Valley View #5 – July 2016

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The Quest for Silence & Solitude

During a recent visit to Alexandria, Egypt, I had several impressions of city life that left me pondering about the search for silence and solitude. A historic city with deep significance for Christianity as it once was the “thought-centre” for Christianity, it was also the city from where several of the ‘desert fathers’ originated. Athanasius of Alexandria even wrote the biography of one of the most influential hermits, Anthony the Great. The current situation of Egypt, with the recent “Arab Spring” and all the outcomes from it, is clearly one of change and flux, and some of the views of the city of Alexandria are not the most inspiring with many buildings in need of a bit of TLC. My feelings after walking around a very small section of the city where not much different from those early Christians who sensed a need for solitude.


San Stefano, Alexandria, Egypt

The desert fathers certainly contributed much to the development of the Christian life, and to this day, holding solitude & silence in balance with “life among people” is a challenge for many of us. Michael Quoist states it well:

“I’ve always dreamed of solitude, the hermit’s life, a cabin in the woods or a tiny chalet on the edge of a mountain. I’ve always dreamed of deserts and silence. But I’ve resisted the dream, with the exception of one time when I offered myself the luxury of a retreat with a a hermit: four hours by foot, far from any living creature and a hermit happy to see me. We talked a lot.”

A short “time-out” with family in a beautiful setting last week was a bit of a retreat for me – and yes, the need for silence and solitude is real in our over-loaded life style. How to seek and follow Christ? That is the more important question. Can we do it both in the busy lives of our days, and in the silence and solitude of the desert?


Devon Valley


Mont Marie


Prayer, the Language of Christian Community

In recent morning reflections, I’ve found the following excerpt quite encouraging and helpful as it serves as a reminder of the reasons why Christian community and being connected to our Creator, is so important as we live out the Gospel.

“”Prayer is the language of Christian community,” writes Henri Nouwen. “In prayer the nature of the community becomes visible because in prayer we direct ourselves to the one who forms the community. We do not pray to each other, but together we pray to God, who calls us and makes us a new people.” It is in the act of worship that we experience the gift of community at its deepest level. In the eucharistic offering of bread and wine, our brokenness and separation are offered in symbolic union with the broken body of Christ, and then given back transformed and made whole as a sign of that new community brought into being by his resurrection. If we are to understand what it means to be community-builders, we must do so from this perspective. Ministry is given to us by God. It remains authentic only as it is empowered at its source, supported and guided by the community of faith, and then shared with others. “Make me an instrument of your peace,” prayed St. Francis. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union.” This is what it means to exercise a community-building ministry, to be in the fullest sense, an ambassador of reconciliation.”

~ from Mutual Ministry by James C. Fenhagen

Micah 6:1-8 serves as good indicator as well – if we are serious about community!

In a changing world …

… will we be found faithfully living out a compassionate and selfless life?

“The changes being demanded of us are almost beyond comprehension. For vast numbers of people living in the West – the world of the “haves” – it will mean a total reorientation of life-styles. It will mean learning how to resist the urge to buy and the urge to eat, where submitting to those urges is our custom. It will mean discovering the simplicity which comes from an intentional life lived from inside out rather than from outside in. In the riches of the Christian tradition there are patterns for this kind of pursuit, easily adapted to present needs. To adopt them, however, will require not only assistance, but ongoing support.”

~ James C. Fenhagen (from Mutual Ministry)

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the [a]air have[b]nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another,“Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”           

~ Luke 9:57-62 (NASB)

This was part of my reading this morning … and it comes at a time where I’ve been reflecting on how to hold loosely the things of this world … Living in a world where the “haves” and “have-nots” live on the same soil … what should I, as a “have”, think of my life-style if I’m to be true to the gospel?

Hymn for 2016

Lord, You Give the Great Commission

Hymn by Jeffery Rowthorn

Lord, you give your great commission:

“Heal the sick and preach the word.”

Lest the church neglect its mission,

And the gospel go unheard,

Help us witness to your purpose

With renewed integrity.


With the Spirit’s gifts empower us

For the work of ministry.


Lord, you call us to your service:

“In my name baptize and teach.”

That the world may trust your promise,

Life abundant meant for each,

Give us all new fervor, draw us

Closer in community.


With the Spirit’s gifts empower us

For the work of ministry.


Lord, you make the common holy;

“This my body, this my blood.”

Let us all, for earth’s true glory,

Daily lift life heavenward,

Asking that the world around us

Share your children’s liberty.


With the Spirit’s gifts empower us

For the work of ministry.


Lord, you show us love’s true measure:

“Father, what they do, forgive.”

Yet we hoard as private treasure

All that you so freely give.

May your care and mercy lead us

To a just society.


With the Spirit’s gifts empower us

For the work of ministry.


Lord, you bless with words assuring:

“I am with you to the end.”

Faith and hope and love restoring,

May we serve as you intend

And, amid the cares that claim us,

Hold in mind eternity.


With the Spirit’s gifts empower us

For the work of ministry.


For an audio version, listen to the Georgetown University Chapel Choir

Global AIDS Ministry Consultation – Prayers

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Your invitation: a moment of prayer

At the end of this month we will be having a special time where SIM leaders in HIV ministry will gather and take a moment to pause, reflect, celebrate, pray, think, plan and commit. We would like to invite you to join with us in praying for this event.

In the early 2000s, SIM’s HOPE for AIDS started as a practical and physical outworking of prayer in response to people living with HIV in our communities. As we seek to continue to be responsive we need to be open and active; and so we are creating the space to do this and to re-commit ourselves to global and local HIV issues.

Beginning on Monday November 23rd through to Friday November 27th we are gathering 26 people  currently working in Africa (13), Asia (9), America (3) and New Zealand (1) to celebrate how God has used HOPE for AIDS over the last 15+years.  During this time these people will also be active participants in a process of shaping the future of SIM’s HIV ministries.

It will be exciting and, with our end goal being a collective vision and strategies for the next 5 years, it will also be very intensive; and so we would greatly value your prayers.

If you will join with us in prayer for this gathering, thank you!

The information provided below is to help you pray specifically for personnel and content throughout the week:

Leadership Team:

Please pray for the leadership team as they coordinate planning for and facilitation of the consultation. Pray for good progress and good health during a busy planning period and that all will run smoothly during consultation week.

The leadership team is:

  • Marcus Baeder (SIM International/HOPE for AIDS)
  • Jacqui Croxon (SIM Thailand/Radical Grace)
  • Kenneth Fleck (SIM NZ/Radical Grace).

Please also pray for many of our ‘Radical Grace’ Thailand team who, as the hosts, will be involved in helping with the preparations.

Program & speakers:

Each day we have a theme which we believe will step us towards a unified vision and strategies for SIM’s missional role in HIV care and prevention.

  • Monday – History & Celebration: reflecting back to move forward
  • Tuesday – Missiology: engaging well with current trends and challenges
  • Wednesday – Theology: why are we involved?
  • Thursday – Vision: setting our global goals for the next 5 years
  • Friday – Vision to Reality: making it possible into the future

Each day we will hear from a number of speakers, largely from within our HOPE for AIDS family. Please pray for these speakers as they plan and prepare, and then deliver, their presentations.


As previously mentioned, delegates will represent many countries which currently have, or are exploring, HIV ministries. Pray as the delegates prepare to travel to Chiang Mai, for safety and for favourable visa processing where applicable.

Pray that the consultation will be a rich and rewarding time for all delegates as we reflect on achievements and look to the future of SIM’s HIV ministries.

A season of peace, kindness, and respect

Some great reflections on our common humanity – particularly around this time of year!

The Heffron Family

“The season of peace is at hand.”

Christmas is just days away, and even many people who reject Christianity tend to share in the good will and hope that this season represents.

Just over a year ago, I met a lot of good people in Nigeria.  Some were missionaries, some were Nigerian ministry workers, some were Nigerian church officials, and some were just average Nigerian folks.  Almost all spoke actively of wanting peace, of wanting their country to have a better present, a better future, and a better image abroad.  Almost all of them were Christians, howsoever informed, sincere, and successful they were in living that out.

I didn’t, though, interact significantly enough with Muslims.  Some of the people whom I met at markets, some of the soldiers keeping roads safe, and some of the people who served my food were Muslims, but I didn’t get to really talk to them enough…

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