- Rejected by her father, and the loss of her mother, led Irene to marry and have children early. What distractions did she consider when everyday life became monotonous?
- Why did she walk out on her family?
- She sought meaning in Buddhism, night clubs and alcohol and moved in with Jeff. Where did she find relief?
- Irene’s grandmother attended a local Catholic church where Irene describes that as a child she pleaded with Jesus to rescue her from her home life. When she finally accepted Jesus at the warehouse church by the beach, what changes occurred in her life?
- In the years that followed, what were the significant events that led Irene to Africa?
- Would you consider mission work in such a primitive environment?
- Marriage to Jeff meant a sense of purpose, and a man who could do the physical labour of setting up on arrival in Uganda. But the failure of their marriage seemed to come out of the blue. Do you think there were signs in Australia which might have signalled warnings to Irene? Could she have avoided this catastrophe with counselling or going to Africa with an established mission?
- Despite many setbacks, Irene trusted God to protect and guide her. Many people thought they could discourage her and cause her to give up. Why do you think she was able to keep going?
- Irene’s legacy is still continuing and the stories of the children shared at the end of the book are astounding. I was challenged by the costs that each one paid in their determination to live and learn. What sort of message does this send to us in our comfortable lifestyles?
- Even while Irene was suffering terminal cancer, she felt that she had work to do. What can we learn from her example?
At 35, Irene Gleeson’s life was all but over. Her first marriage had fallen apart, her family home had been sold and her children were on a path of self-destruction. Disillusioned and anxious, she sought answers in all manner of places, but when this all came to nothing, she spiralled further into the abyss. Broke and depressed, suicidal and trawling the night clubs looking for love, Irene made an unexpected discovery of God’s love on the 28th of November, 1982. Standing at the back of a small beachside church, the presence of God embraced her, and in that moment, she was finally free. With a renewed sense of purpose, peace and several answered prayers, Irene asked this of her saviour: “Jesus, you’ve done this for me, what can I do for you?” What followed was a commitment by Irene and her then second husband to sponsoring children from around the world and embarking on short-term missions’ trips. But it was a visit to Ethiopia in 1988 to meet their sponsored children that would be the turning point. In February 1992, Irene and her husband sold up everything, waved goodbye to family and friends and shipped their modest aluminium caravan 12,000 kms from the warm, white sands of Australia to the red, dust of Uganda. In a small isolated community on the Sudan border, the couple began their work of rescuing and rehabilitating child soldiers and orphans. Irene taught the children to sing and then to read and write – eventually adding feeding, education and medical care to her repertoire. While the work continued to grow and flourish, her relationship didn’t, and before long, she found herself alone – yet again. Irene forged ahead despite the hardships – extreme isolation, swelteringly hot days, repeated bouts of malaria and several attacks by rebels. Hand in hand with Jesus, she carved out a global organisation that has left an indelible imprint on the hearts and lives of 20,000 war affected Ugandans. Heart of a Lioness will take readers on Irene’s journey of obedience, sacrifice and unwavering faith. A moving narrative filled with drama, humour and deeply personal insights, Irene recounts story after story of God’s miracles amidst the frustrations of running a ministry as an older single white woman. The book will challenge and inspire readers to find their mission in life and will reinforce the notion that no matter who you are, or where you’ve been – it’s never too late to find your purpose.
- How would you compare Rees Howells’ upbringing in the 1880s with your own?
- What was his ambition when he went to America and what happened to bring him back to Wales?
- Where did Howells meet the Holy Spirit and what followed?
- When Howells gave his life to God, he believed God had 2 objectives – ‘intense cultivation and abounding fruitfulness’. What did this entail for Rees?
- How did Rees’ healing ministry reveal his total obedience to God?
- What is an intercessor by Rees Howells’ definition?
- God called on Rees to go about without a hat, which he found really hard to do. What do we consider essential apparel that the Lord might call us to give up?
- What can we learn or apply from Rees Howells’ ‘abiding in the Spirit’?
- In preparing for mission, giving up his child, and buying property, what stood out to you about these decisions?
- Was there something which challenged you particularly in this book, is there something you think God wants you to do?
In this biography of Rees Howells, whose mastery of intercessory prayer had global consequences, we discover rich truths of the Spirit for all the church today. Norman Grubb tells the story with simplicity, humanity, and humour.
- How have you responded to Gordon’s ‘Memo to the disorganized’?
- Have you experienced a situation like Gordon described of ‘Hitting the wall’ – tears, ‘destructive busyness’, chaotic life, being swept along, out of control, low mood, destabilizing thoughts – feeling spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically drained? Did you seek God and establish a new regime as he did?
- When you perceive you have talents, are you tempted to rely on them to get you through? What does Gordon suggest in this circumstance?
- We have been challenged to question whether we are a driven person or sense God’s call. Gordon has a chapter on living as a called person. What stands out for you from his challenges?
- Time management is the key to spending quality time with God. What tips have you applied in your life from Gordon’s discoveries in section two?
- The statement – ‘Disorganized people feel poorly about their work’ – prompts the question – Were you challenged to think about what you do each day and take some action?
- When Gordon gives insights about Jesus’ life and mission, is there a picture that inspires you to order your private world?
- Thinking seems to be going out of fashion – was there a process you considered vital to improving your thinking and listening skills?
- The spiritual centre of our lives is alluded to using the picture of a garden. Good gardening involves removing weeds, cultivating rich fellowship with God and harvesting the fruit of work and time spent there. Would you describe the time you spend with God sufficient to produce fruit?
- Our journey inward needs help – silence, solitude and journals are Gordon’s props. Does this ring true for you? Do you gain assurance from God that you are valued, loved and supported as from a father and/or military commander? What are your experiences regarding meditation using the Bible?
In today’s busy world, it is increasingly difficult to discover the inner peace and order that bring an outward sense of stability and joy. By working through five specific areas, MacDonald gives readers helpful advice for fighting the disorder within and finding personal growth and spiritual development.
- Both these stories are couched in the hardship and fears of civil war. Mr March is away for 12 months and the story of his family reminds us of the trials of single parenting. Chrissie Chapman, an unmarried woman alone in Burundi, is able to adopt 3 children from this war-torn country. What stresses arise that cause both mothers to pray and seek the Lord for guidance?
- Mrs March gives her four girls a Bible to read for their spiritual nourishment, and the girls know the story of Pilgrim’s Progress quite thoroughly. How do the expectations surrounding their needs and prayers rely on this training? How do the responses of the four girls compare with Chrissie’s reliance on God’s word especially regarding fear, faith, and forgiveness?
- Both families are poor and yet seem to gain riches from God, who sends provision in their times of need. What were they able to achieve with God’s help?
- When sickness and calamity arrive God sends various help. When have you received this sort of help from the Lord in your own life?
- Each book has powerful stories of individuals and their different personalities and achievements. The girls in Little Women were based on the author’s own sisters. Who do you identify with in these stories and why?
- When Chrissie was in hospital at death’s door, she had an astounding experience of God. This led her to cry out to God “I want my life to make a difference”. Did this challenge you to think of your work for God and how he has helped you make a difference in your situation? What will the Lord challenge us to do at this stage of our lives? (compare the lives of the pastors, nurses, teachers and supporters who helped CRIB and the international school).
- Both families espouse hard work and trust in God. What experiment did Mrs March undertake to teach her girls the value of work? Have you ever tried this in your own home?
- Fifty three children owe their lives to Chrissie and her team, in the service of the Lord. Within our own families, how does this example encourage us to bring our children up to know and love the Lord, and what incidents in Burundi remind you of the privileges we have?
- The joy that music brings to the soul is mentioned in both stories. Were there particular words from these songs that ministered to you in your current circumstances, or have done in the past?
- Bible training colleges and camps are mentioned in Chrissie’s history which indicate that midwifery was not just about bringing babies into the world. Have you done any biblical training in your past and where did God lead you to use your training?
‘The night the angels came – miracles of protection and provision in Burundi’ by Chrissie Chapman.
Trained as a midwife, Chrissie Chapman went to Burundi in the eighties to open a maternity clinic and dispensary in a rural area of the country. She had been there just three years when a coup was declared, and the country descended into a state of civil war. It lasted for thirteen long years. During that time, God directed her to work with the orphans and widows. She started a centre for abandoned babies and traumatised children and saw the Lord performing remarkable miracles in the lives of people who had lost everything. Chrissie adopted three children herself, and has raised more than fifty others to young adulthood. Again and again she has witnessed miracles of protection and provision. When the war started Chrissie, her adopted children, and the health staff were living in a rural location on top of a mountain, in a healing centre, with maternity clinic and dispensary. Every night there was gunfire, and every day people would come seeking refuge. One night, she and David Ndarahutse, the mission director, were sitting praying amid the fighting, when David said, “Chrissie, look up.” There were dozens of angels standing on top of the walls of the healing centre.That was the night the angels came. “From that moment on,” Chrissie records, “I have never experienced or felt fear for my life.” Today Chrissie divides her time between Burundi, where she continues to care for the teenagers in her charge, and England, Canada and America, where she speaks widely about the faithfulness and power of God.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott at https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/514 or from the local library.
Following the lives of four sisters on a journey out of adolescence, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women explores the difficulties associated with gender roles in a Post-Civil War America.
- Born in 1759, William Wilberforce was described as a ‘glorious little child, a veritable cherub of twinkling luminosity’. Did you think that the early life of William was ‘unfair’ or the norm for that time? [His 14 year old sister died, his father died at 40, his mother fell ill and he went to live with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle in Wimbledon.] At Wimbledon he met John Newton.
- What sort of life did William lead in Cambridge, and who did he meet there?
- How and why did Wilberforce enter parliament at 21, and what did it cost?
- When William went to the French Riviera with Isaac Milner, what book did they discuss and how did it change William’s life?
- What was the ‘Reformation of Manners’ and how did it impact the political and social landscape in the late 18th Century?
- What started William on the path to speaking against the slave trade? How did John Newton advise him when he went through his ‘Great Change’?
- What was the Zong incident and how was it connected to the Middle Passage?
- Wilberforce wrote a book about Christianity which challenged the status quo. Did it have any effect on the English gentry?
- When Wilberforce married he brought his wife Barbara to the Clapham community. Are there places like that in Melbourne today?
- How did this biography impact you and what do you take away from it?
The subtitle of this book is William Wilberforce And The Heroic
Campaign To End Slavery.
Amazing Grace tells the story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833). This accessible biography chronicles Wilberforce’s extraordinary role as a human rights activist, cultural reformer, and member of Parliament.
At the center of this heroic life was a passionate twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, a battle Wilberforce won in 1807, as well as efforts to abolish slavery itself in the British colonies, a victory achieved just three days before his death in 1833.
His conversion, described as The Great Change, occurred while he was wrestling with the moral dilemmas of the 18th century’s ‘civilized’ society. Religion had become empty with outward trappings but no real power or sincerity.