ACF Conference, 2011

2011 Conference
 “Happy Hens – Struggling People – God’s Ambassadors – Sharp-end Ministry”
Hope bursting out all over
This Conference was a new slant for ACF – and a brilliant one it was too – using farming to help heal dysfunctional lives. Our two speakers gave excellent presentations.
Lorraine Brown (who impressed me several years ago when she spoke at our church, backed up by a visit Kath and I made last summer) runs the Amelia Trust Farm, providing a very wide range of activities “in a calm and therapeutic environment” close to Cardiff.  She gave a detailed and excellently presented picture of the Amelia’s work, taking damaged, disadvantaged, abused and anti-social young people and by patiently supporting them and building their self esteem and self-discipline, was achieving remarkable success. She reflected the Christian ethos of Amelia, and explained how it works with the education system, social services, youth services and young offenders to take and “build up” damaged young lives. The impression she gave was one of enormous love and dedication given to these “kids”. As well as farm activities (including animal care, countryside skills and woodland management), there is a wide range of other activities on offer including carpentry, music and multimedia, art, sport and horse riding. All youngsters are given the chance of maturing into well-adjusted adults, far better equipped to cope with modern living and employment than they would otherwise have been.
Roger Hoskins approach at Highfields Happy Hens was very similar, and the patient Christian love and dedication was on a par with Amelia. Whereas Amelia was an outreach from the Methodist Church based on a farm, Happy Hens was a Hoskins family initiative on their poultry farm. The similarities between Amelia and Happy Hens was the Christian love, patience and dedication, but Happy Hens was very much a personal family witness using a family farm, and a poultry farm in particular, as the vehicle for healing lives.  The “kids” are given responsibilities, and have to work, including handling eggs. Perhaps the quote of the Conference was “Eggs heal angry hands”.  Also, there was a rough wooden cross made from two Christmas trees, with a hammer and nails provided to bang into the tree – very symbolic, and perhaps a healing for an angry young life.
Both Amelia and Happy Hens connect young people with God’s Creation, and it is this re-connection, which is such an essential part of the healing and restoration of damaged young lives. Whereas Amelia is a church outreach, very professionally carried out with a wide range of activities, Happy Hens demonstrates that similar results can be achieved on a family farm. It may not have the range of activities, but the essential ingredient of Christian love is in strong evidence.
This Conference was one of the most inspirational and encouraging that ACF has run for some time in that it demonstrated par excellence the essential role that farming can play in healing lives. In conversation with Lorraine and Roger at the end of the day, they said they were both extremely encouraged by the other, and what the other was doing.
The Conference was a “prod” for Christians in farming to reappraise their lives and businesses and be inspired by these two fantastic examples.
Malcolm Harrison
Friendship, building each other up, a happy environment filled with Christ’s love, caring, warmth of welcome, purpose, seeing how God’s plans for restoring people are promoted.
The cross and nails spoke of my part in seeing that Jesus was put to death. As I drove in a nail I did so with real passion making sure I did the job properly. I can only bow in humility at the feet of my Lord and Saviour.
Anthony Matthew

None of them has mentioned the fantastic lunch!  Or the work we all did after the meal in Biblical reflection on what we had heard and seen.  John Martin kept us on our toes even after the meal.