November 2016 saw the opening up of the Talitha Koum Hope Centre to provide a safe place for women to recover from addiction.
Ten years previously, Ipswich had been in the midst of tragedy, with the terrible loss of five young women. The journey towards The Hope Centre had begun even earlier than that. Looking back at IIP journals as we stood on the threshold of the opening this year, I discovered something very significant.
On January 1st 2004 in my journal I have written a short entry:
Look backward with gratitude;
Look forward with hope;
Look upward with confidence.
Continuing to read through the first six months of 2004, to rediscover the very beginning of the TK journey, was very uplifting because the seed that was to fall into the ground and grow into Talitha Koum and the Hope Centre, fell into a fertile field of prayer.
On Saturday 17th January 2004 I recorded that we met together at St Peters, Stoke Park for the 3rd "Crown Him with Many Crowns" event, where prayer was the major theme.
Prayer walls were building up well, with many many people signing up for a weekly 30 minute slot to pray for Ipswich, '40 days of prayer for Ipswich' booklets were selling like hot cakes, the prayer co-ordinator from the Evangelical Alliance came to speak, and the 1st Prayer School opened on February 2nd with 65 attendees from 14 different churches - "Lord, teach us to pray".
Looking on through the next couple of months, church leaders were gathering to pray on a monthly basis, young people were coming together regularly at Powersurge prayer events, Prayer Watch events were taking place, praying for specific areas of town life (education, police, etc)and regional prayer meetings were taking place regularly, as people travelled to Bury, Norwich and Diss to pray for East Anglia.
Later in the year, in May, we prayer walked the 24 miles of the town boundary as part of a week of prayer where prayer was taking place across the town in different venues every day. This prayer walk was followed by others around strategic areas of the town.
On March 11th 2004, right in the middle of this six month period, a visit took place from Liverpool by a lady called Sue, who leads Comunity Watchmen Ministries in Liverpool. Liverpool at the time was the drugs capital of the U.K., and God had called Sue and others to pray, and amazing things were happening. Today Liverpool is a very different place, both physically and spiritually - that is the power of prayer.
This led us to ask the question: How should we respond here in Ipswich? What was God asking of us?
On July 28th 2004, as a group of 7 ordinary people met to pray for the first time about this, a seed was planted, a vision was birthed - a residential centre, on a farm, where people could come for help, for prayer, for healing from addictive behaviours.
The verses that we were given on that day were the words of the prophet Isaiah, which Jesus himself quoted as he began his ministry.
'The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
And the day of vengeance of our God,
To comfort all who mourn,
And provide for those who grieve in Zion -
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour.' (Isaiah 61:1-3)
The vision for Talitha Koum (which means "little girl get up" as spoken by Jesus) was a God given vision.
Travel forward in time about two and a half years. Two weeks before the awful discovery of the first body, that of Gemma Adams on December 2nd 2006, I received an email. God had spoken to a local Christian farmer who was offering his land for the building of the now open Hope Centre.
Throughout Biblical narrative and human history, celebration and lamentation have walked side by side. In the midst of pain, God is present. Ten years on we remember, and we continue to pray for the families of Tania Nichol, Anneli Alderton, Gemma Adams, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell. We pray that God would comfort them in their ongoing pain, and that the Hope Centre would provide a lasting legacy, and hope for the future.
Sometimes God seems to take, in our economy, an awful long time to do things. But He is faithful, He is working in ways we do not see and are unable to comprehend. But that which He has planted, will come to fruition.
The Lord said to the prophet Habakkuk,
"Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time".
Many have run with the TK vision for many years, but the appointed time has arrived. We give thanks to a faithful, loving, restoring and releasing God and pray for each and every lady who comes in through the doors of the Hope Centre, that lives would be transformed.
Let's rediscover the power of prayer, seeking God's heart together, listening to Him, making ourselves available for that which He desires to do, in order that we would see His Kingdom come and His will be done here in Ipswich as it is in Heaven.
These blogs are written by different people from the IIP team. They are prompted by the things we talk about and pray about when we meet together and by words shared from the praying community in Ipswich.