Daddy God at River Camp

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend (yes, I know that’s a while back!), I went to River Camp. This is a festival organised by the Elim Pentecostal churches, at the Lenchwood Centre just outside Evesham. It was an exciting and inspiring few days: for example, the worship band – led by Sam Blake and Joel Pridmore – was outstanding: both musically gifted and very passionate.

The talks combined God-centredness with gritty realism to an unusual and highly effective extent. Take for example David Campbell’s talk on the first night on Exodus 30:34-38, which focusses on the incense offered at the altar: the stacte, onycha and galbanum. (You’ve never heard anyone preach on such an obscure passage before? Me neither.) Of these, the third caught my attention. Galbanum is apparently extremely bitter: just a few grains are seriously foul! But dropped into a flame, the odour is very sweet. This is what he drew from this: offer your pain in worship to God, and it will be sweet smelling; keep it to yourself and it will taste bitter.

Heidi Baker at River Camp

Heidi Baker gave a couple of talks – although as anyone who has heard her before will attest, ‘talk’ is a misleading word! The first one she gave was an outpouring of prayer, song, dance – and only then a talk, based on Colossians 1.

She’s seen many healings in her work in Mozambique through Iris Ministries. However it puzzled her that her husband Rolland, who was struck with dementia after a bout of cerebral malaria, was not healed in the same way. Through this she learned to focus on God, to run into his presence when the going got tough, and to ‘joyfully give thanks’ even in the hard times. (Rolland was eventually healed)

One of the major characteristics of River Camp is an emphasis on the father heart of God. For this reason, Mark Stibbe is a regular speaker there – for him, the theme of Daddy God’s love for us has become a life’s calling. (Having been a vicar, he now runs the Father’s House Trust.)

He argues that there is an epidemic of fatherlessness worldwide, and that it lies at the root of many social ills in the world today. To exemplify this with some statistics from the USA, fatherless children are 8 times more likely to go to prison, 5 times more likely to commit suicide, and 20 times more likely to become rapists. He himself was an orphan who was adopted, and this breach with his biological dad was a major spiritual barrier in his life – even years after becoming a Christian and then later getting ordained. Thus it was an extraordinary breakthrough in his life when he became aware that God is not just some distant father figure who relates to us at a distance through his Son – but is our heavenly Dad, one whom we can address as Daddy.

I highly recommend Mark’s latest book, “I am your Father”, which will be reaching the shops in October (there were pre-publication copies at River Camp).

Snipe flying off from a muddy patch by Shibdon Pond

I returned to Durham last weekend and have started a 4-week placement at Sunderland Minster, of which more later. However, I couldn’t finish a blog piece without a couple of bird pics though, could I? These come from Shibdon Pond, on the west side of Newcastle, where I had gone to twitch – sorry, to observe – a spotted crake. It emerged after an hour, skulking by a reed bed. These snipe were more obliging for the camera. I was excited by the one on the right so showed it to the old guy who was in the hide with me. He looked at it and said “It’s a bit blurry – why’s that?” – to which I could only say, “well, for me with this camera, it’s a good picture!”

Snipe at Shibdon Pond

Being a tourist

I’ve just spent most of the past week being a tourist, as my mother has been visiting Durham for a few days. This was much helped by the weather, as we had some of the only days of summer so far this year!

Puffin posing with sand-eels

We spent a day up in Northumberland, which included a trip to the Farne Islands. Mum had never seen puffins properly before – but there were plenty here! I was keen to photograph one with a beakful of sand-eels. I noticed many fly directly over the island, but they seemed spooked by the number of tourists and only a few landed. Then just before departing for the boat, this one appeared, and almost posed for the cameras!

We also visited some of the local museums, which offered great insight into the once-thriving economy of the region. The first of these was the excellent Head of Steam Railway Museum in Darlington: this houses the original Locomotion, which ran on the inaugural Stockton-and-Darlington railway, and was a fully working engine for thirty years.

Locomotion at the railway museum in Darlington, and the HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool’s marina.

Sue, Tom and Mum at a local Italian restaurant.

The Hartlepool Maritime Experience has as its showpiece the HMS Trincomalee, a fully restored battleship that was built in 1817, and had active service in the Navy for ten years from 1847. It’s an impressive sight (see above), and the tour of the decks was a window into a different era – and a tough environment. The sailors living in the dark and cramped lower deck would have slept in hammocks that were hung just above the dining tables, and owned little that could not be stored in a two-litre duffle bag. There was an odd contrast later in the day with the monks’ dormitory in Durham Cathedral: spartan though this may have been, they at least each had a separate bay to sleep and study in, with copious light and space compared to the sailors.

Healing on the Streets

Over the last few months I’ve been part of the Healing on the Streets team in Stockton. It’s been really good to be part of it from the start, to experience some of the wariness of the local townspeople as to what we’re about, and then to perceive a distinct thaw and greater willingness to receive prayer. One of the first people we prayed with in April was wheelchair bound and suffering from cancer. It seemed a significant moment, but we did not hear from her afterwards. Today she wheeled up to say that she had had a CAT scan a few days previously and was now clear of the tumour! We were concerned that she was not walking yet, so we prayed with her for that. We await further news of how she is doing.

Healing on the Streets

Typical scene for Healing on the Streets: this is from the Vineyard Church in Taunton. Stockton in March, though, was grey and drizzly!

I’ve just been on a training course for Healing on the Streets, run by Stockton Parish Church.  I’d been familiar with it before as it has been running for two or three years back in Cheltenham, and although I did not join it then I was really excited to hear that it is starting up here in the north-east.

The guy doing the training was Mark Marx, who started the movement at the Causeway Coast Vineyard church in Coleraine in 2005. He himself has been a street evangelist for twenty years, but has found this form of ministry to be incredibly powerful and effective. He has personally seen people healed of cancers, those paralysed in wheelchairs able to walk, and blind eyes to see.

I get really excited about ministries like this, where the Kingdom of God visibly breaks onto the high street. However I am aware that not everyone who reads this blog feels the same way, so I thought I’d highlight the “Five distinctive marks” of Healing on the Streets, adapted from the training manual.

  1. The presence of the Holy Spirit – we carry the Holy Spirit wherever we go, and we are totally dependant upon him as we minister.
  2. Peace – we create the place of ministry so that it is a haven of peace in the middle of a bustling environment.
  3. Gentleness – “The streets are full of broken, hurting people. We minister with gentleness and sensitivity” (direct quote from the manual)
  4. Love – we’re empowered by God’s love, not our strength. Whether people are healed or not, we minister and communicate the depth of God’s love.
  5. Compassion – our motivation is for “the lost, hurting and broken… expressed through our words and action”

Avocets on Greenabella Marsh

Prior to the start of the course, I went on a quick birding trip to Greenabella Marsh, near where the seals lounge around at Greatham Creek. I’d heard that the avocets had returned to the area for the summer. I had seen these charismatic waders before as a kid, on a family holiday trip to the RSPB’s reserve at Minsmere, so was eager to see them again. I was not disappointed: eight were skimming the water for food, with the smokestacks of Teesside in the background. And if that wasn’t enough, a short-eared owl appeared and flew low over the ground across the marsh.