Encounter Church only recently joined Barnabas Fellowship of Churches earlier this year and here Gary & Hayley share their amazing story of how they stepped out, planted a church and came to be a part of Barnabas England:
When we left South Africa in 2011 we were sure God was with us, but had no idea what lay ahead for us in the UK. With each step we took, God made the next part clear and a door would open up. His faithfulness was amazing!! We sold our house and business and boarded a plane with our two young daughters. Within a few weeks of landing on UK soil, we found a house, put the kids into school and bought a new business! We were seeing grace and favour in every aspect of life – expect one… church!
We had spent the last 10 years in an amazing church – 700 people strong and full of life. We found the spiritual climate in England quite different from what we were used to. We felt the right thing to do would be to plug-in somewhere…be a part of what God was doing. We moved around a bit and to be honest, found it hard. We were confident that if God had called us here it was for more! We had a deep hunger for more, and we could see there was a stirring in the UK – he was about to ignite something. We wanted to be a part of it!
We had people tell us over the years that we would church-plant, that God had called us to be pioneers, but we hadn’t ever given it any serious thought. We knew if the time came for us to do something God would make it clear. After 2 years of floating around and feeling confused by what we were supposed to be doing here – God started to stir something in us both. Just a tiny whisper that perhaps we should start something in our home, a small-group perhaps. And so the seed was planted. We shared our thoughts with the eldership team back in SA. They prayed, and came back excited and agreed we should pursue it. We asked God to confirm what we were feeling and he gave 2 other confirmations. Before long the seed had grown into a great vision for our area and the nation. God was wanting us to open a door which others could walk through, create a space for Him to move and a place where people would encounter the kingdom of God and not religion.
And so Encounter Church was birthed!! We started in our lounge, praying with our kids! We soon had 3 people join us, and they would be our core team. We had a need for local support, we had the leaders in SA but we needed local connections – preferably with church-planting experience (as we hadn’t a clue as to what we were doing if we’re honest). And that’s when we met Yinka and Gareth from BFOC. A huge blessing to us as our priority was to be in accountable relationships with other leaders. They have given us the tools and courage to move forward.
And so the story continues……two years in now. We have learnt so much. God has been gracious and gentle and has added precious and amazing people to our army of passionate warriors. We have moved into our local community centre for our Sunday meetings. We are so grateful that we stepped out. And yes, there are times when it has felt scary or out of our depth, but when you see lives being transformed, and people walking in the true freedom that Christ purchased for them – that is a GOOD day! It is worth giving all you have for that!