Friday, 26 September 2008

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Forum 2008 Part 3 - Other Assorted Highlights

I thought I ought to post the more serious highlights of Forum 08 first, which I have. (Have a look at The Important Bits and Home and Away). But there are a bijillion other reasons I loved Forum. So, in no particular order, here are my assorted highlights...

Chatting to random smoking tramp at Oxford station
Started well, as I explained I work for a Christian charity. Went slightly pear-shaped when I mentioned students... he's not a fan.

Looking like a well-dressed farmer
To be honest, this was the most appropriate look for Forum 08. And Mr Martin didn't laugh at my wellies for long...

Realising my new Team Leader can get me to do anything
One of the joys of Forum was getting to know my new colleagues. I got chance to bond with my lovely South East team mates, which was quality. And I soon discovered the uncanny ability Nay Dawson has to get me (and quite a few others) to do mad things. As a team we visited the Darkie Tunnel, a 421m long, unlit canal tunnel "to sort out who the wusses on the team are." I'm not sure any of us were wusses, so I may have been picked arbitrarily. Then on Thursday we provided dinner for poor water-logged Reading and Surrey CUs. The lady on the checkout thought we were mad, but in the end it was quite fun. Sadly, the range of pinnies in Sainsbury's was quite limited...

Reading and Surrey CUs
Two of my CUs were at Forum - Reading Uni CU and Surrey Uni CU. They were a lot of fun, if slightly lame at providing tea (it took Surrey 28 hours to make me a cup of tea. RUCU never managed it). I was amused to walk into the Big Top one evening and see RUCU sitting in a row eating chips. And I got very paternal when Surrey and RUCU were being nice to each other. It's nice to see the kids getting along.
The RUCU boys were also spectacularly rubbish at putting their tent up. It took three goes, and over an hour...

Close encounters with the dish washer
One of the privileges of being a new staff worker is that you get the joy to serve by supervising the washing up. Seriously, it's more stressful than it sounds, although I like to think I maintained an efficient but fun kitchen. Except on the day the drain clogged up. I had to step up and do the manly thing - I had to stick my arm in (up to the elbow) and remove the tinned pears, lemon slices and two forks that had ended up in it. I washed my arm 3 times and it was still pretty manky.

Serving Tea
On the last day I found I was part of the masterplan to provide everyone at Forum, campers included, with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. Along with Jema B, I manned one of the tea stations. It was a mad idea, but in the end it was quite fun.
"Do you have coffee?" "No, but that one's quite strong."
"Get your tea and get out!"
"Is it just tea?" "Would you prefer hot chocolate?" "Yes" "Oh. I haven't got any, I was just asking."
I'm not sure how many teas we served, but it was at least 150. I particularly enjoyed Nay's masterplan, which I think could be a plan for world domination if it was scaled up.

A legendary game, created by Chris Oldfield. Quite simply boule, but with veg. I played with two onions, but lettuce and sweet potatoes were also involved. Eventually, an aubergine won, having been expertly wielded by Adam Wilson. I'm hoping for a rematch in a year's time. Sadly, John Piper was too busy to play, but he was definitely keen.

Back to the real world
On the way home I got a text from a northern colleague, telling me that they were in a northern cafe where toast was 10p cheaper if you had a crust, and you had to pay 30p to rent a tray. I, on the other hand, was in a service station where I had half a chicken, some reconstituted mash (we actually asked) and a diet coke. My dinner cost the same as lunch for Peter's entire party. You've got to love the south.

Forum 2008 Part 2 - Home and Away

I called my first Forum post "The Important Bits," because there were lots of other less-important-but-still-pretty-fun highlights. But then I decided there were two highlights which decided a post of their very own. And they're probably the most important bits of the whole week!

The whole point of Forum was to equip and encourage students for sharing the gospel on their campuses. Conferences, fun as they might be, are only a means to that end. And there were two evenings which really distilled what Forum, and UCCF itself, is all about. They were the launch of the FREE Project and the World Service.


The moment lots of people had been waiting for finally arrived on Tuesday night - the FREE Project was officially launched! On one level, the vision is simple - UCCF have printed 400,000 trendy-looking copies of Mark's gospel, to be personally given out to British students. Simple as. And there are oodles of resources to go with the project: All sorts of Bible studies and training materials to equip CUs, graphics and publicity resources, beer mats, carrier bags, tiny badges. Even a great promo video featuring my friend Lisa Norbury who became a Christian during the last gospel project. But even with all of that, the fundamental conviction behind it all is that God uses his word to change lives as people meet the Lord Jesus. The trendiness and publicity is just to help people engage with the words. And that's what I love about the gospel project - it's about getting God's word into the hands and hearts of students. Come on!

World Service

In many ways, the idea behind the World Service was the same. IFES, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, exists to make the gospel known to students around the world. It was great to hear from brothers and sisters from all over the world. It was even better to see hundreds of students committing to crossing cultures and reaching the nations with the gospel. And John Piper helped us to widen our understanding of exactly what that means. The scale of the task is huge, but the commitment of the students present was beautiful to see. It felt like a world-changing moment - I'm excited to see where it leads in the coming years...

This is what it's all about. In John Piper's words, mission exists where worship doesn't. And that's what the FREE project and the World Service, and the Fellowship as a whole, are all about - taking Christ to the world, at home and away, so that he might be glorified all over the planet. I have the best job in the world!

Forum 2008 Part 1 - The Important Bits

All the cool people are blogging about Forum. It was the wettest, mankiest, smelliest Forum ever, but it was quality. Bish has already written loads about Forum - he live-blogged and has been following up with lots more great stuff. And check out what Rosemary has to say about the response of the students to what could have been a pretty depressing situation.

John Piper took us through Ruth as only he could. We saw the reality of God's sovereignty in the tragedy that Naomi and Ruth had to deal with, but also in his love and care for them. It was a great reminder of things I should know, but which can often get lost.

Graham Daniels rounded off the week with two passionate talks on Matthew 10, challenging and encouraging us to share Christ with those who don't know him. It was a great end to the week, as all the excitement was focussed in commitment to the thousands of lost students on campuses around the country.

A real highlight for me was the Digging Deeper track called "Serving our Missionary God." Over three days we saw the mission is not just an idea God had - it's who he is. We covered loads over the three sessions, but the key thing was that God is jealous for his own glory. He wants all people to worship him, and that's why mission exists. It's a world-changing, brain-expanding truth, and it was great to work through it a bit with the South-East guys in my group. John Piper's book "Let The Nations Be Glad" was recommended to us, so I was delighted when every student was given a free copy of LTNBG! It was a hugely generous gesture from SIM and IVP, and one which could potentially have a massive impact if even half of those students read it and find a passion for God's glory.

And the Digging Deeper track was a great background for the nights which focussed most clearly and powerfully on mission. But more on that in Part 2...