Category Archives: Jesus Army

Wales Trip Developments – Running Through Sprung Doors

Hello.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my amazing mission to a man on a mountain, which ended with a pretty flabbergastish encounter. We were on a reconnaissance mission checking out locations for an upcoming trip with 40 teenage lads to Wales and God gave us a pretty splendid sign of where we should be (read about it).

Methodist chapel from driveway
What? Did I hear someone say ‘Skunkworks’? Surely not…

After Kevin (the “man on the mountain”) gave my friend and I each a brew he suddenly remembered something- “Ooo, there’s something I want to show you, if you have time? It’s a place up the road I’ve got ideas for.”

Still in his jimjams he pulled on a pair of boots and we walked with him to a splendid old Methodist church on the mountainside, on sale for just £80,000.

Methodist chapel windowsHe told us all about it- quite run down but with massive potential. He has ideas to work with a few local groups in the community- putting on open days, green living classes, dance classes, that sort of thing. He’s put in a bid of £50,000 for the property on behalf of the agency that owns the hostel he runs and we’ll see what comes of it.

My friend and I left the visit buzzing- God had spoken to us through a random man wearing pyjamas on a mountain in a far flung corner of Wales, a man who doesn’t have much money but has plenty of vision.

A couple of weeks passed.

I called Kevin to book the hostel but he apologised as another group had booked the hostel in the meantime. Poodles. Kevin knew them quite well as they’d visited the hostel before so he rang them up to see if they could rearrange, but alas, they couldn’t.

I guess it was a lesson in not being complacent. When God clearly blasted a door open and said “GO!” we chilled out and left it for later. Sometimes a door God opens is on a strong spring so you gotta run at it before it slams. I should have said to Kevin on the spot “we’d like to book this place”. Of course, I’m sure we’ll be able to go there in future years as it’s a very good all round bunkhouse.

Anyhow, the place we’re going to now was our next stop on the recon trip, and I dare say it’s nearly as good- splendid scenery, great facilities and lots of space.

Live and learn, and run through any door God opens.

Peace.

Amazing Mission To A Man On A Mountain

We’re planning a big camping excursion for teenage lads this summer. We’re looking at about 40 lads plus youth leaders so it’s going to be quite a blast, and yes, also very tiring I’m sure.

Simplicity dictates it would be easiest to base ourselves in some sort of bunkhouse. It would also be safer but being a young naive male I’m not so swayed by issues of safety (parents: don’t worry- fortunately for your little cherubs someone else is covering ‘elf and safety!). Anyway, mustn’t waffle.

I set about searching the web for some decent places and scored the largest ones on their size, cost, distance and surrounding features. As Wales is a rich source of bunkhouses, hostels and epic and wild landscapes I found it holds a good concentration of great options.

Of course, this meant I NEEDED to take time off work to go on a two day road trip to check out these potential sites in their beautiful mountainous countryside (oh the things we do for the kingdom). So with a shortlist of suitable sites and an efficient itinerary (leaving slack for a spot of explorin’) Etienne and I set off for a couple of days recently with a car, lots of food and sleeping bags.

After leaving late on Tuesday night, on Wednesday morning at 3am I pulled into a layby on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and we moved all the kit in the boot to the front and got some shut-eye, sleeping in the boot. After a little porridge for breakfast the route that day took us on a loop through the Brecon Beacons, stopping at three bunkhouses. It was pretty foggy and we managed one hill trek. It’s quite surrealy peaceful when you can eventually neither hear nor see the sounds and sights of civilisation. Just rocks, wind and wild horses for the two of us.

After another meal cooked in the boot (and we ate well, thanks to Lucy) we travelled up to Aberystwyth as the fog cleared through the mountain passes and cut a course for the beach. We were just in time for a beautifully simple sunset, the kind that makes you talk quietly and just listen to the soft pounding of the surf, smiling slightly.

Setting out on a night time tour of the docks, town and castle ruins left Etienne bubbling about the most beautiful seaside town he’d ever seen. Of course, he’s never been to Cornwall.

After going on a wild satnav chase in the dark (in which we seemed to be following a fire engine for 15 miles) we aimed for a cliff side car park where we cooked and ate supper and settled down again to the sound of the waves.

After supper we must have sat in the car in silence for about half an hour, just listening to the waves. Prayers naturally followed.

Thursday morning we set off for Snowdonia, and oh boy- my Swiss friend was loving it! The first Snowdonia stop was right in a proper Welsh village which even though it’s small still touches both sides of the grand mountains in which it’s wedged.

Now here’s where the story gets really interesting.

I’d asked God for a sign of where we should be taking these lads to have a rumble in the mountains and explore the kingdom together. For one, it would be cool. It would also make the decision much easier if God made it for us (and any problems with the location wouldn’t be my fault, to be honest!), but most importantly I wanted to know that God is leading this whole thing and that He is blessing it. I’m not as keen on “good ideas” as God’s ideas because His ideas are fruitful and they last. We want God to open doors for us.

The fourth location we checked out was a hostel wedged in some impressive wooded mountains. A steep narrow road lead up to an old schoolhouse, a quaint and happy place. A chap answered the door and introduced himself warmly as Kevin, apologising for how cold it was. Short and slightly stooping he was dressed in jimjams, slippers, coat and woolly hat and had a fine ginger beard. The hostel had a very inviting feel to it- a place of warm and quirky character that would suit most groups- the sort of place you can imagine filled with laughter, good food and fireside stories. After showing us around and talking for so long he burnt his porridge Kevin took us out the back garden and the slopes beyond to show us the BBQ, fire pit and the forestry work he’d started.

“So what group are you from then?” He asked. “We’re a Jesus Fellowship youth group” I replied. He started to tell a story “I was walking home from work one day when I lived in Birmingham, about twenty years ago,” he continued “and I got stopped by this group of Christians. They started talking to me about Jesus and I told them I didn’t have time, needed to get home. Anyway they invited me to go back with them to this festival they were having. Have you heard of the Jesus Army?”!

Kevin then proceeded to tell me all about this wonderful church called the Jesus Army, which is the public name for my church, the Jesus Fellowship! I waited to find out what he had to say…

After joining the guys who had been waiting for him in their minibus for five hours they left for one of our marquee festivals in Northamptonshire. Kevin told us what a deep impression the stay had on him. He told of how he was deeply moved by how people from all walks of life lived together in community, shared their stuff, and how an airline pilot working for British Airways gave his time, energy and nonjudgmental friendship to a homeless guy they’d invited to stay with them.

“If any church is living the way all christians should, it’s the Jesus Army” he effused. Of course we’d never make such a claim so it was extraordinary to hear this from a random dude we’d met hundreds of miles away from home in a tiny village in Wales.

It was quite extraordinary to tell him we’re from the Jesus Army, pleased to meet you! He told me to say “hi” to everyone in the Jesus Army, so there you go!

There’s much more I have to say but I’ve written more than enough for one post.

Thinking about it now we met a mad man on a mountain who told us who we were. Sounds poetic, sounds prophetic. Sounds mad.

We are too safe

“Young man…” croaked the old man, pausing for breath.

“I have dreamed my dreams.” I leaned closer to hear my old patriarch’s rasp. “I have finished the race, I have fought the fight.”

“What are your dreams?” He closed his eyes.

“I long…” I began. I stopped.

“We are too safe.”

I long to live life with no idea what the next six months will bring.
I long to belong to a church where I don’t know everybody.
A church built by a vision of what could be, not a blueprint assuming that what has been-
Is what should be.
A church that considers ‘foundations’ as defining but not definitive.
Set but not complete.
A church with a future assured but not paved, paid for in full by those who are walking the path as well as those who’ve passed.
But we are too safe.

I long to see second mile servants, not lenders of bicycles.
Grace’s disciples.
Lovers of other lives, haters of self sufficiency.
I long for a church so in love with it’s neighbours it’s control systems break.
Poverty born of generosity.
All at once a sound sanctuary and a bustling humanity, a lounge around the holy altar.
A church where Jesus is,
A church on fire.
But oh, we are too safe.

We don’t need fire.
We are rich, or so we say.
Mothers, brothers, sisters
Houses, lands, plans
Left for the hundredfold
Sold to buy a pearl that we planted in our foundation,
Then forgot.
Taught and treasured in mind, heart and hand.
But not handed on.
Loyal stewards of luxury,
Lulled to sleep by Laodicean laziness.
And I am guilty.

A son of my generation I have become.
Born into unbelief.
Born out of the bloom of our forefather’s fire,
Those faithful to the wire
Those risk taking rebels
Revolutionary in zeal
They lived a love painfully hot,
And painfully real.

But now?
They say yesterday’s revolutionaries are today’s Pharisees
And have I become one?
More concerned with behavioural dictum than fruitful outcome
We become undone
Not so much in our words but more in our actions-
Saying “It’s what’s outside that matters, son.”
While inside we’ve grown cold
More willing to mold others to our own image
Than let our hearts melt in the painful warmth of His.
So God help us.

His thoughts are not our thoughts
His ways are higher than ours.
So Lord, mold me.

Here I AM! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Whoever has ears, let them hear. Revelation 3

Epic Weekend Report #1

Wow, what an epic weekend!

I disdain the overuse of the word ‘epic’, but this one was pretty special.

What I’m calling ‘the weekend’ actually started on Thursday with 450 of us at RAW (Real And Wild), a Christian youth event at Coventry Uni. We camped, we ate, we laughed and worshiped together and we went on mad outreach missions between downpours. During the evening events one moment there would be enough energy in the hall to rival a nuclear power station but the next you could hear a pin drop, if the floor hadn’t been carpeted.

What I really want to talk about is what a few of my older friends were up to at the curiously named Y-NOT music festival in the Peak District at the same time, but as it’s quite a long one you’ll have to wait until my next post later in the week for a few of the incredible stories that came out of that trip.

In the meantime here are a few photos from RAW

Fighting Fury Through Piccadilly Circus

On the 25th of June about 1300 of us in the Jesus Army converged on London for a colourful Jesus carnival across the capital culminating in a gospel demo event on Trafalgar square.

Together with about 50 others I was asked to be on the dance team at the front of the lively procession to lead the way and set the tone- energetic, full on and passionate for Jesus.

We were enjoying it. The fun dances we’d practiced for a few songs had gone well and there was the occasional Mexican wave and a “cheer for Jesus!”, but then something different came through the speakers.

This was the only bit of the event that wasn’t live. It was a rap, and it made me angry. This genre is infamous because of how it’s often used to express the aggressive anger of young wounded men. This was a different kind of anger.

As the lyrics blared I started to rage at injustice. I was no longer dancing to show the world what a lively bunch we are, not dancing to put on a show. A slow fury rose, I no longer cared what people thought. I was praying.

Everybody with your fists raised high
Let me hear your battle-cry tonight
Stand beside or step aside
We’re on the front line

For those who are sorted, settled and sound
For those who are broken, rejected and bound
For those who are lost, crying out to be found
We raise a battle cry and claim back the ground
And together we stand and represent
That God’s love and power is relevant
Transforming our lives from the remnants
We’ll take back the ground with confidence
So be free again, free at last
Find your freedom from the past
Stand together, lift your hands and grasp a second chance
So we throw our hands up with our fists raised high
Come on London join us in our battle cry

Everybody with your fists raised high
Let me hear your battle-cry tonight
Stand beside or step aside
We’re on the front line

While men’s souls rot in the prison blocks we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While women are beaten and weeping in secret we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While there’s one broken heart, families torn apart we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While there’s hearts with holes, sex shops and Sohos we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While one man’s greed puts a nation in need we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While there’s one young girl still sold for sex we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
While there’s discrimination, hatred in the nation we’ll fight,
WE’LL FIGHT!
We’ll fight, to the bitter end, to see a better end
When every tear will be wiped dry
And death gives way to the Most High
Never never lose hope, hold on
Don’t give an inch to the enemy
Come on London raise your fists high!

Everybody with your fists raised high
Let me hear your battle-cry tonight
Stand beside or step aside
We’re on the front line

I’m so thankful to be part of a Church with a heart burdened to fight for the lost.

Lord may it be more than words. Take us to the darkest places.

Lyrics inspired by William Booth and Pillar

Marquee Festival Aug 2011 – A Photojournal

I’ve just got back to work after a busy week at our Church’s marquee. It was the last of our thrice yearly Festival weekends – three days of heaven on earth (plus mud, wasps and a little stress).

I took a week off to help set up & de-rig the tent, which this time was a particular challenge for the team as the tent’s been widened, so the goalposts have moved a bit and everything is heavier.

The theme this weekend was ‘the brotherhood Church’, and for me, the tent team was my brotherhood. I enjoyed being with so many friends and came away from last weekend’s event very encouraged, and glad to be able to serve & worship such a God as we have.

Stitching complete, last adjustments made before pull-up
Our marquee reminds me of a ship, with masts, rigging & sails.
A ship sailing for a phosphorescent future.
Up go the flagpoles
Courtesy of Julie Doyle
Courtesy of Julie Doyle
Courtesy of Julie Doyle
Courtesy of Fabio Cunha
The lightning-fast derig begins
Just skin and bones, the tent finally awaits dismantling

You should join us sometime for a Jesus Army marquee festival.