When God delivered the Israelites, Samuel didn’t want them to forget what had happened as we so often do even today.
So he set up a stone, the Ebenezer stone. Which means ‘stone of help’. And as he did so, Samuel said “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT).
I have had plenty of opportunity since becoming unwell to reminisce, and look back over my own life. I really do have a lot to be thankful for.
Recently a friend of mine called Mike Betts tweeted,
I found myself quite reflective walking into the room at Kings Park Northampton where the early days of Newfrontiers were formed. Thinking how small the room seems now. Today RMchurches start our team days here. We are just 1 of the many apostolic spheres now in Newfrontiers
Almost immediately Terry Virgo replied:
Mike, I could take you to an even smaller room in a place called Pilgrim Hall, Sussex, where we first gathered.
And I jumped in, perhaps slightly cheekily with:
Mike, thanks for continuing the work God began. Imagine what they will say about us in church history classes in 100 years if the LORD tarries! TerryVirgo it’s time you update and expand your autobiography… you’ve had your operation. Now get writing!
And it made me think.
Think of the last 47 years I have been alive, and shepherded by the LORD. And how glad I have been to not do life on my own but as part of a specific body of believers, Newfrontiers, which truly is a family of churches scattered on every inhabited continent.
It is amazing to think it all started because, having been saved at a Billy Graham campaign, Terry’s sister led him to the Lord. In his newfound faith he invited all of his friends to church.
They all came once.
And Terry knew then that the formal, starchy, unfriendly, traditional, stuffy, reserved, powerless English Churches of the time needed to be restored to the glorious church Jesus wants.
And pretty soon he realised that starting new relational, spirit-filled, grace teaching, Scripture honouring churches was going to be a major part of seeing that happen. It is clear that the family of churches God used Terry to plant has played its part in changing the expression of Christianity in other groups and denominations as well.
Terry wasn’t the only one feeling that stirring at the time. But he was one of the few who has stayed the course, and God has used his faithfulness built a huge family of churches from scratch. His wife Wendy was of course crucial to their ministry from the outset. And we would learn from whatever quarter of the church would come speak to us.
God truly has been good to us.
And of course, like many others, I have seen God’s Story encompass my own small life over the years. Not least in one of those churches that are in relationship with Terry to this day: Jubilee Church, London. We too had a tiny beginning, and it thrills me that I was here within months of the birth, and have seen a tiny group of people become a multitude.
But God has also been faithful in my personal life too. I have made many mistakes and mis-turns. But he has always been faithful. I too can say, along with my brothers and sisters in Newfrontiers churches, including Jubilee,
“Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT).
When we go to a specific place that has been important to us in our journey with the LORD it can stir in us the emotions and the memories we went through at that point. No doubt that was exactly what Samuel had in mind when he erected his Ebenezer stone.
And about three months ago now, I went back to one such place in my life. All the photos on this page were taken by me on that day. And even looking at the pictures is enough to transport me back to my childhood and what God himself was stirring in me as a young, over enthusiastic, somewhat irrepressible boy.
The place is a park on the outskirts of Haywards Heath. Under the very tree seen in the photos we used to hold Open Air Outreaches. Complete with guitars, tambourines, preaching, and testimonies.
As a child I knew what was expected of me. Keep quiet. Keep still. Watch. Maybe sing.
But I also knew the gospel.
And something within me stirred, it can only have come from God.
I longed not just to watch but to participate. I wanted to be the one to talk to the people enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the park. I wanted to share my brief testimony, maybe even preach. If I remember correctly I may even have been offered the microphone once or twice, but of course I was too young at that stage.
But I wasn’t too young in my mind to tell people about Jesus.
I would sneak to the patch of mud which you can still see in the above photo where the gospel tracts would be in my mind ‘hidden’ from me. I would grab some of the leaflets and slip off evangelising.
I was quite intentional. I wanted to find the ordest people that I could see. I wanted to offer hope to those older people because I felt they had the least time to live, and so there was more urgency that they respond to the gospel that very day. So I would go across to one of the benches that you can just see in the photo above, and which I have close up of below. They look exactly the same now as they did almost 40 years ago.
Until my parents noticed, found me, and told me I was too young I would share my faith simply. Despite repeated admonition from my parents I wouldn’t stop.
I only wish that I had never found that love of evangelism wane so often in the years that passed. And yet, time after time God would fan it back into flame. I may not be an evangelist, but like you God has called me to tell others about what he has done for me, and what he wants to do for them.
Jesus has called all of us to offer compassion, hope, and faith to people when they are in times of crisis, and also when they are blind to the peril they are in. I now know more of what it is like to live through real storms in your life. And I am more and more convinced that Jesus really is the only answer that can bring deep and lasting peace.
As I sat looking at this green three months ago, I felt the same stirring. The same emotions. And a strong sense that God wants me to get back to that simple desire to offer hope to those who most need it.
I have learnt much through my suffering, and still continue to do so. I hope that some of what I share hear may help some of you too.
Today, I hope you will be stirred to look back over your life yourself. And if, like me, there are some special places that God met you in, then perhaps a trip down memory lane will not just be evocative, but will help you face the future knowing that
“Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT).
Read the Rest of Adrian’s Life Story
A good introduction to Adrian’s life story pre diagnosis can be found in a TV interviewwhich aired on TBN and in a multi-part series entitled “This is My Story”