My family Christmas and New Year newsletter:
Firstly, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year. Sadly, we have not been able to catch up with many of our friends as we would have hoped in “normal” times, but we are thinking of you (thus this letter) and would love to know your news, hopes etc., so we can pray all the more.
Few will dispute this has been a momentous year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As a family, we have got away with the negative consequences relatively lightly and have even found some positives. It has been a testing time for us all but we hope it will help us to become better people.
Matthew finished his university degree in the summer and got a First in Computer Science! Early in the lockdown, he returned home to finish his course and stayed home ever since. He is now doing his own projects and being helpful around the house (we are happy to have him) and is looking for a job. We (his parents) continue to hope and pray that he will come to share our faith in Jesus.
Jolly continues to work as a Lung Cancer Nurse at Southend Hospital. As a key worker, working in an environment affected by the various fall outs from COVID-19, it is not without challenges, including the mental and physical ones. She missed not being able to go to India to see her family although thanks to Zoom and WhatsApp she is able to do weekly calls to them. She is able to keep in contact with friends and while missing services at our church has, along with John, engaged with some of the online activities. She and John enjoyed two weeks in October in a caravan by the sea at Felixstowe.
John has enjoyed (if that is the right word) being confined to barracks for much of the time. For one thing it has meant he could write and publish his book “Prophets of the Bible” and be a Watchman on the Wall, reflecting on what is happening in the world. He has health issues, including a muscle wasting disease, but thankful there is a lot he can do. While not being able to operate on the front-line regarding homelessness, as he once did, he has been able to support those who do. While visits to the gym haven’t taken place, he has enjoyed daily walks around Priory or Gunners Parks.
“Trust and Obey”, “Watch and Pray” and “Test and Weigh” may seem cliches but these are some of the things we have been learning more of in 2020. We have been blessed by the scriptures including one Psalm in particular, which starts of sombrely and ends on a high note, which we share below.
Love and prayers
John, Jolly and Matthew Barber
Mischief, Patchy and Fluffy (our three cats)
136 St. Lukes Road, Southend, SS2 4AG. Tel. 01702-616302, Email: email@example.com
“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein”. (Psalm 69:29-36).
Today I took my first delivery of my book “Prophets of the Bible”.
For those who have requested it, I will be sending you a copy in due course (bear in mind we are away for a fortnight on Monday so could be after then). If you want your own copy then either visit Southend Christian Bookshop (assuming you are local) who will sell it at a discounted price of £8, or email me and we can come to a suitable arrangement.
Given it is God’s project, albeit one with a very important message (imho), I leave it with Him as to whether few or many read the book or if I can recoup costs. I suggest if you want to give you can do so by putting it into your church or wherever missionary or poor box.
The book is 356 pages and costs £10. I will be eventually selling it via Ingram / Amazon and am trying now setting up the relationship – so watch this space. As I have no publicity machine or distribution arm other than me, SCB and Ingram (hopefully) I am reliant on “friends” putting the word out.
I have announced concerning the book on my blog. I give a brief description of the book’s contents, how I “got there”, how to get your own copy and a link to a “free” PDF version of the book: https://jrbpublications.com/2020/09/06/prophets-of-the-bible-the-final-version/
09/05/20: It has been 16 months since I updated this page of my website. I have been reluctant to do so as I really don’t want it to be about me (although can say, right now my family are well and making use of opportunities that have been afforded us in our different spheres during the Covid-19 lockdown).
But what I really wanted to tell to whoever reads this is about my exciting 2020 project (for me at least and one I hope to be my parting gift to the world). It is to write a book, titled “Prophets of the Bible”. One of the opportunities lockdown has given me is time and space to write the book, with the following chapters:
Chapter 1: Introducing the prophets
Chapter 2: The prophets in context
Chapter 3: Prophets, priests and kings
Chapter 4: The Genesis account and prophets
Chapter 5: Moses and wandering in the wilderness
Chapter 6: Balaam and assorted false prophets
Chapter 7: Deborah and other women prophets
Chapter 8: From Joshua, through Judges to Samuel
Chapter 9: David, Nathan and Gad
Chapter 10: Elijah and Elisha
Chapter 11: Unnamed, unknown and less known prophets
Chapter 12: The Major prophets (Isaiah – Daniel)
Chapter 13: The Minor prophets (Hosea – Malachi)
Chapter 14: The prophets of the New Testament
Chapter 15: Messianic, Last Days, unfulfilled prophecy
Chapter 16: Learning from the prophets
Drafts of chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 have already been posted in the “Blog” section of my website and the remaining chapters are work in progress. What I have discovered is every time I go down a rabbit hole there are so many tunnels to explore, but that is a good thing. I am always open to constructive comments in order to produce an excellent and encouraging end product.
I can’t quite to commit to when the final product is available (in paper and electronic form). There is a long way to go still, but thanks to Covid I am making good progress. I have in mind September, but don’t hold me to it (there are so many more rabbit holes that could be explored and distractions that might deflect).
The following might be considered as archive material (for historical interest only) ….
30/12/2018: When I began my website, I thought putting in a News tab will be a good idea, although my use of it has been somewhat hit and miss thus far. Also there was a time when I sent out an end of year paper news letter but later decided against it out of fear of being seen to be presumptuous that people would be interested. However, people are kind and I have found some friends really would like to know one’s news, and I thought why not use the News tab, so here goes. While I can’t give away too much (since the world might be watching, and they can) or put too yukky a spin to avoid readers pukking, I will try to include some juicy bits but more with the intent to encourage those who pray to pray for us …
Like most people, I have a wide circle of friends and family, who I care about but as far as this offering goes it will be about my wife, Jolly, now married to me coming up to 22 years, still together and managing not to kill each other, and our son and heir, Matthew, aged 20, and me. Right now we are all present and well, living in our house in Southend, England, having enjoyed a peaceful and pleasant Christmas season. I say well – I am a diabetic, had a stroke earlier in the year, suffer a weird nervo-muscular condition and with assorted other aches and pains, and bouts of depression. My wife also has issues around pain and getting tired. I won’t elaborate but prayers will be valued especially for strength and endurance to do what needs to be done, which from where we stand seems to be a lot.
Jolly continues to work full time at Southend Hospital as a lung cancer nurse, which given the condition of most of her patients, including the shock of receiving bad news, can be quite a challenge including some of the well documented concerns about the NHS. But she is well thought off (which makes me proud) and is making a difference (which makes me even prouder). Perhaps the big loss of the year was near the start and was that of her father, Varghese Mathai, but she was able to be with him at the end. Varghese was a character and one who loved the Lord and committed to doing the work of an evangelist, who made a deep impression on many, including me. Later in the year we were able to visit family and friends in Kerala, India as a family and soon after that came the devastating floods and subsequent rebuilding efforts.
Me, I am a grumpy old man but I am trying to be winsome. Besides acting as Jolly’s (and boy’s) chauffeur and general gopher (although not too good at anything DIY) reading up on what is going on in the world and blogging and posting on Facebook about what I discover, including my take on things (sometimes to the annoyance of some), my main activity is around homelessness. I began the year managing a night shelter and end the year doing so. I also chair a soup kitchen and a network bringing together people interested in helping the homeless in my town as well as encouraging the homeless. I still get opportunities to preach and teach the Bible. I end the year having done a series on the Kings of the Bible at our church and am doing another series about the prophets of the Bible in the New Year.
About my church, Providence, which in the Strict Baptist tradition (having been there four years after our Plymouth Brethren assembly closed – the Lord must have a sense of humour putting us there), it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. We like it because it is mainly doctrinally sound (which can’t be said of many churches, sadly), there is kindly spirit with many clearly resolved to sincerely following the Lord, and it is growing, with people of all ages and a multi-cultural leaning. I am happy to be a mere member of the congregation without leadership responsibilities or having to deal with controversy (which is gladly mainly absent), and some of the other nitty gritty stuff that goes on, but whose gifts are recognized and encouraged and importantly made to feel part of the family.
As for our son Matthew, while he has his own views on life, the universe and everything, which aren’t necessarily his parents, especially on matters of faith (another prayer item) he follows dad’s footsteps regarding computing. He finished his second year reading computer science at Aston University and is doing well. His third year was meant to be a work placement. Since he couldn’t find one that met his exacting expectations, he decided to work at Adventure Island during the summer and now part time as a barista at Starbucks. He is doing his own computer projects living at home with mum and dad. One nice touch is he has been volunteering at the Off the Streets, all the year round, homeless night shelter.
So that’s it folks. I write as we are about to end 2018 and start a new adventure in 2019. The good news is we can put the past behind us, including triumphs and disasters and start afresh. But I should add, as I get older I realise more how short life is and its uncertainties and frailties and the need to seize the day. I can think of several I have known who died in the past year, including Andrew Pattison, a friend at school, Tim Coker, a talented musician, Dave Haycock, a kind neighbor, Ray Davy, a community activist and mentor and Florrie Bond, an old lady who adopted my wife when she came to England and of course my inspirational father-in-law, Varghese Mathai – may God rest their souls. But we are here and there is lots still to be done on so many fronts, but the main thing is to look to the Lord, seek His will and be faithful to Him. Two things I am sure of: God is good and the importance of being kind. All that remains is to wish those who have read this to the end a happy new year. I hope we can keep in contact, including by prayer, and maybe meet up.
I am afraid, frequency wise, my adding to “News” remains hit and miss. Night Shelters are going well and we are now over half way through the season. You can catch up on the story so far (see here). As a family we have much to be thankful for and we are pleased our son is doing well at his university (Aston), hoping to do a work placement year before his final one. We are sad at this time because my much loved father-in-law has recently died (my tribute here). I continue to add to my blog regularly and post on Facebook.
Looking forward (albeit with a little trepidation) to the Church Winter Night Shelter season (for me) due to start Friday for the next 17 weeks.
For those expecting a regular News update I apologize. It was a nice idea at the time but has not been kept up. I have though continued to blog regularly, keep up to date the SHAN page and have recently added 12 e-books to the writing page. Me and my family are quite well. I continue with chairing SHAN, being chair of Street Spirit and will be managing the Ferndale Church Winter Night Shelter when we start up again on 1st December.
It is unlikely I am going to maintain this page much. Much as I would like to share stuff close to home and family, doing so such that the whole world could potentially see is not a good idea. While CWNS has finished my regular Saturday night forays to the Street Spirit soup kitchen continues and while things have gone quite on the wider from SHAN continues and will meet next week. I am going to take a step back over the summer and then think about CWNS for next season. I hope to announce plans early September. My activity as a blogger continues – I add something most days and close to reach 1000 posts!
How time flies and what with every good intention … Ferndale CWNS finished a month ago but it went well – volunteer meal next Friday as a finale. The need continues as does my involvement with Street Spirit and SHAN. The world continues to be a crazy place with momentous happenings and blogging continues regularly with so much to blog about.
Tonight’s the night it all begins at Ferndale CWNS and while there are slots on the rota to fill, especially overnight, we are ready to go. Expecting 10 guests but it will build up.
Ferndale CWNS starts this Friday (2/12) and while we have prepared we will be hitting the ground running. If you want to know more and especially if you are interested in volunteering then check out my just posted “Helping at the Ferndale Night Shelter – 2016/17” blog post.
The Southend 2016/2017 Church Winter Night Shelter Program will be start on 1st December and will last for seventeen weeks. We typically provide hospitality, overnight accommodation and an evening and morning meal for up to 20 persons who might otherwise be sleeping rough. Seven churches will be taking part, each taking a particular night in the week and thus ensuring there is full coverage during the worse period weather wise. My own church, Ferndale, will operate Friday night from 7pm until Saturday morning, 8am. We are looking for volunteers, particularly male overnight sleepers. Support and training will be provided. If you are interested in helping or knowing more about what we do, then please contact me (see the About page for contact details).
After a long break, I have decided to update this page on a regular basis, specifically to provide up to date news of what is happening in the Church Winter Night Shelter (CWNS) program.
Please note this page is not being updated currently so all the news given below is old news. However, I continue to update my blog regularly and while slowing down try to do my bit as a gospel preaching, community activist.
My apologies for not updating this page regularly. I have come to a view that this is not going to happen as I intended and, besides which, there doesn’t seem to be a big demand, so for the time being this section of my website moves into the archive category. If folk want to know what I am up to then check out my blog (which I continue to regularly update), subscribe to one of my e-distribution lists, contact me by e-mail or become a Facebook “friend”.
I have just celebrated the posting of my 200th blog entry. For a full listing of titles in date order such that you can then go to that posting, click here. SHAN meeting went well; look forward to the next one. I continue doing Open House, Street Spirit, the SOS men’s group and Night Shelters, now at the half way mark. Sadly, it is looking like CRA will close this coming AGM in April, but with the St. Lukes community hub taking off I hope this will take on many of the issues affecting residents. I am looking forward to taking part in an event organised by SIWG where faith communities can engage with council workers over matters of common interest to do with the community – Wednesday 5th February 11.30 – 2.30, at the Civic Centre. Next Southend Community-in-Harmony Big Event will be held on Sunday 6th September 2015 and I plan to be there!
Nothing particularly profound to add. Next SHAN meeting is next Tuesday, details on the SHAN page. Night shelters at Ferndale Baptist Church are going well. Street Spirit every Saturday night. I turn up from time to time to Thursday SOS men’s group and St. Andrew’s Open House. Decided to cancel January CRA meeting although meeting with stakeholders Monday week to discuss future. Stuff with SIWG coming up. Continue to be involved with Providence Baptist (our church now). Contact me if you want to know more about any of this, but some relevant stuff on blog, regarding which I continue to post prolifically on matters all and sundry. And a Happy New Year one and all!
Gosh, I have been lax – two months since my last update even though as they say lots of water has gone under the bridge since I last posted. Lots of new postings on things I care about in my blog – just check them out by scrolling the pages! Homelessness still seems to be my number one community activity! Street Spirit continue to go out each Saturday 8pm, meeting in Clarence Road Car Park, Southend. We engage with upwards of thirty rough sleepers, giving food, clothing and love. While I’m not there every Sunday (7pm), St. Andrews, Westcliff continue to do Open House, where homeless and other folk are invited to a meal. SHAN remains active and we meet next Tuesday (check out the SHAN tab). Finally, Church Winter Night Shelter (CWNS) is about to start up for the fourth year. I will be managing the Ferndale operation, each Friday night 7pm until Saturday morning 8am, December thru until March, Still interested in hearing from any who would like to help out.
Haven’t been updating News for a while as there is nothing pressing I felt I should add, but I have been adding prolifically to my blog – just check out and see for yourself. Also, to remind folk that the Next SHAN meeting is this coming Tuesday (check out the SHAN tab) and we will be looking at the homeless situation in Southend. On Saturday night as I have most previous Saturdays and I hope too for future Saturdays, I have been out with Street Spirit (we meet 8pm in Clarence Road car park) and feed and clothe the homeless, and talk to them. The Big event (see below) is nigh on us. I’ll be there with a stall from my church: Providence Baptist.
Had a positive meeting of the Cluny Residents meeting last nights – lots of things processing nicely though still disappointed will low resident turnout.
Still blogging regularly. Todays post is on Christian Fundamentalism but subjects covered are varied.
Trying to plug the Southend Community-in-Harmony Big Event on 21 September (see http://www.community-in-harmony.org.uk/ for details). Am involved in organising faith and homeless related stalls.
Today is our SHAN meeting with its normal action packed agenda. Notes dates for meetings:
Tuesday 8th July 2014
Tuesday 9th September 2014
Tuesday 11th November 2014
I continue to be busy updating my blog – I suggest you just check out the blog and see what is there – generally I post 2-3 new entries each week. It now has a comments facility.
Today I sent out an email to my community distribution list of around 350, who I have had dealings with in the past relating to community matters. I plan to maintain the list and send out community updates and changes to this website on a monthly basis (email me if you want to be added to or removed from the list).
In the last two weeks I have added the following entries in my Blog https://jrbpublications.com/blog/
- Consigned to Room 101
- European Elections
- Evangelicals: a “gay question”
- Cluny Residents Association
- Indian elections
- A tribute to Joe
- Making Britain great
- Election time again
- Poetry Please
- The Beautiful game
Some updates regarding five of the various organisations I have some involvement with:
1. SCHP are pressing ahead with their event (see 22/04 entry) and will be holding a fund raising quiz on 30th May. Check out their new website. If you can help out on the day, provide catering, put on an organisation display stall or provide music, dance or other entertainment then they will be pleased to hear from you. Also let the word out the event is happening. It is one event in Southend that really does engage all sections of the community.
2. Street Spirit are still pressing ahead with their fund raising “Question of Support” quiz evening and I’m still down as quiz master but the details have changed: The entry is £1 and you can pre-buy tickets or turn up on the door: Friday 26th May at the Railway Hotel, 7.30pm for 8.00 prompt start. They are now going out each week and engaging with the homeless.
3. Cluny Residents Association (CRA) are holding two events on 19th May. In the afternoon 2.30-4.30 there is a fun event especially aimed at children but really especially aimed at adults not involved with our association who we would like to get involved so we can truly make a difference to our neighbourhood. In the evening 7-9 is our AGM. Everything is free, all are invited, food and refreshments are laid on and it is at the Cluny Cafe.
4. Southend Homeless Action Network (SHAN) is still pressing ahead with its meeting tomorrow 13/05, details below. Do turn up if you have a particular interest in homelessness.
5. I have received the following from Communities and Asylum Seekers Together (CAST). Please reserve the date; details to follow:
CAST is proud to present Refugee Rhythms, a fun-filled show celebrating music, dance and poetry from across the globe. Stars confirmed so far include major artists from Botswana and South Africa- Aubrei Woki (bassist for Hugh Masekela) and the Kalahari Band, Claude Deppa of the Grand Union Orchestra and also Osibisa’s Alfred Bannerman.
We need your support. Please tell your friends, come to the show and spread the word. We are crowd funding the cost of this event, please get your tickets or donate at www.buzzbnk.org/RefugeeRhythms to receive thank you gifts. Lots of exciting info is on the website. Check out here for the flyer advertising the event.
Tickets will also be available at the Railway Hotel in Southend, and Anke’s cafe on London Road, Westcliff.
Refugee Rhythms is taking place in Refugee Week in partnership with the British Red Cross.
June 21st, 8pm at the Railway Hotel, 32 Clifftown Road, Southend SS1 !AJ. Earlybird tickets tickets £10/£12 on the door.
Street Spirit are organising a fund raising quiz evening at the Railway Hotel, just past opposite Southend Central railway station: Thu 22 May. Do support if you can this good cause and for a fun evening with the added bonus that I am down to be the quiz master.
This is the first entry and I wanted to say three things:
1. I’ve decided to visit Facebook more regularly. Also, every time I add to my blog, I intend to post a link on my Facebook page. I will be happy to receive friend requests. This will provide readers with the added benefit of getting notified whenever there are changes and the facility to post comments about each new blog entry.
2. My Community-in-Harmony friends have announced the next Big Event is Sunday 21st September in Priory Park. While no longer closely involved as I was, I do hope to contribute to that day. If you need more info or wish to participate, email Dan Turpin who is the coordinator this year: firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. The next meeting of SHAN (check out the SHAN tab) is Tuesday 13 May 11-12.30, this time at HARP’s new Bradbury Centre. For those who are interested there will be a guided tour of the premises at 10.30. If you are not on the SHAN distribution, then email me and I will send info. The agenda is already pretty full and action packed and will go somewhere toward informing and addressing some of the issues around homelessness.