After two decades helping war torn African communities, Kenneth Matthews has returned to Grantham Baptist Church as its lead minister. He told us more about the life-changing work, and how he will bring this into his new role.
** Tell us about your background. My wife Sue and I met at school in the Forest of Dean where we decided to become followers of Christ. After a degree at the University of Bradford we moved to Grantham and I taught at the Lincolnshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture. As a young family we were an active part of the Grantham Baptist Church (GBC) community. A group of us launched a charity, under the then mayor, called ‘Bridging the Gap’, and I led lessons and assemblies at all of Grantham’s secondary schools, took groups on Christian holidays, and ranyouth groups. Those now in their late 30s and 40s might remember the ‘Bridging the Gap’ marquees at Wyndham and Dysart parks which I was privileged to oversee. Let me know and we can reminisce!
** What took you to south Sudan and Uganda? In the mid-90s GBC recognised our call to work overseas. After training at Moorlands Bible College in ChristChurch we’ve been working in Bournemouth, northern Uganda, South Sudan and the Forest of Dean. During these 20 years we came back regularly to visit friends here. Their advice, prayers and direction helped enormously. They were extremely generous and loving towards people from other cultures who had fallen on terrible times.
In northern Uganda where communities are suffering from the Joseph Kony/Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, we built schools and churches and ministered to child soldiers. In war-torn South Sudan we have run a sponsorship scheme for children for 10 years, that is still ongoing. There were also conservation, agriculture and health training projects to empower the suffering people. We were joined by many UK teams, ranging from sixth formers to medical practitioners. Although those years in Africa were dangerous for everyone involved, God protected us and helped us to see many people transformed.
** How do you intend to help the community back in Grantham? We had an overwhelming sense that this church, along with Barrowby Baptist, were our family, and that our roots for all that we have witnessed around the world started right here in Grantham. The things we have learned on our travels have told us that every church, wherever it is in the world, needs to learn to serve, reach and present the good news of Jesus in a cross cultural way to the community that it lives in. As a Baptist community we believe we are a branch of the wider church network in Grantham. Like our many friends in all the churches, we want to see ordinary people experiencing the extra ordinary love of our God through us in their lives. We published a book at the end of our time in Africa, available from the church. Join us on our Sunday mornings, 10am to 11.15am, and we will do you good!