The simplist ideas are often the best and the best ideas are often stolen from somewhere else. One day I got a call from Eric Gamblin of Waltham Chase Methodist Church. He’d been looking at the 24/7 Prayer website and noticed they had a caravan that they used as a pop up prayer space. “We have a church caravan, could we do that?”
The short answer was yes and with a lot of work and juggling we managed to fill eight days out in the community, meeting people and sharing about Jesus and Prayer. We set our expectations realistically. If we could have a conversation with one person that made a difference in their lives, even if we never knew it, then it was worth all the work. As it happened God had so much more in mind than that. The Holy Spirit was all over it.
Our first day, after praying at the Church over the caravan, we were at Waltham Chase Village Hall. We had lots of little conversations with visitors to Ria’s, people at the bus stop and parents coming to the pre-school. Rosie Banks was amazing chatting with people at the bus stop. When we were getting ready to pack up George turned up. George had driven past us a couple of times and stopped to see what we were doing. George was a solidly built man in his 70s. He had developed a terrible bone cancer that had almost collapsed his body in on itself. He was in the process of moving down from Shepherds Bush to live with his daughter and hadn’t really got to know anyone in the neighbourhood. He’d been a Christian much of his life and when he was diagnosed with bone cancer and told it would kill him he laughed and said “God is good”. When they realised he wasn’t going to die they told him he’d never walk again. George laughed and trusted in God. When the doctors saw he was walking they said he’d never drive and would need constant care. George pointed to his car and told us how he drove it back to Shepherds Bush, where his son was living in his old house, several times a week. “You can see how not driving worked out” He said. Meeting George who had been through so much pain and had not ever doubted God and smiled on through it all was an inspiration to us when we had gone out looking to inspire others. Praying with and for George was an honour.
On Day 2 we visited Barnaby’s Coffee Shop in Swanmore at the invitation of the Rev Claire and Jill Phipps. We had Martin Letts with us who gave a great lesson in community. We spoke with many people, prayed for a few and shared about prayer and the church with a lot of people who needed to hear it. Martin is deeply embedded in his community, he knows everyone and everyone knows him. He shows how much work it is to live in community. On top of that I made some great connections and had an amazing time in the sun. We prayed for a lady and for her father who had needed to move out of his home and into care and was finding it very difficult. We talked with a lot of people who were in church and spoke into the struggles they were encountering.
On day 4, Sunday, we took the caravan to Waltham Chase for the morning service celebrating Chase King’s football team to let the church see it and ask questions. The general opinion was “it’s great but I couldn’t do that”. We started to appreciate the recognition factor of a bright yellow caravan as more people started saying they had seen it around the local area, being towed or parked up somewhere.
Day 5, Monday, we were back at the Waltham Chase Village Hall for the afternoon. We had a lot of encounters as parents parked up for the school run and the curiosity of the children as they returned to the car park lead to many more conversations. The first part had been quiet but things really picked up at home time.
Tuesday morning, day 6, St Peter’s Toddler Group with people from St Peter’s and Bishops Waltham UFC. We had been invited to set up outside St Peters Church Hall. We were a little tucked away and although we saw a number of dog walkers and parents we had to work harder for conversations. We did get to meet people from St Peter’s who were pursuing similar aims and were able to encourage others in stepping outside the church building and meeting with communities.
Wednesday, day 7, at St John’s School in the afternoon. There is nothing like explaining prayer to 4 year olds or talking with a provocative year six who announces he doesn’t believe in God to make you think more deeply about your own faith. Thanks to Niki Freemantle who got us the invite we were able to spend the afternoon, with great support from Tizz and Jordan, sharing about prayer and bringing God to some deep and heart-breaking questions. It must have gone well because we’ve been invited back again.
Day 8, Thursday, we were at Barnaby’s Café in the morning. Although it was quiet we got to meet the Reverend Claire who invited us to bring the caravan to an event they are having in June. We also got to chat with a young Czech woman who was working as a nanny. She was clearly missing the support of her church back home and it was great to be able to pray for her and tell her about some of the things going on in churches in the area. In the Afternoon we were at Swanmore school with the good folk from St Barnabas as part of a prayer space. Martin Letts joined us which was great because he is well known at the school through Open The Book. Jordan’s bouncy enthusiasm was also a great hit with the school children. The prayer bunting and the questions for God wall opened up some lovely conversations as the children were able to let out their honest concerns that ranged from bullying and loneliness to annoying siblings and playing Fortnite. It was humbling to have so many of them trust us with deeply important matters.
There were some sad, heart breaking and profound questions from the children, a sampling of which are in the pictures below.
It is worth remembering that even with small children there is a lot going on under the surface and they too can carry a lot of pain and emotional upset.
Day 10 we were at The Royal Wedding event at Waltham Chase promoting recognition as we begin to talk about other places to go with the caravan. If you have any ideas for events you are involved in where the caravan could be a welcome presence then now is the time to start investigating and talking.
Lessons were learnt about what works and where works best with the caravan and changes will be made next year. However, every day brought something of value to the Kingdom whether it was praying with someone, building community or building connexion with other churches for future working. Eric is to be commended for recognising God’s prompting and stepping out and I hope that his doing this will prompt others to listen to God and take a risk in turn.