[circa november 2005 – email written soon after the event]
mountains are being moved and the world will never be the same again and i would have told you before but i have had no money in my wallet to phone you with because last weekened was yf camp, and so i could neither go to a net cafe to email you as the school everything computerish was down.
but yf camp. let us talk about yf camp. there was a band. called sounds of the nations. from hyderabad. i don’t ever know how indian cities are spelt. forgive me. except ooty and madras. anyway. and there was a speaker. called chad daniel. from america. and hannah norling and her sister and her cousin came too. however, i was only able to make fun of their accents (“i hate cats, i think they should be squished”) once before amazing things started happening. ie, we had our first session.
now yf sessions in my experience range from interesting and inspiring to very very tedious. normally being somewhere in the middle. approach them with a positive attitude and you’ll probably get something out of it, otherwise, you haven’t a hope. obviously the worship this time was incredible. because quiet corner just isn’t used to having a proper band complete with electric and acoustic and bass guitar and a keyboard and a very nice drumkit and massive speakers playing in the chapel. and chad is a very good speaker. funny. and interesting. and with some incredible stories about what god has done with him. and an incredible passion for god. but there must have been more to it than that. obviously, god. because when he asked people to give their lives to god and go up to the front, people did. these people including hussein and zoraab and (the very tall) arjun d, and rohit k, and pete. and i will not judge them but simply quote from their testimonies at dorm fellowship on tuesday. hussein paraphrased: me and ben came because we wanted to get away from school and were planning on streaking around and having a few cigarettes. and then while the band was playing, we were sitting at the back, about to leave because no-one would notice, but then… [this bit sounds better from ben (paraphrased)]: usually after these things i want to go out and throw eggs at people. but this time i didn’t want to throw eggs at anybody, i just wanted to hug them all.
and the whole weekend was pretty amazing. but here is what is more amazing. that it is continuing even stronger. the monday after we’d been back, i went up to the dorm and from thirty metres away you could hear ‘jesus freak’ blaring out. which isn’t usually people’s choice in music. and in zoraab’s room that night there were 21 people, not all who had been at the camp, jumping up and down to the sound of worship music, and then praying and reading the bible together. and then most of them were at dorm fellowship the next night. and again in pete’s room last night. and it is not stopping. hallelujah. it is incredible.
except that is not my personal story. this is: i had spent the days leading up to yf camp basically bored and apathetic. annoyed by not being able to email people, annoyed by not having run in too long (i was gated so i couldn’t), bored of school, bored of sitting on the same logs every afternoon doing nothing very interesting. i went glad to get away from school, ready to enjoy having a decent band, and hoping the speakers would be amusing. except. god spoke to me. words that i have been forever slightly skeptical of, because how do you know? and normal people don’t speak like that.
but nonetheless. here is what happened. chad speaking. was apparently intensely personal for everyone. he prayed for anybody feeling abandonment and they went up to the front to be prayed for. he asked people to give their life to god, and they went to the front to do so. the bit i remember best though, is ‘some of you in this room are on fire for god, some of you were on fire but have lost that flame, and some of you don’t yet know god’. when he said the middle bit, he was looking at me. which is to say that his head was turned in my direction, and my heart was beating really fast. did he even know who i was? no. but god does. however, after the amazingness of that night, and the worship of the next morning, i was feeling sufficiently happy to declare myself ‘on fire’ again. which was possibly premature. because then joel started speaking. who was/is the speaker with chad. and isn’t as brilliant. and he was talking about the power of music. and i, who have made some effort to not buy music with terrible lyrics, thought to myself, boring, this doesn’t apply to me, only mad puritans only listen to christian worship. and then i returned to my default not-too-enthusiastic decidedly-unpuritan-and-withdrawnly-cool-but-basically-alright mode of life. around the bonfire that night, people were happy, singing, giving testimonies. i wasn’t feeling it. as we went to bed, gavin came up out of the blue: ‘i don’t know what you’re going through, but i’m praying for you’. whatever, i feel. like i need his prayers. because gavin is not someone i particularly admired. past tense. because everything i valued (mostly past tense, working on it) in myself (ie, intelligence, effortlessness, sporting ability) i didn’t see in him. [nb: since, i have ‘realised the error of my ways’ – cliche, but i can’t think of a better way to put it – and apologised for my attitude towards him and prayed with him]. anyway, so i sat outside feeling above his prayers, and trying to rationalise my god and work out what was wrong with the worship that it wasn’t working for me. could something be wrong with me? the thought is easily dismissed. the next morning, i just wanted to stay in bed. bleurgh, describes what i felt. breakfast was dosa, not idli – whoopee – but this filled me with no great joy. not that i was greatly depressed, for i have learnt how to avoid strong emotions. simply apathetic and somewhat blank. and when the session began, i was on the toilet suffering from constipation. i decided to try praying. and a thought then crossed my mind, maybe i should stop being so $%^&*#@ arrogant, and stop feeling like the prodigal son’s brother and moaning that i have to share god with all these other people who hardly know anything about him, and instead simply start killing the fattest calf and partying. actually i only realised the arrogance bit, and the prodigal son bit is just me elaborating on that now. anyway. hmm, i thought. and i went to the chapel. and stood at the back. where people are slightly less jumpy. but i was enjoying it again. and then we moved into the dining hall so they could pack up the band’s stuff. and chad was speaking. and i could laugh freely at his jokes, without feeling too cool. or whatever. without feeling, i’m already saved, i don’t need this. eventually, he got to the end of his talk. ‘what you felt in there, that was god’s holy spirit’. and he pointed. except, he didn’t point to the chapel, having a terrible sense of direction, i suppose. he pointed in the direction of the toilet i had been in. ‘the chapel’s over there’ joel corrected him. and so chad laughed and pointed again with his other hand. except still not at the chapel. but at me. and then he again called for people to give their lives to god. it occurred to me that while i have been baptised and believed in god depuis belle lurette (which apparently means the same thing as depuis longtemps) i have never quite trusted my whole life and dreams and everything to him. i knew that he was in control, yes. but instead of trusting my dreams to him i would treat them with indifference and quote ecclesiastes and say ‘everything is meaningless’. flashback to the day before when we had been discussing daniel in groups, and as our group leader was chad it was less of a discussion and more of just listening to him, which is a fascinating thing to do. at some point in the middle he asked everybody ‘what do you want to do?’. he started with me. ‘i dunno…’ i replied. he wouldn’t take that for an answer. so, off the top of my head, ‘i want to study maths at cambridge and run in the olympics’. which i do secretly, but would never commit to because the likelihood is i won’t and then i might regret it. ‘well, whatever you do you know you have to give the glory to god’. ‘yes’. ‘then god can use you for that’. anyway, back to the sunday morning in the dining hall with chad speaking. i wanted to stand up. i have been in this situation as a little kid in church. do you want to give you life to god? i was always too scared. this time i felt too scared again. people started standing up. lots of them. ‘but i’m already baptised, i’ve already given my life to god’. people i thought of as christians were standing up. chad said something about the holy spirit inside you calling you. i felt my heart pounding. behold i stand on the door and bang with all my might… i stood up when i saw sam tanner stand up. i wanted to hide. and then chad pointed to me. any other day i would be dying to be pointed out. but not then. ‘what’s your name again?’ ‘peter.’ ‘what?’ ‘peter.’ ‘this verse is for you: ‘a man makes his plans, but the lord prepares his path’. [the verse is in proverbs somewhere. some versions say, ‘the reply comes from the lord’ which made me think of the reply to ‘what do you want to do’. but anyway] you have great ambitions, but god wants to do something greater with you. i feel he has a great call for you in his ministry.’ i started crying. and felt no superiority. and then we went back to school. and the band did a final concert. and chad spoke. and everybody came, and everybody jumped. and on monday everything was still amazing. and on tuesday i went to stanes for this interschool drama competition (last minute practice, ten minute comedy competition, they roped in anyone who won a prize at drama, hebron came second, but this is what is cool:) and in between the five participating school’s comedies, there was a band playing worship songs. ‘one way! jesus!’ and now there could be a youth service/concert here with other schools invited. and dorm fellowship that night was amazing and there was just testimony after testimony after testimony with songs in between.
what else can i say after that?