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27 October 2017

The 9 - 5 with Ifor Williams

The 9 - 5 with Ifor Williams

Twice president of The Baptist Union of Wales, Ifor Williams was a Baptist minister in Broad Haven for more than 20 years and part of the founding teams for New Wine Cymru and Waleswide. He now works in Breconshire supporting rural communities going through difficult times. Ifor is author of Open Hands, Open Heart, a book on his own experiences of giving.

The time that my alarm goes off varies tremendously. Recently, I have been helping a farmer milk his 550 cows. When I am doing that, my alarm goes off at 4.45am, I roll out of bed, have a cup of tea and 10 minutes with the Bible before heading out. Back home by 8.45am, I have breakfast with my wife Penny. If I have been meeting with others late the night before I am up between six and eight am.

Depending on what I am doing, my first thought is often. "What shall I wear?" If it's a Baptist Union event it's different to whether I need to be in old jeans for milking!

I also volunteer with The Farming Community Network, a Christian charity running a Samaritans style helpline for farmers in need. I visit farmers and their families, and travel long distances to get to them. Many are going through difficult times. I once visited a farmer who had attempted suicide, and many have hard financial circumstances or serious health issues. I felt called to Breconshire after 21 years of being a minister to go and support people living in rural communities.

I took a part time job as a sales representative selling farm products and this gives me great opportunities to build relationships. People 'down tools and talk'. I am daily looking for openings to spend time talking to people about Jesus.

And people do - when I am milking with someone they will often ask me a question about the news and ask: "Why God has allowed this to happen?" These conversations inspire my Sunday talks. Recently, there was a farmer who was going through very difficult financial times. Working four jobs he had very little time, and so for us to be able to talk, I went out in his truck and helped him. I met other farmers he was delivering to who would often invite us in to supper, which meant more conversations.

It's important to make a point of stopping to spend time with God. When I became a sales rep, I was unsure and prayed about it. In Matthew 10:42 it says that even if you give just a cup of cold water to little ones you are God's representatives. That confirmed to me that I should be a 'rep for Jesus' – being in touch with God helps me give people a chance to find and grow in faith. As the only full time Baptist minister in Breconshire other days will be spent preparing talks and services. Some days end late as evenings are often the only time I can meet with people. I tend to get up early on Sundays to do final prep.

WE ASKED IFOR ABOUT HIS TIPS FOR LIVING A GENEROUS LIFE
In a world where people struggle to make ends meet, how do you encourage a life of giving?

Give where the need is. Think about what others' people's needs are – that might be time or money. Are their needs greater than mine? If we look after others God will look after us and everything else slots into place. When I visited the dairy farmer who had huge financial needs, helping him milk was one way I could give.
How should we give as Christians?
For some people giving is what you devote your whole life to and for others it is alongside their career. The key is being willing to stop if someone needs you. In the parable of The good samaritan, there could have been a whole host of reasons why the Pharisees couldn't stop because they were busy. Sometimes you need to stop for your wife, for your family, your friend - whoever is in need. Pray and ask God to show you what or who. It might not be much. It might just be one situation. Just make a start. As we live generously we leave a space for God to use us.

Open Hands Open Heart is available online from Eden, St Andrews Bookshop, Amazon or Generous Heart publishers. 

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