Y GRŴP (Grace Rural Wales Partnership) is a registered charity set up around the work I began in rural Wales in 2004, alongside my wife Helen and our family. From its church plant in Llandovery, Y GRŴP draws together, and provides resources for, simple, non-denominational farm meetings that promote biblical Christian teaching and discipleship. By both presenting and representing the gospel, we seek to bring people to the wholeness that comes from finding saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and from being indwelt by the Spirit of God. We maintain a presence in livestock markets across South and West Wales, run rural youth outreach, and actively respond to rural people in crisis. This outreach is run by Christians but makes itself freely available to rural people without distinction.
In order to identify closely with those Y GRŴP seeks to reach, I farm beef and sheep on the family farm outside Llandeilo as well as serving as a travelling rural chaplain. I’m supported by trustees with extensive experience in Christian leadership, mission, farming and business.
The work operates in three dimensions.
On the ground
Fundamentally, Y GRŴP is about putting boots on the ground among rural people. With a small team of farming-aware volunteers, we visit at least three livestock markets each week (in Carmarthen, Llandeilo and Llandovery), reaching out to the farming community. The chaplaincy Landrover is equipped with an awning, tables and chairs and opens up into a stand that gets parked near the burger van in two of these markets. A stand carrying Gospels and evangelistic materials is maintained and manned permanently in the Carmarthen livestock market.
We set up and assist in the running of simple, down to earth Christian farm meetings with the contacts we have made. These help people to relate vertically (as they worship, pray and hear God’s Word), inwardly (as they commit to caring for one another), and outwardly (as they share the gospel and meet various needs of the non-believing people in their locality in the name of Christ).
We run a hub for these farm meetings at Tŷ’r Bugail (The Shepherd’s House), our community café on Market Square in Llandovery. The café is open throughout the week and houses a range of outreach activities, including art exhibitions and a lively monthly Book Club. Tŷ’r Bugail also houses our incubator church plant on Sunday afternoons.
We have learnt to respond to the needs of our increasingly non-literate culture by making our Book Club materials and other literature available digitally as eBooks and audiobooks, which are distributed to our contacts by subscription email.
Rural Wales is among the least densely populated areas of Europe, and it can be hard to keep in touch with contacts that have been made on the ground. The Y GRŴP team makes use of various online resources which are all held together at www.yGRWP.com.
As well as Facebook, there is a lively interactive Twitter account (@WelshRev), with over 1,800 followers. It is full of the Bible and the kind of topics and banter that concern and relate to rural people. It is common for this to lead to face-to-face meetings and useful conversations. Recently, a farmer who had been in touch on Twitter and then visited Tŷ’r Bugail to share a knotty problem commented: ‘Always good to share with you a problem Rev, you’re just the man.’ He left having had a conversation that ran way beyond tea and sympathy – although there’s often a need to offer that too! We have a YouTube channel called ‘Grace (Rural Wales) Partnership’ which provides rural-themed, Christian-content videos and a weekly podcast at http://WelshRev.buzzsprout.com. This carries the regular, and typically interactive, expository Bible ministry from the Incubator Church Plant.
On the road
Wales has been described as a land of 2,000 villages, and Welsh rural communities have been under particular pressures in recent years. The stressful impact on farming businesses, allied industries and the families involved with them, from banks, bureaucracy and bovine TB has kept the team very busy as they reach out, and are reached out to, for help.
As the need arises, the team responds to personal crises in the farming community. Very often we can do all that is necessary either on the phone, online or with invitations to meet at Tŷ’r Bugail. Sometimes, however, an on-site visit is required. Our resources are limited, but we operate this support service, as necessary, year-round and in all weathers, across the southern half of Wales. The Landrover makes a clear visual impact, supporting the regular outreach in livestock markets while offering a resting place and a listening ear.
The Landrover has become mission-critical for Y GRŴP. Its fuel, repair and maintenance budgets need to be maintained, and we’re currently seeking funding for a much-needed chassis replacement.
The way ahead
Y GRŴP continues to develop. As mentioned earlier, Y GRŴP regards the new church plant that meets at Tŷ’r Bugail as an ‘incubator’ church. This is in line with our vision of planting churches that will ‘hatch’ other micro-churches in their own geographical area. Our strategic aim is to produce a replicable model. The idea is that the ‘incubator’ church should train and resource, on an ongoing basis, these usually farm-based micro-churches that are never likely to be in a position to become fully independent congregations on their own.
Please pray for the targeted teaching, training, village visitation, missions and outreach events based on the initial incubator church plant at Llandovery. We are already planning to plant further ‘incubator’ churches in the lower Towy, Gwili and Teifi valleys, which will similarly be able to resource their own areas.
For all this to happen, we need more local rural believers who will commit to individually tailored training for the ministries that the Lord is preparing them for. We are also eager to appoint interns on year teams, where they will experience training and hands-on rural evangelism and church planting in order to test whether they are being called by God to such a vital work. Those for whom it would be suitable will be recruited and funded in order to take the two-year, part-time Graduate Diploma course delivered in our local Learning Community by Union School of Theology.
As the socio-economic storms gather over the farming communities of Wales, we are endeavouring to gather together farmers to pray for their own futures. In the past, such times have often presented openings for a deep work of God’s Spirit in the hearts of many. Could it be that the Lord wants you to support this challenging ministry? The need for prayer and financial help is real and urgent, and we are so grateful for those who partner with us in these ways. But maybe we should be supporting YOU because you sense the Lord is calling you personally and directly to commit yourself to a lifetime of service in rural church planting.
Finally, for any further information — and particularly if you are involved in farming or an allied industry in Wales, and would like to receive a quarterly letter for the sharing of relevant news and prayer requests — please contact HoWchaplain@gmail.com