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9 March 2020 | Binfield, UK [Victor Hulbert]  

How much do you know about the person sitting near you in church? Unless they are family or a close friend, possibly little beyond polite pleasantries and the odd comment during Sabbath School. All that has now changed for a church that, for the past year, has chosen to share individual conversion stories at the start of Sabbath School each week. Those stories are now published in a book.

Veselinka holding bookVeselinka Bečejac, co-editor of the book. [Photos: Newbold church]To Veselinka Bečejac that is all a bit of a surprise. She took over as a reluctant Sabbath School superintendent at the beginning of 2019. “I thought, why not ask three or four people just to share their stories, maybe once a month,” she said. However, she filled every Sabbath in January and found the testimonies so powerful that she decided to make it a central part of worship throughout the year.

“The church is spellbound, we are breathing like a real family, we know so very much more about each other and value each other far more now we know the paths travelled,” she confessed.

“It has been really powerful and moving,” agrees Patrick Johnson, Trans-European Division Ministerial Association secretary. Part of his portfolio also cares for Sabbath School. “I’ve seen great emotion, crying, laughter and lots of hugging. We don’t realise how powerful stories really are, and how they can bring people together.”

“We need to recognise, God is at work in our midst, just as He was in the world of the Bible characters,” adds Newbold’s senior pastor, Marcel Ghioalda. He has become passionate about the project confessing, “as we listen to each other’s stories, we identify God’s fingerprints. There is no proof of His existence greater than one’s personal story.”

Working tirelessly, Bečejac has collected together 48 of the 2019 testimonies and published them in a book, Great things God has done. “It is a labour of love,” she says with a beaming smile. “I just want to pass on the blessings my fellow members and I have enjoyed this year.”

Veselinka Bečejac with some of the authorsVeselinka Bečejac with some of the authors.While incidentally demonstrating the highly diverse, multicultural nature of Newbold’s membership, readers find themselves captivated by stories of a Hindu living in South America who finds release from a harsh life when a friend introduces her to Christianity, or a young French girl who turns against God as a teen, but who rediscovers him when she moves to London where a friend, and a dream, slowly and patiently draw her back.

Retired pastors and professors also share their secrets. Dr Harry Leonard, a much-loved former head of Newbold’s history department, shared that he was brought up with no Christian background at all. Nobody in his small village cared about church. His questioning started when the younger brother of one of his school friends died at age 12. Leonard went to the funeral, and then felt impressed to seek out a church. The only one he knew of was the Adventist church – the church his former piano teacher attended. He went there, immediately felt he belonged, and despite his passion for Saturday cricket, never looked back.

“We live in a world where sharing personal stories is powerful yet neglected at the same time,” Pastor Ghioalda states. “Taking the time to share during the Sabbath School programme, as well as capturing them in a book, is a corporate testament of God’s presence in the life of the Newbold community. This anthology of Divine Presence is something which binds us together as a faith community.”

Read the first chapter and you know God can change even the worst of lives. Slavko came from a highly dysfunctional family with a drunken violent father. As he grew older, Slavko was no better and brought fear to the village. Civil war gave a focus to his hatred… yet through the ministry of an old lady, his life was miraculously changed – and his baptism in a local river brought a crowd of disbelieving spectators, astonished at how such an evil person could be transformed.

Veselinka Bečejac with other authorsAnother group of contributorsSuch stories are powerful, and the book is already making an impact. One of Newbold’s oldest members is now very frail in hospital. He was so thrilled with his copy that he is telling all the staff about it. He asked for several more copies so that he could share.

Another lady, who is going through extreme difficulties, phoned Bečejac to tell her that, “she felt so much better reading the experiences and was lifted up.” That kind of response is commonplace.

“There are stories displaying God’s powerful intervention in people’s lives through healing, encouragement, support, rescue, guidance, difficulties, and more,” Ghioalda states. “There is a story for everyone.”

As the project continues into 2020, he sees the power in capturing such stories. “It will be wonderful if our initiative continues to inspire others, to recognise, celebrate and encourage one another through storytelling.”

In a church of around 1,000 attendees, life can become insular. Newbold had already been working on a successful photography project, ‘Humans of Newbold’. Sabbath School department and this new book are now taking it a stage further.

Book 'Great things He has done'Great things He has done is available for purchase from Newbold Church for a donation of £5.00 or more, plus postage. To gain your copy email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. All profits are donated to support programmes for Newbold church community youth.

To find out more about Newbold church, visit their Facebook Page. The church is an integral part of the campus of Newbold College of Higher Education.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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tedNEWS is an information bulletin issued by the communication department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division. Readers are free to republish or share this article with appropriate credit including an active hyperlink to the original article.



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