7 October 2023

Grounded in faith

Lyn Woods

A selfie shows a man in a combine harvester smiling at the camera.
Farmer Phil

From harvesting crops to wild worship, Lyn Woods explores faith and ministry outdoors.

On the farm...

For lifelong Salvationist and arable farmer, Phil Mappledoram (Cambridge Citadel), faith and agriculture are his heritage.

Phil’s great-grandfather came back from the Boer War in the early 1900s and acquired land. Ever since, farming and The Salvation Army have run in the family. Phil is now a fourth-generation Salvationist and farmer. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, their farm reared animals, but now their focus is on wheat and sugar beet.

Phil says: ‘I’ve always been taught that we’ll be looked after, that God will provide. You’ve got to believe that, if you plant something, it will grow. We’ve never failed to get a harvest. Part of faith is knowing that what you pray for will surely happen, that we can leave it in his hands.’

Phil’s father taught him purpose in production – to feed the nation when it was hungry in the post-war years, and he continues that legacy. He takes comfort in Ecclesiastes 3:1–11, which remind us: ‘For everything there is a season... A time to plant and a time to harvest... Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart’ (New Living Translation).

‘The government is encouraging us to plant areas for wildflowers, meadows and public access,’ he adds. ‘I need to do this because we can’t be wholly profitable from the production of goods. We’re bordered by a river that encircles the 400-acre farm and allows access down routes we maintain and open up to the public. I sometimes forget and take for granted the incredible views I’m blessed with.’

For Phil, the combine harvester cab is always a good place to be when the sun’s shining, ‘knowing you are contributing to society and harvesting quality produce that everyone needs and, best of all, that God is in control’.

At the nature reserve...

Doug and Jill Hulme (Portsmouth Citadel) operate the charity Second Chance from a 35-acre plot of land with lakes in Titchfield.

Doug founded Second Chance in 1984, when he was teaching children with learning difficulties in west London. Second Chance offers troubled young people a second opportunity to have a happy childhood. Doug wanted to better connect with these children from deprived backgrounds and take them camping and fishing during the school holidays. He gave up teaching to realise his vision.

Jill’s vast experience is with pre- schoolers and younger children, a gifting she uses with the charity and at the corps.

When they first acquired the land, Jill recalls: ‘Doug and I stood in the middle of all this acreage and just thanked God that we’d been given it. We were excited to use it to help and be a blessing to others.’

Doug says: ‘I feel this work is what God has guided me to do. In this work I can put Christian love into practice.’

Doug and Jill have worked hard to bring everything they do together on one site, making a range of activities possible, including fishing, camping, gardening, nature studies, ornithology and wildlife watching – visit second-chance.org.uk for more information.

‘Outdoor activities are a major part of our operation,’ says Doug, ‘and the countryside has such an effect on youngsters from the city.’

Jill adds: ‘We have four huge polytunnels, which contain a hobbit house, a garden kitchen, a maze and a tunnel, where the children feel like they’re playing outside, but they’re under cover and safe.’

For Jill, being outside is her connection to God through interaction with nature. She concludes: ‘Who would have known all these years later, that children and countryside, forest schools, fishing and all the things we do would be so necessary in this day and age? It’s a real honour to try and bring the wonder of God, speaking through nature, to these children.’

Into the wild...

Majors Ian and Paula Haylett (Thirsk) have been officers since 2006. Their first appointment was at Selby, where they did a church replant. At the end of that, they wanted to do it again and were given the opportunity, five years ago, to start a fresh expression in north Yorkshire – visit their Facebook page for more information.

‘We don’t have a building, but we regularly take church outside into the fields, hills and wooded areas that surround our housing estate,’ they explain. ‘We have friends who have a smallholding, which we’ve been blessed to use many times.’

There are three aspects to their Sunday outdoor gatherings: wander, wonder and worship. First, a time of engaging the senses. Then, they consider the wonder of creation – sometimes through photos or using art. Finally, they get back together and have a time of worship and reading Scripture. They usually have a theme that they’ve been led to, and they ask questions.

A photo of a group of all ages planting potatoes in an vegetable patch
Wild Harvest

‘We ask open questions that have no definitive answer so that people can hear different ways of looking at them,’ Ian and Paula explain. ‘We trust the Spirit’s leading to reveal more as each encounter comes along. We have a lot of fun, we laugh a lot and we have our quiet moments too. We’re never hurried. We’ve got time to listen to each other. Everybody has a voice.

‘We believe God wants the best for us all,’ they continue. ‘We can use the beauty of our surroundings not only to introduce people to the gospel, but also to create a way of being happy, healthy and mindful, attracting people who are on the fringes of church, interested in church or just want to come out for something to eat.’

Their meetings have included wild walks, wild Harvest, wild Palm Sunday and a wild Nativity.

‘We’ve also engaged in the popular Yorkshire pastime of welly-wanging,’ they add. ‘It’s wild because it’s outdoors and you never know which direction it will go!’

Written by

A photo of Lyn Woods

Lyn Woods

Editorial Assistant

What could you offer back to God this Harvest?

Give your Harvest offering online.


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