Picture the scene: I’m chomping into a hearty breakfast on a motorway services on the A1 early Friday morning with my friend Matt Wild who heads up a project in Peterborough… then the phone rings. Jane Day regional minister for Yorkshire Baptist Association sounds concerned and asks how our journey is going. There is only a dusting of snow, so I explain that we are making good progress and will be with them on time. But then, I’m gutted to hear that the Friday training for church leaders may be cancelled as people haven’t been able to get their cars out… as we travel closer to Yorkshire I understand why as we are greeted with thick snow and the traffic is crawling in the treacherous conditions.
I am pleased we didn’t cancel, as despite the snow I had one of the most rewarding times delivering training on the Friday and over the week-end we only had to cancel the Saturday night concert and reduce the training for the Saturday day ‘get out there’ into Huddersfield due to the bitter wind and thick snow!
But what if we decided not to plough on and rather beat a hasty return from the winter wonderland of the North to softer climates down South? I would have missed out on a rich experience. Let me offer 4 from my arctic-type tour:
1) Adventures with the Holy Spirit.
On the Saturday daytime we were due to offer a training session at New North Road Baptist Church in Huddersfield (http://nnrbc.org/) but we soon realised that with only a few people and the snowy conditions getting worse we should plan something different! After a short training session we split into two teams. One would go and offer home-made soup out and about and the other would do some treasure hunting (asking God for some clues as to the people we would meet and then go and meet them.) Maybe it was the absurdity of the whole idea of venturing out in the cold, but I had the most amazing time meeting people and sharing something of God’s heart with them. Our treasure hunt led us to a pub and seeing as I had brought a snow shovel with me I helped clear out the beer garden to provide room for smokers to use… the landlord asked, ‘How much is this going to cost me?!’ He couldn’t quite get his head around why it was free and looked even more perplexed when I shared we were from the local Baptist church and positively puzzled when I spoke about being a Baptist minister looking for people who we could pray for! Yet he was grateful for the help in clearing up and after a short while of shoveling a lady ventured out for a cigarette. She matched the clues we had. Two of the clues for prayer we had was: wrists and shoulders. She explained that she had carpel-tunnel syndrome in her wrists which affected her shoulders as the nerves sent a pain message to her shoulders which caused great discomfort. ‘How do you know this!?’ She asked. ‘Are you physic?’ We spoke about God knowing her and loving her and that he had sent us to her in this pub! She asked if we could also pray for her daughter and granddaughter. ‘You have blown me away- I don’t believe in God, but you have got me thinking!’ The treasure hunt led us to others. The two ladies working with me seemed to have a great time and enjoyed the adventure.
Another Holy Spirit adventure we had was on the Sunday afternoon meeting some people from a Baptist Church in Leeds. As we were eating together and talking we experienced the Holy Spirit also sitting around the table (sounds weird I know) and abandoning our puddings we simply prayed for one another. This impromptu outpouring of the Spirit was just the best- I cant describe it other than it was powerful! Reflecting on my experience of Church while in Leeds on Sunday I must say that the activity that wasn’t labeled ‘church’ was more ‘church’ than the service that was labeled ‘church.’ Don’t get me wrong, I love singing songs and gathering together, but the Sunday afternoon together being church and eating while we were meeting just excited me- I loved it and I don’t just think it was because of the good food involved.
2) Frank conversations.
I had to explain to the guy operating my computer how to close it down and what ‘x3Watch pro’ is. “I have software on my computer that stops me accessing porn and keeps me accountable to some friends.” Afterwards I spoke with 6 people who said something on the lines of, ‘thank you for sharing what you did…. I am so pleased that the accident of the software happened…’ Others wanted to know where to get the accountability software. If you, like me, struggle with the ease of accessing pornography on line I can highly recommend the xxxChurch software. Click on the picture below to access it:
3) Yorkshire hospitality.
I have been on the road quite a bit this year which means I have stayed in lots of people’s homes and enjoyed the most awesome hospitality. The sense of being ‘snowed in’ added to the Yorkshire experience and I must say that I loved making new friends and being looked after so lavishly- what a treat, including the worlds most chunkiest bacon butty on Saturday morning!
4) Inspiring people to be big hearted.
I must admit that I love the idea that those who take part in the tour and come and listen to what I have to share will be challenged to do like-wise and continue to let others in on what we have as followers of Jesus. Perhaps one of the most astonishing comments came from a teenager who said:
‘Listening to you today has made we want to be brave!’
Perhaps the surest sign that someone had connected with the whole idea of being big hearted was when they came up with the idea of offering soup among the frozen shoppers in Huddersfield-What a great idea which connected with lots of people who loved the gesture and enjoyed the tasty soup!
While it is a shame the concert had to be cancelled on the Saturday night, the whole weekend worked well. What an honor that people should gather and give me an opportunity to share my passion in sharing good news.
At a Friday night ‘Desert Island Disks’ with Wayne Clark (by the way the number one disk I would take with me is ‘Guten Morgen Mein Engel’ by Jason Carter: hear it here) I was asked whether I will miss serving as President of the Baptist Union of GB. Honestly, yes, I will. Very much so.
How else could I have shared my heart to be Big Hearted with so many people over this year? Yet, I know the adventure will continue, there is so much still to do to fulfill that great command to go into all the world and make disciples, baptising people and teaching them what Jesus has taught us.
Bring on the adventure!