Lara Martin: Abundant Life of worship, abundant life of sacrifice

Friday 27th March 2009

Mike Rimmer spoke to one-time worship pastor of Bradford's Abundant Life Church, LARA MARTIN, about her decision to work with the poor of Romania

Lara Martin
Lara Martin

Lara Martin may not be a household name but the work she has done with the famed Abundant Life Church in Bradford has made her one of the highest profile worship leaders and composers in Britain. In many ways, Lara was very much the public face of the Abundant Life's worship albums with Lara's photo, Darlene Zschech-style, adorning the front sleeves of most of Abundant Life's CDs and DVDs. I say "was" because in March 2008 Lara stood down from her worship pastoral role, not to join another high profile church but to take the extraordinary step to relocate, with husband John, to Romania to work with the poor. When I contacted Lara she was in the process of selling all of her goods and chattels to be able to do that. I was so impressed by this radical change of direction in the singer/songwriter's life that I invited her onto my Rimmerama show to find out more.

She explained, "I resigned my position so I could pursue some of the stuff that I've been wanting to do for a long time. You know we're not getting any younger are we? So I thought God works in different seasons and I love that about God and I found myself increasingly entering a new season and so change needed to happen. I'm glad I did and now I'm into the next season of my life and really looking forward to it."

You have to admire Lara's courage. There are few of us who would really relish the opportunity to sell most of what we own to work with the poor. We know the Scriptures and in our hearts believe them but the challenge of putting them into practise is something else. Equally I imagine it must have been really hard for Lara because she was right at the heart of the church. Lara's music ministry made her a public face of the church. For many others, her role would be deemed a dream job. She responds, "Yeah I guess it was and it was my dream job at one time. I think if you want to keep growing and you want to keep learning and you feel like there's other stuff in your heart that is shouting out 'give me attention,' you have to do something. That's exactly what happened to me and it was difficult but I had processed that move for probably a year before hand, so it wasn't something that was just a knee jerk reaction. It was thought through and walked through and there was life after that. For anyone who is thinking 'that's the end of Lara,' it certainly isn't. I feel like I'm just getting started."

So why move to Romania? Did she actually visit Romania and is that how the seeds of this were sown into her? "I keep saying why Romania?" she laughs. "I think God has a sense of humour because it's one place I said I would never ever live and it's taught me a lesson to never ever say that and if you do, just think it, don't say it out loud to anyone else. We have a mutual friend out there who has been involved with a charity for quite some time and he invited us round for dinner one night and began talking to us about going out there and what he'd been doing. John, my husband, and I were intrigued by what he was saying. I think we caught something from him which was strange and after he'd left that night I got on to Google and started looking at what's happening out there and some of the images I saw I was disturbed by. I began asking more questions and then our friend invited us on his next trip out there. That was over two years ago now and the first time I went, it was a very big culture shock, I don't think I expected to see what I saw because Romania has just become part of the EU. My husband's done stuff in Africa and different parts of the world and he was really shocked at the level of poverty in some of these places."

Lara Martin: Abundant Life of worship, abundant life of sacrifice

If you've never travelled to Romania, once you get away from the main cities into the rural landscape, it's like taking a trip back in time to the early 20th century. When you go out to the rural areas, it's just horse and carts and mud tracks. Lara agrees, "It is and that's where we'll be! We use a little phrase to describe how we feel. It feels as though this nation and certainly the people we'll be going to really did steal our hearts when we weren't looking. I didn't give them permission, it just happened and seeds were sown. Certainly after our first trip I think our friends were thinking, 'I hope this is just an emotional response,' but it moved from an emotional response from us to an obedience response and that's what this has become."

In comparison to Romania's chronic poverty, Lara and John were well off in material possessions. "Yeah, we've got a comfortable life style," Lara agrees, "but I'm just learning to prioritise other things. I have a lot of admiration for my parents because right from a little girl my parents modelled kindness to other people less fortunate. I remember we'd never know who would be sitting at our table. We'd have punk rockers, my dad would bring in people off the streets, we'd walk past our bathroom and there'd be someone having a shave. I saw it modelled in my parents and I didn't realise how ingrained it was in me until now - I'm understanding it more. I've always felt something for people who don't have much, and a compassion for them. Possessions are only things. I heard Reinhard Bonke speak at church last year and he said this little phrase, 'Have you ever seen a hearse with a trailer in the back of it?' These things are just possessions you can't take it with you! At the end of the day it's stuff and you can't take stuff with you but you can take people. And I did have a lovely television, you know," she laughs. "42 inch, flat screen, but at the end of the day it's stuff."

Lara and her husband have already had the equivalent of the garage sale so the majority of things have gone. She doesn't sound unhappy about it as we chat. "When we go to Romania the power supply is different so we can't take electrical stuff anyway and my husband and I, we just started to get ruthless with stuff. So now we have all our stuff packed into boxes in a few different places, you know, my mum's garage. We're in a bedroom at the moment, we've left our house and it's quite interesting having our possessions in boxes, the things that really matter, that is. I'm not making light of it, this has cost us but the pay off will be far greater when we see the faces of those people and we're going to learn through this experience. Jesus said, 'The poor you'll always have with you,' and I believe we can learn a lot from this and not be so arrogant that we have the answers for them. I think they can teach us. I tell you something, I've been a few times now and working closely with some of those people and seeing them in that environment has taught me more than I could learn in a conference. You see the heart of them rather than it being text book. It's got to be fleshed out. I'm so excited."

It seems that not everybody has understood what she's up to. She shares, "I've had people who'll look at me and they'll tilt their head sideways and they feel sorry for me. I remember not so long ago, someone who's a big fan of the songs and the church and the conferences was saying, 'Oh you know, we're not going to hear you on any albums, we're not going to see you on TV,' and I said, 'Can I just stop you, please do not feel sorry for me. This is the best thing that I've ever done and I'm totally excited. When you get an assignment from God, it's incredible.'"

Lara Martin: Abundant Life of worship, abundant life of sacrifice

Lara and John will be working with a charity called Networks Romania and she explains, "They've been in a town called Arad which is in the east of the country, they've been there for about 14 years now. There's a guy there called Lee Saville who heads that up. They are just an incredible charity, quite hidden away just getting on and doing Kingdom, in fact they live and breathe Kingdom principles and I think that's been so attractive for us, to see it being out worked. Primarily they work with street children and with families that are living beneath the poverty line, single parents that are struggling, so they call them the forgotten ones. I really do believe that these people are the forgotten ones."

Lara and John got back from Romania in March having found a house to live in and a nursery for their young son. She enthused, "We are just in the process of sorting contracts, etc and finishing up some work on the house. So as soon as that's done we will be off! Most likely at the end of April, early May so not long to go now! God has opened so many doors, it's wonderful. I've also been offered the opportunity of hosting and co-producing a TV programme on worship out there. It'll be interviewing up coming Romanian bands and songwriters as well as teaching. It's amazing what happens when you walk in obedience. There was me just thinking we were going to help some poor people and God has some other 'poor in spirit' people he wants us to help via the airwaves too! God is always full of surprises."

After talking to Lara I'm left inspired by how she and John have responded to God's call and laid down their own lives in response. And I'm reminded of the words of Jesus who taught his followers, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his Kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


Reader Comments

Posted by Keith Pitts in Leeds @ 23:29 on Jun 29 2015

You have blessed me loads and Jesus Jesus Jesus just thrills my soul and melts my heart every time That I play it on youtube, love your ministry and you and your family.

Posted by n mjolo. in south africa @ 18:22 on Aug 27 2012

Trully Lara is anointed, I heard her songs on the radio and unfortunately for me I have been searching for any of her Dvds or Cds and I can't get them in SA, anyone know how I can get them please please let me know!

Posted by Austin Etan in Lagos, Nigeria @ 12:29 on Jul 30 2012

It's really amazing to know this about Pastor Lara Martin. I even spoke to a fellow worshipper about her song 'You Are There', last Saturday just before the start of our rehearsal, the lady was playing the song in her phone. I'm really encouraged. I pray what God has ordained, He will maintain, keep and strengthen her and the husband to the end for their awaited crowns in Heaven.

Posted by sarah in london @ 16:31 on Jan 26 2012

first of all lara's songs on voice of hope have inspired me so much i was not even aware she had left london came across this wesite searching for her lyrics. she done really well and would like to support her charity if possible

Posted by lrene hannah in London @ 14:54 on Sep 22 2011

for lara martin to live a position in the worship team in a church such as Abundant life, it can only be God calling them to different direction entirely. I pray that God will give them strength and enable them fulfill His purpose for their life in Jesus name.

Posted by chetty in south africa @ 19:46 on Sep 13 2010

hi pse can I get info on the message preached by Lara Martin on worship on GOD TV THANKS

Posted by Rev.Albert Koomson in Ghana @ 16:29 on Mar 24 2010

I am very much interested in the abundant life ministries songs album especially the album called GOD IS HERE. I wish I could have the opportunity to enroll as one of the studends.

Posted by Mikael Njoroge in Kenya @ 06:51 on Feb 12 2010

it was after I saw Lara on GOD TV just as I was about to go to bed, you know '
the last channel scroll-ups to see whats good', I listened to her and was so encouraged. Am a young guy who's filled with passion to work with the less fortunate " the street-children"; I really hate this name.
Thank God for this two wonderful gifts, first it was my pastor Apostle John Kimani William, and now Lara.

Posted by David Reynolds in Youth With a Mission, Cluj @ 14:04 on Jan 6 2010

Bine ati venit in Romania!
Welcome to Romania!

Posted by patsy fleming in derry northren ireland @ 15:20 on Nov 5 2009

god keep u in his care / a miracle of life one of your best

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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