I could almost sense the ground shifting beneath my feet.  This shift in economic and military power might bring increasing tension, fear and distrust around the world.

The church cannot be isolated from such tectonic shifts but should not react like the world. Such a shift in economic power may also impact global missions —Korea and China now follow the US and India in third and fourth places for countries sending the most missionaries.   A good example of such a missionary reversal is the gospel partnership between Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) and SaRang Community Church, Seoul.  It was during my first few days in Korea that I met up with a contact from SaRang, a pastor who I’d been introduced to previously.  I promptly started to consult for him about Wales and WEST every Sunday as I attended his church.  I can honestly say that Pastor Sam Ko is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met.  His and SaRang’s approach has impressed me.  They recommending me, a Welshman, to work as Chief Operating Officer of WEST, typified this.

What is behind this link between Korea and Wales?  In 1866, Welshman Robert Jermain Thomas gave his life in order to bring the gospel to Korea.  He risked everything to accomplish what the Lord had set before him.  Then in 1907, the Korean Peninsula experienced a great revival that has been traced back to the Welsh revival of 1904. The result a hundred years later is a close family bond and spiritual repayment on behalf of the Korean Church.

Here are five areas in which my thinking has been moulded by my time in Korea:

1. Partnership

Being a ‘bridge person’ has shown me the importance of unity, and our union with Christ and his church is one of unity with one another in him.  The author of Psalm 133 compares unity with the anointing of Aaron.

‘It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!’ (Psalm 133:2)

True unity, like the oil, sanctifies all it touches and it has a gospel purpose.  As the high priest bears the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgement on his heart similarly our great High Priest bears the Church on his chest and shoulders, so that the Holy Spirit flows down onto the people of God.

Through our gospel partnership the Church demonstrates this unity and not mere empire building. Of course this isn’t new but Asia has traditionally been on the receiving end of such relationships. What we are experiencing at WEST is reciprocal and mutually beneficial to churches in both regions. Now, Welsh churches supported and encouraged by SaRang and WEST are planting in Wales, the first one in Neath by Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.  (Watch the video on www.valleycommandos.com).

2. Risk

When moving my family to Korea I risked everything I had to follow where I believed the Lord was leading. I had no job, no place to live, and my wife was pregnant.  As those gathered to Christ we risk all to follow where Jesus leads. Korean Church leaders tend to have big faith and expectation in God so their operations are inherently risky. In the same way Robert Jermain Thomas risked all, and a nation was blessed richly with the gospel.  What are we willing to risk today in our risk averse consumer society?

3. Patience

‘Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.’ (Psalm 25: 5)

David knew what it was to wait for God and didn’t make a move until he knew he was with him.  Psalm 25 was precious to me during my time in Korea.  I had an   important lesson to learn — how to wait for God and the need to earn the trust and confidence of the people there before I could be allowed in and given opportunities.  In Korea, there is a kind of parental relationship between old and young in work, church and all walks of life.  The younger show respect and submission, the older in return show trust and benevolence. This works to form humility and patience in the young. If you want to get anywhere in Korea you need to respect your elders, do your time and learn all you can!  Sounds quite Biblical!

4. Pride

It is always helpful and certainly biblical to learn from other Christians especially in a cross-cultural setting.  We in the West need to be mindful of prejudice against our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, ensuring our proud hearts are not too stubborn to learn.  The reverse of course is also true.  When Thomas died there wasn’t a soul won for Christ in Korea, in Wales there were churches on every corner.  Compare this to where the Korean and British Churches are today.  Going on the 2001 census, there are now between 90,000-100,000 churchgoers in Wales, whereas over 90,000 members belong to SaRang Community Church alone, and 162 missionary family units are supported.  This serves just to demonstrate the kind of gigantic reversal experienced between two nations in just 150 years!

5. Church

In Sarang, new believers are put into cell groups, where they are nurtured and grow – discipleship is in the DNA of the church!  John Oak the founding pastor firmly believed that ordinary church members are the best and greatest potential of the church in its mission. I think he achieved more than most in this area and at least one Welsh Church adapted its own discipleship course because of SaRang.  This was such a radical concept for Koreans who historically relied too heavily on pastors to do the work.  I think we’d all recognise similar challenges faced in our churches.  The whole church should be a projection of the life of Jesus through relationships and behaviour, when gatherings take place, in sharing the gospel and caring for the poor and needy.

Let’s examine ourselves and gain confidence in preparation for other such gospel collaborations between East and West!  Let’s take advantage of gospel opportunities afforded by the changing political landscape.

Dr. Joel Morris
Chief Operating Officer of WEST
Cooperative Missionary of SaRang Community Church, Seoul

The Gospel Coalition Post by Jonathan Stephen

Last year the Principal at Wales Evangelical School of Theology had an article printed in Evangelicals now and also on the Gospel Coalition blog. We are re-blogging this article to inform people about the partnerships between Gospel works in Wales and Korea that has helped start Valley Commandos. You can find the article from TGC Website here, or read it below.

“Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) is a comparatively small institution, whose alumni nevertheless serve in some of the most influential pastoral and academic venues around the world. Students come from many nations, not least from the United States, to study under internationally acclaimed scholars like Robert Letham and Tom Holland.

Reformed, interdenominational, and contemporary in outlook, WEST is the only remaining independent seminary to offer a full spectrum of UK-accredited theological degrees in a country that for its size has perhaps done more than any other to export the gospel to the world.

No bigger than Massachusetts, and with a population of fewer than 3 million, Wales has disproportionately affected the world in many ways. At least four American Presidents and 16 signatories of the Declaration of Independence (including Thomas Jefferson, who drafted it) were of Welsh descent. But when it comes to the things that matter most, Wales has given even more. Just for starters, arguably the most influential theologians on both sides of the Atlantic, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, both share Welsh names and ancestry.

One of the four distinct nations that make up the United Kingdom, Wales is a land of spectacular mountain and coastal scenery, containing more castles per square mile than any other country in Western Europe. With their Celtic roots, the Welsh were among the original inhabitants of the British Isles, long pre-dating the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. And while all know English today, their ancient language is still alive and well, spoken by around 20 percent of the people.

Christianity came early to Wales, brought by the soldiers and traders of the Roman Empire. Just a few miles along the coast from the present site of WEST, St. Patrick attended the College of Theodosius, founded in the fourth century as a center of theological and philosophical learning. Rebuilt by St. Illtud in AD 508, it became the foremost theological institution in Britain, with at one time as many as 2,000 students attending from all over Europe—including David, the patron saint of Wales.

Essential differences in politics, culture, and language have resulted in a distinct history of the gospel in Wales compared to its dominant neighbor, England. For example, John Wesley’s inability to speak Welsh meant that he largely delegated evangelism of the country to native speakers. As a result, the 18th-century Methodist Revival in Wales, under the preaching of men like Daniel Rowland and Howell Harris, took on a far more Calvinistic flavor than in England.

Indeed, Calvinistic Methodism largely underpinned the remarkable history of spiritual awakenings from 1735 to 1905 that led to Wales being dubbed the Land of Revival. So “reformed” theology in Wales, unlike elsewhere in the British Isles, never generally adopted a cessationist position regarding spiritual gifts. So Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, though widely held to be the greatest Welsh (and British) preacher of the 20th century, was often considered “quirky” in his views on the Holy Spirit from an English reformed perspective—but not so in Wales. (Incidentally, like St. Illtud, Martyn Lloyd-Jones first ministered the gospel just a few miles down the coast from WEST—though in the opposite direction, at Sandfields, Port Talbot).

Today, of course, the Christian heritage of Wales and the rest of the UK has been almost completely overlain with secularism. With ever increasing speed, and apparently breathtaking ease, the major formative influence on our culture over the past two millennia has being virtually airbrushed from our history. With Christian values constantly being undermined by government legislation, it is hardly surprising that true believers often feel themselves to be a very small and persecuted minority.

Good Amid Gloom

But there is good news amid the gloom! Since 2000, evangelical church attendance in the UK has steadily risen, with many congregations thriving and growing. Moreover, Bible-centered believers in Jesus Christ increasingly recognize that the situation is too grim to allow non-essential issues to divide them. As a result, new gospel church partnerships are springing up, with training and church planting high on their agenda.

This, in turn, has fueled a large and ever-growing demand for gifted preacher-pastors and other leaders, capable under God of reviving failing congregations and establishing new ones. WEST is determined to rise to the challenge and foster sound and godly scholarship together with warm and persuasive gospel preaching. To that end, WEST is currently developing working partnerships with like-minded church groupings and other specialist Christian organizations in order to establish a base of operations from which gospel church planting may flow.

There is a genuine sense of urgency among us, because we have a strong sense of being on the world’s spiritual front line, and we’re convinced that the destiny of the gospel in the UK and Western Europe will have ramifications elsewhere. Now, if never before, the time has come for raising up a great band of spiritual warriors who, like the men of Issachar, understand the times and know what Israel must do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Gospel Partnership

But the main purpose of this testimony is to record, to God’s glory, the way in which by far the most significant of WEST’s gospel partnerships to date came about.

Five years ago, one of our PhD students, Sungho Choi, was helping out at a large international prayer meeting for revival in a very rural part of South West Wales. To his astonishment he found himself sitting next to a woman whose face he instantly recognized from the Korean media.

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Valley Commands Public Launch in Highfields

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Come and hear Dai Hankey at the launch of eastern valleys “Valley Commandos” project at Highfields at 7.30pm on Thursday 30th May.

This is the info released from Highfields Church website:

“In 2007 Highfields Church partnered with Dai and Michelle Hankey to plant Hill City Church in Pontypool. God has blessed that initiative and now we are partnering with Dai, WEST and SaRang Church in Korea in a new surge of church planting initiatives in the South Wales valleys called ‘Valley Commandos’.

We will be hosting the launch of the Eastern Valleys planting initiative here at Highfields on Thursday 30th May, 7.30pm.  Join Dai, Jonathan Stephens, Principal of WEST, and our own Phil Jenkins for an evening of vision casting and prayer as we ask God to move by His Spirit and use this project for his glory. We would love to see you there!”

You are very welcome to attend the meetings and find out more about the Valley Commandos project. A google map to the church can be found here

Soul Church Meetings

At Soul church in Neath, there was a evangelical meeting on last Sunday. Rev.Darryl Craft from Mississippi preached the gospel. They had 60 come in from the local community and it is understood that most were unbelievers.

Please pray for this new work in Neath.

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