And so we travelled through each day with our eyes set on the goal, the finishing line, enduring the race set before us. Everything seemed to be shifting and working in our favour.
Then Bex checked the prices of the plane tickets and they had risen again. We tried to remain positive, believing that any extra costs God would also rise in turn to meet. As if to counter-act this we were presented only an hour or so later with another encouraging sign from above. Joel and Jun (two volunteers who work on the grounds of Ashburnham) gave me 4 plastic cups full of pennies, coppers and silver coins. They had been cleaning out the large fountain by the Orangery tea-room and had gathered all the coins that people had thrown into the basin, obviously believing it to be some kind of Christian wishing well! 🙂 Jun and Joel wanted us to have them as a donation towards our Korea fund. Under their direction I labelled all of the cups with the approx. differing amounts and found that it equalled almost £12, an amount not to be sniffed at! Another small nudge from God to say “I’m still here”, a gentle balm to settle the current tension. Also, it was touching to consider that people had been throwing those coins in the fountain for ages, probably never considering for one moment their future use. Each one seemed like a wish, a blessing, a prayer from an unknown supporter cheering us on towards our goal. The coins had gathered and waited for such a time as this. God demonstrated he would provide different amounts at different times and in different unexpected ways!
In my free time I was calling around to try and secure more donations from local companies towards our “Auction of promises”. As expected some declined to help us for varying reasons and others gladly gave their support. But still we had no-one signing up to the actual event. I would open up the folder and gaze at a blank page, pleading with God in soul and spirit. I felt almost as if I was trying to force something to happen, as if begging to God would make him act. As if I could change things through sheer determination alone. I decided to pray at 3am every other night leading up to the “Global Celebration”. I rose at the appointed time and sat outside my room looking out over the prayer centre courtyard bathed in the moonlight, praying for the Lord to move. The following day I went into work but still there was no tangible interest shown. Then later that day I came back from a break to find two people had registered! – I opened the folder with relief and saw the one solitary name who had booked. The ice had begun to break. We were on the way. I knew that God had come in answer to our prayers.
I was able to make a last minute connection with my Welsh friend and fellow Ashburnham supporter Martin who was holding a men’s breakfast that Saturday. On that day I stood up before 40 men and talked about Korea and all we had been doing including the “Global Celebration”. Despite prayers that many people from the breakfast would sign up, no-one did. Later on I met Tom and Bex down in the Orangery car-park to continue washing cars for visitors. We managed to wash 7 cars that day (and had several happy helpers) We had decided to stop working at lunch time but one guest was saddened to hear she had missed our car washing slots and asked if we would consider washing / cleaning her car anyway. So after lunch we trudged back down and did our final car. The lady made a generous donation and also signed herself and her friend up to the come to the Global Celebration! Slowly the numbers were rising and we became more hopeful. However I soon found out that one of my friends who had been well for a while was once again on a dangerous and self-destructive downward spiral. I carried this burden within me, battling the lies from the enemy that it was a spiritual attack aimed at us. If the devil could get me to believe this attack was all our fault, it would give him a significant stronghold.
My praying in the night now took on another burden, that of praying for my friend as well as for the Global Celebration and our trip to Korea in general. Then I came under attack myself. In all fairness this attack had rooted itself several weeks earlier, round about the time that Bex and I had been chasing the rainbows. I won’t go into details. Sufficient to say it was an attack that came from an outside source and tapped into areas of personal weakness the devil knows I have and has exploited many times in the past. This resulted in me shifting my focus away from God and his ways and running off down a path of the devils making. I repented, bringing myself back into God’s presence. This, teamed with the fact that I was disrupting my sleep patterns and sending my hormonal disorder into disarray made me quite ill. I had an emotional and spiritual breakdown in my room, where I wept in fear. Lies were poured into my ears from every which way. How weak was my faith! I should be a stronger, better believer. I wouldn’t be worrying if my faith were strong. In fact did I really have any faith at all? Why should I suffer with my health and not be able to do for God even the small, simple things that other people can do? Surely this made me lesser in his eyes? What must God think of me? We were never going to do this! (All the usual suspects!) What I needed to reveal to myself was the fact that they were lies. So I spoke against them, speaking the truth into the atmosphere. Even as I did so peace began to find me again. I felt a sense of the truth as if God were speaking into my spirit. Why were we really going to Korea? Not for money, fame or prestige. But for God. We were doing this completely in pursuit of him. Of course we would come up against opposition. In regards to the strength of my faith, I felt God speak to my spirit about how proud he is. The devil hates anything being born or growing and does all he can to stop it. What I was experiencing were growing pains. My faith was growing and the frustration I felt was the feeling of my faith being stretched. I realised that although God loved my obedience and my desire to offer up that time to him, I merely needed to ask and then trust. Self flagellation and making myself ill, a possible way to battle for answers to prayer was not what he wanted or needed – he was on the case. I just needed to “let go and let God” and let him move. Peace reigned once more.
The following day I was washing a car with Tom and a few other volunteers when I popped up to the office to see Bex. As I walked through the door I found her in tears. I knew straight away that the attack I had endured the day before had also been targeting Bex. We were obviously doing something right! Bex and I prayed together and we were given the gift of peace. It was the sheer hard work and struggle that we were all under. On top of that the Triathlon may have to be cancelled due to so little uptake. This was a door we were trying to open that now might not yield. We may be about to lose one of our largest fundraising events – one we were depending upon to get us almost to the finish line. We felt it was being snatched away from us leaving us to struggle for a little while longer. Still, having gone through the same thing I was in a stronger position to support Bex. We called in some prayer shields to pray for us remotely and that evening we met after supper with a few other trusted friends to pray away the devil’s fingerprints and focus once again on God in strength. It was about this time that we were gifted with a large donation on our Justgiving page that, glory be to God, got us almost half way to our goal. Despite the issues with the triathlon (the outcome of which we had now placed in God’s hands) we were very happy to discover the prices of the plane tickets had dropped again in our favour. Our prayers had been that God would not only provide for us but also supply the means for us to take another person. Could this ever be a possibility?
We continued to work to get the “Global Celebration” off the ground. Slowly people were booking in but considering we had accounted for 60 we were still only at about 9 people. Not a good turnout. When one of the directors spoke to us about it, we could tell he was just as concerned as we were. But at least people had begun to show an interest.
Bex made a point that the evening was about being a blessing to those who came and the community. I tried to feel the same way but found it very hard, battling my usual method of viewing success by numbers and appearance. God was trying to show me a new way.
He had in his goodness provided us with accommodation for Korea. In fact at one point Bex’s friend had booked us into a missionary house when we actually didn’t need it – we had gone from worrying about securing a place to stay to having too much choice and actually having to cancel arrangements made on our behalf 🙂
The Tuesday before the Global Celebration the numbers for the evening rested at 18 (I was still praying that God had a whole coach-load of people who would show up on the night without prior warning!) We decided to make our last big appeal at the Filling Station that night. The Filling Station is an evening full of prayer, worship and ministry with a main speaker sharing on a particular topic. (http://thefillingstation.org.uk/) It gives churches and local people a chance to meet together and be “topped up” with the spirit. The perfect place to touch the hearts of local Ashburnham Place supporters. We put our leaflets out on all the seats, watched as Paul (one of the Ashburnham Place directors) gave a notice about our plans and then settled back with our event file ready to sign up the hordes of people who would charge our way!
We also shared a smile as we saw the next filling station topic, scheduled for the 12th July, a week before our departure.
“Learning how to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace”
God had done it again 🙂