This is my take on the 1st leg of the Big Hearted Tour! You can read it on the BU site here or below:
I’ve literally just got back from 4 days touring the EMBA on the first of the big-Hearted Tour. 550 miles later, 12 different events, speaking to over 700 Baptists and countless numbers of people who wouldn’t have a clue what ‘Baptist’ means and I feel slightly tired… The hire van is still jam-packed sitting on my drive packed with boxes of books and resources from the street outreach, waiting to be unloaded into my office until the next leg of the tour. One of the boxes includes a high-profile guest who joined me, not prospective Baptist minister Joel Mercer who was my travel chum for the weekend, but rather a cardboard cut out of the Queen. Her Majesty featured in one of the street scenes at the end of a ‘V.I.P’s only’ red carpet where everyone was invited to walk down to hearty applause and cheering. Hundreds of people did just that on Saturday, the scene flanked by two smartly dressed gents in their dinner-jackets, willing to cheerfully welcome very important people, despite the heat of the afternoon and missing the finals of the Leicester Tigers rugby of which they previously had tickets. Instead, they exchanged their cheers for the lads on the field to applaud all kinds of people, strangers on the streets who walked the carpet, some of whom asked why we would consider them so esteemed. Around the carpet we had a range of activities all with the message that we believe people are important to God, so much so that he gave his very best for them.
Also in the van waiting to be unloaded I have a huge maze with a treasure chest with the most amazing treasure inside! It is in fact just a mirror and on explaining to a young lady that I believed God thought she was ‘treasure’ she looked me in the eye and said, ’mate, I’m not treasure, I’m just trash.’ Being able to explain why I believed she wasn’t was a highlight for me this weekend.
For some of the Sunday morning of the presidential tour I sat on the streets with two people who are homeless on the street of Derby. Members of the church had hit the streets with offers of prayer and a free doughnut. Paul told me what he thought of Ozzy Rd Baptist Church and the people who regularly helped him. Despite sleeping on the streets and being an alcoholic his description of the love and care shown to him sounded as if he got just as a good welcome as the President of the union did.
From sitting on the streets to sitting with a gathering of over 60’s at ‘young at heart’ events over the week-end was extraordinary. At one of these events in Shepshed four of the guests were unable to walk up the stairs to the church hall join the large gathering of guests, so I joined them downstairs for a cream-tea before my talk to be regaled with story after story of how the church was seeking to be big-hearted in their community. ‘They’re not coming in, so we need to go to them’ one of them said.
Right, I had better go and unload that van.
“It was a really encouraging weekend and I love what Chris is doing and how he encourages others to do something – not necessarily what he does – but to see God’s heart for people and to reach out to them. We hope it will carry on in the churches as they rethink their activities.”
Becky Hardiman Administrator for EMBA