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 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).
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!”