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Wales, you have my heart

God has great plans for Wales, says new director Siân Rees

In January this year Siân Rees joined the Evangelical Alliance Wales as its national director, succeeding Elfed Godding.

With a longing to see all people around the country enter into the most loving relationship of all, one with the Father in His Son, Siân seeks to establish new partnerships with churches, organisations and individuals around Wales, and deepen those that already exist, in order to spread the life-changing gospel far and wide.

Drawing on a solid foundation of vocational experiences that have taken her into the heart of communities within her nation, Christian and otherwise, Siân says that while the journey ahead is not without challenges, God has always had a great plan for Wales, and we will work together to see even more of it come to pass.

What has inspired your enduring passion to see the kingdom of God extended in Wales?

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Wales is known by many people around the world as a country that has encountered God. We have seen revivals where thousands of people have come to know Jesus. We have sent out pastors and evangelists who have changed the course of our nation and others and led many to salvation.

Now, we could be nostalgic and think the best days have been and gone. But, God has not finished with Wales. New churches are being planted. Christians are at the forefront of tackling some of our nation’s greatest issues through foodbanks, debt advice centres, support for homeless people and refugees, and more. Mission and evangelism are right at the top of our agenda.

These are clearly inspiring and exciting times for Wales and what could be if we reimagine what it looks like to be a nation that loves God. So, I’m committed to partnering with Christian individuals, churches and organisations so that we can lead people to experience Jesus themselves, and enter into a relationship that’s not based on tradition, nostalgia or religion, but a personal encounter with the Son of God.

You have said that, although many people in Wales do not follow Jesus, there’s an instinctive respect for Christian values. Will this make sharing the gospel easier’?

Wales has a rich Christian heritage. You just have to walk around parts of the country to see the number of streets that are punctuated with chapels and churches. These places of prayer and worship might lead people to believe that we’re a nation that is on fire for God, but many people are not. In a rapidly changing culture, some expressions of church have lost their appeal and a lot of those buildings are empty.

What is notable, however, is that the general population hasn’t lost touch with our country’s Christian roots. Whenever there’s a rugby match in Wales, the crowd, cheering on our team, will sing a back catalogue of hymns; without fail, spectators will burst into song at every game. And this does not only occur at sporting events: entertaining themselves while awaiting the results of a television competition, the audience sang traditional hymns. Christian values are, in many ways, part of our DNA’. But, the ongoing challenge is to lead people to a personal encounter with Jesus, which isn’t based on culture and tradition.

I’ve noticed that people are interested in authenticity, so as Christians in this nation, one of our roles is to share how Jesus does change our lives. This isn’t just tradition for us. I’ve also found that people enjoy hearing our stories and testimonies, as the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus is still really appealing. So, we are to show how we can put our trust in Jesus and that He is faithful to bring us through.

What were you doing before you joined the Evangelical Alliance in January?

I have been completely bi-vocational for most of my working life. A music graduate, I was a music and drama teacher and head of a performance and expressive arts faculty in north Wales, and I loved it. Before relocating to Cardiff from the north for this role, I was also part of the leadership team in a thriving Welsh-speaking church in Caernarfon, through which I led seminars and conferences across the nation.

As a long-standing member of the executive and council of reference for the Evangelical Alliance Wales, and with significant involvement in church life, to what extent was this role a natural next step?

Blessed by my predecessor Elfed Godding, who has a heart for raising up and releasing the younger generation, I have served on the executive and council of reference for a number of years. At the age of 17 I sensed God’s call and purpose for my life. I have dreamed of a biblically literate Wales since I was a teenager, where people know Jesus personally and confidently engage in the truth of the word of God, and where the power of God’s word changes lives. As a teacher, I served God in that sphere of influence; for me, that was full-time Christian ministry. Now, in this role, I continue to build God’s kingdom, but in a different way. It is a privilege and I am excited.

Why does the Evangelical Alliance stand out to you?

We at the Evangelical Alliance are committed to making Jesus, the Saviour of the world, known in all spheres of life around the UK. And, relationship, team, partnering with likeminded organisations, churches and individuals, to spread the hope that we have, is at the heart of our mission. Wales is incredibly relational; we’re like family. If we went by the six degrees of separation’ – the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other – Wales would only have one degree or two. The high value that we in Wales place on relationship and community mirrors that of the Evangelical Alliance without a doubt.

How will you use your skills to help congregations and individual Christians make Jesus known?

When we connect with and relate to one another, and get down on our knees and pray, we will see that we’re partnering with each other and with heaven. By God’s grace and favour, I can connect people. He has enabled me to be a bridge between young people and the older generation. He has made me first-language Welsh speaking. He has given me connections that span a wide range of evangelical settings, from Reformed to Charismatic. He has directed my path so that I’m a familiar face’ in Wales. He has given me favour so that doors are opened for me to speak at conferences. Now it’s my responsibility to take what He has given to me and sow it into people and relationships, so that together we can grow as disciples and make Jesus known.

What have you been up to so far?

I have had lots of meetings, connecting with scores of Christian leaders around Wales, and have been engaging with the media and speaking at conferences and churches too. But, my priority in my first few months has been to listen, to hear from Jesus’ beautiful church in Wales how He has been working through us, His hands and feet. This is an essential ingredient in establishing and nurturing relationships that stand the test of time.

About the author

Naomi joined the Evangelical Alliance in 2018 as editorial content manager. Positions with publishers and within the marketing and communications faculty of a higher education institution, plus stints as a reporter, have enabled the media and cultural studies graduate, who has an NCTJ diploma in newspaper journalism, to hone the necessary skills and qualities to serve members well.

See more from Naomi Osinnowo

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