Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"Do you want Grass with that Bacon"?

“Do you want Grass with that bacon”?

Port Talbot

Mission 8 

Story 8

The wind was blowing hard, the canvas snapped and strained as the rain beat down; I was half asleep listening to the howling wind when I heard a loud crack, the canvas went slack and began billowing wildly. I struggled out of my sleeping bag, ‘Mark! Mark!’  I yelled, ‘one of the ropes has gone!’ It was 3am, we returned half an hour later, soaked to the skin and sat there drinking hot chocolate to warm us up before we climbed back into our sleeping bags.  It was 1967; Mark Drew and I were living in a marquee, pitched in a car park underneath a motorway flyover.

Living like that for three month had its challenges, one of them being that Mark was self-appointed chef, and every time he dropped anything on the floor, like the breakfast bacon, it was always my bacon sandwich that had the grass and gravel in it, never Mark’s!

The aim of this strange living arrangement was to be the security personnel as well as general dog’s bodies for a mission organised by George Canty.

The mission had two aims, to introduce the people of Port Talbot, Wales, to the living God and to establish a community of believers in the area.

George had a very interesting process of gaining peoples attention. I thought that a huge marquee positioned in a car park would be an obvious draw to the crowds, but this was not enough for George. He produced a flyer in the style of a single sheet of newspaper; after he had written the copy he would sit there pouring over it for hours, eliminating every word or phrase that was in the least bit religious or churchy.  He wanted the language to be the kind that normal people used every day.  He was striving for a ‘red top’ newspaper style of advertising.

Stage two was to print and distribute the advertising newspaper.  Mark and I blitzed the place, pushing them through doors, handing them out on the street and talking to anyone we met about the mission.  There was already considerable interest since the marquee had appeared, people were curious to know what it was all about, all they knew so far was that it was in the car park and a couple of young lads were sleeping there. I say sleeping, but that was a euphemism, bear in mind we were underneath a busy motorway, in a huge draughty tent, in Wales, where it rains, a lot!  If we weren’t shivering in our sleeping bags, we were running round in our pyjamas tightening guy ropes in the dark and generally keeping the meeting place from blowing away.

The evenings developed a pattern, hundreds of people turned up each night, Mark and I showed them to their seats and George stood at the front beside an easel with a large white blank canvas placed on it.  As George spoke, he produced an oil painting from scratch; he was the Rolf Harris of the mission circuit.  When it was finished, it would be awarded to the person who had brought the most people that evening.  After he had chatted to the crowd about how good God is, he would then offer to pray for anyone who was sick.

George came in for a lot of flack from the religious people in the area. The accusation levelled at him was that to give away an oil painting each night to the person who brought the most people was a ‘gimmick’ and not in the least bit ‘spiritual’. I asked George how he would deal with this criticism, his astute and sharp response still sticks in my mind, ‘One persons gimmick is another persons good idea!’ It reminds me of a similar quip from General Booth, when someone said to him, ‘I hate the way that you evangelise!’  Booth responded, ‘Yes, and I don’t like it much either how do you do it”.’  The truth of the matter was that the critic was not doing anything to share  the good news.

During the three month period I saw some amazing things, one night a lady who was deaf came forward for prayer.  I had showed her to her seat earlier in the evening and had been almost hoarse trying to make her hear, she was so deaf.  She did not ask for prayer for her hearing, but for her sore throat.  George, in his inimitable maverick style, ignored the request about the sore throat, stuck his fingers in her ears and prayed that the gifts of healing that God gives to his followers would be granted, and that she would hear again.  He then moved to the opposite side of the marquee and began to have a conversation with this ‘deaf’ lady; he spoke in a very low, ordinary tone.  ‘Where do you live?’ he said, ‘About three streets away’ she replied, ‘How long have you been deaf?’ he asked, ‘About 25 years.’ She replied. ‘How much can you hear?’ he said, ‘I can’t hear anything at all, I am pretty much stone deaf,’ she said. George continued this conversation with her for some time, the audience began to giggle sporadically, and then, as the conversation progressed, the whole place was falling about laughing. Gradually she became aware of the merriment, looked at the laughing crowd, then back at George, ‘How come I can hear you and answer all your questions?’ She said her face a picture of curiosity and astonishment.

Another lady had a very badly twisted leg; she couldn’t straighten it and therefore was badly incapacitated.  God healed her, her leg became straight and she was able to walk again.  I went to visit her at her home and asked if she would like to come to one of our church community meetings, she told me in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t interested in such things, all she had wanted was for her leg to be straight and now it was and she was happy with that.  She bid me good bye and closed the door.  I was reminded of the words of Jesus when he said, and I paraphrase; “It’s not really me or my message that you are interested in, you come and follow me because you have heard about food and you love to eat bread and fish.”

When the three months of mission was concluded, a small church community had been established.  Mark and I stayed on for another three months to help it become established.  Not, I hasten to add, living in the marquee!

Books by George Canty:
Adrian L Hawkes
For our Lab Stories
Editor A. Brookes
W. 1123

Monday, 14 June 2010

Thank you for all your comments on my next story up will be 'do you want grass with that Bacon?' enjoy!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Social Care is not My Problem?

Social care is not my problem?
On the way from Middlesbrough to London
Mission 7
Story 7

I lived in Middlesbrough for five years and during that time I got very involved with the students in the local college.  Gradually the number of students coming to our church community increased substantially. A number of the students were doing degrees in social work and we often had long conversations about this issue.  Some of them had reached the conclusion that pastoral care was their area of expertise and anything that I did out of care and concern was, in their opinion, outdated and in need of replacing, and I should not be crossing over into their perceived domain.
I thought a lot about these discussions; I did not feel intimidated by their attitudes but did believe I should give it some consideration.  Since that time I have developed my knowledge considerably in the area of social care, and also my perceptions, some of which I will now share with you.
It struck me that ‘the followers of Jesus’ in their kingdom seeking, were the main instigators of much good in the areas that I now call the four pillars that hold up, influence and effect change in culture and ultimately his world. The four pillars, I would argue, are what people of the way need for strategy and influence as they pull down kingdom values to affect change for good in society. I seems obvious to me that Paul in the scripture understood the powerful effect of Rome and hence wanted to ‘seek the kingdom’ in Rome!
What are the four pillars?
Media including TV, radio, advertising, hoardings, the web, books, newspapers, magazines, theatre, film and art.
Let us look back on education especially in the UK and consider Robert Rakes from the eighteenth century, (A statue of Raikes was erected on the Victoria Embankment, London in 1880, sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock, R.A., to celebrate the centenary of the Sunday school movement. A statue of Rakes was erected in Gloucester Park fifty years later, in 1930. It is a copy of the Brock statue.) Rakes founded Sunday school, and let us be clear, the origins of Sunday school was not as many know it or imagine it today, it was in fact an educational programme to teach children to read and write, and Sunday was the only day they could attend.  Of course he wanted them to understand the bible, but primarily it was an educational programme.
In politics who could forget William Wilberforce in 1805 and the abolition of slavery in the UK by parliament; trend setting, ground breaking, kingdom values being put in place.
In media there was a tendency to discourage young Christians from getting involved, what a tragedy. The media is a powerful moulder of our culture, influencing far beyond what we give it credit for. People of the way need to get involved and stay involved. I take my hat off to people like Dan Wooding and Assist News who constantly disseminate good honest information for the whole of the press world.
In business there a numerous fantastic trend setters, people who were ahead of their time, seeking justice and presenting a value system that hadn’t been seen before. Take the Cadbury brothers for example, they constructed their factory in a garden to enhance their workers well-being and invited workers to have a voice on the board. This was unheard of and radical at the time. Where did such ideas come from?  I would argue kingdom values.
When the new factory was built at Bournville it had many facilities which were unknown in Victorian times - properly heated dressing rooms; kitchens for heating food; separate gardens for men and women as well as extensive sports fields and women’s and men's swimming pools. Sports facilities included football, hockey and cricket pitches, tennis and squash racquet courts and a bowling green. Country outings and summer camps were organised. Special workers' fares were negotiated with the railway company and 16 houses were built for senior employees.

Morning prayers and daily bible readings, first started in 1866 to preserve a family atmosphere, were not abandoned until 50 years later, when the size of the workforce was too large for such an assembly. George Cadbury was a housing reformer interested in improving the living conditions of working people. In 1895 he bought 120 acres near the factory and began to build houses in line with the ideals of the Embryo Garden City movement. Motivation for building the Bournville Village, George Cadbury wanted to provide affordable housing in pleasant surroundings for wage earners.

What has all this to do with my chats with social care students in Middlesbrough? A great deal, those discussions were, I believe, a catalyst for molding much of my thinking since then.  I remember when I moved to London, I was driving down the M1 and talking to God, I said ‘I would really like a million pounds or so Lord, I would like to see those early things re-established, I want your followers to move into those influential areas that change our culture, I want to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ seeking to influence and show new directions in some or all of these important strategic areas’.

I had a passion to be involved in these areas, and I wanted to encourage people who knew God and had similar passions to seek to draw down God’s kingdom into these areas.  I had almost forgotten that conversation with God, but he listened and answered and the millions came and we spent it on buildings, employment, business start-ups, housing and schools.  How the money came is another story, or perhaps many stories, but I am still seeing the influence in the areas of the four pillars.  I want to see others catch the vision, and realise that that is where we need to seek the kingdom.

Adrian Hawkes
W 1002
For Ourlab Stories
Editor A. Brookes
Culture Clash

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Well I am surprised that many of you have not commented on the yellow duck, coming soon Social care is not my responsiblity