Shadow Of Victory

Friday, 14 August 2009

August 14th Walking through Willow

Chris is away on business this till Monday so I thought I would do some blogging to keep me occupied. I am on my own in the house for first time in years....Oskar my pooch is at Mikes..Andrew in son in Budapest so totally solo...scary.!! Doors are locked and phone will be beside my bed..I don't think I will resort to a baseball bat but suffice to say I will be alert.

So....Willow...I am still processing the emotional and spiritual impact and will blog on these later but for now let me talk about the actual experience. I had no real idea of how BIG this place was....If you think Royal Albert Hall or Brighton Conference centre than you are still way too small...The campus is simply mind blowing.We went on the Wednesday with our host family and I was really pleased we did as it gave us an idea of what it looked like before the 7,000 delegates arrived.

The driveway is about half mile long and we passed 3 x Park and Ride car parking areas...Ho Ho....this is where people choose to park and get the bus to ensure there are plenty of spaces for the guests and visitors....The actual car parks were big they needed zones and numbers similar to airport remember where you parked. The boundaries of the car parks were too far to see and I think there are 4 main car parking areas.!! I took some pictures and once I get a tech person back will see if I can upload them...especially the signs.!! they have amazing signs eg Parking for single parents only ..permit required.!!

There is a coffee shop called Dr Bs...which sold amazing coffee...Costa and Starbucks eat your heart out...lots of seating areas including comfy chairs around a log fire. Plasma screens abound all over so no matter where you settle you could see what was going on. The book shop equalled a Waterstones easily and they have a fully functioning restaurant open all day every day.They have a lake and 2 waterfalls.. Ha Ha..yes this is a church I am talking about. Their High School ministry ...Elevate... has a fully equipped Gym complete with basketball courts and a stage bigger than ours at the Kerith Centre. I didn't go downstairs to Promiseland which is their children's work but was told it is huge.

We walked into the auditorium and I almost stopped I walked to the stage area and then turned to look up at the vast sea of seating I felt completely overwhelmed and tears rose in my eyes.As far as the eye could see there were rows upon rows of seats and all comfy cinema types of and upper circle with two extremely large screens at either side of platform and plasma screens hidden in ceiling areas for the upper circle areas.

The stage area itself had three tiers with a large area for main worship singers and speakers and several raised areas for different groupings of musicians.The lighting was magnificent and the settings were so professional it could have graced a West End or Broadway production. At each side of the stage through enormous glass windows the two waterfalls meandered their way down the rock settings as if they had been there for decades.

We just stood and gaped !!! Chris headed for the lighting and sound area and once he had gorged his eyes and tucked his covetous tongue back into his mouth we headed for the restaurant for some lunch.All around us were preparations for the conference..hordes of volunteers and staff unpacking boxes..moving stuff ..arranging..and at least 100 or so people spread around restaurant and seating areas just hanging out ..having lunch or a groups and several business meetings taking place with laptops enjoying the WiFi connections.

Everyone we spoke to...or should I say...everyone who spoke to us..were so friendly..and I mean friendly..once they heard our accent they wanted to know where we came from and we discovered several had relatives in Scotland and so we spent time with several different groups just chatting.In the coffee shop the woman who served me asked my name and we joked about whether she would remember me and my order once the conference started and 7,000 people came through the coffee shop.....and I kid you not..on the Friday evening she was behind the counter and even before I got to the top of the line she shouted over .."Hi you doing...?? Decaff cappuccino??",,I was amazed..totally amazed.

The volunteers who served over the 2 day conference made serving seem like a vocation..nothing was too much trouble and they always had a smile and a word to say no matter how long they had been there or how many people they had talked to they made you feel as if they were there just for you. Nancy Beach who is on staff at Willow and was the MC for most of the conference said several times that "volunteers are the true heroes of this event " and I can only agree . I made sure I thanked as many of them personally as I could..the guy serving the book store..the young girl in the parking lot..the student emptying the bins...true heroes as far as I am concerned.

A final word re the people we stayed with...the gift of hospitality was truly evident in this couple Fred and Doris Harlan..both in their 60s and been at Willow for years.They host several times a year and they blessed us big time. Fred had been on the Kerith website to familiarise himself with our church and listened to Simons sermon re The Peach and the Coconut and it took us a couple of days to twig but they served us peaches in some form or another at every meal time, including making us peach cobbler. They also had a small flag display of every country representing folks who they had hosted and had bought a Union Jack in honour of us. We were quick to put them straight tho that we were in actual fact Scottish and therefor a St Andrews cross really was the flag to display . We did manage to find the flag shop and bought one for them as a wee pressie...they were delighted with it.

Fred and Doris were not only interesting to talk to..they were also interested in us...our church..what we did in church life..our country ..and from the start they prayed for us daily..we held hands at each meal time and listened to them pray blessing upon us which was very special and unexpected and very natural to them.They were a wealth of information on the workings of Willow and if they didn't know something they spent time finding out and gave us the info next time we saw them. Fred's sense of humour was wry and dry and we shared ongoing jokes from one day to the next.Fred said he had the spiritual gift of "harassment" and this tickled us as we realised afresh how privileged we were to be guests in their home.

I hope this has given you a small flavour of what we experience on the practical level at Willow and over next few entries I will unpack a little more . There really was so much to take in and that was even before the conference began that I may still be mentioning stuff for days as God brings it to mind. Please do think about booking in to the Summit that is held at the Kerith Centre in October as altho you wont get the full personal experience of Willow you will definitely get the essence of the speakers and a fresh touch from God.

Let me leave you with a verse that God planted into my spirit during the conference and that I will share more of another time..
Song of Songs Ch 2 V 4 says this "he has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love."

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