It has been just over 6 months since we touched down in Greenock to plant Inverclyde Vineyard Church and what a wild journey we have been on! We wanted to share with you the journey we’ve been on and a few stories!
When we resigned from our jobs in 2018 and put our home in Aberdeenshire on the market we had no jobs here, no team and nowhere to live! I remember that feeling of being totally out of our depth and desperately wanting answers from God. At our sending church we were surrounded by people who constantly encouraged us, prayed for us and often shared remarkable prophetic words with us but it still felt like a huge step out into the unknown. At one point the Lord brought to mind Matthew 13 the story of the man who found treasure hidden in a field and IN HIS JOY went and sold all he had for that treasure. IN HIS JOY! At that time of transition God taught us so much about experiencing his joy in the sacrifice because what was coming would be of far greater worth than any sacrifice we were making. Towards the end of 2018 I was offered a great job in Greenock (the biggest town in Inverclyde) starting in February 2019 that meant I could work as a bi-vocational church planter (I now do 4 days a week for this local organisation and 1 day a week for our church) so that was one big thing lined up however it was only 10 days before our actual moving date that we found a place to live! Around 3 months after moving Abi also found a job working two and a half days a week for a local charity which has also been a tremendous blessing and amazing provision for us. Looking back we can see how God has provided every step of the way and that the stretching of our faith has always been for the strengthening of our faith.
Within a couple of weeks of being here we had advertised our first ‘Walk and Talk’ in the park by our home. The nature of planting as a family of three (our son being 2 years old) and without a team of people with us was that we needed to just get out there in the community and start meeting people. There were 9 of us on that first rainy morning and we were so relieved to finally be here and sharing our heart for this area. After that we had a number of different socials which we advertised and invited people to (meet up in a pub, kite flying, etc), a worship & prayer night and then in March we launched a mid week gathering in our home called ‘Foundations’ for an evening to worship, wait on God and an opportunity for Abi and I to begin talking through our vision and values as a church. By then we had gathered around 10-15 people who we started to journey with and we were looking towards some kind of gathering on Sundays.
After some time searching for a suitable venue we found one and on 28th April we launched ‘Connect Breakfast’ as a fortnightly gathering on Sunday mornings where people could grab a coffee and some breakfast and find out more about our church in a really informal setting. On the very first week we had over 20 people show up and 2 guys gave their life to Jesus over a croissant and cuppa! Incredible! Beforehand we had doubts about whether breakfast alone was enough and should we be having more ‘church’ content but God showed us again that he can have his way regardless of the set up!
We’ve had such precious times with the people that we’ve gathered, with laughter, tears and time together we’ve grown together as a community. We’ve had a lot of fun thinking of creative ways to love the area like a free Easter Egg Hunt, town centre chocolate giveaway and we made up some beautiful gift hampers for individuals and families in the area facing a really tough time. Our longing is to do more to see Inverclyde and its people renewed and restored.
For a while a prophetic word we were given prior to us planting had been on our minds from someone who didn’t know we were planning to move and plant a church. The guy shared with us that he saw us leading a church with an empty building then as I got out my guitar and started worshipping more and more people started coming. This kept on coming to mind so by June we decided to introduce a short time of worship at our Connect Breakfast and also interview someone who had been coming regularly so they could share their testimony about how Jesus had changed their life. That very first morning a local resident walking past saw our team needing a hand putting up an outside banner so she offered to help then she came inside and by the end of the morning gave her life to Jesus! We’ve been so amazed at how God has brought some people in without us even inviting them. After a break for the summer in July we re-branded our fortnightly Sundays as ‘Connect Sundays’ and started having a longer time of worship and a short message from the bible which has brought a little more structure to the morning as well as hanging out over breakfast.
We love the journey we are on. It is both challenging and rewarding in so many ways. We experience doubting moments, answered prayers, unanswered prayers, victories and loss but there really is no place we’d rather be!
Don and Abi Thomas