Do mud and glory go together? Well, there is a case to be made for it. Last weekend, Terry and I were at a camp in Yorkshire. It was August, but it might as well have been November. It was freezing cold, and it rained a lot. Consequently, as happens when 2,500 people with cars and trailers are moving around a flat grassy field in torrential rain, the ground got very churned up. The mud was truly spectacular: brownish-grey, slippery, with pools of water lying in the furrows, deep and a bit smelly. It got on everything: clothes, bags, bibles, kids….
It hadn’t occurred to us to bring wellies, but I was thankful to borrow a tasteful pair in green, decorated with daisies. Nice. So a nod in the direction of femininity and style then.
There were all sorts of people camping: young and old, families with babies, teenagers. I am ashamed to say we stayed off site. No I’m lying, I was deeply grateful! But I was totally in awe of mothers who were carting their kids around in the rain, cheerfully sporting muddy jeans, wet jackets and plastic bags on their heads in the absence of suitable headgear.
I only once over heard an exasperated mum venting her wrath on an urchin who had presumably been wallowing a bit too enthusiastically and had got his last pair of dry jeans wet and filthy….actually, I thought her response was fairly mild, considering. It reminded me of a Bible week many moons ago when Anna and Joel stomped around deliberately in a mud puddle and then came into the caravan…you just had to take wooden spoons with you everywhere in those days.
The surprising thing was that complaining was so rare at North that it was practically non-existent. Maybe those Northerners are made of tougher stuff! They live there after all, under constantly grey, lowering skies I believe, and just get on with life. But they didn’t just not complain, they worshipped God wholeheartedly in every session; they served one another diligently; they listened to the preaching attentively, and they gave spectacularly! In fact, they gave over £130,000, and Westpoint also gave £101,000 to church-planting and outreach programmes. So nearly a quarter of a million given for further apostolic advance from these 2 camps.
What is it that makes people spend their bank holiday weekend camping in such extremely unpleasant conditions, trying to sleep shivering in damp sleeping bags, splashing through thick mud to go anywhere, queuing for loos and showers, and living on sausages in baps? This is not the famous British stiff upper lip: there were people there from Canada, Scandinavia, and Ireland. At Westpoint they also came from India, Spain and Portugal.
They were like the early Christians: sharing their lives together, worshipping, praying and learning from the apostles’ doctrine, having all things in common…even wellington boots. People were healed of back problems and other painful conditions; many were filled with the Holy Spirit; and some responded to God’s call on their lives to take the Gospel to another location, even overseas.
There was a great sense of identity and momentum.
They are together on a mission, not just for last weekend, but in everyday life. Yes, there was something glorious about it.