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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Sowing seeds of life - losing of loved ones is highlighting God's glory!

We plow the fields and scatter...Dear Friends and Praying Saints,

Last Wednesday we attending the Harvest Thanksgiving service at the little church across the road from us. One of the hymns we sang was, "We plow the fields and scatter the Good Seed on the ground..." Then when we arrived at the chapel this morning, we saw those very words in action.

Of course, we never know the exact day this is going to happen, but we have always gotten this same joyful surprise every year that we've been here. It is such an encouraging event, full of symbolism and meaning—investment in hope, the promise of the coming harvest, and the promise of new life out of death, etc, etc. Jesus said in John 12:24, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Turning the plow sharesAs a child, I used to love watching the neighboring farmers plow their fields. But I had never seen these modern plows that have added an amazing new twist—they turn the opposing set of plowshares so they can follow directly back on the last furrow without having to drive halfway across the field to plow to the other end.

As I looked on, the following scriptures came to mind one after the other. Colossians 4:5-6, "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt..."
2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort..."
1 Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some."

 Speaking of seeds and life, these words of Jesus, "but if they die, they bear much fruit...", have suddenly taken on Bob Trolese, 1947-2021a profoundly new significance all too recently. Last Thursday, one of my closest and longest-time friends, Bob Trolese, went home to be with Jesus. We had been friends for 48 years and drove together as missionaries to Guatemala in 1976. We have been deeply affected by his passing on James Gilbert, 1942-2021to glory. And then just this afternoon, we received a call from our dearly beloved friend Kay Gilbert to let us know that her husband James Gilbert passed away yesterday morning. They pastored the Cowboy Outreach Church near Shreveport, Louisiana, and we have been close friends with them for 14 years.

Both of these precious and godly men had an admirably deep relationship with the Lord and were some of those amazing seeds that bore much good fruit throughout their lives. Each in their own inimitable way profoundly touched the lives of hundreds and thousands of people, and God's word and His presence of God flowed out of them in abundance in every situation. They both lived 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness and respect..." They will be greatly missed by their families and friends, so please keep them close in your prayers during this difficult season.

The fields are ripe unto the harvest!The yearly planting of the field also spoke to me about the successive generations of believers, and Bob's and James' lifetime of seeding the world reaches into eternity, where they now reside together in glory with all those gone before.

When the Lord gave me these words 20 years ago, I didn't know what comfort they would become in recent times.
    "How marvelous are Your works, oh Lord. And how great it is to understand Your ways, to know that as life's end points to sorrow and loss in the world's eyes, in You it brings joy and riches forever! To know that our only real and lasting treasures are friends and loved ones who are found in You brings rest to the soul. What would be loss is gain, what really dies is pain. In You we live and move and have our being. The rest is passing fancy.
     You said, "The Kingdom of God is within you," for so it is. So to sit here in Your Kingdom is heaven on earth. To dwell in Your presence is fullness of joy. To breathe in each moment is to savor Your grace. To taste of Your goodness is everlasting life. To behold You is love itself."

All that the world is looking for, and what we are praying and trusting God for, is the heart of the gospel that Jesus declared in John 11:25-26, "...I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Please keep these families, and so many others that have lost loved ones, in your prayers, and that the world might know of the good seed of salvation and the bread of life,

Dick & Gladys


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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Settling in, a brief getaway, and learning to see again...

Our new view from Betws Ifan churchyardDear Friends:

Since the spring we have wanted to go to visit friends in North Wales and do a little sightseeing. A couple of weeks after the arrival of all our earthly goods, and subsequent unending busyness, we desperately needed a rest. So when a timely opportunity presented itself, we jumped in the car and headed for the hills in the north.

We were only able to get away for five nights, but it was a huge blessing to just unplug from everything and disappear. The icing on the cake was this breathtaking view from our final evening, although this photo falls way short of capturing even only one moment of time in the creation of our loving heavenly Father.

Exploring the hills with our friend ElinorWe were graciously hosted by our long-time friend Elinor in Llansannan. The first order of duty the next morning was to properly get our bearings, so she took us to a nearby hilltop with an expansive 360- degree view of the area. It was wonderful to feast our eyes on the still lush green growth of the beautifully tended farmland in every direction.

The dedication and hard work of many generations of farmers have made this area as beautiful and productive as it is. Countless winding lanes and steep valleys bear witness to this, especially considering periods of harsh winter weather, and that it was, for the most part, built up without the aid of motorized vehicles or equipment.

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the Bodnant Gardens near Colwyn Bay. This 80-acre botanical garden is another example of the fruit of perseverance and hard work—the product of five generations is truly impressive. The maintenance Bodnant Gardens near the top end of this huge place is very labor-intensive—there are 26 full-time gardeners plus volunteers. We were blessed with mostly dry weather and could have easily spent an entire day or more admiring the enormous diversity of God's creation. 

Speaking of admiring the beauty in the world around us, I'd like to relate my experience related to seeing things. In late July I had cataract surgery and lens replacement in my right eye, and the change was remarkable but a bit unsettling. My left eye was still corrected by my glasses and had always been my stronger eye. But the brightness and colors through my new transparent lens in my right eye were amazing!

I had to remove the right lens of my glasses because my vision was so different with some correction in the new lens implant it was like looking through the bottom of a coke bottle! So it was like I was living in two worlds—one was fairly clear detail but dull, the other was sparkly bright with vivid colors but out of focus. After a while, my brain began to blend the right's colorful image with the left's focused image, and I was able to find a sort of balance and manage things satisfactorily. I was constantly thrilled by how distinct and bright my world had become!

Through this experience, The Lord began to speak to me about how we actually are living in two worlds. In John 17 when Jesus prays for the disciples, he says in verse11, "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are." And then in verse 16-17 He says, "I do not pray that You should Pen Bryn beachtake them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."

As believers, then, we find ourselves "in the world" but not "of the world". And for our walk with God to be fruitful for His purposes we need to keep in the place where we can maintain the balance between the two worlds. Of course, that is impossible on our own, but Jesus prayed, "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me."

So the end of the matter is that we are kept in that fruitful place of balance by God's grace. And His word is the truth that nurtures and sustains us far better than any earthly garden is maintained. What a priceless gift! I like The Message translation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that says, "Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us."

Thank you for your prayers for His work in Wales and the nations. May the Lord bless us all with His continual grace and new mercies,

Dick & Gladys


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Thursday, September 09, 2021

Home at last... Thank you, Jesus!

Starting to feel like we actually live here!Dear Friends of Wales Awakening:

As hard as it seems to believe, we have actually been in our new permanent home for 3 weeks now! It was one year ago that we first received the news that we would need to relocate, and it has been a long-drawn-out process to get to this point. We are extremely thankful for God's amazing grace which has sustained us through this whole adventure of faith and patience.

The last few months have been a blur of movement and activity, and now to find ourselves in one place again is a real delight. We spent our first two weeks in camping mode with suitcases and boxes and some basic furniture in the house. Then last week all our things were moved in from the storage unit, and the fun began.

This is a large house and there is something to do everywhere we look. But we know that settling in here will take time, so we aren't rushing into things. It is an exciting challenge, and we are enjoying just being here at long last!

Arrival to stay at last!From the day we arrived until now, every single day we have been amazed to see how the Lord has taken care of us.. From large matters down to the smallest details, His faithfulness to us is just wonderful, and assures us again and again that He indeed is Lord of All!

One thing that stood out to me is that our predominant view from our old house and the chapel had been towards the south and west, and now our best view is to the north and the east. We also have had many encouraging words from different people about this "new chapter" in our lives, and some have also mentioned this new direction of view as prayer-related. And during the time of waiting for the purchase to be completed, the Lord gave a particular word to Gladys that this house was 'For My purposes."

The view of St. John's Church from upstairsIn our first weeks, even before our things were moved, we had already had friends join us for dinner, entertained a young friend, now married with children. And last week we had our long-time friend and regular houseguest Ali help us unpack a few "kitchen" boxes and find places for things. These and other visits are what really make this seem more like home, and we know that God's love and purposes are the keys to what is yet to come.

Spiderwebs laden with dew...We are still having some very warm summer-like days, although they are getting noticeably shorter now. And the early morning fog condenses on and highlights these spiderwebs on our boxwood bushes, but they soon "disappear" when the sun comes out.

This brings to mind these scriptures from Psalm 103:1-2, " Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." The Lord's blessings and benefits are many indeed for us all, but easily in the "heat of the day", we lose sight of that amazing truth. This is a good reminder to set our hearts in His direction early in the day and know that "the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him." (vs.17)

As we settle in here I hope to get back to my "regular" writing schedule. Thank you for your prayers for us, for Wales, and for the nations in such need of God's saving grace,

Dick & Gladys Funnell


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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Adventures in uncertainty and faith...

BCW Italian Garden July 2021Dear Praying Friends,

We are now into our third week here at the Bible College of Wales and have really enjoyed our time here. The college is in between groups of students, so there are only four people on campus besides ourselves. It has been very peaceful and we get to spend lots of time in the gardens in the amazingly good summer weather.

I hope you have all read the book Rees Howells, Intercessor, and how he was led by the Lord into a challenging life of prayer and faith. Reading the stories of his experiences and growing relationship with God is a powerful source of inspiration and we can't recommend the book enough. You can read the first few chapters here on the publisher's website, and find new and used copies on Amazon or Abebooks as well. There is also an excellent overview of his life and work here on the Bible College website.

We count it an enormous privilege to be here during this time. There is an exciting energy connected with the prayers during the last hundred years, and more recently with the hundreds of students that have gone through the 12-week course of study. This is a real launching ground for the people of all ages who have been prepared and fired up to serve the Lord wholeheartedly either back in their home territory or wherever the Lord may choose to send them in the future. It reminds us of the times during the Jesus movement View of Mumbles Lighthouse from BCW gardensin the 1970s when people were sent into ministry after what in many cases were intense encounters with the Lord and His call into discipleship and service.

I like this view from a particular spot in the garden where are you can  just make out the white Mumbles Lighthouse on its rocky perch in the distance. It's a good reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse in times of turbulence and need. And He invites us to shine his light for others in the world around us who long for the certainty and hope that is only found in Him.

Psalm 119:105-106 says in The Passion Translation, "Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of your Word makes my pathway clear. To live my life by your righteous rules has been my holy and lifelong commitment." This is a great description of what it means to be a disciple, and how God's word equips us to shine His light and bear the good fruit for which He made us.

As we draw close to our last week here in Swansea, there are still some unknowns about when we will be able to move into our new house in Betws Ifan. Once again we have seen the Lord open doorsSome work needed here! to places for us to stay for the whole month of August if need be. However, we still have hopes to be able to actually move by next weekend.

It seems to be a matter of all the right documents getting into the right hands at the right time. We understand that it could all happen in a short matter of days... or it could still drag on for weeks. We are at peace with whichever way things go, but would once again like to ask for your prayers that things work according to God's design and not our personal preferences.

We visited the house last week and saw how the garden is getting overgrown. We found some shears and did some pruning in the hot sun. It was very nice to make a little headway on the outside jobs, and we felt like they were the first steps of making this place our home. Once again we gave thanks to the Lord for His provision of this lovely house which, by faith, we will be living in before too much longer. It will be nice to get settled in and get back to our times praying in the chapel which we have missed.

Thank you for your continued interest and your prayers for Wales, and the nations in need of His great light,

Dick & Gladys


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Monday, July 05, 2021

From transition to position... a solid place in a quicksand world.

Last sunset from Hen FfynnonDear Friends and Prayers:

Two weeks ago today most of our belongings were moved from our home into a storage container nearby and we moved across the road. This is the last sunset photo from there. At a time when it was very hard to get any storage at all, God's provision opened a place up for us only two miles away. This was a huge blessing for us because the sale of our new house still is not finalized, and this is right on the way there when we get the go ahead to move in. It has also enabled us to organize and store the remaining items very conveniently.

Moving day - last few times up this hill!Gladys and I have been constantly aware of God's goodness to us throughout this whole process. We have both felt overwhelmed at times by the amount of stuff we have accumulated and have had to deal with, and our hearts overflow with gratitude for the Lord's care for us.

Garden at Stabal-y-Bryn, CilgerranWe are coming to the end of our first 20-day stay here in our friends' cottage in Cilgerran, and on Saturday we will be moving on to stage two. When I last wrote, we hoped that wouldn't be necessary, but once again have seen the Lord's faithfulness in opening another door for us. Our friends from the Bible College of Wales in Swansea have kindly offered us the opportunity to stay there on the campus for the next several weeks. Even the detail of the timing makes us admire God's handiwork—the current students graduate this Thursday and then vacate the premises on Friday just in time for our arrival on Saturday.

This is an interesting time of transition for us, and we are looking forward to discovering just how the Lord works all things out for His purposes. We have lots of friends in the Swansea area and will enjoy the opportunity to have times of fellowship that have been missed during the pandemic.

Unusual low rainbow in AberporthA phrase that comes to mind is "from transition to position." It seems that life itself is actually a constant transition from one stage to the next, from infancy and childhood on into adulthood and career, family, etc. It is a long and elaborate chain of transitions. But when a person comes to faith in Jesus, he or she comes to a place of permanence and position. God translates us into the Kingdom of His dear son, and that placement by His grace is forever. He seats us in heavenly places for all eternity.

During this very difficult year and a half, countless people around the world have suffered loss and heartbreak, and transition has come unexpectly and painfully for millions. It is our trust and our prayer that millions also will have come to discover that "Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!'" (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Dick & Gladys


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