One Year Blog Challenge

Day 268: A World Of Heroes

“Hero”

1. a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, fortitude, etc
2. a man who is idealized for possessing superior qualities in any field
3. classical myth a being of extraordinary strength and courage, often the offspring of a mortal and a god, who is celebrated for his exploits

 

I’ve been thinking about that word. I think it’s undervalued in our culture today. So often we hear people say ‘so and so was trying to be a hero’ or simply ‘don’t be a hero’ like it’s some sort of negative thing but to be blunt, I think that’s wrong.

I watched England play South Africa today – we lost by one point. On the field, the players put their bodies on the line in order to win. The English players were gracious in defeat; both players were exceptionally courageous and gave their all in a hard contest. Are they heroes? For me, unequivocally yes. There is something about the qualities you must possess in order to play rugby that I greatly admire. In reality, winning or losing means very little to everyday life, but I think they’re heroes.

What about the young people who serve in their youth group week in and week out? The ones who aren’t afraid to publicly declare their faith and to invite their friends to church. It takes huge amounts of courage and strength to risk being ostracized by your friends for the sake of your faith. Again, I believe these people are heroes.

There are so many more examples. From the single mum to the surgeon to the spaceman to the little orphan boy in Africa who provides for the rest of his family instead of going to school, we live in a world of heroes. I refuse to accept any sort of casual dismissal of the word.

YES for Heroes!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 239: Revolutionary Youth Worship

I’ve just arrived home from another LIFE youth event. Revolution led worship…fantastically.

I’m conscious that such a vague statement doesn’t explain much, so below are a few of the reasons why tonight they warranted the description above:

The team were musically excellent.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing all of the instrumentalists grow in their gifting phenomenally. Jacob, one of our drummers has progressed from struggling to play a basic groove to taking a strong lead, communicating with other band mates and playing to an enormously high level. Every other instrumentalist in tonight’s team I’ve had the privilege of working with from scratch and have been able to witness their musical journey from the very beginning as enthusiastic 10 and 11 year olds (I remember seeing three of them in their year six production!). Tonight they were almost faultless in their musicianship.

The team unloaded equipment, set up and sound checked in 40 minutes.

Nobody likes lugging equipment back and forth from venue to venue. It’s the mundane, inglorious part of playing in a band and a particular logistic headache for me with a youth band. Obviously, many of them can’t drive so organising lifts as well as the transportation of equipment can be a little tricky. Not tonight. The guys in Revolution arrived promptly, set their equipment up quickly and acted incredibly professionally as they waited for our brilliant sound technician to ensure things sounded good. Let me remind you that the average age of the team was 15. They are 15 and already pros!!

The team didn’t complain, mumble or groan about any of the difficulties that they faced.

Whenever we do ‘on tour’ events, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. Tonight’s case in point – a forgotten drum stall, foldback problems (…in that there weren’t any foldbacks!) and issues with power supplies could have caused some serious problems. Remember, we’re dealing with hormonal teenagers here! However, I didn’t hear a single negative comment. The ‘can do’ attitude is astounding amongst these guys. In the end, we fixed all the vital problems and the team did exceptionally well, and without any stress. Amazing!

The team worshipped with passion.

Very few things frustrate me as much as seeing people lead worship without any real passion or enthusiasm. We are lifting our praise up to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – the Saviour who died so that we could be set free from sin! It’s an incredible honour to be able to enter into the presence of God and something we should be ecstatic about. It was a joy today to see the band playing every song with authenticity and passion, truly meeting with God rather just going through the motions of playing a Christian song. It makes me extremely proud to see!

The team responded to what the Spirit was doing.

One thing that Revolution traditionally find difficult is breaking from the standard way of doing things. That’s due in no small part to the age and relative inexperience of the team. However, tonight it was so exciting to see the freedom that the guys had in worship, throwing in an unprepared song at a moment’s notice and following promptings from the Holy Spirit. This is pretty advanced stuff to do and to be doing it at this age is excellent!

I could list many other reasons, but I think this gives you a taster of the wonderful team I get to be a part of. These guys are far from perfect, but they are exceptional and I love them. They really did lead fantastically tonight. I can’t wait for the next time Revolution lead on the 4th November!

 

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Day 210: Villu Vares Photography

Last week we had an absolutely phenomenal time of worship at LIFE, our meeting for young people on a Friday night. It was amazing to see God move so powerfully and I was still running on the buzz from that evening for a few days after (before finally succumbing to pharyngitis and a cold…which has sucked). One of our fantastic Kerith Academy students is a passionate photographer and brought his camera along for the evening. Here are a few of my favourites:

Tech team at LIFE. If you want to get involved, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post and I’ll get back to you!

Me!

The truth is that there are lots more fantastic photos that Villu took, but I can’t put them all on this post! Instead, I really want to encourage you to support Villu by having a look at his official Facebook page (and pressing the ‘like’ button) or by exploring www.villuvaresphoto.com. You won’t be disappointed! I can’t wait to see what more this talented guy has to offer in the coming months. Thanks Villu!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Day 60: Loving Librazhd

It’s a strange feeling knowing that you’ve fulfilled all your duties on an overseas trip. On the one hand, it’s a little anti-climactic; five days is a short trip in comparison to the last two years and there is so much more to see and do. On the other hand, it’s very exciting. Our objectives were completed, leaving us free to do as we wished.

We decided that we’d make the best use of the opportunity by meeting with the youth in Librazhd. We’ve visited the town on two separate occasions to perform concerts, but yesterday was the first time we’d visited simply to look around and spend time with a the young people that have faithfully attended all three of the youth camps we have run in Albania over the years.

The journey there was, as all the others have been on this trip, spectacular. I’m risking my limited internet usage by uploading these pictures…I’ll be facing a huge phone bill at the end of the month, but you simply have to see what we saw:

(There was something not right about seeing snow in the distance when the temperature was 30 degrees!)

Once we arrived in Librazhd, we had a fantastic time. Predominantly girls, the young people in the town have some incredible stories. Liam later told me that one seventeen-year-old girl ran an Alpha course and saw seven of her friends saved. Others started youth work and children’s work and they have seen their youth group in particular grow dramatically over the last few years. The circumstances surrounding their determination for education is astounding. Nerila (aged 19), translated for us during our concert last year and is currently at university in Tirana studying physiotherapy. Her father has to work in Greece to provide for his family as jobs are scarce in Librazhd. Whilst Nerila and her sister are at university, her mother looks after her eleven and eighteen year old brothers – the latter has quite severe special needs. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, Nerila and many of the other girls have to contend with huge amounts of corruption in the education system (you can succeed easily if you are willing to pay), as well as looking for a part time job during her studies to provide for her family. Through all of this, she is transforming her church and her town. I felt extremely humbled.

Many of the girls’ stories were similar and whilst it was sad hearing them, they were remarkably upbeat about their situation. They were simply doing the best they could with what they had…a common theme this week. I was particularly impressed with the cross-culture banter (we got absolutely slaughtered for our English weather, and rightly so too!). When we had finished in Librazhd we returned to Elbasan to have dinner with ‘big’ Ilir’s family. It’s such lovely feeling to have people we genuinely call friends all over the country here.

The food was incredible. The family was amazing. I ate too much (as usual) and then we spent a few hours talking away about all sorts of things and Liam and I played a number of board games with the children. Children are great fun regardless of nationality, especially as you don’t need to do anymore than point, pull faces and generally lose whatever game you’re playing. I think we were just as entertained as they were, although I really tried hard at ‘pairs’ and still got thrashed…by a nine year old girl!

Bloated, satisfied and exhausted, we found our way (very slowly) back to the apartment and packed for today, our last day. At some point we’ll be catching up with our friends in Tirana to make the most of our time here, I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to being home, but I’ve enjoyed this trip more than any other to date. We’re forging genuine, honest friendships with people after four visits. It’s no longer about ministering in some way and then heading home to continue with life as if nothing happened. I really do care about these people and the churches they are building. What they do with their resources and the calling that God has placed in them is truly inspirational. I can’t wait to be back here in July. But wait…what am I talking about?! We’ve still got twelve hours in this beautiful place! No time to lose!

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Day 10: LIFE Lessons

Every Friday at Kerith we hold a youth meeting called ‘LIFE’. I think maybe I’ve missed (at most) 10 LIFE events since it started in September 2009. I love it. With my good friend Liam Parker at the helm, we’ve seen some incredible things over the years. For a while, LIFE has been the place to be for young people in and around the Bracknell area but recently, things have been a bit different. I don’t think I’d be offending anyone to say that things have almost felt a little lackluster in the last few weeks. But then there was last night.

Last night reminded me why I’m passionate about our young people at Kerith. Every facet of the evening from the buzz about the place to the rave; the message to our youth band leading worship at the end was astounding. God was with us in a phenomenal way. Here is a tweet from Liam at the end of evening:

14 People were saved, 6 were healed, some gave up smoking while others received mentoring. Worship was off the charts and family was built.”

That’s what it’s all about. It felt like God was moving in a way that we haven’t seen for a while at LIFE – it was simply brilliant. A stunning reminder of what happens when every person involved with the running of the meeting has given everything over to God and His hand is firmly upon it. It was a privilege to be a part of such an incredible youth group. I’m very much looking forward to more of the same. Bring on next Friday!