Wednesday, 26 May 2010

There was a large yellow dancing duck

There was a large yellow dancing duck

Mission 6

Story 6

My new wife Pauline and I moved to Middlesbrough, new area, new situation, new problems, but the same need for people to hear the good news, and the same challenge of how it should be communicated.  I am always willing to try something new, but you have to have the idea in the first place before you can try it. At that stage I didn’t have any new ideas so I forged ahead with my tried and tested methods.

Grangetown, where we were living, did not have much for young people to do, or places for them to go. So I revisited the ‘60’s’ coffee and chat idea, we had a hall that we could use attached to the main meeting building.  We set it up as a coffee bar, we had no singers as there was only me and Pauline, we dished out the invites and waited to see if anything would happen. We used taped music and we made the coffee, youngsters came but it was hard to have one to one conversations as we were outnumbered 30 to 1, instead a talk from a central point seemed the way forward.

In this part of town they also had the tendency to throw things if they didn’t like what was happening, similar to my experience in Birmingham at St Martins when they threw vegetables at us.  Here it was rather more aggressive and destructive; bricks through windows were a regular occurrence.

It was a rough and tumble type town but even so many of the youngsters that we met wanted, truly wanted to know God, in fact I have heard from a few of them recently and it is now over 30 years ago.

I was puzzled by the fact that many of the local kids managed to find the hall where we were holding the coffee bar; it was not located anywhere obvious being right at the end of the town. One evening I was chatting to one of the youngsters and asked him how he had managed to find us and why he had come to listen to me.  He told me that the local vicar had been going round the schools with a stern warning to all the young people, ‘Stay away from those new people in the church at the end of town, they are weird Americans and they will corrupt you.’  We could not have had better publicity; telling youth not to do something is guaranteed to ensure they will!

Gradually many of these young people became part of our church community, although they took great pleasure in playing tricks on me.  We also had to deal with gangs of them invading our house night after night. In that area at that time the culture was ‘open door, come right on in’  If we forgot to lock the door, we would be washing up in the kitchen, and come back into the living room to discover 6 to 8 young people had appeared.  This was quite a pressure for a newly married couple just starting out in their first leadership role, but they wanted questions answered; they wanted to understand the meaning of their existence. 

One day we had a very special speaker who was visiting the church building.  They all turned up and were on their best behaviour; this was often not the case and I was regularly getting complaints from the ‘established churches’ that these youngsters were too noisy, too young or did not observe religious etiquette. 
As I stood at the front, leading the meeting I was pleased that they were so well behaved, and there wouldn’t be any complaints about them this evening.  Then to my surprise, I noticed some of the older ladies were looking decidedly wobbly and flustered, and one or two of them left the building half-way through the meeting. I also noticed that there was suppressed laughter rippling through the rows of youngsters.

At the end of the formal part of the meeting I found some of the ladies sitting in the side room, looking quite ill and sipping water. ‘What’s the problem?’ I asked. They all spoke at once but I eventually gathered that they had been having hallucinations and it had made them feel faint. The hallucination, it turned out, was a large yellow duck behind me and the speaker; it was obviously a very spiritual duck because it danced in time with the music, it had deeply disturbed them and sent them scurrying out as they just couldn’t take it any longer

I smelled something fishy, and quizzed the teens to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. They had stolen my daughter’s bath time toy, a large yellow plastic duck, broken into the building and placed it on the top of the large unused organ which was situated at the back of the platform. They had then tied an almost invisible nylon cord around its neck, which they threaded along the ceiling and dropped down into the rows where the youngsters were sitting.  By sleight of hand they made it dance in time with the music of each song.

I feigned great disappointment at their actions, but deep down I was hoping that over time their creativeness and hard work could be turned to more constructive use as their passion for Jesus grew.

Adrian L Hawkes
For Ourlab
W. 916
Editor: A. Brookes

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Thank you for all the comments on the story 'students are coming' surprised more did not comment on story 'beer and bandits' coming soon 'there was a large yellow duck dancing ' story on

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Students Are Coming...

The students are coming….

Mission 5

Story 5

I went to a college in a place called Capel, Surrey; it’s just between Horsham and Dorking.

I used to come home to Birmingham during the holidays, if I couldn’t cadge a ride off one of the other students going in my direction I would hitch-hike as I never had any money.

I had been at college a year and was home in the summer holiday; as usual I visited my home church to say hi to everyone. The leader of the church at the time was George Canty and he pulled me to one side, ‘Let’s have a chat in my office.’ He said. I knew George well as I had worked with him in Port Talbot, Wales when he was running some meetings there.

I sat down in his office, expecting a friendly chat when he said, “I think you have had a very lazy year, you have had nice theological conversations, drunk lots of coffee, talked with friends and pontificated about all sorts of things.  There is a world to change and you have wasted a whole year.  I’m expecting you to go back for your second year and use your time more constructively.” I looked at him amazed and wondered which wardrobe he had been hiding in and under which bed he had been secreted, his summary was terribly accurate.

At the start of the next academic year I pulled some of my college friends together and say, “Hey guys, I got chewed up during the holiday period, I’ve come back to college with the intention of turning over a new leaf. We need to change the world so who is with me, I want to start with Dorking.”

We set to with a vengence, I’m sure the exams suffered a little, plus we lost a lot of sleep working on the mission and trying to study at the same time but it was profitable, not least for Dorking and also for us, we learned a lot.

First of all we pulled together those students with graphic art and advertising skills, we were a mixed bunch from all walks of life. Then we hit the town with a subliminal advertising flyer, ‘Look out the students are coming’ is all it said.  No address, no dates, nothing else.  It even took the police three or four weeks to track it back to our college; they were worried and sent a delegation to interrogate us. Did we intend to invade this small town? What were we planning?  Good question, hard to answer because we didn’t know, we were making it up as we went along.
The college principal got wind of developments and he also wanted to know what was going on. He wanted to know how it might affect exams and I wasn’t sure I wanted to enlighten him on that

We approached the town with a ‘let’s try everything’ attitude.  We set up a bookstall in the market which was on each weekend, my future wife Pauline got the job of selling the books. We were not really interested in selling books; this was just an excuse to talk with people about the good news.

We discovered that the local paper was often short of copy to fill the pages, and they loved it when someone else did the work.  Each week David Butcher was commissioned to produce a relevant photo, and we would then produce copy and post it off to the editor. Every week, almost, the paper contained an article about ‘those students’ and the fact that they were coming!

Quite a few of the students were musical so we formed a band ‘Contacts International’ two members were from the UK and two from the USA.  Each weekend we stood them on a street corner with instructions to sing a few songs, this gave us the opportunity to chat to passers by and answer questions about why the students were coming.

We talked to the kids in the town; we ran fun events for them and told them the students were coming with good news.

Finally, after many months of this razzmatazz we booked the Dorking Halls and invited the townspeople to come and meet us. We even managed to get a big American band called the Forerunners to come and perform. The hall was packed, the town came.  Some of the local religious people were incensed by the terrible music, why is it that religious people always get so incensed?

The conclusion of all these actions was that people found Christ, we opened a small community church and before the year was over, we borrowed a building that had a tank in it (that’s one that holds water not one that shoots shells) and in it we baptised many of the local people.

Would I do it all the same way again? Probably not. Do I think the time was wasted? I doubt it, but I guess only eternity will clarify that point.

Adrian Hawkes
12th April 2010
W. 851
For Ourlab Stories
Editor A. Brookes.
Next main Blog up will be 'The students are coming, but would like to hear your comments on Beer and Bandits.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Beer and Bandits

Mission 4

Story 4

Ruddington Nottinghamshire

The team of young people known as Ribbons of Faith (RoF) with who I was working in the sixties were getting known further afield, and we began to get invites to work with different churches who thought we may be able to help. Perhaps we did, perhaps we didn’t, I don’t know.

One day we received an invitation from a church in the small town of Ruddington, Nottinghamshire. They wanted us to lead a series of meetings, they had been praying for ‘revival’ whatever that is, and they believed that we could be the answer to their prayers. The members of the church community were getting older and older and they began to realise that they would all eventually die, and with them, the Christian community. They decided they had better to something about it and were that something.

We were scheduled to spend a week of evenings in the area, and as usual we were not sure what to do. Part of the RoF team included a band, very sixties, guitars, drums, a trio of girl singers called The Ribbonettes. Alright, I know it’s cheesy but that’s what they were called. There was not much to do for young people in Ruddington, and we found lots of teens hanging out of street corners, arguing and making a noise.  They had no money in their pockets, so when handed a leaflet advertising a free band and the inevitable cup of tea, they were more than willing to come along and hear what we had to say.

We discovered that just across the road from the church building there was a working man’s club; we also found out that the band they had booked for the evenings entertainment had done a no-show.  One of our crowd offered our band as a stand in. A problem arose, not for us, but for the local church community, they felt great concern that we should go into such an evil place; apparently they drank beer in there. Worse was to follow, on the evening when the band was playing, one of our girls was watching one of the guys play the one arm bandit, ‘Hey love’ said the guy ‘you come and pull the handle for me, I’m sure you’ll bring me good luck.’  She grinned at him and innocently pulled the handle, the machine whirred and three apples slowly slotted into a matching row, and then the machine began pumping out the jackpot. Needless to say the rest of the time our crew were in great demand on the one arm bandits, especially that particular young lady.  But this only made things worse with the church community, now we were gambling in this den of iniquity.
Being a small town, word spread quickly about these strange ‘Brummies’ who were invading their town and soon there were loads of young people drinking tea, listening to the band and chatting. I was impressed with what they talked about, they asked serious questions about God, the meaning of life and where they were going. They were also keen to know what they needed to do to find out if the maker had any designs for their lives.

More problems were in store for us, the chatting went on and on, some of them truly wanted to know the living God.  One of the first young people to make a commitment to Christ was the daughter of the owner of the working man’s club.  He was not at all happy about this and began to regret meeting our band.

The leader of the church was an old man, although he was only 21. Even at this tender age everyone called him the Pastor. He opened up the building each evening and looked completely out of his depth surrounded by all these unchurched youngsters.  He also looked strained waiting for us to leave each evening so he could lock up and go home to bed, it was all a bit much for him even though he only lived in the next street. Whereas our mini-bus convoy often didn’t arrive back in Birmingham until the early hours.

As we were getting on so well with this great crowd of youngsters and did not want to curtail their serious conversations, I asked the team to stay a little later on Friday evening; the 21 year old Pastor said that this would be impossible as it was a Friday. I pushed him a little, explaining I knew it was Friday, I wanted to understand why this was such a problem. Then he dropped the bombshell, ‘I always wash my hair on Friday night, so I need to lock the building early.’  Oh help!

During the conversation he also told me that the people in the church were very unhappy about the way the building was being used and that the youngsters that were coming along were not showing respect. I had found them to be intelligent, articulate and open hearted, as far as I was aware nothing had been broken and they seemed very polite. I was concerned to find out if I had been missing something, had something happened about which I was unaware. He went on to explain that the ‘church’ people were upset because the young people didn’t sit on their chairs correctly.  He saw my bemused face and said ‘They turn the chairs round, and straddle them so they can lean on the back of the chair when they talk to you, this is very disrespectful.’ I didn’t say anything, but in my head I was yelling. Help! Oh help, help, help!

It was a tough learning experience; some of those young people had a real encounter with the God who is there.  But the local ‘church’ was not ready for them, unwilling to come alongside them or reach out to them.  Rather like new wine in an old skin perhaps.

When we were originally invited to Ruddington by the church community they said that they had been praying for God to send them loads of young people. God did, but they didn’t like who God sent. I guess we should be careful what we pray for, or perhaps when we pray we should be more open minded and allow God to answer our prayers his way, be a little less prescriptive, as if we aren’t they we may well miss out on all that he could or wants to do.

Adrian Hawkes
Stories for Ourlab
11th April 2010
W. 1096
Editor: A Brookes
Good to have your comments on Blog - days out in the country. Coming soon Beer and Bandits.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Days out in the Country

Days out in the country

Mission 3

Story 3

Claverdon Nr Henley in Arden

In the early 1960’s I was part of a team of young people who wanted to see change. The team, by the way, was call Ribbons of Faith (RoF) cut me some slack; it seemed like a cool name at the time. We planned to change the world! I don’t know about everyone else, but I still do.

Changing the world can be laborious, and sometimes just persuading people to come and meet ‘the best friend you could ever have’ is harder that you expect.

One of the team members, John Moore, became very concerned with the fact that the villages of the UK did not seem to know much about our ‘best friend’. He wanted us to do something about it. We couldn’t think of anything imaginative, so we decided to go to a picturesque little village called Claverdon, about 30 miles from Birmingham. The village didn’t have much in the way of a centre apart from a community hall and a big Anglican building. We got to know the local Rector, Cannon Ross, who welcomed us with open arms when he heard what we wanted to do. He gave us the community hall for free, to use once a month for whatever we liked. And so we began to see if we could get Claverdon folk interested in meeting Jesus.

All we did was walk around the village and knock on everyone’s door to say hello. We had a newspaper, funnily enough called Challenge, which we gave people to read and also offered them books by Billy Graham. The community hall became our lunch centre as we trundled into town from the big city; our convoy usually consisted of three vanloads of people.

Why was it funny to be using a newspaper called Challenge? Three young men who we did not know very well offered to come and help us distribute Challenge newspapers, we thought this was kind of them and gratefully accepted their offer. After three months we discovered they were distributing the communist newspaper of the same name. This did not make us popular in middle class Claverdon as their demographic was definitely not pro communist.

Today I believe that the UK has changed considerably; there is a new openness towards spirituality, not only Christianity but spirituality in general. In the early sixties there was a much greater resistance to anything connected with God or spirituality, I am glad of the change taking place.

As a result of the sixties resistance, our door knocking in the middle class village often resulted in a very polite English response which included a smile but the subtext was an unmistakable brush off; ‘Oh how nice for you but please go away, we are very happy in our lostness, please leave us alone.’ Nevertheless, month after month we went back although we appeared to have little response.

Billy Graham came to the UK and this seemed like a golden opportunity to our team. We continued to knock on doors and we booked some large coaches. When people opened their doors we offered them an invitation and a free ticket to come with us to hear the American evangelist who was coming to London.

The outcome was that we filled three coaches, we went to London for the day with our villagers and many of them made a real commitment to Christ at the Billy Graham meeting. This was not the end of the story, we continued to go back to the village but now the villagers themselves were reaching out to their own neighbours and introducing them to their new found friend. The Anglican church was blessed and we felt that contact was worthwhile, this one village had received some impact from the good news that is Jesus

Adrian Hawkes
For Our Lab Stories
W. 656
11th April 2010
Editor: A Brookes