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At the beginning of May, twenty of us travelled to Ammerdown Christian Centre near Bath in Somerset for a 5-day break.  With Rev Gill Nicholls as our speaker we had a glorious time together.  The combination of the lovely venue, fun and fellowship, together with inspired teaching from Gill and worship from Marilyn Baker made it a real feast.  Here are some comments people made:

“a caring, loving atmosphere”, “wonderful, mutual caring provision of communication support”, “great teaching, serene surroundings, amazing speaker”, “everyone keeping an eye out for everyone else and helping where they could”, “A safe place to share or confide”, “OE such a family!  Stress of trying to follow conversations is removed”…..

We praise God for the way He blessed us and for the wonderful way that Gill, together with her husband Colin, ministered to us so powerfully.  Here are some reflections from Gill herself as it was her first encounter with an Open Ears group, although hopefully not her last!

Gill says about her Ammerdown experience:

It’s always daunting to be asked to speak to a group of folk you don’t know, in a place you’ve never been. But when you are blessed with hearing and sight and you are speaking to those who are not, the challenge goes up a few notches!!

It was an amazing week. There was so much love and support flowing among the participants. The staff couldn’t do enough for us, but in an unobtrusive way. The food was excellent. But for me it was a time above all, of experiencing God’s presence with us. I so love being in His presence and long for more and more don’t you?

Preparing felt a bit like doing a jigsaw when you don’t have a picture. Gradually over the weeks the pieces came together and I began to realise that when one of our senses doesn’t work so well, often others are heightened. So I began to look at creative ways to enhance talks with images. Then Tracy reminded me, that some who were coming were visually impaired. So….back to the drawing board. That leaves smell, taste and touch.

Three of my puzzle pieces were:-

  1. “The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment”.
  2. “The woman who poured out expensive spikenard over Jesus and the fragrance filled the room. All who wanted to were anointed with spikenard”.
  3. Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Communion with the aroma of fresh baked bread filling the room and then sharing it amongst us as we remembered.

Add to that Jesus walking on the water and reflecting on our own journey of faith and the ways in which he has called us to trust him and step out of the place of safety and comfort. Those of you who know Tracy will know that she doesn’t let you stay safe, but then she has never been one to stay safe herself. One of the most moving moments of the week for me was watching her dance, it was so beautiful. BUT when you know she can’t hear the music and has problems with balance then it is breath taking. Bless you Trace and thank you.

I said one of the most moving because it was a privilege to see the response when everyone was given the opportunity to reach out and touch the tassels of the prayer shawl that my husband Colin wore….when the challenge was given to press into the presence of Jesus and not just watch from the edge, to touch with faith to receive your deepest longing. Also at Communion when at the opportunity to receive prayer for healing nearly everyone came. Holy moments which I won’t forget. Lord you are SOOOOOOOOO good!

Ammerdown was a very precious few days, ones I won’t forget in a hurry. Those of you who came were a real joy and challenge to me. Thank you for all you taught me and all you shared with me. Thank you for coming hungry to receive more from Jesus. THANK YOU JESUS for being so powerfully present with us.

Tracy Williamson and Gill Nicholls