It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m chilling in Starbucks for the first time in ages. It’s also the first chance I’ve had to gather my thoughts and reflect on a weekend that was sensational on so many levels! Ignite Hope 2010 was a massive South-Wales-wide youth mission that saw around 800 young people hooking up in a huge tent in the Centre of Cardiff on the bank holiday weekend (30th April-3rd May). After a time of worship and teaching this righteous rabble charged out the doors to unleash hope in communities right across South Wales in the Name of Jesus, armed with nothing but the gospel!
My role during the week was to lead the teaching sessions each morning which was an awesome privilege. Using Philippians 2 as my text I taught 3 sessions on following Jesus example to Serve, Sacrifice and Shine. I have to confess that it was mentally, physically and spiritually demanding to get all the talks prepared and to get down to the tent by 9am each morning, but so worth it. By God’s grace the messages that God gave me seemed to resonate with many who were there and on Sunday morning I was filled with the presence and power of God in a very deep and very special way! As I literally preached my guts out that morning, I just knew that God was in the place, speaking loud and doing something significant in people’s lives (not least my own!) All glory to Him!
For me each of the afternoons involved whizzing back up to Trevethin to be involved in various community outreach events that my good friend Pete Evans had coordinated. This included a litter pick in the drizzle on Saturday with just a handful of local youth – heroes!
In the evening we then took 7 of them down to the gig in the tent where Mike Pilivachi preached the gospel. Being COMPLETELY unchurched – the service bit went over their heads, though I think they still appreciated it! After the event we set them loose in the Ignite Hope village and they loved it! The climbing wall was the most popular thing they were in to and I enjoyed a race to the top with one of the boys and was pleased to win (almost!!) The trip was definitely a success and strengthened relationships with the young people.
However, it was on the Sunday that things really started to kick off (in a God way!) We had organised a community fun day to follow on from our morning service at the Cold Barn Farm – and what a day it turned out to be! There must have been around 150 who turned out for the World Cup Footy tournament, the free BBQ and the face painting! The weather held and everyone had a fabulous time! It was great to meet loads of new people and introduce them to the love of Jesus and the life of Hill City Church. What blessed me most, however, was the phenomenal way in which the Hill City saints stepped up and just served their socks off! Literally EVERYONE was involved in serving, cooking, cleaning, face-painting, refereeing, befriending and testifying to God’s grace! As the pastor it was SO encouraging to see the church function like that. There was a real sense of passion, sacrifice and commitment to the mission that God has called us to.
It was beautiful!
So to all who got stuck in and served so passionately – thank you, you’re brilliant and I love doing the church adventure with you!
The real cherry on top of the day was that the love of Christ on display had made such an impression on one of the girls who was there that I later had the opportunity to share the gospel with her for 2 hours, amazed at the way that God had clearly used the love of His saints to soften her heart to His grace and how He was clearly now at work in her life!
Are we going to do another day like that?
After my last teaching session on the Monday morning it was back up to the estate for one last community project – the small matter of painting a mural in Central Park – a project that was being sponsored by Hill City Church. This was no small task for my old friend and graffiti legend, Bryce Davies of Peaceful Progress, as we had invited an army of high energy local young people to help out! The 3 hours that ensued were manic to say the least and I think I must have lost a few stone by the end of it, but the end product speaks for itself! The mural isn’t finished yet, but as the local councillor told me yesterday – what had once been a drab, weather-beaten wall now looks “a thousand times better!” Couldn’t agree more!
That evening I went back down the tent for the last time to see the pictures and hear the stories of grace, hope and salvation that had epitomised the weekend right across the region! It was great to just breathe out and let loose in worshipping God for all that He’s done! I have to say a huge, heart-felt “God bless you” to Gary Smith, John Lewis and all the Ignite crew for the vision, courage, commitment and excellency in coordinating and delivering a weekend that was both memorable and life-changing for so many! I pray you’ll know the pleasure of God’s smile over the coming days as you hear story after story of hope unleashed!
I then returned home to sleep soundly! The rest of this week has been all about recovering from the sheer intensity of it all and spending some long overdue quality time with my precious family who had so selflessly released me to do all that I had done that weekend! My family are awesome and I’m so grateful for the sacrifices they regularly make for the sake of the gospel. It’s been my joy to pour my life back into them this week!
Thank you Jesus for the hope of the gospel!