Pioneers or Settlers

Pioneers or Settlers 


Mission stories for Our Lab

Story 10

I wish that I had thought of this title but if memory serves me correctly it was first used by Gerald Coates in a book of the same name, and he certainly used the phrase often.

The reality is that as we get older even those of us who have wanted to pioneer and seek out fresh lands, we opt for settling.

When I was the tender age of 19 I was part of a team of young people who were pioneers, trying to make a difference. We were saying to anyone who would listen, ‘Hey, we’re followers of the way, we’ve met a great person who is our friend and we would like to introduce you to him.’  We had found a new kingdom, and we wanted to bring it down to earth and make it a better place. We wanted to change the world. And I still do.

As is usual with people of that age, they started getting married, buying cars, having children, and worst of all, they got mortgages! When I tried to encourage them to continue of the pioneering path of excitement and challenge, to bring about change in the world, this was their response, ‘We’re married now, we have a car and a mortgage, when you get these things you will understand, you will have to settle down.’   Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ Luke 14: tells story of their excuses.

I got married, I had children and much, much later, I got a mortgage and to my delight I discovered you don’t have to settle, not if you don’t want to, and not if you have excitement about the future, relish what is new and realise the best is yet come; it is still out there to be discovered. The worst enemy of better is very good! I also found you don’t have to maintain the status quo and always do what is expected.  Let me demonstrate, I thought it would be good for my two month old baby, my wife Pauline and I to go out and celebrate one evening, by going out for a meal. Pauline said, ‘We can’t go out this late in the evening, surely the baby should be in bed.’  Unconvinced, I suggested we put her to bed in her carry cot and take her along, where she slept peacefully under the table.  Nobody even knew she was there until she let out a loud yelp in her sleep, and made the rest of the diners jump.  I know that people perhaps do this a lot now, but then it was frowned on, it was ‘just not done’.

As time moved on, I grew older but even my growing family of three children did not deter me, I still wanted to push those boundaries even though doing that doing that often involved hard work and late nights.  I came home one morning at 2:30am and said hello to my drowsy wife, who did not appreciate being woken up and complained about the noise. As I climbed into bed I teased her, ‘You are getting old and boring.’ That was a big mistake!  She threw back the covers, switched on the main light and started to get dressed, ‘What’s going on?’ I said.  ‘We’re going out to celebrate,’ she said as she yanked me out of bed. ‘Celebrate what?’  I groaned.  ‘Celebrate the fact that I am not boring!’  As we lived in London we had no difficulty at finding a place serving good food at 3:00am.  But I have never again accused my wife of being a boring settler.

There is something very attractive about passion, many people lose it, become settlers. Don’t!

Scripture describes it this way, if we are a follower of the way we are in a race, and there is no point in starting a race if we don’t complete it. 1 Corinthians 9 it’s great to start, better to continue, but best to finish. Be a passionate pioneer, not a sedentary settler!


Adrian Hawkes

For our Lab Stories


Editor: A Brookes

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Angry Young Men !

Angry young men
Mission 9
Story 9
For me, understanding the principals of the Kingdom of God was a bit like Paul’s Damascus Road experience, I fell off my donkey and a bright light came on. Only I fell off the donkey very slowly and the light came on very gradually, rather like slowly turning up a dimmer switch.
I had grown up with the idea that the Kingdom of God and the church where one and the same thing; now I understand that the Kingdom of God is not the church and the church’s job is to seek the Kingdom, while God worries about the building of the church, though I doubt he worries.
As a member of the church it stands to reason that my job, also, is to seek the Kingdom of God. Not seek church or denomination or even conversions, but to make seeking that kingdom my number one priority.
I had paid lip service to the fact the Christ will build his church, but then I got on with building a local church community, thinking that the job had somehow been delegated to me, although I am not sure when that happened!
I guess that is the mission, and that is what I was asked to write these stories about. I recognize now that the kingdom needs to be everywhere in God’s big wide world; we are to seek it in the church and also outside of the church. I believe if you seek the church you might not find the kingdom, but if you seek the kingdom you will find the church.
Salt purifies and preserves, light eliminates darkness and gives direction. We seek the kingdom by being salt and light influencers in all the pillars that hold up and mould society; the culture, the politics, the business, the education, the media and arts.
An interesting analogy can be seen in the Old Testament scripture, when the kingdom of David was at its height it had influence on all the surrounding nations. It constructed a David fortress in each of those territories although it did not take them over or rule them. I assume the local countries did not want to offend this rather strong neighbouring kingdom, and when they wanted to pass a new law or make a decision although they were free to do so, they felt it was a good idea not to offend this rather strong kingdom and would first check with the local influencers at the David Fort.
Let me tell you two stories that illustrate what I mean by seeking the kingdom. But first let me ask you a question, what does the Kingdom of God look like? The Lord’s Prayer gives us an indication, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ says Jesus, recorded in scripture.
What is God’s kingdom like? From scripture we can deduce that it is a place of justice, righteousness, peace and joy plus many more good things. If we find these things on earth we will have found a bit of the kingdom. When Jesus was on earth, and he put a wrong right he would say, ‘the Kingdom of God is amongst you’, that must mean he had brought the Kingdom of God to the earth.
One evening, when I was running a youth club in the north of England, a crowd of disruptive lads came in and began causing a ruckus. They bullied the young people who were already at the club, then they started throwing chairs around, and smashing anything they could lay their hands on, it was all getting rather dangerous. In the middle of the mayhem I walked in and swiftly became very angry and made it clear that they should leave. They moved out of the club and onto the street, with me in hot pursuit. I singled out their leader, a very tall young man, and marched up to him to give him a piece of my mind. He was head and shoulders taller than me, accompanied by a pack of his feral mates; if they had turned on me I would not have stood a chance, but I was annoyed and perhaps not thinking straight.

I looked him in the eye and berated him about what he and his mates had just done to the club, and then, I have no idea why, I said ‘Are you afraid of me?’ He sneered at me, looked around at his mates for support then announced, ‘No way!’ I then said, ‘Okay, then you won’t be afraid if I pray for you will you?’ He looked at me as if I was mad and said, ‘I ain’t afraid of you or anything you can do, including praying.” I took his hand and without closing my eyes began to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, this young man does not know that you are with me; that you are strong and powerful and that you actually want to do something in his life…..’ I didn’t get any further, I saw that he had tears streaming down his face, and then he snatched his hand from mine and ran away as fast as he could. The rest of the gang looked at me as if to say ‘what have you done to our boss?’ and then they all ran after him. I never saw him or his gang again. We rarely know exactly what to say in these situations, but all we need to know is the Kingdom of God is amongst you. Those of us who know God can find his kingdom in the strangest of places, even in the middle of the street surrounded by a gang. We just need to seek.

Recently, at our office in north London, a young Pakistani Muslim guy came in to speak to one of our staff, he was very angry, so angry that the staff member was afraid and asked one of the other staff members to come and sit in on the meeting for support. Gradually, as he raged on , it emerged that he had been at the airport, on his way to catch a flight to go and visit his sick mother when the police arrested him as a suspected terrorist. For some strange reason, his mates had suggested he should come and see us, telling him that we would be able to help. As the staff listened they became more afraid, for all they knew he could have been a terrorist, and they had no idea how they could help him. In desperation, one of the staff members offered to pray for him, as she didn’t know what else they could do.
At this suggestion he became even angrier and shouted, ‘I have already been to the mosque today and prayed, there is no point in praying, do something else!’ The staff members apologised but said they didn’t know what else to do; the only thing they could offer was prayer, eventually they persuaded him and grudgingly he agreed. Both members of staff shut their eyes tight, not out of reverence but out of fear, and they began to pray, and they prayed and they prayed, they didn’t want to stop because they didn’t want to open their eyes and look at the angry young man. Eventually they did stop and when they opened their eyes they saw a very calm and peaceful young man, who smiled and said ‘I don’t know what you just did but thank you! I have never experienced anything like that before.’ And with that he left. He returned twice more and was very keen to express his thanks, ‘I don’t know how you did it but everything is sorted, I am flying to see my sick mother, thank you, thank you, thank you!’

What we want to do is find that kingdom everywhere on God’s earth. That then is mission. Seeking his kingdom here on earth.
For Ourlab mission stories
Adrian Hawkes
Editor A. Brookes

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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 should 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!

Adrian L Hawkes
For our Lab Stories
Editor A. Brookes
W. 1123

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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 GloucesterPark 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.—Continued.aspx

 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’.

 ImageI 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 realize that that is where we need to seek the kingdom.


Adrian Hawkes

W 1002

For Ourlab Stories

Editor A. Brookes

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There was a Large Yellow Dancing Duck

There was a large yellow dancing duck

Mission 6

Large Yellow Duck

Large Yellow Duck

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

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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.

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Beer And Bandits

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

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