I’ve just got back from the Southern Counties ‘Big Hearted Tour.’ It’s been hard being away from my young children and my gorgeous soul mate, travelling hundreds of miles, missing my own bed, late nights and early starts. Not to mention speaking and training for over 15 hours within 9 different events with Baptist churches and driving over 500 miles. Well, I say driving, it was actually my mate Dev who did it all…(Home to Bicester to Crowthorne to Southampton to Portsmouth to Bournmouth to Christchurch to Isle of Wight to Reading to Oxford to home.) Was it really worth it?
Well, how can I put it? Yep. It was. Totally worth it and I will tell you why… if you care to keep on reading.
It merits all the effort as in the Southern Counties I was encouraged to see that the Church is active in sharing faith in amazing ways and many Baptists I met needed affirmation that what they were doing was good and to keep going! Well worth it. You see, people need Jesus and no-one other than the Church will bring that hope to those who aren’t in the know- what an encouragement to say ‘keep going!’ A big difference as usually the message of evangelism that I bring is tragically needed as the message of Christians being big-hearted enough to let others encounter something of good news is somewhat bereft in the UK.
For those I met who find any kind of ‘outreach’ rock hard it was such a delight to see individuals take up the challenges in the training sessions to go and simply sow something of the good news of Jesus. Furthermore, people ‘out there’ seemed to on the whole appreciate it! We live in a time where we need to meet strangers who in time will become people we know and friends and meeting new people and showing something of the gospel was just brilliant!
It was also well worth the time away as I got to show what I mean by ‘big hearted’ by doing evangelism with different groups. Two opportunities to do so over the tour stand out:
1. On Saturday morning I joined Roseberry Baptist Church near Bournemouth to work alongside them as they served the crowds gathering to see the Olympic torch right outside their front door. I spoke with lots of people as I clowned around and made balloon’s for people. The church served free hot drinks and welcomed people into their building and did a great job of showing something of the Christian faith through their hospitality.
2. Sunday morning I joined a small team from the Baptist Church in Newport to give away free fruit and to be among the majority of people who wouldn’t consider going to a church service. Some people asked us why we were offering free fruit… if I had to justify the big-hearted tour with the Southern Counties Baptist association on one encounter it would have been Sunday morning. Kay was out doing her shopping and met some of the team giving away fruit. She asked us what we were doing and said that after putting her bags in the car she would grab some more fruit. 10 minutes later we meet her again and she tells us what she thinks about our free fruit giveaway. ‘An amazing gesture. Makes me smile.’ We offer her a tub of strawberry’s and she explains that while we wouldn’t have known how unwell she has been and the struggles she had been going through our small gift to her encouraged her greatly. ‘God has sent you to me today.’ She said.
It was such a small conversation, yet such a powerful one.
Thank you to the many Churches and groups who welcomed me and my travel chum Dev as we led training events, spoke at café church and youth events and were able to catch a snippet of what an amazing job you do to bring the gospel to those who haven’t made sense of Jesus. The Southern Counties Tour revealed to me what an amazing good work Baptists Christians are doing to engage with people in their communities: my role over these past 4 days has been to affirm much of what is already happening and to add to that… I feel like a ‘spark’ has been left and more evangelism is going to happen. Well worth it.