Bernard Hicks, Secretary of Farming Christian Link and Gideon member from Bedford North Branch, explains the work of Farming Christian Link.
Bernard, what is the story of Farming Christian Link, when it began and how it was established?
Farming Christian Link (formerly the Farmers Christian Postal Service) was founded in 1934 by t he Rev. J.C. Williams, a Free Church Minister, who lived in Tenterden, Kent. While out walking, he was caught in a storm and sought shelter in a farmhouse. Mr Williams entered into conversation with the farmer and discovered that he knew very little about the Christian faith. When he arrived home he wrote a letter to him further explaining what it meant to become a Christian. The farmer responded positively and asked Mr Williams to write similar letters to some of his neighbours. In this simple way the Farmers Christian Postal Service was launched. The list of farmers grew steadily. Handwritten letters were no longer practical and had to be duplicated for a mailing list that eventually reached about 12,000 farmers across the UK.
Why was the name Farming Christian Link chosen?
Means of communication have changed dramatically since 1934. A website, email and Facebook are now used alongside the conventional postal service. To reflect this, the name has been changed to Farming Christian Link. Along with a witness at agricultural and other shows the purpose is still the same, to reach people in farming and rural communities with the Good News of the Gospel. In changing the name, two elements were important – “Farming”, the core mission field, and “Christian”, making it clear where we stood.
Gideon members have worked with Farming Christian Link at shows during 2018. What does it mean to Farming Christian Link to have Gideons alongside you offering Testaments?
Having the Word of God freely available, and helping with outreach by people who have a desire and enthusiasm to point others to the Lord Jesus Christ is a great encouragement, as is knowing that the local Gideon Branches have been praying for the witness. Following the show outreach last summer there are now 7,230 people with New Testaments. Hundreds of conversations have taken place, and thousands of other leaflets, literature, children’s packs and wrist bands have been given out. One farmer to whom I gave a Gideon New Testament asked if he could have a second copy, “I shall keep this in my tractor and I wil l give the other to my son to keep in his tractor.”
What unique challenges do members of the farming community face, and why do you think it is important for them to receive a copy of God’s Word?
Isolation and loneliness, long hours, always on the job, the weather, disease, bureaucracy, and low incomes. The suicide rate amongst farmers is one of the highest of any profession. Many local chapels and churches are closed, but they all need to hear that God loves them and sent the Lord Jesus Christ into this world to offer them forgiveness and new life. One farmer I know became a Christian when, as a young man, he knelt down in the corner of a field and committed his life to Christ.
What encouragements have you received over the past year from your work at the many shows you have attended?
From Christians who have visited the FCL stand, saying how pleased they were to see such a witness. And for answered prayer and divine appointments. For example, Richard who had a stand nearby said he was a born-again atheist; there were thousands of gods in the world so which one did I believe in? We discussed this and I shared the Gospel with him. He recognised me from another show where we both had stands. Then, when we had offered a tract he said the same thing a bit aggressively and would not stop to talk. This time he was prepared to discuss, and when I said we would have to agree to disagree he shook me by the hand and said it was good to meet me again. A young man talked with us last year and was keen to talk again. He said he was coming around to our way of thinking and beginning to believe. We shared the Gospel with him and he was very pleased to take a Gideon New Testament. An agricultural contractor had been very antichristian in the past. David, a member of the team, had not seen him for a number of years but had heard that he had been ill. He spoke with David at a show and accepted a tract which he said he would read. Another said he had no faith but he and his wife had been discussing beliefs after attending a number of funerals. He took a Gideon New Testament.
What are the challenges?
The weather can be a challenge but last summer was very good for this type of outreach. We were only rained off on the second day of one show. However, we should not forget that for many farmers the lack of rain caused considerable difficulty. There are many more shows where we could have a witness. FCL is a small mission run by volunteers. Last year we had a witness at twenty-seven shows. We have a draft show pr ogramme for 2019 of about thirty-five shows. We need more labourers in the harvest field.
What can the readers of Gideon News be praying for Farming Christian Link?
That in all things God will be glorified, and the seed sown will be blessed and souls saved. Also for guidance and provision for the show programme for 2019 and leaders to take on the responsibility for the witness in particular geographical areas.