Well… Today was a bit of an adventure.
The plan began to be formed yesterday. An absolutely-brilliant friend of mine called asking if I was free to meet up today. He was in London. I was going to be in Sheffield. And as neither of us particularly fancied a 4 hour drive, we opened a map and stabbed a point that looked to be pretty central.
That point… Was Northampton.
Except that neither of us had really been to Northampton before (my Mum informs me that I actually had a evangelist's training course there when I was 17, but that's the kind of information only Mothers remember…)
We debated a few potential options, but thought the best plan of action would be to meet for church in the morning and then grab a bite to eat after.
Except that neither of us knew any churches in Northampton.
Never having been to Northampton.
And so, a quick google search later, I had identified three potential churches, had my friend choose one, and made some tentative agreements to meet there in time for the 11am service.
It was only as I was leaving Sheffield at breakfast time this morning that the true absurb-nature of this plan really began to hit home. Because it is a bit random. Really. But I quite like random. And I quite like spontaneous. And I quite like adventure.
My trusty SatNav worked wonders and I arrived in Northampton with plenty of time to kill. My friend was (expectedly) running a little late… So I thought I'd go and check out the church.
At this point it was about 10.45am.
And the church was looking decidedly shut.
But there were, at least, a couple of people waiting outside.
And they were very friendly.
(My friend Ben arrived later to be greeted by two homeless gentlemen who then tried to charge him £1 for directing him which way to park his car… So my greeters were definitely a welcome!)
Anyway, 5 minutes later the huge doors of the old church building were flung open and I was given the biggest hug I have ever received by the pastor of the church. She was genuinely estastic to see a new face, and proceeded to find out as many details about my life as she possibly could before I could even step over the threshold.
As did most other people I met.
Because this church, All Nations (and SO appropriately named!!), was literally, one of the most welcoming places I have ever been to in my life. I was hugged and spoken to and made to feel incredibly loved.
In the first 5 minutes.
There are some serious lessons I can learn from these guys.
I also got to know my new friend Jacky, who was also experiencing his first taste of Northampton, and he graciously provided me with some great newbie chat whilst we waited for the service to start… (I genuinely love how God brings people together for wonderful encouragement purposes!)
Anyway, the service kicked off, Ben snuck in late, and we joined with this precious fellowship to worship. It was a totally different style for me. It was fun. And Jesus was loved. The worship band consisted of 5 singers, a drummer and a bongo player. Seriously!
People began worship songs spontaneously and the words caught up later. We read the Word together. And as this was a thanksgiving service, people gave testimony.
Lots of people.
Lots of testimony.
Those who had been healed. Those who hadn't. Those thankful for marriages. Or babies. Those grieving some kind of loss. Single Mums. Those with family in crisis. Those who were struggling.
So. Many. People.
But they all began with these words, or ones similar, 'The Lord has been good to me…'
I loved this so much.
Because not all of these testimonies were obviously joyful. On the outside. Many of these people were still in the waiting. Still in the unanswered prayer. Still in the wilderness.
But they could all give thanks. And testimony. About the goodness and beauty of Jesus.
I loved this so much.
Seriously, I felt like my heart was going to burst.
Testimony, intermingled with song, intermingled with the Word…
The message was challenging, but the love that these people had for God and each other was even more challenging. We spent so long chatting at the end, sharing about Japan and mission and the nations… We were there for so long the church was almost locked up. But this congregation wanted to know. To know detail. So they could pray. They wanted to connect and keep the connection. They had the biggest heart.
They were a super blessing to my heart.
Even if the entire story is filled with a little hilarity.
The rest of my day has been spent eating Nando's, talking about Jesus and praying for the future. One of those meals that takes hours and hours and hours. In the best possible way. I am seriously encouraged. And seriously in love with God. And again thankful, incredibly thankful, for the beauty of friendship and community and honesty and love and prayers and challenge.
I guess really, I have nothing profound to say today, other than… Adventure is good! As Christians, we carry the glory of Jesus with us, we testify to his goodness in all seasons and we radiate his glory. We can bless others. And meet in fellowship. And love others. And give. And pray. And be an encouragement.
And sometimes, it's worth a bit of random risk… 🙂
Oh, and on this one road in Northampton, we actually found some of the best church buildings ever… My personal favourite was 'Holy Spirit Zone', which is a zone that I would quite happily like to get in!!