This is a continuation of my last post but there is no need read the last one to understand this one as it’s about a different events. After a few weeks of doing very little at home I was off to Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset for New Wine CSW (Central & South West). If you don’t know what it is, it is a Christian family conference that runs for 6 days where there are numerous seminars throughout the day, with main morning and evening meetings with what you could call “headline” speakers. There’s also various cafes on site and a marketplace with stalls of various charities and resources. This was my first time but I got a bit lucky in that I got to go for free and have meals and accommodation provided! This was, of course, not in exchange for nothing. At my home church I am a sound technician and have been for a few years. Our church has connections to a Christian recording studio so I got asked if wanted to go and record and duplicate seminars to sell onsite (there are also available to order or download online afterwards). I really loved serving in this way as I enjoy “technical” jobs (no surprise I am studying computer science!) but love them even more when I’m serving God while doing it. It also meant I was in various seminars that, given the choice by looking at their titles, I may not have attended. Generally was glad I did. I wasn’t able to get too into the main meetings as the team was needed to be duplicating and packing the discs but it didn’t bother me. I was there to serve and I got a lot out of doing exactly that. And I got to work with a great team of fellow volunteers too!
Another reason why I wasn’t too worried about not being able to go to many meetings and seminars was that I knew that I’d be coming home, getting a day and a half to recover and be heading back to the exact same place with my youth group for Soul Survivor. And those 5 days were for me and God to connect. Soul Survivor is very similar in structure to New Wine but it is aimed at youth (in fact it was the youth of New Wine becoming so big they needed their own conference!). Again, I won’t give you a breakdown, just some highlights.
Rend Collective Experiment led worship at a couple of the main meetings and they were AMAZING. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live and you want to hear some really real worship from the heart then do it. They are band of Northern Irelanders who get together with 20 or so people and make music worship praising the Lord, then a bunch of 5 (I think) take the result around the country (and the world) and record it! Since coming home I have found it hard to stop listening to them actually, although I much prefer their live performance – the recording just doesn’t seem to do them justice. Some highlights of theirs are Build Your Kingdom Here (awesome anthem for the church), You Are My Vision (best update of Be thou my vision I’ve ever heard), Second Chance and Desert Soul. Check them out! And if there’s any other cool worship bands you’ve seen or heard put them in comments!
My other highlight is more than just a cool thing that happened or I saw or heard. God gave me a mission through this – he told me what he wants me to do through my life.
There’s this quite awesome guy called Patrick Regan. He founded and runs XLP, a charity that runs in London, working with the young people who are lost, rejected and unloved. He and his team (and their buses!) go into the estates the authorities think are too dangerous to reach out to those who have no one to look to, or worse who are in right in the middle of the gang culture that exists there. Check out their work at www.xlp.org.uk. I’ve been interested in him since he couldn’t make it last year because he was talking to people like Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Ed Miliband about what to do about the London riots. It said to me if they are looking for his advice, he is right in there with those people who aren’t reached by social services or community support officers. It struck me that that’s exactly what we as Christians should be doing. Over the year I looked into XLP’s work and Patrick himself a little but ashamedly I sort of forgot about it all. This year he was there and was down to do three seminars over the weak all looking at this theme of reaching out to the marginalised and the unloved. I got along to two of them and felt I was being inspired. But yet the desire to act wasn’t strong enough. Sure, I’m meant to do something… I guess I should sometime…
The killer came when he took the stage as a guest speaker in of the evening meetings. He built on the same themes and also gave us stories of where he had been around the world and saw people in different situations from different cultures. Yet these people who didn’t know where their life was going and so got involved with gangs or sold themselves or lived on the streets all lacked one thing that would change their lives. Hope. If a person believes their life has meaning and they can achieve something through it and that someone cares for them, they can do amazing things.
How do you give them this hope? Well I’ll let Patrick’s words tell it because simply, they’re the best:
“The greatest poverty is lack of friends. Would you let your best friend live in a cardboard box? Would you stand by and watch as a friend slowly killed themselves with drugs? Of course you wouldn’t! Drug abusers need friends, homeless people need friends; young people with no parents need friends… they need people to love them, to stand up for them. It’s only when we’re willing to step out of our comfort zones and love people like we would our close friends that we can fully demonstrate the kind of life changing love that Jesus so radically taught.”
I find that Patrick’s way of talking is just so real. He’s seen this happen and seen how the work he does changes lives. It’s not theory it’s purely practical. While he was speaking about his experiences and what he had seen and the state of our world I felt something boiling up in me. It was like an aching in my chest very much like you feel when someone is annoying you so much you feel like you want to punch them. But this anger wasn’t aggressive in that sense. It was a righteous anger. It’s why I believe God gave us the ability to feel angry. When we see something in our world that isn’t right righteous anger is what gives us the passion to act on it and to go do something about it. As Patrick was speaking I felt God was saying “This is where I want you to go, be a friend to the friendless, the unloved and the marginalised.”
Wow. I’ve got a mission from God.
Woah, woah, woah, hang on a sec, I’m meant to be going to university in a month – should I be going somewhere else? Do a year with XLP or another charity doing similar work? I prayed and thought over this and within a couple of days I understood. Go to university as planned – there’s people there who need you.
So today I make the journey and move in and I have no idea where to start. But God’s got it. He’ll show me and I’ll be ready. Ready to love my fellow students, whoever they are and wherever they’re at. It’s going to be hard but I’m not alone.
Mike Pilavachi (founder of Soul Survivor who usually does the evening talks) then came and added on how the Bible is full of, well, orders really, to do exactly this work. Apart from not worshipping idols it is what is demanded most in the Old Testament and is also the most mentioned in the New Testament and specifically is what Jesus talks about (and does!) the most. So Christians have no excuse!
Has anyone else felt like they’ve been given a mission from God? How did he do it and how has it affected you?
What do you think about hope and having it being a driving force of a person’s life?
If you are a Christian do you feel this is an important ministry to be involved in anyway? Do you already do it? If you’re not Christian did you know how central it should be to the faith? Does it surprise you?
There is a part three to my summer but it is likely that it will be put on hold due to me arriving at university later today and I will post soon about how I’m settling in!
Thanks for reading!